His Witness

By: Vanessa Waltz


No more visiting college campuses. No more lurking near cafés filled with students, and no more sitting in on huge lectures. It just makes me feel like crap.

Just forget about college. Forget about learning things and meeting new people and having fun.

The tightness in my chest gets worse and I walk quickly toward the streets, past happy couples and milling students, tears falling quickly down my face. No one stops to ask me if I’m all right. They don’t even look at me.

I feel invisible.

* * *

Electric beats pound in my ears like a second heartbeat and the bass shakes the floor, vibrating up my legs to rattle my bones. A drunken man bumps into my shoulder and spills some of his drink on my pumps, and bile rises up my throat. It’s rare that I can afford something as nice as those shoes, and now they’re covered in what looks like rum and Coke.

God, I hate this place.

“Sorry!” he yells.

I give him a thin-lipped smile and walk away from the bar. Too many drunken idiots. Too many sweaty, screaming bodies jumping and yelling. I’m so sick of this constant buzzing in my ears, the people writhing on the dance floor, grinding on each other like animals in a documentary series. I am bone tired, and it’s only a couple hours into my shift. My nose wrinkles in disgust at the state of the bar counters. There are fingerprints ghosting the normally gleaming counters. I try to rub them off. Sticky. Where’s Manuel? He’s supposed to clean this shit.

I head for the Employees Only door, bursting inside. It’s a small, depressing space with a long table and a few chairs and desks. Manuel sits back against his chair, a dirty washcloth lying on the table in front of him. My insides seethe when I see him lounging in a chair with two other guys.

The door slams shut and he jumps at the noise.

“Manuel, when I tell you to clean the tables, I need you to clean the goddamn tables. They’re disgusting. How long have you been back here?”

A guilty look slides over his face. “I’ve just been taking a break.”

Taking a break, my ass.

“Let’s go,” I snap.

He gets up slowly and looks at me moodily, grabbing his washcloth with a huge sigh.

“Hey, if you don’t want to be here—”

He throws up his hands. “I’m going. Sorry.”

Then he walks around me and heads outside. I glare at the men sitting down at the table, who should be out front, passing out flyers for the club, enticing people to come inside. In a desperately bored sort of shuffle, they stand up and wearily move to the exit, too. The looks they give me make me inwardly quail.

I don’t like doing this. I don’t like ordering people around and acting like a complete bitch.

Really, there’s nothing about this job that I like, but I’m stuck here.

I glance in a mirror to gaze at my angry reflection, my black curls like a dark halo around my head. For a moment I mourn the loss of the carefree, innocent girl I was only a year ago, before I began this mess. Now I’m a foul-mouthed borderline alcoholic.

I resist the urge to crawl into my office with a bottle of tequila and slam the door shut. If I did, the whole place would go to hell. There’s always a problem, always a fight, someone trying to deal coke in the bathrooms, someone getting groped on the dance floors, problems with the live music, something.

Fuck, there’s probably something going on right now. There always is.

I reenter the club, the loud blast of music making my head pound. It’s a Friday night and the place is packed with people. Michelle, the club girl I hired a while back, tosses her blonde head on the dance floor. All she has to do is look hot and dance, and she gets free drinks. She gets paid for dancing, basically.

I like her, though. She’s smarter than the other girls I usually deal with. By smart, I mean that her vocabulary is beyond “like” and “um.” It’s a welcome relief after dealing with so many girls in their early twenties who act like airheaded teenagers. Since I can’t afford college, this is the only social interaction I get.

Pathetic.

A man in a dark suit sits at the bar, calmly sipping his vodka tonic. The lights bleach his olive-skinned face and the black hair falling over his eyes. He notices me staring at him, and I look away. A rush of heat fills my cheeks when I recognize him.

He’s one of them. They all wear suits. They’re all Italian. They’re all squeezing the life out of me. The guy I’m giving furtive looks once pressed a fifty-dollar bill in my hand when Michelle and I were hanging out in the back. I saw them exchanging something with other guys—drugs, probably. It was when I first started working under my dad. I had no idea what I walked into.

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