Broken Locks:  A Tale of Orpheus

    It was nearly four in the morning when Ayuda slowly walked to the heavy front doors of Orpheus.  Stealing a glance into the alley, he turned the creaky locks, preventing further pleasure-starved minions from entering the hotel’s silent halls.  He smiled wanly, imagining them all, walking a line between pleasure and pain so fine it was almost invisible.  They needed this…to be punished…to atone for their sins…to feel in a world so bereft of honest emotion.  Theirs were the worlds of gladhandling and backstabbing, of secrets and lies, of rumors and gossip and kittens with claws.  They wanted to feel real, to submit to another’s whim, to have the sacred freedom to hurt and bleed and ache like they hadn’t been able to in the scalding spotlights of their daily lives.

    He had lied to his charges.  The keys hadn’t selected them.  He had.  He knew.  Watching television while the beauties slept, he knew.  Keeping his ear low to the ground so to hear the whispers of infidelity and heartbreak, he knew.  Reading the tales of sorrow in their eyes, he knew.

    Ayuda smiled yet again.  JC, Orpheus, owned the hotel, but he, Ayuda, ran it.  He was Zeus…striking people like thunderbolts, casting them off of Olympus as he saw fit with a well-placed phone call or anonymous letter…keeping his clients in check.  His reward, besides a healthy skimming from the untold profits of the place, was knowledge, which he took out in trade, when the time was right.  The girls were an added benefit, though he knew enough not to sleep with them.  Despite the hotel’s carved-in-granite bylaws, he knew that some of them had ensnared their notoriously stupid clients, and had learned to use their feminine wiles to their advantage whenever they saw fit.  Ayuda simply absorbed it all, observing from his vantage point in the lobby, wielding his keys like Eden’s fruit, resisting the overwhelming temptation to laugh when his charges selected a key.

    He looked up to see the five men of *NSYNC gather in the hallway, straightening clothes, examining hair, wiping away the stains of their sins, trying in vain to mask the indelible scents of sweat and sex.  He caught each of their eyes in turn, correctly reading the emotions in each…fear…anger…jealousy…hatred…loss…and, reflected in all of them, remorse.  Regret.  A longing for the past.

    He matched JC’s haunted stare and knew that he had once again been bested by Aphrodite, and once again he would cry himself to sleep dreaming of winning her affections.  He glanced at Justin whose skin was crawling with self-loathing and shame, remembering Persephone’s gentle touch and how very undeserving he was to receive it.  He gritted his teeth at the bored, vacant look in Lance’s eyes and wondered if he really deserved the tender ministrations of Psyche, who wanted nothing more than to please him.  He studied Chris, sitting in the same chair in the lobby for the past three hours, after he had fled the rotunda after meeting Eurydice.  He knew the sour taste of love lost was dancing on his tongue, and wondered how long it would be before he returned to seek solace in the arms of another.  And Joey…caught in Pandora’s web, wanting nothing more than to reverse the ever-spinning hands of time.  It was what they all wanted, really.  What they had been seeking in the walls of Orpheus.  Forgiveness.  Another chance.  Another life.  But truly, Orpheus was just a hotel…four strong walls divided into rooms, a funhouse of pleasure and pain.  It could not turn back time.  It could not right wrongs.  It was simply a place to forget for a while…but all the five men seemed to do was remember.

    They walked, single file, heads down, to the doorway, nodding respectfully at Ayuda before departing into the rainy night.

    “Until next time,” He said softly, and he could see them shake their heads as if to say, “never again.”
    Ayuda sighed, smiled, and locked the door.  They would come back.  They always did.

2001  ~A.