life

Julio, International Man of Mystery

Like many people, my partner’s cell phone number wasn’t always his. Despite how long he’s had this number, he still occasionally gets messages for Julio. Some are in English, others aren’t. After three years (and countless replies of “Lo siento, no soy Julio”), they haven’t seemed to let up.

What happened to Julio?

Why did he change his number and not tell anyone?

Most importantly, why is he still giving out this one?

Most of the messages are work-related. They tell him what to do. They ask him where he is (but never how he is). Lately, we get messages from hotel chains thanking us for choosing them.

We haven’t been to a hotel in a very long time.

Where is Julio? Where is Julio going?

Is he leaving a trail of tiny hotel soaps, broken hearts, and dead drops in his wake?

In my head, he’s a spy. Being a maintenance worker was just one of many covers — an identity to be adopted and discarded, just like his old cell phone number. Maybe he’s a fencing instructor named Serge now, or Edmund, a cardiologist. Maybe he isn’t even Julio anymore. Maybe he never was.

Some of the work messages show the aisles of movie theaters, popcorn scattered like confetti. They want Julio to clean it up. Is it real, or just a euphemism? What is Julio actually cleaning?

Maybe it’s a secret. Messages encoded with a buttery cypher, placed like edible morse code. Destroy after sending.

He still looks like an average blue collar guy in my mind. Maybe shorter than average. Slightly overweight. Balding on top. Good spies don’t need to be conventionally handsome or dashing. Julio’s crooked smile and average appearance are his strengths. They disarm people, allowing him to disappear back into a crowd like a phantom, slipping silently into a black Aston Martin as he discards his false moustache and slides on a pair of sunglasses. All he leaves his marks with is a tiny bar of hotel soap, a false phone number, and the click of a closing door. Nobody suspects Julio.

I think I need to get out more.

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