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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Le Papier

She spends the day cleaning after them; a glorious job that receive little if any gratitude. Sure the pay is lousy, it’s not like she was offered a better job. She readjusts her headscarf. At least she is keeping with the teachings of her culture, or so she tells herself as she puts the mop back in its place. Every time a man walks out, she has to mop the floor. Every time a woman walks out, she has to check if there is a bloody tampon that missed its destination.
It is near the end of her shift, one more hour and the mall closes; she would leave these bathrooms to the comfort of her own homes. The apron she is wearing is gathering up a stench she’s grown used to. “ce la vie” she needs the job, the money to send back to her family.
She finishes wiping the floor of the first stall, and is followed by a young man. “Pardon ?” he says “ er.. toilet paper ?” he can’t speak the language, she ignores and retorts “papier ?” “oui, merci” he smiles, she picks up a large roll of toilet paper and leads the way. She goes into the bathroom and looks at the stalls, then at him, there is this inherent sadness in her eyes that is mixed with habitual indifference. He points at the third stall following his gesture with another extending three fingers indicating the number of the stall.
She goes to the stall; someone is inside. She knocks at the door “monsieur, le papier”. No reply, she can’t even get recognition from a fellow human, one in need of her service at this very instant. “monsieur, le papier”, no reply she looks at the young man perplexed “what is wrong with this guy inside” she thinks. She tries to slide the roll underneath the stall door “le papier”, fails. Tries the top of the stall “monsieur ?”, still no reply. Accidentally the roll drops in the stall. She gives up, give the young man a look that could only mean “ah well at least it is inside now”. A grey haired man walks out of the stall looking slightly confused and discomforted. The young man over looks him and walks in the bathroom. She walks out resuming her usual work.
The mall is nearly closing, 8 pm finally. She drags the caged door down, blocking the way in towards the bathrooms. She waits for the last tenants of the bathrooms to leave. The young man walks out; confused he looks at the way out now caged. She explains to him how to get out, he nods. “he didn’t understand a thing” she thinks, and it’s true he went straight when he was supposed to head left. “monsieur ! monsieur !” she tells him to go left. He does yelling a polite “merci !” before he disappears behind the corner. “incroyable !” a woman behind him mutters.
The day is over, every single one of these pissers and shitters is gone. Finally she can take of this stinking apron, and get on the metro home. She takes the apron off, changes out of her camoflauge outfit; she wears this to work, it is more comfortable and doesn’t stink as much. She puts on regular clothes, clean ones. Locks up the mops and buckets and heads out.
As she is getting on the metro she reminds herself “when I go home I need to buy more toilet paper”

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