I was a Census taker for the Department of the Senseless
in a life long since forgotten, as I counted heads probably
not worth counting. Not far from my house, on my “beat”, was a
forgettable excuse for a hotel. The Rio Hotel had no business
standing, and has since become a byword, but it had many
“entrepreneurs” and quite a few “entertainers”. I did the
monthly interviews and always reported back to my supervisor,
Nora Klasski, who was a geometric marvel. On some days, she was
shaped like a rhomus, on other days, a rectangle, and sometimes,
she was shaped like an Isosceles Triangle. I think that the shape
she assumed for the day would depend upon whatever she had for lunch.
It was during my second interview of the residents that I finally
noticed Hazel, my junkie princess with the sunken eyes, the cadaver
toned skin, fingers missing on each hand and hair that
looked as if it belonged on someone else’s head. Our eyes met and
locked at once, (as if I had emitted an inaudible dog whistle
of an invitation), and so she inched ever closer and then effortlessly
sat on my lap, giving me a cigarette, whiskey and chewing gum
flavored tonsilechtomy. She had, in fact, answered all of my
usual, monthly questions; about the common hallways, lavatories,
hospitals and preferences, “…on a scale of 1 to ten, state your
satisfaction with your current domicile…”. “Do you prefer to
live at the Rio Hotel?” Would a cockaroach prefer to be a gnat
or a bedbug? Hazel was like a whirlpool and vacuum cleaner
at the same time, as her cigarette scented suction testified
amply as to the expertise and experience that she had in this
area. She knew what she was doing. I was hooked.
Each month I would be required to go to this enormous, seedy, ugly
building without an elevator for five floors and sixty plus rooms,
that called itself a hotel but…that was a lie! It was a actually
a pre-cemetary; a repository for soon-to-be corpses waiting in
Death’s lobby, who were lying as well, to themselves and the rest of
the world, in pretending to be recognizable people. Yes, it was
clear that the Rio had an identity crisis; which Hazel solved,
for she was the Rio Hotel. Round about the fourteenth of each month,
I would interview the select sample of residents, but I always
saved Hazel for last. After I got past the pungent mixture
of penny perfume, cigarettes, beer, reefer and impending death,
I got very used to her, for she became a kind of combination of
hybrid appliance, a groaning inflatable doll, and a junkie version
of Dr Joyce Brothers. I came to love her in my my own bankrupt
way. I knew that she was using the “shit”…and me! I refused
to let that sink in.
On one of my last visits, I saw her in the lobby, on the pay phone.
I came up very close behind her and began to squeeze her against me,
as her long, charcoal ponytail high on her head swung back
and forth, making me even hornier. She protested mildly and then
offered no resistence as she appeared to surrender. We went on
grinding for a good while until Greasy Gus finally told us to behave
ourselves, where we promtly finished our business in the stairwell,
yet another momentous event in the annals of the Rio Hotel. I knew
that she loved me, in her own whorish way, as best as she could.
She knew what she was doing. The Census ended the next month, and
there was no further need to visit the Rio, as all good things
must end, don’t you agree
I never went back to visit the Rio or Hazel anymore. I did see her
a few times, and it was understood that whatever we had, had run
its course, and so it would be pointless to mess up a good thing.
Not long thereafter, I passed by to see the Rio reduced to splinters
and dust, in order to make way for the brand new 54 million
dollar Federal Courthouse. This was like putting a wedding dress
on a dead pig. Hazel was gone. The last time I saw her was on
Central Avenue, right outside St. Michael’s Hospital. Underneath
the long, shiny hair was a pain twisted face invaded by desperate
eyes. She asked me for $75 bucks. I told her to meet me there
at the same time tomorrow. That never happened.
I heard from a fellow tenant and her close friend that Hazel had
died not long after; no, I never did catch the “carnal flu”.
Wherever she is now, she is probably a fixture in the lobby
of a place just like the Rio Hotel, denying, delaying and dying.
Sure, God has forgotten, but I remember the Rio.