‘It would be nice to win the lottery. To be oblivious of the prices, buying them knowing I could pay; to be treated with reverence, having the privilege to indulge in beauty and elegance, I would be free from the shackles of debt forever.’
The sun crept behind the horizon and I basked in its fanning, gentle heat. Time ran slower here—along the shoreline. I wished for it to be slower, though. The sun was kind enough to let me look at the afternoon sky. An odd figure caught my attention: a cloud on top of a cloud. It looked like a castle—my castle—was precariously perched on top. I was a millionaire, no, a billionaire in that castle. Everything I had ever desired was there: a swimming pool filled with beautiful women, a cocktail bar with 007 drinking his shaken not stirred martini, an amphitheater where the likes of Elvis performed, and a lavish banquet enjoyed by the most famous, the most influential, and the most powerful. The architect was meticulous with his building, and he had an ambitious taste for design by the looks of it. Art paintings and an indoor waterfall that I once saw in a magazine were there. And I was the luckiest man to have ever lived.
But my dream was unfortunately disturbed by one particularly loud crash of a wave. It was 4:14 PM, and I realized it was almost my shift. I ran back to the Crab City, Milwin Resort’s finest dining restaurant, to work. To most, it must be a privilege to be an employee of the snazziest establishment in the country, much less they hired the only African-American in town, but I still scrub dirty toilets and clean after the rich’s behinds every night. A privilege that I’d willingly give, but then, I wouldn’t. They paid me good money, but not enough to be kicked around like a rock. I should have been paid extra. But then again, good money was still money, and honestly, I didn’t care. I grew numb to their lack of decency, and I had never hated so much of what was real, and loved so deeply of what was fictional.
I sighed, “Not much of a billionaire now, am I?”
I made it in time for my shift and, as always, boss was there, arms crossed and heel tapping, waiting to give me the scolding of a lifetime. I caught a smirk on his face when he saw me a minute late, then bombarded me with insults. I bet he enjoyed every second of it. But I was used to this, enough to memorize his words by heart. So like always, I kept my head low, counted the shoes that walked by and answer the boss’ stupid questions.
“WHY ARE YOU HERE?” he shouted, evidently trying to sound and look dominant.
“To work, sir,” I meekly said
“WHAT DO YOU DO?”
“Clean toilets, mop floors, and wipe the sink… sir”
“AND WHY IS THAT?”
“Because I look like shit,” I answered, knowing that was what he wanted me to say, and so as to keep the interrogation short.
“I smell like shit,” that too.
“DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME NOW, COLDWOOD?” he yelled close to my ear
“Tch! I doubt a monkey like you will ever understand,” he scoffed as he went inside the kitchen.
I never understood his line of questioning. I bet he wrote those down and rehearsed it in his bedroom. The way he pranced off looked like he did. Show-off. Sometimes I wished my fist would accidentally land on his face. Nevertheless, I let him be, like how he let other workers be, as they slip by an hour later. I didn’t have much of a say but to comply, unless I wanted to lose this job. And I couldn’t afford to lose this one too. I’d rather put up with their bullshit and eat my meals and pay my bills, than to die penniless. That has been my motto since the day I got here. Life would be a lot easier if I was that man in my dream. I couldn’t stop thinking about it since I arrived at work. After giving a careful thought, I gave myself the excuse for diligently moping for thirty seconds, which was a pretty long time if I say so myself. So I took a break from a tiring session…
—Finally, I’m back at the castle. The pool is warm. Ladies, please, one at a time. Everybody gets it. Oh, I like what I see. What’s this? Looks like champagne. It tastes so bitter. I bet it’s expensive. I like it. The music is electrifying. Oh, it’s just Elvis. He sure sounds a lot better in person. Wait. I can’t believe it… Mr. President is he—
“Stop staring, boy. You are making me uneasy.” A customer said while washing his hands on the bathroom sink. “Is it your first time seeing a handsome old man?” he added, now looking at me with piercing eyes through the mirror. He was incredibly well spoken, and had the deepest, raspy voice ever, like he has been smoking a thousand Cuban cigars in one sitting—smelled like it too.
“N—No, sir, it’s just—” I rattled fresh out of my daydream.
“So does that mean I am ugly?”
Panicking, it took me a hot minute before I understood, and so anxiously disagreed. The old man kept his stare and broke into a hysterical laugh, but was cut short by a cough. His earlier demeanor turned into a softer expression.
“Take it easy, young one. You need not fear a man because he wears a nice suit. I am only but a human who suffers the same sins as you. And I see that we share the exact same greed.” the man continued. His accent was foreign, which made me more anxious. I really have no idea if he was still talking to me or if he was one of those crazy self-talkers that I heard of. Well, nobody was inside except us, and his eyes, from time to time, comes up to meet mine.
“I know how you feel. But one day you will meet my age and regret your old desires, Mr. Coldwood.” The old man finished, flicked his hands dry, and left, leaving a 20 sided die on the sink. He definitely was talking to me. I smiled politely with a gentle bow to cover my clueless expression. He must have quite the impressive eyesight to read my nametag from a distance. Looking back at the sink, the die was still there. I should have probably reminded him of his belongings, but curiosity got the better of me. The day was already full of shenanigans, but a man of his age to be carrying, much less leaving a small die? Life sure has its many way of telling you it’s weird.
I waited for the creaking of the closing door to click, then, I approached it. The die was wet, so I dried it using my apron while examining it closely. It had an off-white base color and numbers written in black. It seemed worn out, like it’s been used a lot. The edges were scratched from a million rolls on a million surfaces, and its numbers started to fade to a point that it’s almost unintelligible. Despite these, I knew it’s no ordinary, cheap die because the numbers were embedded on the marble, not painted. And of course, its owner looked like the definition of authority. He breathed out influence in every puff and cough—in other words, smelled like tobacco and Hennessey. But he wasn’t that old as he played out to be. Only a single wrinkle lined his forehead, two around his mouth, and a graying mustache and sideburns gave away his age. And to his credit, he did look attractive. He was filthy rich too, no doubt about it, but he was different from his contemporaries. He was unlike those fat, old businessmen and government bastards who make an ugly face whenever they see something they don’t like: me. I guessed not me personally but maybe because I was different. Well, anyone that didn’t share the same skin color as mine, which was basically everyone, just hated me with a burning passion. It’s not like I killed their dog, or anything. Well, maybe I should have. Anyway, only these people in power had the authority to say what they wanted to say and do what they wanted to do. All the crap heard from their mouths only delighted the devil. They’d usually scream, curse, or spit on me when they enter and see me—a black boy moping their dirty tracks. I had to deal with unnecessary hate daily from these people relieving themselves, like their excrement wasn’t enough shit already. So in my three years of working experience, I found that it’s best to hear, not listen. But for the first time in a long time, I listened. And in a way, had a real, however unexpected, conversation with a real person.
I held the die up to the dim light of the bathroom, and it sure was something. I felt high and mighty while holding it, like it was gold or something. The door creaked, and my instincts told me to hide the die, so I did. The old man must have noticed he left his die. But to my surprise, it wasn’t the old man that entered, but rather, a man with feminine clothing. This must be what they call a gay man. From what I’ve heard, I thought they were a freaky bunch, but after seeing one, I didn’t dislike them. He seemed pretty nice, until he started hitting me with his scarf. Even other minorities hated me. I called bullshit. I waited for him to tire out while my guilt told me to return this die to the not-so-old man. Eventually I left the gay man panting and went on my way. I rushed from the bathroom, out of the kitchen, and into the dining area in hopes of returning the item. I mustered the courage of twisting each knob. As I pushed myself out of the big swinging doors that separated me and my destination, I was shocked to see the vastness and glamor the other side had. I was met with a hundred spiteful eyes and deafening silence. It was incredible to me that I missed so much. It’s like a secret room, but only a secret to me. The management prohibited me to be within the presence of the wealthy, as well as the supposed other colored employees, to which there were none. I usually entered through the back. It was indeed my first time inside but I wasted no time admiring the place and quickly moved past the tables like I knew its twists and turns. But of course, I didn’t. I briskly walked among the bustling waiters and bumped into a few. Whispers slowly became a chorus of complaints, as I was the only black man in the room—in the whole town, to be exact. But my mind was too affixed on dodging the waiters and the approaching security. The customers, I noticed, wore elaborate suits and dresses. I bet it could potentially buy the whole restaurant. They ate little, and at times covered their nose while I walked by. I didn’t mind them doing so. All my focus went in my quest of finding a white suited man. Lucky for me, all men wore black suits. But unfortunately, all men wore black suits. There was no sign of that gentleman anywhere. Security eventually caught up and dragged me outside the valet where, according to him, I belonged. This security man was a genius! The not-so-old man surely made his way there and was probably waiting for his car. Once I arrived outside, I asked the valet if he ever saw a man with a white suit handing him his keys. But he only waved his hand with disgust as a reply. And so I was left with nothing but a die.
I stood there outside questioning everything that had happened up until that point. I grabbed the die in my pocket and it was there, but its owner just vanished. I’ve decided that I’ll keep it—for the meantime. Actually, I was glad I didn’t see the not-so-old man. In fact, while looking for him, I silently wished I couldn’t. Be that as it may, I’m willing to give up something I didn’t own in the first place. At the end of it all, I’m just glad that I met someone that knew my name.
Come to think of it, I left my nametag back home.
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