Tanya had let it go on long enough. Meeting with the Headmaster was her only option. She worked at the Rochester Academy, a private All Girls school serving Kindergarten through 12th Grade on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Daughters of high society are sent there to be intellectually stimulated and molded into the future leaders of tomorrow. Here the child is always right. Parents can remove their beloveds if they believe they had been wronged, and hundreds of thousands of dollars of tuition money gets diverted to a rival institution. Each family is a customer. If their daughters had a wonderful experience, the higher probability they would make tax deductible donations to the school. And if the girls loved it there, they could one day send their own daughters for the legacy of well bred bitches paying exorbitant tuition to continue.
Tanya was a night cleaner at Rochester, the lowest on the staff hierarchy. She was instructed to never interact with the girls, like her lack of education could be contagious to the perfect ladies of high society. She understood. Her mother was a prostitute, her father could have been anyone. Of her five siblings, she was the only one not in jail or dead. She struggled with meth addiction for ten years, but was clean for ten months. The stigma followed her, since she still had the look of an addict, with facial pockmarks, sunken eyes and a rail thin frame. Her measly status made her idea of complaining to the Headmaster ridiculous, such a brazen act could get her in trouble. Only at a spoiled brat school could a cleaner get in trouble for the girls defecating on the bathroom floor and smearing it on the walls, floors, and mirrors. She didn’t know whether it was a concerted effort by a few, or done by many. Regardless, it was unbecoming of ladies of their upbringing.
She lived in practical squalor in a Bronx basement and spent her days and nights working her two jobs, the other cleaning hotel rooms. She sometimes wondered why she bothered getting clean, since life was equally miserable when she was on meth. There was always the temptation to give in to addiction, because for that high moment, everything was fine. She committed terrible acts in those lost years of addiction. Stole from the vulnerable, committed armed robbery, prostituted her body. She deserved to clean shit, a perpetual penance, but the more she did it and the more degradation she felt, the higher the probability of relapsing.
The Headmaster, who got paid over 500k annually and whose school earned millions in revenue, didn’t find it necessary to provide the cleaning staff with paper towels, disguising her miser behavior as a “Go Green” initiative. Cleaning feces with a mop, then cleaning classrooms with the same mop was cross contamination of the highest order, so she brought her own paper towels. The Headmaster wanted to be politically correct and save money, and didn’t care if the expected standards of cleanliness were achieved with paper towels paid from the lowest earning’s pockets.
Tanya dressed in her best clothes and styled her hair for the first time in ages for the meeting with the Headmaster. She entered the office where a middle aged, stereotypically dressed and featured secretary typed on her computer. “Can I please speak to the Headmaster?” Tanya asked.
“Do you have an appointment?” the secretary replied, brushing away her dyed red hair.
“No, but this is important,” Tanya said.
“She’s not available now, but I’ll call her to see when she is.”
Tanya thought back to being high, how a hit would make nervous moments like what she was experiencing bearable. Her mouth salivated, head grew weak and heart beat irregularly. Ten months of sobriety could be wasted in a moment of weakness. Strength was imperative. No matter how awful the cravings were and how miserable her life was, she maintained her identity off meth. She was a caring human being, not some faceless junkie.
An hour slowly passed before the Headmaster opened her door. She was a petite mousy looking woman in her mid-forties with blonde hair, blue eyes, a small mole on her chin and a dusting of makeup powdered on her face. Her name was Angelique Beaulieu, which sounded upper class, befitting of her executive role. “Come inside,” the Headmaster said.
Tanya stood and smiled, thankful she fixed her formerly meth rotted teeth upon getting clean. When interacting with the upper class, she needed to look decent to be taken seriously. “Thank you for meeting me.”
The office was spectacular. Three diplomas from Brown University were prominently displayed behind an enormous executive desk, approximately 5-6 feet long. The wood paneled walls were decorated with vibrantly colored education themed oil paintings. A large bay window overlooked the courtyard with the skyscrapers of Manhattan as the backdrop. Plushly cushioned chairs were in front of the desk, and she sat on one. Quite a stipend was allocated for decorating when an aura of success had to be portrayed. Magnificence defined Rochester.
“Why are you visiting me?” The Headmaster’s tone was taut, showing her time wasn’t to be wasted.
The air nervously rose in Tanya’s throat. She felt small and unworthy complaining to this powerful woman in her brilliant office. “I want to let you know about a situation in the Middle School.” Her tone was meek, which was not what she wanted.
“Sorry, but who are you?” The Headmaster’s eyes gave off a vibe of annoyance, that she couldn’t be bothered with anything Tanya said.
“Sorry, I forgot to introduce myself. I’m Tanya Jones, the night cleaner at the Middle School.”
“I get here when the school day ends, so I’m in the background. But I work hard!”
“Okay.” The Headmaster couldn’t care if she tried, and her patience was dwindling.
Tanya stuttered while trying to form a coherent sentence. Her perceived unworthiness sabotaged her. “This is hard to say, but the girls are smearing feces all over the bathrooms.”
The Headmaster crossed her legs, like she was not going to take the issue seriously. Her eyes rolled and she gave an elongated sigh. “So you want me to send letters home about this and force parents to have that conversation with their children? A majority of whom are innocent. Parents will believe their children are being accused. Or do you want me to make an announcement on the loudspeaker to start rumors? You’re paid to clean bathrooms, so clean bathrooms!” She slammed a folder against her desk to illustrate her point.
The point was understood. Her job was to clean shit. “Can you provide me with paper towels instead of a mop to clean it? I’m paying my own money for them.”
“We’re a green school. What example will we be setting if reams of paper towels are being delivered? The only paper we use in this school is toilet paper.” The Headmaster stood up, cueing Tanya to leave. The Headmaster took offense to the reality of her situation, which wasn’t the reaction Tanya expected from someone so prominent and educated.
Tanya left the office, feeling depressed, couldn’t even argue the dangers of cross contamination. The temptation to use meth was strong as ever.
Tanya’s shift began in the cafeteria, where she put the cloth napkins the students used for lunch in the washing machine. She held off washing a handful of them, and put them in her rolling cart. Rage harbored inside her, turned her stomach and blinded her from differentiating right from wrong. The Headmaster disrespected her, despite preaching inclusiveness and kindness on the website and in letters to staff. Respect was unnecessary for someone whose job was to clean shit. Hypocrisy. Meth would make it bearable. But the Headmaster and the snotty girls couldn’t be the cause of her premature death, because that’s what a hit would lead to.
Feelings of inadequacy overwhelmed her. Nothing in the bank, wasn’t dating anybody, no friends or children. She amounted to nothing. Her miserable life’s purpose was to clean shit. She wheeled her cart to the soiled bathroom and cleaned it with the white cloth napkins until they were brown. She got those bitches back, but with many innocent bystanders, too many. In her state, she didn’t care. She dumped the soiled napkins into the washing machine, fully realizing the immense trouble she could get into, and not regretting it.
The routine continued for a week. Nobody voiced a complaint about the napkins to her, though they were obviously dirtier, and some were becoming unsalvageable. There was a greater volume to wash, so many discarded their napkin without using it for a cleaner one. She started coming to work earlier and sat on the toilet to catch the culprits in the act. She wouldn’t yell or discipline them, she just wanted to plead for them to stop. It was a sad way of life.
A group of girls entered the bathroom, and she instinctively brought her legs up to give them the illusion of solitude. It was 3:15, right before after-school activities began, and a prime time for the act to unfold with fewer people to catch them. Her heart beat apprehensively.
“I really don’t want to play today. I’m done with field hockey,” the first girl said.
“It’s not even a sport,” said the second girl.
“I’m perfectly cool riding the bench,” said the third girl.
“But you’re the backup goalie. If Sam gets hurt, you’ll be in. There’s nothing more embarrassing than giving up a bunch of goals,” said the first girl.
The girls ran the water, presumably washing their faces and hands, while continuing to complain about field hockey. There was a collective misery, a sisterhood of sadness. Those girls weren’t smearing feces, they were the victims wiping their faces with soiled napkins, providing the human side of her victims. But she consciously ignored that. Another dead end. The culprit or culprits were probably doing their damage to another bathroom as she sat helplessly. Someone with a loud clanking heels entered the bathroom. “Hello Ms. Beaulieu,” the girls said in unison.
“Win today!” the Headmaster exclaimed.
“We’ll try!” the first girl replied, faking enthusiasm.
“You’ll win!” the Headmaster commanded, adding pressure, like there wasn’t enough already. “We’re playing a school for the deaf. Losing is inexcusable!”
The girls rushed away, without responding to her demands. They were normal kids forced to play a sport they clearly didn’t enjoy, making it a chore on top of homework, reports, and extra-circulars. The Headmaster’s pressure was unnecessary, and Tanya didn’t blame them for escaping. The interaction showed the woman had no business working with children.
“They better win,” the Headmaster remarked to herself. She entered the stall next to Tanya and proceeded to crap her brains out. Impressive force for such a petite woman. There was splatter, which would make it difficult to clean. She had the confidence of someone who thought she was alone, didn’t even courtesy flush. There was a splat against the wall, and a piece of crap covered toilet paper slid down. No way could Tanya have considered the Headmaster was the psychopath smearing the shit, and took out her phone to record the bitch red-handed.
The Headmaster exited her stall. Tanya stood on top of the toilet to get a view of the entire bathroom and started recording. Just like Tanya hoped, she captured the Headmaster throwing a shit filled piece of toilet paper against the mirror. The Headmaster gave a maniacal laugh, while washing her hands over the filth, disgustingness of unfathomable proportions. She was in a public restroom that anybody could walk into, yet had a God complex that made her believe she was indestructible, and she was far from it.
Tanya became the most powerful person at the Rochester Academy. The former junkie noticed by nobody was important for the first time ever. She could leak the video with the caption that the filth was cleaned with the cloth napkins the girls used at lunch. No school could survive such scandal. Parents would remove their daughters and sue, causing the infrastructure to crumble and disgrace the school’s legacy.
Tanya copied the video to digital and physical storage. Reaching out to the Headmaster before anything drastic transpired was good practice. Give the psychopath a chance to explain her indefensible actions. Tanya wanted a promotion and 10k for keeping her mouth shut, which was nothing in comparison to the damage she could do. It was so measly that it wasn’t blackmail, it was claiming what was rightly hers. She returned to the Headmaster’s office the next day, a Friday. The secretary gave her a dirty look, the mean girl tactics of middle school must have been contagious to her. “I’m here to meet with the Headmaster,” Tanya said.
“She doesn’t have time to meet with you,” the secretary said.
“I’ll wait,” Tanya said, standing her ground.
“She’s too busy for you.”
“I can catch her when she’s walking out of her office if she’s so busy. She has to go to the bathroom sometime.”
“You’re not understanding me. She can’t meet with someone like you.”
“Believe me, it’s in her best interest.”
“I doubt it, you’re just a cleaner.”
The secretary’s entitlement astounded her. A cleaner was an honest job necessary for the school to function, Tanya doubted the secretary would clean feces smeared bathrooms. She opened the door to the Headmaster’s office, where the Headmaster was typing on her computer. “Don’t worry Gloria, she can stay!” the Headmaster yelled out to the secretary. “Take a seat.”
Tanya shut the door behind her, with no intentions of sitting. “I have something to discuss.”
The Headmaster cut her off. “I was about to find you because I did some digging into your past, and uncovered an arrest for methamphetamine possession. That’s on me for missing out on the background check. Meth use is not indicative of the values of Rochester and a poor example to set for our girls.”
“I do not deny that. It was scrubbed from my record.”
“But you lied on your application, so you will be terminated, effective immediately.”
Tanya maintained her composure. She had the Headmaster right where she wanted her. “I’ll give you a counteroffer, and that is you give me a promotion to custodian with the raise that goes with it, as well as 10k in cash.”
The Headmaster broke out into laughter. “Are you high? Smoking that meth?”
“Change the 10k to 20.” Tanya’s tone was direct, no-nonsense.
“You’re insane. I’ll call security if you don’t leave with whatever dignity you have left.”
“200k.” Tanya was regarded as if she was trash, so any mercy was out.
The Headmaster reached for her desk phone, clueless her world would come crashing down in a matter of seconds. Tanya put her phone in the Headmaster’s face and played the video. A wide range of agonizing scenarios clearly ran through the Headmaster’s mind. Her fate was in the hands of a lowly uneducated cleaner, someone who she never respected. The Headmaster held absolutely no power.
“What do you want from me?”
“Like I said, a promotion and 200k. If not, the video gets released. I have it backed up, so if something happens to me, not saying you’re so depraved to hurt or even kill me, I entrusted someone to release it.” The last part was a lie, but Tanya had to maintain the fear. She didn’t know what levels the Headmaster would go to protect her reputation. Insurance was necessary.
“I can’t fire someone and make you a custodian, and we have accountants, so I can’t give you 200k. I feel terrible about what I did, I really do!” Her response was a rushed cop-out.
“Treating me like a stiff is only digging yourself into a deeper hole.”
“The video is fuzzy, people may not believe it’s me.” The Headmaster was countering, instead of taking responsibility.
“Go for it, if that’s the risk you want to take. So you know, I cleaned the shit with the cafeteria napkins, because you don’t allow paper towels. That’ll be released as well.”
“Then you’ll be in just as much trouble as me, maybe more, because you committed a crime!”
“I have nothing, and thus nothing to lose. You have so much, and thus everything to lose.”
The Headmaster paused. That comment resonated, and terrified her. “Fine, I’ll give you the job. I’ll make it sound necessary to the Board that we need another custodian. But I can’t embezzle 200k. Maybe I can overpay you 10k a year, and you can eventually get your money if you work here long enough.” She was business like, hiding her nerves and powerlessness under a false demeanor of confidence. In her deranged mind, she justified her weak proposal as a fair business deal.
“The 200k doesn’t have to come from the school. You make an impressive salary.”
The Headmaster nervously tapped her finger and quickly stopped after realizing it. Her guard lowered for a moment, and any confidence she portrayed would be making up for how powerless she felt. Her forehead sweat, and she wiped it with her dress sleeve. Her body was betraying her. “I don’t have 200k liquid.”
Tanya wasn’t as dumb as the Headmaster thought, and she enjoyed proving it. Being a junkie doesn’t mean you’re stupid, it means you made poor decisions. “Sell off investments. I shouldn’t be telling you this. When I come in on Monday, I want 200k and a contract for my promotion.” Tanya came to verbalize her demands, not negotiate. Lingering would weaken her position. “Don’t forget, I only asked for 10k, but your disrespect multiplied it twentyfold!”
“Wait, please! I need more time!” Her plea was desperate.
Tanya didn’t respond, would let the bitch sweat. The sociopath shit all over the floors for a month, and continued doing so even after being confronted about it. There had to be repercussions to her actions, and paying 200k was getting off easy with all she could lose.
Monday arrived. Tanya went to the Headmaster’s office once school began, a confident strut in her step. She had been waiting for it all weekend. For the first time in over a decade she felt no itch to use. There was excitement for the future and the possibilities it could bring. An email draft with the video attachment was ready to be sent to the Board of Directors, along with the lie that the Headmaster demanded the filth be cleaned with the cloth cafeteria napkins. She hoped it wouldn’t come to that. A payment and promotion was best for everyone. She entered the office where the door was open for her expected arrival. The secretary didn’t do anything to stop her, treating her with a mixture of fear and respect. The Headmaster confidently sat at her desk dressed in a business suit, a sign that nothing would transpire seamlessly. Tanya closed the door behind her to create an environment of trust and transparency.
“Sit down,” the Headmaster said, trying to take control with a command.
“No need. Do you have my money and my promotion contract?”
“I need assurance that you’ll delete the video.”
“I promise. I don’t want it released either. I cleaned the shit with the napkins.”
“You won’t release it, because you’re a coward who is terrified of jail.” The Headmaster stood up, getting eye to eye with Tanya. “Did you expect I would give some loser a promotion and 200k of my hard earned money? Look at those three diplomas, I’ve got intelligence, I’ve got prestige! Nobody will take your word over mine!” This was a game to the Headmaster, one she was risking her livelihood and reputation on.
Tanya didn’t come to beg. She hit send on the email and showed the done deed to the Headmaster, giving a devious smirk. There was no hesitation. “I sent it to the Board of Directors. Fox 5 is next, I love Rosanna Scotto. She slapped the guy who played McLovin for insinuating her daughter had sex, watch it on YouTube.”
“Wait, you did it?” the Headmaster exclaimed. She expected back and forth banter, and eventually a compromise, a grave miscalculation when dealing with somebody with nothing to lose. The Headmaster’s world crashed around her, and it all could have been avoided if she took Tanya seriously. But her pride would never allow her. She needed to learn this lesson.
And that was that. No money or promotion. Back to square one, but Tanya would take it. Maybe the bitch would think twice before mistreating someone who she considered lower than her. At the end of the day, everyone is the same blood, bones, and guts. Tanya walked out of the office, feeling a sense of accomplishment and excitement for what the future would bring her.
Elias Andreopoulos lives in Ohio. He is interested in joining a rock band!