Jollity

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The house was lit up like the metropolitan it was in. Every night I would walk by and admire its perfectly sculptured, pink colored stone that defined it and its glamour. The steps that led up to the entry always had an assortment of potted plants that included majestic bougainvilleas that spilled over the pots and on to the steps and modest, delicate daises that were barely tall enough to show over the rim of the pot. It was a grand townhouse- mansion that was four floors high and its Spanish architecture was soft on the eyes.

I like to take walks at night because you can see into the houses. With the bright lights on there is always clear visibility of the beautiful interiors. I would always see people in their homes. I saw fabulous parties taking place with music, dancing, fine food and beautiful people. I would also see the lonely elderly sitting together as they do their crossword puzzles and sipping on cocktails as they reminisced on years past. Occasionally I would see young couples in their newly bought houses, exploring the spoils of newly made money.

This particular house that I would walk by every night was always full of emotion and happiness and light. There was a man and his wife who lived in the mansion. I would sometimes catch a glimpse of them as I walked by. He was tall with sort of curly strawberry blonde hair. He most likely he worked downtown in some professional field seeing that he was always in a suit and occasionally with a briefcase. She was beautiful with blonde hair always put up in a bun. She was a perfect height with tan skin. I imagine she smelled of delicate perfume and gin. The couple was probably in their mid thirties and they were beautiful, always coming and going, throwing parties and traveling to distant places. I would always envy these people’s commotion and activity of their extravagant lifestyles. Their house was at a perfect location atop a hill. One side looked over the skyline of the glistening city and the rear, from what I could tell, looked over the rest of Pacific Heights, and then the trees of the presidio with its cliffs that stopped off right at the edge of the continent, with views beyond, across the endless living sea.

I didn’t live in any place too special. I had a confined little apartment closer to the airport. There was a little hall that acted as a foyer followed by a larger living area that also contained a kitchen table for dining. Beyond, there was a kitchen, barely a kitchen, really: a counter with a toaster oven, a sink and a fridge. A bedroom opened on to the main room that held a little bathroom and a bed, with barely enough room for my nightstand. That was it for me, but it was all I needed. The tenant before me had broken some of the building rules and painted a large mural on the wall of the living space. A mural of a sprawling tree, home to all kinds of little birds and insects, snakes and small rodents, all living together in harmony. It was peaceful, like a village of agreement and peace. There were even musical notes painted in a sort of curve, circling around the tree and the harmonious animals. One day I sat down at my little keyboard and began to play the notes on the wall. It was an old piece titled “Jupiter: The Bringer of Jollity” which I later discovered.

When Mr. Campisi, my landlord, showed me the little apartment, he apologized for the mural but offered a discount for the place. I got the discount but ended up keeping the mural. It was pleasing to look at every day. The colors were beautiful and everything was so peaceful. I thought it was splendid. But what do I know about art?

The Casa Esmeralda Hotel was a small boutique hotel, located just a couple of blocks from the presidio. I was a bellhop there and have been for three years now. Every day I would take a bus to a subway station; and then a subway to another bus station, then a bus to a stop, then a three block walk to the little hotel amidst the beautiful townhouse-mansions of the neighborhood.

The little lobby of the quaint hotel was quirky in all aspects. There were dream catchers hanging from the ceiling and reprints of famous paintings with mustaches and other kinds of graffiti all over them hanging on the wall. Here and there a tourist would see framed skeleton bodies of flying squirrels, bats, and fish. The real focal point of the hotel was a large statue of Cleopatra with a cobra slinked around her shoulders. It was a wild and bizarre hotel, with prostitutes coming and going in the night, and tourists paying a low fee for a quick overnight stay. This is where I worked, hauling suitcases around for guests. I didn’t mind it but I knew, or at least hoped, it was temporary.

The manager and owner, Mr. Lillypond would occasionally act as a bellhop, and would fill in where needed at the hotel. Lillypond was an aged man, judging by his long grey beard and hair, with the heavy scent of age reinforced by a faint whiff of whisky. All of the artifacts in the hotel were his. He collected them over the years and would always defend them by saying,

“Most people don’t get the opportunity to discover at interesting and bizarre things in their lives, so I give them that opportunity.”

He was a peculiar man, but he didn’t do me any harm. He had a sort of way about him that was compassionate towards all nature; however, this came with a free spirit disposition that was odd to be around. I would walk into the hotel and Mr. Lillypond would be there, sorting through artifacts and money, sipping white wine mixed with cranberry juice, an unusual cocktail, especially in the morning hours, but that was how Lillypond was. He was happy, which was important even though sometimes he would scare the tourists away with his stories about his encounters with aliens, ghosts, and conversations with figures such as Abe Lincoln or Moses. He even referred to his Cleopatra statue as “Cleo” his wife.

One fine evening in late June, with a slight breeze coming up from the south along land’s end, I took a walk, taking the long route back to the bus stop.

It was cool out, but with still a little warmth from the day, rising from the pavement. The white stucco magnified the moonlight. I walked briskly along the hilly avenues and admired the houses and their features, as I always would do. I rounded a corner and there was the great house that the young couple lived in.

I gazed up at the magnificent place and saw movement. It was the man of the house getting out of his big black Rolls. As usual, he was carrying his briefcase, most likely full of papers and such, and he was wearing an elegant, dark suit. He was part of an aristocracy, a higher class in all aspect, a man most likely from an old white family in the East or South and came west for opportunity. He was educated at a prep school then some prestigious university back East. After school, he came out to San Francisco to make his fortune, and to seek what else lived beyond his social constraints and to explore his gift of mobility. The man was successful and a gentleman, something I would never be.

From the street corner I saw the man’s wife, awaiting his return, combing her hair in the foyer mirror, straightening up her home to meet his wishes. Her husband stopped for a moment and took a long rod or something out of his over coat. At first, I thought it was a cane but the moonlight revealed the shine on the glossy, black barrel of a gun. Slowly, he walked up his front steps and opened the big wooden door.

I was frozen, waiting to see what was happening, as if I was in a suspense movie or something. How pitiful I was. Before I knew it, the man had walked into the house, aimed the gun at his wife and fired. There was a scream then she fell to the ground: a helpless victim. He immediately began to gather his wife up and take her away, far into the inner workings of the mansion.

In shock, I turned around and briskly headed towards the bus stop, not looking in any windows or admiring any house. At the bus stop, there were mixes of people awaiting its arrival. There were business men heading home, college students out on an adventure, and lower class workers like myself, heading back to the mediocre suburbs of the city. Number 47 was the bus number. I got on and went home, never looking over my shoulder to see who was following; but I wished that the bus would go on forever into the night, never to stop at my front door.





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