A cleaner finds a dying man in a hotel room and tries to do the right thing; by Benjamin Klein.
The man opens his eyes and stares.
Running out of the bathroom and into the hallway, she braces herself on her cleaning cart. Her impact spills some Comet disinfectant on the hotel carpet, most likely staining it forever.
"Jasmine!" she says.
Four doors down on her left, another woman with a cleaning cart and bed sheets in her arms jumps.
"Naomi, be quiet, the other guests," Jasmine says in her loudest whisper.
"A man's dying in room 319, go get help!" Naomi says.
Jasmine runs to the elevator. Naomi heads to the telephone back in the room. She finds it next to an unopened bottle of Merlot.
"Don't leave me," the man says.
She doesn't pick up the phone. Swallowing whatever was building in her throat, Naomi slowly enters the bathroom. The blood smell is strong and it overpowers the perfume that lingers just beneath.
"Don't leave me Anna," the man says, starring at the shower head.
"Help is coming," Naomi says, staying near the sink.
The man breaks his empty gaze and looks at Naomi, tears in his eyes.
"No, it's all over. I ruined everything, everything," he says.
"No, help is coming and you'll be alright. Just try to, I don't know, just try to stay calm."
"You don't know anything. You just don't know. It's over."
The man begins to sob. Naomi takes a breath and sits down on the toilet seat, closer to the tub. She sees a wine opener by her feet.
"I think I've heard that it's a good idea to keep talking, so talk to me. Why do you want it to be all over?" Naomi says.
"I don't want it, it just is. I ruined my life, all our lives," the man says.
"Was she here with you?"
"No, she's at home with the spoiled kids and the dog and the broken air conditioning and the unpainted laundry room and the late mortgage."
"Were you meeting someone else?" Naomi asks.
"The - ?"
"The lawnmower is broken too. Yes, I was meeting someone else. But I told my wife, I told her today that I was leaving her for another woman. For Sandy."
"It was going to be different with Sandy. But she came here to tell me it's over. I got angry. I've lost them both. I've lost everything."
Naomi keeps quiet as the man closes his eyes tightly to cry. She notices Jasmine peeking behind the doorway. She has a frantic look and mouths the words, what are you doing in an exaggerated way that hopefully ensures Naomi understands. Naomi mouths back, I don't know.
"You should stay away from me," the man says, his eyes still closed.
"Why is that?" Naomi asks.
"I ruin people's lives. I ruin them forever."
"Is that why you think it's better to end your life?"
"I'm not ending my life. Don't you get it? My life is already over."
She moves to her knees and gently puts a nervous hand on the man's wet shoulder.
"It doesn't have to be all over. I understand where you're coming from," she says.
"How could you?" he says.
"I had an affair once, a long time ago. Ruined my marriage. The man I thought was my new true love cheated a year after we married."
The man stopped crying, his expression changing a bit.
"It was hard, and things aren't perfect yet," Naomi says, gesturing towards her cleaning cart, "but I'm making something of myself. For the first time in my life I'm doing it myself."
Naomi looks up and sees several more people watching them from the doorway, some dressed in hotel ropes whispering to each other, some way too young with shocked expressions.
"Were you angry?" the man asks.
"Yeah, I was angry. Sometimes I'd spend whole nights imagining how I'd kill him. Can you believe that?" Naomi says, shaking her head.
"Yeah, I can," the man says.
Naomi gives him a warm smile, releases her hand from his shoulder, and looks at him intently.
"The anger will pass. This will all pass. You will be alright," she says.
Rising commotion draws their attention towards the doorway.
"Make some room, please," a voice says. The crowd parts, and three EMTs pile into the bathroom. Naomi quickly gets up and moves clear as the technicians huddle around the man in blood, unknowingly kicking the wine opener towards the sink.
"Thank you," he says to her, and Naomi smiles at him as she backs her way out of the bathroom, out of the crowded entry way of onlookers. Jasmine grabs her arm and squeezes tightly.
"Girl, you were wonderful! You're in the wrong line of work! I gotta tell Dorothy about this!" Jasmine says, running off before Naomi can respond.
Naomi maneuvers her way through the curious guests and walks out onto the patio. The fresh air chills her skin as the noon sun warms it. She smiles at nothing in particular.
"There's no puncture wounds on this man, I don't think this is his blood," she hears one of the EMTs say back in the room.
She turns and her smile fades. In the corner of the patio tucked away, Naomi sees the body of a woman with corkscrew-sized stabbed holes across her face and chest, and a rose in her lap. The blood soaked pavement will be stained forever.