A Storyby Jodi Yemini
Richard was a mopper. Like all moppers, he went by one name—like Cher or Madonna, minus the fortune and fame. We called him Richard because that’s the name he chose. Weeks later, he told us his name was Rajapaksa. We asked him why he didn’t go by his real name. We could have called him Raj if only we’d known, not recognizing the gross irony of answering our own question. Not recognizing that the mopper before him—the one who just up and left one day, as they all eventually did, because moppers don’t get fired and they don’t quit—went by Joe and the one before him by Nick. We pretended we couldn’t remember the countless others before them, when the truth was we just didn’t care. We couldn’t and wouldn’t be bothered to remember another Steve or Frank or Howard. All moppers. All from Sri Lanka. All with perfect all-American names.
But Richard thought he was different—thought he was more. Richard took pride in his work and it bothered us. It bothered us that he didn’t fall in line with our well-established porn-shop employee hierarchy. He wore suits with suspenders for mopping duties at the Pleasure Palace, as though he was the face of the store and mopping bodily fluids a noble task. The booths were located at street level, making it easier for customers to slip in and out unnoticed. Richard came to work early and left without bothering anyone, always carrying a mysterious blue gym bag. We’d joke that he kept stolen cleaning supplies in it, or food from the Papa John’s next door—his second job—as he often liked to pretend they’d made an extra pizza by mistake, and we went along with his charade, if only for the free pizza.