By 5 a.m., most things are settled. I’ve gone through the spas and their treatments rooms and saunas, which still have meditative music playing in the background. I’ve checked underneath the treadmills in the fitness center and noted that there are dead bugs in some of the overhead lights. On the fifth floor, there is a VIP lounge, which has some of the best views of the property—as well as an infestation of fruit flies, that I am emailed about every couple days. Ana cleans suspect areas with bleach, sets up traps, and wipes down the floor so there’s no chance of moisture left behind. Jose has deep-cleaned drains in the back kitchen. We’ve special-ordered pipe cleaners to get inside the pipes in the back. When we leave, I see fewer fruit flies, but when we return the next night, the fruit flies have multiplied. I get calls and emails about the cleanliness of the lounge. I write back words that are apologetic; that promise more aggressive action, alternative steps we’ll take. All the while, I ask the crew to take pictures with their cell phones of how hotel staff leave the trash. If bins are overflowing, it means they weren’t emptied in a timely fashion. Not following protocol. I want evidence of all the dishes left behind, food smeared on surfaces and sitting in the back not taken down to be washed. I collect photos of wine glasses swimming with flies. In this field, you learn to always build your case. It’s not always the hotel staff’s fault. There aren’t enough people scheduled to work the lounge at the same time. I know they can’t get everything done by the time they have to clock out. But really, all I care about is that it’s not my crew’s fault. And the photos will be sent and cc’d to everyone. At 5 a.m., Some of Us are done arguing with the bakers over the time they come in. They shake their heads at the line cooks who want them to empty out the fryers. Not in the contract, we shrug. Insurance won’t cover injuries from oil. We’ve had one injury too many. Some of Us are blasting music there now, mopping the floors. One of the last big tasks before their shifts are over. Jose looks like his head is throbbing, the stress of filling two spots taking its toll.

“I’m an old man, Aimee. I’m too old for this,” he says, wiping the sweat from his brow with his sleeve. 5 a.m. is offering him Advil, which he will never take. It’s when I’m done checking the back hallways, stairwells, the business center, the executive offices on the third floor. I’ve dusted and arranged what little I can, fluffing cushions in the lobby, wiping down sconces, knowing things are not perfect. Nothing is ever perfect for Everyone Else. 5 a.m. is when I start naming exactly what each executive looks for, looking for their individual pet peeves. Paola looks for grime in the hinges of toilet seats, the dust on top of door frames. Alison looks for unpolished shower heads, she looks for hairs on the sauna floors. James checks for bits of trash and gunk trapped in kitchen corners, behind giant doors, the enormous shelves and tables, stocked with dishes and utensils. And those are just the little things. They each want to schedule big things, too. And always as soon as possible.

When can we get the marble cut and polished?

The restaurant and lounge need another carpet shampoo.

Can we steam clean the upholstery on all the restaurant chairs?

5 a.m. is when I look at Jose, hear the rumble in his stomach and say, “Everything’s beautiful.”

 

The rinsing of mops, emptying of buckets. It’s the dull rattle of our heavy carts, rolling back over the swept asphalt to our storage container, kept outside. Each member pushes a bright yellow or blue cart, filled with trash bags (both large and small sizes), metal polish, stainless steel cleaner, bleach, grill bricks, Fabuloso, steel wool, rags, Magic Erasers, brooms, mops, wood cleaner and polish, dusters, latex gloves, and more. 5:30 a.m. is when we cover inventory and I get the order of what we’ll need in two weeks. Some of Us look tired. But most won’t go to sleep until 8 a.m., some at 10 a.m. And almost everyone in the crew works a second job.

“Aimee, I’ve been here one year now, I want a raise,” Hiram says. “You know I have a family. You know this living here is expensive.”

“I already put in your request. Our team makes the most money out of all the other hotels. I can ask again, but it’s not likely,” I say. Hiram is the complainer. Our squeakiest wheel. He is tall and skinny. Early twenties. His hair is black and long but kept in a bun similar to mine. He is not the best worker. Bare minimum effort. Not detailed. I always think that he’ll quit, he complains about the job so much. But he never does. He told me once that this was a good job. Cutting trees is also a good job. You don’t have to work at night. But it’s not steady. Here, I’m inside, so it’s good. It’s not hard. Not like construction, never do construction, he said, tsking his tongue and shaking his head. Hiram’s English is better than my Spanish, but when he’s frustrated he starts speaking to me rapid-fire.

“No entiendo,” I shake my head.

“No sé, Aimee,” he bites his lower lip and looks up into the sky. “I don’t know about this pay,” Hiram says. I try to smile sympathetically, but my pulse always picks up when I hear about money.

At 5:30 a.m. which quickly ticks to 5:45 a.m., Hiram is easiest to say no to. But not some of the others. I want Some of Us to make all the money in the world.

Pretty soon, evidence of each department arrives. A chorus of Good mornings! come from the ladies of housekeeping, all dressed in brown. It’s when Jose and I get to sit down, warm our bones with horrible coffee. He tells me what happened between Omar and Pancho.

“Omar had his music, you know? Pancho was putting mats back down and tells him to turn the music down, but Omar didn’t hear him,” Jose says, stirring Equal into his mug. “Omar started saying some bad words. I think he was singing to his rap music or something. But when Pancho hears it, he thinks Omar’s speaking to him. So, then they’re yelling and boom! Omar pushes Pancho. Then, Pancho grabs Omar’s throat and lifts him up.”

“What?”

“That’s what people told me, but I was outside at the time.” He shrugs and shakes his head. I know Jose could care less for Omar. But Pancho, he will miss.

I wonder what Omar could have been singing. Something offensive. Maybe something about an incredibly large, sad-eyed wife. And Pancho would have yelled stuff back, maybe about thin, awkward boys, not quite men. I shake my head about Omar, who always seemed a little off. And then I think of Pancho and his family. It’s almost 6 a.m. and I’m thinking about the sad and wild pride of men. It’s when I question if Some of Us are just too tired. I think of just how many people have come in and out of this overnight job. The turnaround is unbelievable. 6 a.m. is when I watch Jose rub his temples, eyes closed. He’s required to attend all the same morning meetings I do. I work half as many hours. I think of a long night and long morning. A hunger rattling in his stomach, thinning his bones. I watch his shoulders frown, the gravity of work still resting on them. Crows on wire.

“Go home, Jose,” I say.

“No, one of these days your dad will fire me.”

“You let me handle my dad, okay? I’ll call you later,” I say and usher him away.

7 a.m. is when I’m supposed to start my first meeting, but Everyone Else seems to be running late. It’s the time I write all my emails to the office, detailing what happened the night before; when I send in my orders. It’s the time I question what the hell it is I’m doing here. Staring at my dark, anti-slip shoes. It’s when I pause to think about what Pancho’s wife might say, when I think I can get raises approved, when I think of Jose almost home. Just a little further. Just a little more traffic. Just a couple more exits. Just a couple more turns. Some of Us are too good for this.

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