Some years ago I worked as a hotel receptionist at a five-star hotel in my natal town. I don’t want to remember those months! What a rough time I had! My shift started at eleven p.m. and finished at eight a.m. When everybody got up I went directly to bed, in the middle of summer, without sleeping a wink because of the daytime bustle, and besides, I always had the feeling that I was wasting my time if I finally tumbled into the arms of Morpheus.
Once I carried out my usual duties, I had nothing more to do. Unexpected arrivals are infrequent in the wee hours of the morning, so I could die of boredom. I was so sleepy that my head bobbed up and down on my book like a spring-loaded marionette. I could barely keep my eyes open. Apart from the uniformed security guard, who was mostly outside the hotel watching the premises, the only human company I had was the bell boy. I would much rather have been alone. That boy, I think, was suffering from a rare condition, a kind of premature ageing so, although still in his twenties, he looked strikingly like an octogenarian. Scrawny, almost emaciated, his skin was covered with spots and anachronistic wrinkles. But his mouth was the worst. Not only for his teeth, some of them chipped and yellowy, others blackish and most of them completely missing, but also for the fetid breath he exhaled. I could not bear having him come near me.
He stank of stale sweat, built into his poorly washed clothes from time immemorial. Besides, he smelled of cheap wine of the lowest quality, drank by gallons and perspired non-stop by his cachexic body.
His lizard-like little arms ended in two skeletal hands, sweaty and shaky (the effects of booze, I guess), where you could always find a Western novel he used to swap for another one at his customary kiosk.
I tried to convince him, not very earnestly, to change sometimes his literary genre, with no success at all.
During the entire three months he was my workmate, he voraciously read all the novels by Tony Spring, Arizona, Dan Lewis and Dan Luce, without knowing that they had all been written by the same person, the Spanish Marcial Antonio Lafuente Estefanía, a native of Toledo.
He was a nice guy, poor thing! although I could barely understand what he said. Either because he had a husky voice and a persistent cough (he smoked like a chimney), or either because his whistling through his gapped teeth or his careless pronunciation, I could never be sure of what that guy had told me. I didn’t give him any chance to explain minutely either, because I trembled at his proximity.
But he was always kind to me, and he would take charge of the reception desk while I crashed out on the sofa in the hall, and when my school friends came to visit me with a bottle of champagne and we all got in the swimming pool, I with my receptionist uniform (except for the high heels), my friends with their flowered boxers and black sunglasses in the middle of the night.
Oh!What a time it was! If the hotel manager had surprised me, he would have fired me on the spot. However, that job didn’t last long. I quit when my contract expired. I hate working nights. Let the denizens of the dark work night shifts, not me!