My 3-inch heels clanked obnoxiously on the marbled floor. I was
late, my blouse untucking, my breath short, my face flushed, and my
bags were slipping off my shoulder. A hand reached between the
closing elevator doors.
"Thank you SO much," I gushed. "I'm SO late." I wiped away a trickle
of sweat from my forehead.
"Anytime," said the tall man, whose defined features and great
posture reminded me of the "Mr. Man"
magazine model whose face decorated my night table. I hated those
magazines but somehow still ended up on their mailing lists. In
traditional subway stance, I stashed one bag down between my legs.
Exhaling loudly, I pulled my hair out of its makeshift bun, adjusted
my twisted skirt, and took a deep breath.
"What floor?" he asked, half-smiling.
"Um, 23 - thanks " I replied, looking up and continuing to re-dress myself.
I shuddered. Blood began to course through my veins at a supernatural
speed as Mr. Man illuminated the 23rd button. I hastily tugged at my
stockings and adjusted my bags again, trying not to touch anyone in
the elevator. Though I wouldn't have minded being touched by Mr.
Man's soft, yet masculine hands.
OK, enough fantasy. "How long is this going to take? I have a 9 o'clock!"
Four, 8, 11, 15, 16, 17, 19, 21, 22, 23, and finally 26, were all
I sighed and widened my eyes. I had been up the all night finishing a
proposal for an "innovative, streamlining, groundbreaking" and "any
other buzzword they could think of" project that I was supposed to
"team lead." Meanwhile, I had ignored my 6:30 a.m. alarm bolted from
my apartment at 8:15. I glared at my co-elevator riders.
"Don't you people have somewhere to be? 4. If I worked on 4, I'd take
the stairs. Lazy, inconsiderate people," I grumbled inside. The doors
Eight. OK, frustration had gotten me through a floor or two. Seven
more stops and I would be my office. I searched for my office key.
Damn. Dropped it.
A familiar hand swooped up the key. Ever-so-slightly embarrassed by
the dolphin keychain from my now-Floridian grandmother, I smiled as
Mr. Man looked into my eyes, dropping the key into my trembling,
clammy hand. My eyes rolled back. He had unlocked an energy that
surged through my body, down to my toes, and up through my ears. It
only lasted a second but my ears were on fire.
My ears. My earrings. Oh god. I said thank you, again, and felt for
my lucky pearls. Phew. They were there. Both. And my necklace? OK,
it was on. I straightened my blouse and checked out my slightly
scuffed shoes. I cleared my throat and tucked my drying hair behind
Tap, tap, tap. Six people left in the elevator and I started tapping
my foot on the speckled, nauseating tile design beneath my feet. The
elevator jumped and my eyes shifted onto the ugly Formica paneling. I
was getting annoyed. "You'd think they'd have more elevators, or even
and odd stops." Tap, tap, tap. "This is ridiculous." Tap, tap. "This
organization is full of complete, inefficient, lazy idiots." Tap.
"And I'm smarter than most of them." Tap.
I snapped out of my rampage to hear my foot tapping loudly and
stopped -- my cheeks crimson and warm. Breathe. Deep breath. I bit my
lip and I looked up to see the riders studying the floor numbers and
the sickening floor design. Everyone except my Mr. Man, who I caught
staring right at me. I had become his Mona Lisa as he searched for
some explanation or deeper meaning. He was enthralled. I stared
blankly at the elevator doors. But god, if he were a paintbrush, I'd
love to be his palette.
"Stop the fantasy," I thought again. "Why do you fantasize about
random men in elevators who don't even acknowledge you? Were you
unsatisfied by your "perfect resume-man" date whose virtuous
name-dropping and income levels left you speechless and
conversationless? So what if, he couldn't dress like Mr. Man." I was
"Now we'd look so good together," I thought "Same style. Same taste.
We even match." With that, I looked at my blazer and to my Ö
blue???? skirt. "Oh shit. This can't be. I pulled the wrong friggin'
suit jacket from my closet! I'm supposed to "wow" people with my
wisdom who'll be too busy staring at my uncoordinated attire?"
Quickly convincing myself that "not quite-matching" was hip, I played
with the buttons on my blazer and joined others in looking up at the
floor display and inhaling.
19. "I can't believe that I'm still not on 23. Even my Passover
Seders aren't this long. I can part the red sea, move millions of
Jews out of Egypt, bake unleavened bread, and march through the
desert for thousands of years sooner than I can make it to the 23rd
floor. Moses wouldn't have stood for this. God wouldn't have let him.
There must be a way to escape this solid steel chamber of
humiliation. But No. These damned people won't have make my life a
little easier when I'm having a bad day so perhaps I could just get
upstairs and actually concentrate on my very well-thought out
My proposal. My heart jumped with the elevator's jolt. I knew I
printed it out at 5 a.m. and slid it into my briefcase. I just knew I
did. I started ruffling through my bag -- a brush, the paper, some
bills. A tampon. Yes, out flew a tampon, completing a double axle and
landing gracefully next to someone else's feet. Now, I was mortified.
"Please don't let that same hand that got my keys swoop down for this
one. Please let him be looking at his watch, or be in deep
meditational thought about me. Please don't let him realize that on
top of everything, I'm cranky, and moody, and bleeding from my
I dove down to the floor, grabbed the Playtex super glide, and slid
it back into my bag, beneath, yes, my proposal. Success. I closed my
eyes and took a few more breaths as I stood up. My Yoga class was
finally paying off, but this fantasy was becoming a nightmare.
I was bright red now. The blood had rushed to my head, exacerbated by
swooping down. I was a little dizzy, though I had noted some shiny
wing tips by my tampon. Nice-sized feet, the laces were clean and
neatly tied. "Of course, they must belong to Mr. Man," I thought. And
boy, would I have loved to be tied up with him somewhere.
"Excuse me," said a woman as she gently pushed by to get out,
knocking my bag off of my shoulder.
"Bitch," I grunted to myself and cleared my throat.
Only four floors left and I'd just about stopped sweating. My hair
had calmed down, my pant subsided, and I felt OK about my mismatched
suit. I knew my stuff. I knew exactly what I would say when I walked
into that 23rd floor windowed office. I knew where I was going, and
whom I was going to see. I'd get out with Mr. Man and head straight
for the copy room where we'd make love on the color copier while the
secretaries kept guard. He'd caress my tired feet and profess his
love for me. I cleared my throat again.
Twenty-two. Thank god. Three people left in the elevator. No one moved.
"Close door! Someone hit close door!," I screamed silently from the
back of the elevator. "Did someone hit the wrong button? Don't just
stand there, hit the button! You're wasting time! Hit 23! No, you
idiot, not open door, no one's coming in, and if they are, screw
them, we need to get upstairs. Who the hell needs to get in the
elevator at 22 anyway in a 26-story-building? Take the fucking
stairs, you lazy piece of shit."
My silent screams did nothing. OPEN DOOR was pressed and the metal
locker was once again open. Footsteps shuffled down the hall. A small
woman framed by crutches hobbled into the elevator and hit 23.
Slightly embarrassed by my silent outburst, which had surfaced as a
I glanced at my watch: 8:58 a.m. "But why the hell did she need go up
one flight now. She's making me late for my second big meeting where
I'm the head honcho and everyone will be judging me." I started to
wring my hands together. I was sweating again.
I hadn't been nervous about the actual meeting until right then, on
22, when the crippled woman got on the elevator. I hastily backed up
to the corner and felt someone behind me.
"Oh, I'm sorry," I said, turning around to find my Mr. Man.
"No problem. Rough morning, huh," he said.
Oh wow. He knows. He's seen me drop my tampon and fix my stockings
and ruffle my hair and straighten my unmatched skirt and tuck-in my
blouse, and curse at the crippled woman, and yell at elevator buttons
and revel in the touch of his hand and at his glance.
"Me too," he added.
"That's a rough morning?" I stared blankly at him and smiled.
Good god, he's the one for me. He'd make sure I'd never leave the
house mismatched again, and that I was prepared for big meetings in
front of new bosses and a new team. He'd be my alarm clock in the
morning, waking me up with sex and kisses and sweet "I love you's."
He'd even say I didn't have to work if I didn't want to and that this
whole "career-woman" thing was overrated. We'd fight about it a
little, but I'd give in. He was right. I should be home with our
three darlings and I could 'freelance' if I wanted to. After all, we
were independently wealthy. Enough about the corporate ladder, I
thought. I just want to be in love and make babies and have a family
and meet the man of my dreams in the elevator and ó
"Didn't you want 23?" said a deep, smooth voice.
No, just 3, I thought. Three or four kids should do. Maybe a dog.
House in Westchester or Connecticut. Not Long Island. I'd kill
myself if I lived in a place with more strip malls than trees.
An obnoxious buzz resounded from the closing elevator doors and the
compartment bounced, preparing to move up to the 26th floor. I gasped
and swooped my bag out from in between my legs, my keys in-hand. I
needed off the ride. But it was too late. My bags surrendered to the
repulsive ground, spilling my bills, my hair clips, my tampons, and
my proposal onto the floor. The doors sealed and I cradled my
forehead in my clammy palm and laughed, shaking my head.
Oh god, I thought. I was still going up.
© Dara Lehon
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