The Elevator Trilogy

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Part 1: Going up.

Our story begins the morning after the night when the crew from Otis started renovating the other elevator. There were only two. True, the building was relatively short, a mere 28 stories tall, having been built in a era before downtown property values pushed buildings to the sky, but the elevators were soooo slow, so crowded, stopping on virtually every floor, they were the prefect place, you guessed it, for love.

Of the twelve people waiting in the lobby, two of them, unbeknownst to each other, were about to meet. For the sake of discussion, we’ll call them Bob and Jane, not because I’m trying to protect their identities, but because those were their names. Their names may have been ordinary but, trust me on this, they were not.

Jane was one of the first on and, being polite and given that she worked on the twenty-third floor, went to the back. Leaning up against the wall, a briefcase in one hand, large pocket book over the other shoulder, that hand on the strap, her plan was to relax on the way up, preparing herself mentally for what promised to be a strenuous day.

Bob, on the other hand, had less control over his destiny. This morning, as it turned out, was his turn to get coffee for his team. Right now, he had his hands full, literally, trying to balance the ridiculously flexible cardboard box they gave him to hold eight cups, two of which were on top of two of the other six, his computer backpack slung over his right shoulder and the morning paper rolled under his left arm – all this while he kept wondering whether or not he’d remembered to zip up before he left his apartment. (He’d been running late and rushed out of his apartment without checking.) Focused as he was on keeping it all together, Bob was pushed into the elevator by the wave of people behind him. When it was all over, and door was closing on the coat of the last person on board, Bob found himself facing the back of the elevator, smashed up against one person in particular – close enough to have children had the circumstances been different, if you get my drift.

Jane, all the while, was trying to ignore this unexpected moment of public intimacy, by looking over Bob’s shoulder, pretending to read the “Maximum Occupancy” notice above the buttons panel, and then mentally counting the number of people who stood to die with her if the cable broke.

“Hi.” Bob was the first to talk.

“Hi.”

“Sorry about..”

“It’s okay, as long as you promise to practice safe elevating.” Jane smiled.

Bob was caught off guard, but recovered quickly. “I don’t think you have anything to worry about.”

“Sorry.” Jane was sincerely embarrassed. “I didn’t mean to flirt.”

“Yeah, well, there’s a special anonymity you have in crowded bars and elevators. ..Nobody’s paying attention, and it’s not like we’re ever going to see each other again.”

“Of course not,” Jane agreed with him, but then looked at his face. “..You look disappointed.”

“Oh, no.”

“You’re not disappointed that you won’t be seeing me again.”

“No. I’d love to see you again, of course, and will be.. heartbroken if I don’t.”

Jane smiled at him.

“It’s not disappointment, it’s just that liquid is beginning to bubble up onto the lid of this one cup and, if I’m not careful, it’s going to drip onto your while blouse, possibly staining it and you’ll have to walk around all day with a spot,” Bob nodded in the direction of Jane left breast, “there. ..Is that silk?”

“It’s fake silk, but thank you for noticing.” Looking at the lid in question, just a couple of inches above her mouth, everything suddenly went into adrenaline induced slow motion. The elevator chime made a slow, deep tone announcing its arrival on a particular floor. People on the still crowded elevator started to move, jostling Bob as they did. The tray shook, the two top cups even more so and there, teetering at the edge of the one lid, a single drop lost its hold.

“Zaappp!!” Instantly, and with perfect timing and position, Jane stuck out her tongue, way out, and caught the drop, and then held it out there for just a second before reeling into her mouth.

“Jeez.” Bob was impressed. “You could catch flies like that.”

“You saying I remind you of a frog.”

“Sort of. A very, uh, attractive frog?”

“I do look good in brown,” Jane was thinking out loud, and then smacked her lips. “That’s not coffee.”

“You mean ‘green.’”

“What?”

“Toads are brown. Frogs are green,” Bob corrected her, shaking his head up and down slightly.

Jane gave Bob her trademark “Who cares?” look.

“No. Actually, it’s a ‘Pineapple, Mango, Coconut Paradise Smoothie.’ It’s healthier and I’m trying to avoid the whole coffee breath thing.”

Instinctively, Jane closed her mouth and rolled her lips inward, doing her beast to avoid breathing on him.

“Oh, you don’t have coffee breath. Of course not.”

The elevator chimed again.

“This is my floor,” Jane announced, surprised by her own reluctance to move.

“Right,” was all he had to say, that and the fact that he didn’t move either.

“You need to move.”

“Of course,” and he carefully stepped aside to let her by.

“What floor are you getting off,” Jane asked as she brushed past him.

“Eighteen.”

“This is twenty-three.”

“I’ll get off on the way back down.”

And then she turned back just short of the door. “Maybe I’ll see you later?”

“Absolutely. ..Bob.”

“What?” Jane called back from the hallway, just as the doors were starting to close.

“I’m Bob.”

“Jane. And your fly’s d..,” but the doors cut her off.

Part 2: Going down.

Almost two weeks, several random and more than a few not so accidental elevator meetings and three gourmet truck lunches in the park down the street later, the chemistry between them was building. It was high time one of them asked the other out on a first date. Standing next to each other, at a right angle in the corner of the elevator, Bob had decided to take the initiative and pop the question.

“You know,” he started, “I’ve been thinking. ..Oh, hi Mrs. Caruthers.” They’d been meeting so often like this, regulars in the building had begun to recognize them.

“Hi, Bob. You too going out yet?”

“Not yet, Mrs. Caruthers,” Jane answered, “but thank you for asking.”

“Oh, you’re welcome.”

“Hm. As I was saying, I think she’s right. I think it’s time we went out on a date.”

“For an awkward dress-up dinner and a movie neither of us wants to see?”

“Yes. Exactly. A typical first date.”

“Or..”

“Or what?”

“Or we could count our time together, on the elevator, as a first date and go right to our second date.”

“What would that involve?”

“One of us would make a casual, sloppy clothes dinner for the other one at his or her apartment. And then after dinner, even during dinner.. Wait. Can you cook?”

“No. Not really. Breakfast. Things you can make in toaster. Grilled cheese sandwiches. Anything frozen or with ground meat in it. ..I thought you could cook.”

“Why would you think that? Oh, please, not because I’m a woman.”

“Of course not.” Bob suddenly felt the need to make an outdated political statement. “The fact that you may or may not be a woman is irrelevant.”

“Really?”

“In an entirely asexual way. Yes, irrelevant. ..I thought you could cook because you’re always going grocery shopping after work – or are you just embarrassed that you have a second job as a cashier at Whole Foods?”

“No, no. I shop, my roommate cooks. That’s our deal. If it weren’t for her, I’d starve to death.”

They were quiet for a moment, watching past the people in front of them for the door to open on somebody else’s floor.

“I don’t have a roommate.”

“Okay, your place, carry out.”

“Deal.” Bob extended his hand to shake hers and Jane met him half way. It felt good, the first time they’d touched, which is why they kept holding hands even though some people were looking. “Chinese, pizza, Italian?”

“Yes,” Jane answered, moving her hand slightly inside his.

“Yes? ..It was a multiple choice question.”

“People are staring.”

“At what?” Bob was oblivious. Not just now, but generally.

“At us, holding hands like this,” Jane said, beginning to feel self-conscious. No one shakes hands for this long.”

“Hm. So when do you want to do this? ..I was thinking Saturday night.”

“Sure. Saturday would b.. No, wait. I have a date.”

“What?!” Bob snapped his hand back.

“You have a date?” a familiar looking stranger asked. He was a regular, had been eavesdropping and couldn’t help himself.

“Excuse me,” Jane raised her eyebrows and asserted herself. “We’re having a private conversation.”

“On an elevator?” the stranger asked.

“Sir,” Bob, still reeling from the realization that she was dating someone, came to her defense, “are you seriously unfamiliar with crowded public space etiquette?” It sounded silly, but Bob had a point.

“What?”

“Do you participate in conversations you overhear at restaurants, on a plane, on a cell phone in a restroom? ..I didn’t think so. Now, if you don’t mind…” Bob turned back to Jane who, honestly, was impressed that he used the word “etiquette” which she knew, of course, and could pronounce, but certainly couldn’t spell. “You have a date?!”

“Well, yeah.”

“With who?”

All the while, the elevator door had been opening and now closing. “Jane! ..Hey. All set for Saturday night?”

“With him.”

“Hi.” Whoever he was, he was a nice as he was.. tall and good looking. “Rolfs. Mark Rolfs,” he said with confidence, extending his hand to Bob.

“Bob, James Bob,” Bob responded, shaking Mark’s hand taking care to match the strength of his grip.

“Your name’s ‘James Bob’?

“No, not really. I was just kidding. It’s Bob..” And then the elevator chime went off again.

“My floor. Nice meeting you?” Mark wasn’t entirely sure, sensing he might having something going on with Jane. ..Four o’clock Saturday?”

“Right. Can’t wait.” Mark left and, as soon as the doors closed, Jane turned to Bob with an explanation.

“It’s not what you think.”

“You’re not going out with ‘Rolfs, Mark Rolfs’ on Saturday night? ..With a guy, albeit an apparently nice, very tall guy, who introduces himself with his last name first?”

Turning to face him, Jane pushed Bob against the side wall and got up into his face. “Listen to me, Mango Breath. I made that date with Mark weeks ago, before you and I met, when he got tickets to a concert. ..Now you want me to break the date?”

“No. That wouldn’t be right.”

“Good, because I’m not. ..Am I saving myself for you?”

“Wuh..”

“That was a rhetorical question. Besides, as technical point, that ship set sail my senior year.”

“In college?”

“High school. What difference does it make? ..My point is, I am. Saving myself for you, that is. Don’t ask me why, but I’m not really dating anyone, at least not until we’ve given it a shot.” She reached over, put her hands behind his neck, pulled Bob toward her and gave him a quick, but firm kiss.

“How ‘bout if..”

And the chime booped again.

“I’ve got to get back to work.” Jane, a bit flustered, hurriedly excused her way out, escaping into the hallway as soon as the door was open wide enough for her to squeeze through, and not looking back.

Part 3. Your floor or mine?

It would be early evening when they saw or talked to each other again, on the Thursday after the Saturday when Jane went out with Mark. Bob and Jane had managed to avoid each other on the elevator until then. Traffic on the elevator was light. Theirs was a mostly nine to five building.

“Hi.” Bob was the first to say hello.

“Hey.”

“So, uh, how was the concert?” He didn’t want to call it a date.

“Good. It was good.”

“Oh, hi guys.”

“Mrs. Caruthers. Working late this evening?”

“Obviously,” she answered, shaking her head, rolling her eyes. “No wonder you’re not having sex yet.”

“How do you know?” Jane was curious.

“Body language, or the lack of it. You better make your move, buster, or someone else will beat you to it.”

“She called you ‘buster,’” Jane turned to Bob. “How cute was that?”

“I was talking to you, Jane. ..Heck, I think he’s cute.”

“You know, Mrs. Caruthers,” Bob wanted to thank her for the comment, “if things don’t work out here, between the two of us..,” he wiggled his finger, pointing to the two of them, “is there a Mr. Caruthers?”

The older woman smiled back at him, “I wish.” Then the elevator chimed at the lobby floor. On her way out, she held door for them, the only two left. “Aren’t you getting off?”

Jane looked at Bob, then answered for the both of them. “No. We need to talk. We, the two us. We need have intercourse.”

“’Discourse.’ She means ‘discourse.’ ..You know, verbally.”

“Right, but just incase, I work in 815. Eighth floor. Room 815.”

“Got it, Mrs. Caruthers,” and he waved her goodbye, the door still closing while Bob pressed the “28” button.

They were quiet for a moment, but then Bob spoke up.

“So, what did you do after the concert? I’m just curious.”

“If you’re asking whether or not we had sex, the answer is no. ..We didn’t have to because we had sex during the concert.” Bob looked over at her, not entirely sure she was kidding. “In one of the disgusting stalls in the theater men’s room. ..Personally, I would have had more sex after the concert, but ‘Rolfs, Mark Rolfs’ said he needed time to recharge, you know, to reload as it were.”

Bob just stood there. “Thank you.”

“I, on the other hand, still have a very, very substantial level of pent-up sexual energy begging, I said ‘begging’ for release. For satisfaction.”

Bob was looking at her, but not speaking.

“..That I’ve been saving for this one guy, ‘Elevator Guy’ my friends call him. ..Saving myself fo..”

And that’s when Bob, somewhere between the twelfth and fourteen floors, took two steps toward the door and pulled the stop button, setting off the alarm.

“What are you doing?”

“I don’t want to be disturbed.”

“You’re kidding?”

Bob walked back to her, dropped his backpack which “thunked” to the floor without regard for the consequences for his laptop, and was clearly going for “it” when he stopped, just short of her face for some reason.

“Oh, com’on! You can’t be..”

And then he kissed her. By kiss, I mean the kind that made the raucous alarm go quiet, the kind when two people occupy the same space. Legs between legs. Body parts melting against each other. Less of a kiss, per se, than a merger. Blouse and shirt becoming untucked. The kind of kiss after which a person can’t help but look disheveled, and everyone can tell what you’ve been doing. On the fine line between foreplay and play. Well, you get the point. It was a big kiss all right, which turned out to be followed by the big you-know-what later that evening.

Done, but still slightly out of breath, Jane was the first to speak. “Wow. ..Whew. That was a real waste of time. I don’t know what I was expecting, but..”

She was joking of course, but Bob wasn’t taking any chances and laid into her again. A few moments later, they parted, just their faces at first, with Jane lightly tapping the fingers of her right hand on Bob’s lips. Otherwise, their bodies were still pretty much glued to each other, their clothes looking even more disheveled. “Thanks,” Jane was sincere, “but I was just kidding.”

“I know,” Bob acknowledged bashfully. “I just wanted some more.”

“What do we do now?”

“Tell the fire department we didn’t mean to set off the alarm?” Bob was concerned that he could hear sirens, but wasn’t sure they were coming to their building.

“I mean I think we should go out.”

Bob thought about it for a nanosecond, nodded his head slightly and suggested, “Tonight would be good.”

And it was, good that is.

So, exactly how do I know all this? Well, because I’m Bob. That’s my girl friend, Jane, passed out on the couch. And that fur ball sitting on her chest, tush down, front legs fully extended, like he’s paying attention? That’s our cat, Otis.

-wf

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