The Valet

I was your valet tonight. You didn’t notice me. I don’t mind. The owner of the restaurant, Simon, he’s British, wants it that way. He has us wear maroon to match the maroon canopy outside the restaurant, which inside is all mahogany panelling. Tasteful. Simon wants us to blend.

We valets cluster by the door when it’s bitterly cold, as it was tonight, it being December. We smoke, pretending that it makes us warm. I’d tell you the names of the other guys who work with me, but I haven’t bothered to learn them. I won’t be here long. Don’t pity me, as I predict you would if you devoted any thought to the matter. My poverty is the poverty of youth. It’s heady, because it’s temporary — it’s a story I’ll tell my grandkids, someday, if I have any grandkids.

Your black Jaguar pulled up, sleek, by rights, and it was my turn, so I went to open the passenger door, but you, dear lady, beat me to it, as if the car contained poison gas that was near to suffocating you. As you stood, I smelled scotch, and when you offered the sky a tight-lipped smile, I froze, honoring the sadness in your face. Then you were gone, and I was left to transact with your husband, whose rosacea was accentuated by another kind of red at the top of his cheeks, not the red of anticipation but of anger. Wordlessly he handed me the keys, and wordlessly I took them.

I won’t lie. It’s a rush to drive the beast Jaguar. When you do it right, he purrs. And though I was only driving a block or two, to park the thing, I gunned it. Who wouldn’t? Satisfied with my ride, I turned off the ignition, and only then did I see the tissues on the floor, on her side. They were not lipstick-stained. So. What should I have concluded? The inside of the car was toxic with pain, its acrid scent compelling me to wrinkle up my nose. The cold air that welcomed me as I walked back to the restaurant was antidote enough, and I gulped it in gratefully.

It is four am, now, and I lie with my lover. She is sleeping, one leg thrown over mine. Her weight on me is heavy and warm, and uncomfortable, really, but I don’t want to move her, because after experiencing you tonight, I need the reassurance. My lover is still plump in all the right ways. But I digress. It is you I am thinking of, Connecticut license plate 201DRM, and your incipient uncoupling after how many years? At least forty, I imagine. Each minute I am awake I think I must be mourning one year of your marriage, gone poof, just like that. You’d think that all those years would afford some protection, wouldn’t you? Did your children throw you an anniversary party just this summer? Yes, I could see that, I could. And now it must be even harder to tell them than it would otherwise be.

We see it all, we valets, know that. Your cars — not their makes, not their models — tell us everything. And tonight, at 8:03pm, I pronounced you dead, just as any good doctor would do. I took your vitals and found that they had flat-lined. I see it too much. You’d think I’d be jaded by now. I’m not, though you might forgive me for idly wondering, as you drove off after what I’m certain was a silent supper, which one of you would get to keep the car, after everything was said and done. You might forgive me that.

4 thoughts on “The Valet

  1. I have sometimes thought about writing the story of everyone I meet during a day of running errands: all the people I interact with. I never considered what their stories of me might be…

  2. You are such a masterful storyteller, Sarah. I love how you can put yourself into the minds others, and bring your readers along with you. This was so vivid.

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