When the pipe busted in the second floor restroom, sewage dripped on the corner of Rosie’s desk in the black plastic file box. She stared at her computer screen and didn’t even notice, but she felt something on her neck and arm, like an annoying fly one might shoo away, and a bit later when the asbestos ceiling tile could no longer hold the sewage, it broke into pieces and rained down on her desk, splashing on her skin and clothes. Rosie called maintenance and they said they’d be along. In the meantime, she went to the restroom downstairs, tried to wash it off her skin and get it out of her clothes, but the paper towel disintegrated in pieces on her clothes in addition to simply smushing sewage further into her blouse.
Rosie went back in her office, called maintenance again, and began to move her keyboard and speakers, her purse, and a box of Kleenex that weren’t wet. When the maintenance workers finally showed, they told her they didn’t believe it was sewage, that it was an air conditioning coil that broke and leaked, but the brown water combined with the smell coming from the ceiling and carpet contradicted them. Soon enough, one of the workers brought a buffer in, sprayed chemicals, and buffed the sewage further into the carpet, spreading it out further. Another worker, a custodian, came in, raking the sewage water from the desk into a plastic garbage bag.
“That buffer isn’t pulling the sewage out of the carpet,” Rosie protested.
“Oh yeah,” he told her. “You’ll see. It’ll be gone before you know it.”
“The only place it’s going is over there and over there and over here.”
The worker smiled, said he’d get his supervisor to explain it to her. Rosie thought no amount of explaining it was going to change the facts. In a while, the worker came back with an article printed off from the internet. “They said to give that to you.”
Despite her exasperation, Rosie read it, and the article clearly said that buffing did not extrapolate stains, that it was better to use a carpet cleaning machine. She tried to explain this to the worker. “The article doesn’t even recommend using a buffer. Did your supervisor even read the article?”
“I don’t know. He just told me to give it to you.”
Rosie decided to go home and change. When she returned, the sewage had been spread throughout the carpet, it smelled like rotten eggs and chemicals, and it bothered her they hadn’t replaced the ceiling tile because of the possibility of another leak until they could get a contract plumber to come. The worker had told her “We’ll put a sign on the restroom door upstairs, so no one will use the restroom just in case it’s not the air conditioning line.” Rosie understood the risks of working for a company in a hundred year old house that no amount of paint and carpet would change guts like pipes and electricity no more than a facelift, Botox, or a lip job was going to change the fact that a face was still seventy-five years old.
About four o’clock, Rosie’s husband called her to let her know he was working late again, but Rosie knew his words were just another buffer. “Son of a bitch just covering his own shit. Ain’t got a working bone in his sorry body,” she muttered, and a little after four, Rosie heard a flush above, a sound she’d heard for the past six years she’d been at the company, and she rolled backwards anticipating another waterfall of sewage, but it didn’t come quickly, so she rolled back to her desk, finished the email, hit send, and felt a drop on her neck and arm, but before she could move, it rained down on her desk again. She logged off her computer, grabbed her purse, walked to the restroom to get what she could off, and headed out the door for the quick drive to her house where she showered, changed, packed her belongings, and a map. She drove to the ATM where she drew out as much as she could, and got on the ramp to the interstate to drive South to the beach where she planned to start over in a condo built on a slab with tile near the beach, where there would never be a need for a second story, carpet, a buffer, or a husband. Rosie’d had enough shit for this lifetime.