It All Happened on the Way to the Fifth Floor


elevator

Cautiously, I walked up and pressed the glowing “up” arrow. I did it cautiously because I do everything cautiously. When I type, I do it slowly and watch my fingers. When I get dressed in the morning, I think about all the pros and cons of every pair of pants and every shirt and pick the one that will make me stand out the least. And don’t even talk to me about dating.

I hid myself in the back corner of the elevator, where the bars meet, and then realized I hadn’t chosen my floor. So I took a few careful steps over to the yellow lights with numbers.

“Don’t worry,” came a teenager’s voice. “I can do that for you.” A guy, about seventeen, wearing a leather jacket, very tight blue jeans, and sunglasses came into the elevator. He had his hair slicked back to complete his greaser look.

“Okay,” I replied warily. “I’m going to the fifth floor.”

The teenager pressed his thumb against the five button without looking, and then he used his elbows to prop him up against a bar. “Funny,” he chuckled. “I’m going to the same place.”

I nodded and looked away. The stainless steel door sealed together and the churning of the machine went up through my feet.

The elevator dinged as it reached the first floor.

“I bet you’re name’s Linda.” The teenager scooted closer to me. “Blonde hair, brown eyes, dressed like you work at an office, sitting in a cubicle all day.”

I nodded. My name was Linda, alright. Although I was not going off to work. My eyes kept staring at the doors to avoid him.

The teenager scooted closer to me. “A lot of people say I’m a bad guy for a girl, just based on how I look. But I’m a good kid. I’ve got a job, good grades.”

I took my right foot and crossed it over my left, then brought my left over. I was now successfully a few inches further from the teenager.

A ding showed that we’d gotten to the second floor.

“You seem like a nice girl.”

For some reason this sentence made me turn around and glance at him. He was about three inches taller than me, with a single pimple on his chin. When I wondered what color his eyes were, my head turned back to the elevator.

Third floor.

“I’ve known a few girls like you,” the teenager said. “Dated a few of them too. They’re all nice girls. Like you. But I’ll bet you’re better than the rest of those girls.”

Fourth floor.

“I’ll bet you’re better than a lot of girls.”

This set off a fuse somewhere inside me. “I’m not a girl, I’m a woman!” I blurted without thinking. “I’ve been a legal adult for three years! If you want a nice girl, go back to your highschool and kiss the first girl you see in a turtleneck!”

There was one final ding and the doors flung open. Outraged, I huffed through them, imagining that my hair was disheveled. That hadn’t been very careful of me. Not at all.

I hadn’t gotten a yard away when a hand grabbed my sleeve and pulled me back in.

“You don’t have a turtleneck,” he said. “But you’ll do.”

“I’m not from your highschool,” I snapped.  “I’m a lot different from high school girls. Let me go. I’m not from your highschool.”

He now had me around both arms. “Yes, yes you are. I saw your picture in the junior section of an old yearbook in the school library. Kingsley East. And then I saw you get into the elevator. So I ran in.”

I was lost for speech. My careful instincts became very sensitive to the way he was holding me, but there was another instinct that had another opinion. The teenager bent over and kissed me, eyes closed and everything. And I guess I kissed him back. Eyes closed and everything.

We stood dead center in the elevator, an open spectacle for all to see, until the doors closed around us and we started to go back downstairs.

“Will I ever see you again?” he asked, as I walked out of the elevator and headed to the stairs.

“Maybe you will!” I shouted back, now so far away from him that I couldn’t make out his facial features. “Or maybe it all happened on the way to the fifth floor!”

The doors closed, cutting me off from him. And that was the last day I was careful.

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