He’s lugging this suitcase, the first time I see him. It’s a huge brown monstrosity, this suitcase, and probably weighs more than its contents. He’s covered it with stickers of the places that he’s been, like he needs to reassure himself of his past, to check he actually exists. I can dig that. We all need a little reassurance every now and then.
I’m reading this magazine, well, I say reading it but that’s not strictly true. I’m stretching my bubblegum out with one finger and looking at the words on the pages, but reading? That’s too strong a term. The magazine is old anyway, I kind of figure it’s irrelevant. Dead celebrities smile up at me from damp, dog-eared pages and I draw mustaches on them and laugh. One of them is grinning with beautiful teeth and dark eyes, but a stain on the page has given him a huge, horrible birthmark on the side of his face, so now his grin is desperate and his eyes scream “Put me out of my misery, bitch!” I close the magazine and put him out of his misery.
What a joke this job is. I look around at my desk; the only thing of any interest is a small bowl containing something that used to be yogurt.
With nothing better to do, I look up at the man with the suitcase and say, “Help you?”
He’s hopping from foot to foot, a mad gleam to his eyes that betrays his lifestyle. He’s gotta be halfway to the moon, I think to myself, wasted and it’s not even dark yet. Still, I forgive him, because I’m fascinated by the way the rain has plastered his hair to his skull – I’ve been here so long I’ve forgotten what rain does. It drips off the end of his nose and forms a puddle round his shuffling feet. He kicks the suitcase a couple of times and clears his throat, but apparently speech is beyond him at the moment.
I blow a huge pink bubble and he finally says, “Wow, you’re good at that. I can never manage it.”
“Yeah, well,” I reply, pulling the gum back into my mouth like soft, moist skin, “Some of us aren’t fried junkie losers.”
He looks hurt, “Fried? You think I’m a junkie! No, I have this, this condition, kind of. I’m not fried. Look, I was just making conversation, trying to be friendly. Get it? Huh? Would it kill you to be nice?”
“They don’t pay me enough to be nice.” I tell him. “So forget it. You want in, or not?”
He snorts, turns around and starts dragging his suitcase. He goes up the marble staircase, and when I can no longer see him, I still hear the bump of the case as it hits each step. I smile and slowly crack each of my knuckles; he will be back – they always come back.
I spend three hours counting the cracks in the ceiling and drowning flies in the blue-green mess that once was yogurt, before he appears again. This time he is empty-handed and less fidgety. I notice his eyes are bright green now, when I’m sure they were brown before.
“Where’s your suitcase?” I ask, genuinely interested. He looks confused for a moment, and then his eyes widen in dismay.
“Oh!” He says, “I must’ve left it in the damn… I can’t believe it! I’ll have to go back for it.”
“Don’t worry about it. If you’re planning on going in there,” I indicate the doors behind me with wave of my hand, “You won’t need it anyway.”
He looks nervously behind me, and nods, “Right. So, how does this work?”
“Pick a door. One leads to heaven, the other leads to hell. Survive hell, and you get to pick again. Pick heaven first time, and you get your money back. That’s it really.”
He nods again, and then suddenly his mouth breaks into a smile more beautiful than even the dead celebrities can manage. It makes me feel quite sorry for him. He roots around in his pocket, pulls out some sweaty coins and drops them on the desk. One lands in the yogurt.
He strides off towards the door on the right. I call out to him “Hey, just a word of advice, my friend. I wouldn’t pick that door, if I were you.”
He turns back to me and smiles again; he actually gives me the thumbs-up. “Thanks.” He says, and opens the door on the left. Darkness spills from the open doorway the way light normally does. It swallows him up greedily, and the door swings shut behind him.
“No, I wouldn’t pick the door on the right,” I say to myself, picking up the magazine again, “Because then I’d have to go fishing around in the yogurt to get my money back.”