Thursday, 27 March 2014


"An imbalance between rich and poor is the most fatal ailment of all."

It was so sunny outside that Marty had to squint to look at the computer screen. The glass walls at the east and west entrances stretched two stories up on both sides. The entire lobby to the condo was huge. A pair of marble bridges ran about fifteen feet above the security desk in the front area, one bridge looking over each entrance. To the south, across from where Marty stood behind the counter, was the elevator lobby, separated from the rest of the lobby by more glass walls and doors. Residents needed a keycard to enter this smaller area.

Marty shaded his brow with his hand so he could make out the words on the screen. He had typed in the youtube url but another, unfamiliar screen came up instead. The entrance to his left opened up and someone came inside just as Marty made out the words. The text stated that the website could not be shown and had been blocked. Marty was hoping to play some music for the start of his night shift like he always did. This threw him off.

He looked up from the screen to see a resident he recognized, a man named Harvey Franco, the businessman who lived in the penthouse twenty-six stories up. Marty couldn't stand this man. It wasn't that Mr. Franco ever made problems for security, just that he was one of those alpha male types who looked down on working people, as well as pretty much everyone lower on the society rung than himself. Marty could see it in the way he carried himself, the way he looked at Marty and spoke down to him (when he acknowledged him at all). The building management gave him whatever he wanted, even bent rules at times to suit him. Money, it seemed, took precedent over rules when it came to dealing with him.

Marty remembered the first time he had met Mr. Franco. It was the first week of his training in this Bay Street condo and his boss instructed Marty to question everyone without a keycard. When Mr. Franco came in when Marty was alone at the desk and tugged at the elevator lobby doorway, Marty did what he was told to do. He asked the unfamiliar man if he lived in the building. Harvey Franco's face went red and his eyebrows turned upward at once.

"Of course I live here! I've lived here for twenty-five years!"

"I'm sorry sir, I'm new here," Marty replied shyly.

"I know you're new!" he had shouted back. Marty pressed the button to give him access. Mr. Franco shook his head and stepped in.

Now, standing in the lobby this sunny day, as always, Marty pressed that button to let him in, as Mr. Franco never brought his keycard. "The world is made for men like that, or at least that's how they see it," Marty thought to himself as he watched Mr. Franco enter the elevator lobby once more.

Trevor, his co-worker he was teamed up with this evening, came out from the elevator lobby right after Mr. Franco went in. "Damn sun's so bright. How late is it?"

"A bit after nine-teen hundred hours," Marty answered. "Should be setting soon."

Trevor walked up to face Marty across from the desk. He wore the same mock tuxedo as Marty did with a little clip-on tie. Trevor was just a bit shorter than Marty, though older and a seasoned guard, having done armed guard jobs back in the Philippines. He once told Marty about his stint at a government hospital, where one day a bunch of rich men came to the front of the building insisting on immediate care for their buddy who had a sprained ankle. When Trevor had refused them the rich men opened fire on the building. Trevor and his comrades fired back, hitting the already injured one in the kneecap, ultimately making their bill worse.

"I'm done with patrol, everything's the same as it was since last night.  No parties or any noise or anything," Trevor said to Marty.

"Alright," said Marty. "I guess I'll do a patrol in two hours?"

"Sounds okay," said Trevor, joining him behind the desk.

"Any idea why the youtube isn't working?"

"Oh yeah, management blocked it," he replied with a sigh. "It's too bad. I liked having music on late at night. Apparently management was upset because of the mid-week night shift playing inappropriate rap music too loud."

"Oh my God," Marty muttered. "So they blocked all of us instead of just acting like adults and asking them to stop it?"

"Pretty much," said Trevor, looking about, taking glances particularly at the two indoor bridges over the front desk space. The management office was on the second floor and management sometimes stayed late. Marty imagined Trevor was checking to see if any members of maintenance were listening. The walls had ears and the maintenance understood more English than they pretended to.

Having access to youtube was one of the few things about the job that Marty enjoyed. He wasn't constantly cruising through videos at busy hours or anything, just late at night he would sometimes put music or news on for background noise. It helped him get through the nights, especially the long twelve hour shifts.

"That's ridiculous," he told Trevor.

"I know," said his co-worker. "But what can you do?"

"Get a new job," Marty mumbled to himself, although he knew he couldn't do that, particularly now that he was living on his own. He would only quit if he had another, better job lined up. 

"I'm going for lunch," said Trevor. "You can go for lunch when I'm done, alright?"

"Yeah, no problem," Marty said. It was a pretty dead night overall and Marty wished he had brought a book. He wasn't allowed to bring his laptop to the front desk and work on his own book. There wasn't even a chair or a stool behind the front desk.

His partner came back after half an hour and let him go for lunch. Marty went to the Tim's across the street, getting a bagel with cream cheese and a large coffee. Every day he had at least three coffees although no coffee was allowed at the front desk. On the way out of the coffee shop he came across a homeless man sitting down in front of newspaper bins, his hand holding out a raggedy baseball cap. Marty put a two dollar coin, a toonie, inside and went on his way. He caught sight of the tall, shiny skyscrapers down the street towards the south, and then gazed upward at his workplace, taking in the uppermost floors and the penthouse of the condo.

"Such affluence amid such poverty," he thought. "The two extremes are neighbours."

When he got back inside it was time for him to go on patrol. This was actually a part of the job he liked. Most people, he knew, wouldn't enjoy it since it was monotonous, but for him it was a way to get some exercise and a time to be alone with his thoughts. He also enjoyed going up to the roof-deck at the top and looking out over the city, especially on the nice days. Toronto was quite a beautiful sight, a relatively clean metropolis with enough green spaces to make one think that it was a city built within a forest. Marty knew that Toronto, named for the sticks in the water, or weirs, that the natives used to make, was once a bustling trading spot for various First Nations to meet and trade. It was a place of peace primarily in the days before European colonization.

Marty took a brief view of the city once he was on the roof-deck, this time looking away from downtown. In the past he always looked at Bay Street, Toronto's version of Wall Street, at the waterfront and the blue expanse of Lake Ontario, but today he looked north, east and west. To the east he saw the high-rises of the old part of town, beyond that the long roads of Danforth, College, Queen, King, and beyond that the sprawling neighbourhoods of Scarborough. To the north he first saw the rich neighbourhood of Yorkville, and then the southern part of North York. In the far distance he thought he saw the Pallisades building, just barely; a concrete behemoth of a high-rise tower located right at the intersection of Jane and Finch. To the west he could see Kensington Market, just a bit more west was the Annex and the University of Toronto's main campus. Beyond those neighbourhoods he could just barely make out the west end neighbourhoods near Ossington and Christie. The Junction wasn't in sight, but Marty imagined it was because of the various further off buildings obstructing his sight. 

When he was done on the roof-deck he started his patrol, beginning on the top floor. This one had nicer carpeting than any other one and had only one door, the one to the penthouse. Marty hated the big gold lion-headed knocker on it's front. The man dressed up everything like he was royalty. The next floor down looked like every other one, the places only the normal rich people lived in. The corridors were a beige colour with crimson carpeting, looking like a standard hotel in downtown Toronto or Manhattan.

Marty sighed, thinking things over in his head, all the while keeping his eyes peeled for anything out of place, which was his job. "Why am I here?" he asked himself. "I've got a bachelors in Political Science, yet here I am patrolling hallways." 

In his mind Marty started to imagine he was patrolling the hallways of a space station. This sometimes helped keep his mind active, feeding his imagination, the only thing that could help him when he was at work. As a child he had grown up on science fiction. His favourite shows, movies and novels were the ones where a near utopian future was portrayed, a world where the petty squabbles of the present-day were overcome by a united humanity. As he aged he realized that less people had such optimistic projections for the future, if they even had thoughts at all on the subject.

He always valued the escape. Now he felt he needed to escape more than ever.

When Marty had finished his patrol and returned to the front desk Trevor was busy speaking to a young woman. Marty saw her from behind. She had long, semi-wavy dirty blonde hair, a slim body and was wearing tight-fighting dark jeans that fit her form perfectly. "Damn," Marty thought to himself, but kept his usual work poker face. He managed a slight smile when he got back behind the front desk and saw the front of her. She was beautiful.

"Hey," she said to him as she noticed him. "Are you new here?"

Marty felt the skin on his face go warm. "Yes, well, no, not really."

"Not really new at all," Trevor said, handing her a form and a pen. "Okay ma'am, we just need your signature here and the parking spot is yours for another month. Same as usual."

"Thanks," she said, not taking her eyes of Marty. "What's your name?"


She gave out her hand. He took it, noting in his mind how soft and smooth her skin felt. "Erin," she said with a smile, revealing near perfect teeth. Marty nodded, unsure of what to say next.

"You live here?" he managed, looking into emerald green eyes.

She shook her head. "No, I just park here."

"Oh," he said, realizing that she probably had a boyfriend in the building.

"My girlfriend lives here," she said.

"Oh, girlfriend?" Marty asked, not sure if he should be relieved to hear that or not.

Erin laughed. "Well, not my girlfriend exactly."

"We're open-minded," Marty said jokingly, though he probably shouldn't have at work.

"Nice to meet you, Marty," she said, giving the form back to Trevor. Marty watched her leave to the elevator lobby. There were many young woman in the building, and visitors, that Marty thought were attractive, but this new woman was like no one he had ever seen, at least not recently. Trevor starting telling Marty something, but Marty didn't hear it.

"I'll give you a moment," he said.

"Ah, yeah, sorry Trev. What were you saying?"

"I'm saying I'll make a coffee run, want some?"

"Oh yeah, hell yeah," said Marty. "That girl, or rather, sorry, that woman, you know her?"

"Yeah, she's been here a while," Trevor replied. "Just she usually pays for her monthly parking during the day. I used to work day shifts so that's why I see her. She's a waitress at a fancy restaurant nearby."

"She says she's got a friend in the building. Does she have a boyfriend, do you know?"

"Oh yeah," he said. "You're not going to like this. She just started dating Mr. Franco."

"Ah crap."

Even beneath his eyelids there was nothing but red light. Marty grunted, opening his eyes to the two lightbulbs on the ceiling, waking from a brief dream where he was an astronaut floating near a binary star system. He turned over, bringing the pillow over his face. From his side he could see his alarm clock/radio. It was an hour before noon. His work started at seven, another twelve hour shift.

For a second he thought of Erin, but shook it out of his mind. "Sleep. Go to sleep."

The light was too much. He couldn't stay asleep. In the past five hours he had been trying to sleep, having been asleep for a total of one hour, if that even. Every time his mind was relaxed the lights woke him up again. He had the lights on for a good reason, to keep the cockroaches at bay. He hadn't seen any, but he didn't want them coming near him while he slept. In the dark he felt random tickling sensations on his skin, but whenever he went to swipe at them they were gone.

A few hours before his room-mates had woken him up. They had been were talking loudly in the kitchen. At first Marty tried to ignore it. For some reason the trains passing by outside his window never bothered his sleeping, but the conversation in the common space was different.  At one point the Englishman starting laughing really loudly at a joke made by a deeper voiced, unknown occupant. Marty had had it. He got up and lazily tried to open the door. Immediately Richard called out to him. "Everything okay? Need to get out?"

"No, no," Marty said. "It's just, I'm trying to sleep right now."

"Oh sorry! Sorry! We'll move."

Marty got the door open and stuck his head out. Richard stood up from his chair and reached for his own door on the other wall. Marty nodded at the new person. He was a fairly big man, looked to Marty to be in his mid-thirties likely.  He had a slight afro with a receded hairline, looking to be likely mixed black and white, about the shade of Obama. 

"Hey sir," Marty greeted. Even though he was frustrated, he wasn't angry. It was obviously a misunderstanding. He had just moved in afterall and there was no way they could have known he was a daysleeper/night owl.

The man looked behind himself as if he were looking for someone else, then smiled as he looked back. "Sir?"

"My name's Marty," he said, reaching out a hand.

The new room-mate went over to Marty and grabbed his hand. "Jordan," he said.

"Sorry, wasn't trying to be a dick," said Marty. "Just tired and got to work tonight."

"No problem!"

"Yeah, it's no problem," Richard added.

"Thanks," said Marty, slowly closing the door. The other two men disbanded outside, going into their respective rooms. Marty could hear Jordan closing the door next door. They were neighbours. Marty hoped he was a nice guy. "He seemed alright. I can live here fine so long as my room-mates are decent. Ivan said they were all professional. We're all adults so we can just act like it."

Eventually he slept, got a few hours worth, then woke up and got ready for work.  He slept again on the bus, feeling miserable about having to work at a place for so little money.  He dreamed of being in an office, his own office, and living in his own house, a place he wanted to be in the long-run.  Marty hoped his situation was only temporary as he punched in for another night of work.

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