Butterfly

Sometimes a customer came in sixteen minutes before closing time and Butterfly had to take care of them anyway. On this day, an American woman—young, pretty, clearly a tourist, otherwise she would have never been on Nanjing Road at all—came in at 11:44 p.m., wanting an hour-long full-body massage. Butterfly started to say that they closed at midnight, but then Jerry came in with that big cheesy smile on his face and said in his obnoxiously affected English, “Right this way, please,” before leading her down the hall.

Butterfly sighed and changed back into her uniform. Not that she minded. Better to stay here rubbing backs than return to the apartment and sit in the dark while the other masseuses smoked and scrolled on their phones until they fell asleep. But she hated closing up alone. All those little rooms clustered together along the tiny, winding hallways. And Butterfly would have to go through each one of them, doing the final checks on every bed and cabinet, where so many ghosts hid in the copious shadows. Turning off every light behind her, Butterfly knew the darkness would swallow her whole.

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