“Starting the day with parking in the handicapped space” He thought to himself as he parked the car. “Let’s see how lower I can get”
He got off sluggishly, kicked the door shut with the heel of his foot, and walked into the building. He had no idea why he chose this building in particular; he didn’t give it much thought. He was following some vague impulse, something he often did, more than he was willing to admit.
As he waited for the elevator, he contemplated the height of the building from inside. It looked like an endless spiral, which gave him the chills. He jumped into the elevator as soon as the door opened, but just as he was pressing the button to that certain floor, a voice that sounded like a blend of femininity and authority crashed down on him, demanding that he stop the elevator.
He took a step back away from the button pad. She hopped in swiftly and pressed the button to the third floor. It couldn’t take him more than a glance to notice that she was a beautiful, elegant lady with an air of confidence. She also looked like a successful business woman with the brief case she was holding and the busy look on her face. In short, he could tell with one look that she was out of his league. But who cares anyway? He thought. After all she’s just a woman he will share an elevator with probably for less than a minute without uttering a single word and then they will go their separate ways and most probably they’ll never see each other again or learn each other’s names.
But few seconds after the elevator started to lift; it jolted violently and came to a complete halt. They looked at each other perplexed. They waited for a few seconds then she said: “I hope this is a joke!”
A bad joke, he thought, but it wasn’t anyway. The elevator had stopped and even when he tried to insert his hand into the slit between the two sides of the sliding door there was no point in opening it because the elevator had stopped between two floors. Here, without turning to look at her he just said: “Well, it seems like we’re stuck”.
“Whoa… I can’t be stuck!” the woman said with a pitch that sounded as if she was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. She fished a cell phone out of her briefcase and dialed a number.
“What? 20 minutes? No, you don’t understand, I have a meeting in 5 minutes, I can’t wait 20 minutes!”
She ended the call with a polite swearword, which made her look all the more feminine and made him think it maybe his lucky day, not hers however. He shook the thought off and busied himself with his keychain.
“A Toyota?” She said out of the blue. “So you’re the jerk parked in the handicapped space!”
“I’m wearing 10 centimeter heels and yet I don’t give myself permission to take up a handicapped space.”
He smirked again. She rolled her eyes in disbelief. “I mean, what is so important that you couldn’t wait to find another legitimate parking space?”
“Nothing.” He answered with utter indifference. “I’m just a jerk like that”
She wasn’t convinced. She kept looking at him as if waiting for an answer.
“I mean it.” He insisted. “I wasn’t going anywhere” He thought she didn’t have the right to know. “Lying and then rationalizing to feel good about lying, that’s a new low I’ve hit today” He thought to himself.
“Then why did you take the elevator?’ She challenged.
“No reason, I just let my feet take me wherever they pleased”
“Well, unless your brain is in your feet, which doesn’t sound very far-fetched in your case, then your feet can’t take you anywhere.” She shook her head in dismay. “That’s the problem with most people, you don’t know where you’re going and when your life comes down crumbling you start whining unable to take responsibility for your actions, or lack thereof.”
“What can I say? Some people were just born to be losers” He said with no sarcasm in his voice
“Nobody is born to be a loser!” She fired back with full authority. “Look at yourself. What are you, 30? 40? You look healthy, and you certainly have some thinking abilities, whether you choose to capitalize on them or not is another issue, but tell me: How do you even have the nerve to call yourself a loser?”
“I don’t know” He replied carelessly. “Perhaps the fact that I have no problem being stuck in an elevator because there’s no place I need to be at and nothing I need to do and nobody waiting for me outside these walls. Believe me, even if I died here I doubt that anyone would notice my absence”
“That’s just so screwed up!” She said with a hint of compassion this time. “I mean, it’s too bad to be true. There must be someone out there, what about your parents? Family? A wife, maybe?”
“I have been nothing of series of disappointments to my parents.” He answered as if talking to himself, his voice almost void of emotion. “And no wife, because what woman in her right mind would take this kind of risk?” He paused for a moment. “Actually there was this one woman who liked me, but I had no interest in her, maybe just because I knew that she liked me. I had to be cold and indifferent towards her so she could get the message, and that hurt her. It hurt her bad. But it’s the only way I know. And I’m such a jerk that I don’t even feel guilty about it”
“You don’t have to feel guilty about it” She almost interrupted him. “Just like you might like a woman and she won’t like you back another woman will like you and you won’t think that she’s the one for you. It happens with everyone and there’s no reason to feel guilty about it.” She paused for a moment then said on what seemed like a second thought, “Of course you could always feel stupid because you pushed away someone who could’ve made your life a whole lot less miserable, but not guilty, no”
“You mean this happened to you?” He asked with fake curiosity as to pull her leg.
“It happens to everyone” She answered as briefly and vaguely as possible, trying to drop the question.
“But…” He hesitated for a moment. “You don’t seem like someone anyone wouldn’t be interested in”
“Well” She answered with a slight cockiness. “People like, or don’t like, other people for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes they are the stupidest of reasons but reasons nonetheless. Or sometimes because you’re so stupid as to like the wrong person. But anyway, I’m not looking for anyone to make my life better.”
“Neither do I.” He said confidently. “Simply because I don’t think anyone can make my life less miserable” He said with a dramatic turn.
“That’s the spirit!” She yelled. “Of course not! You can’t wait for someone to make your life better, you just have to take matters into your own hands”
“This is not what I meant. You don’t know the first thing about me, I’m a bad person”
“No you’re not!” She laughed. “No bad person would admit they are bad. They would rationalize everything they do and give themselves excuses. Admitting you’re bad means you’re actually trying to be good but perhaps need a little guidance”
“You may be right, but it’s too late for me”
She looked him square in the face, he could see her thoughts spiraling like a swirl of dust that would soon turn into a tornado that would take him by surprise at any moment, and they did as she opened her mouth to speak.
“Do you know where I was going? I bet you thought I was some business woman who had a big meeting to close a six-figure deal. Well, if that’s what you thought then you’re sadly mistaken. I have an appointment with a realtor. I’m selling my house, my share of my father’s inheritance. You know why? Because I started a project and it failed miserably and I’m up to my ears in debt.”
He didn’t say anything, he just listened with shock.
“You know why I did that? That project I mean.” She asked without waiting for an answer. “Because all my life I wanted everything I do to be meaningful. I wanted to set an example for people, to teach them a lesson! You know, people with little to zero ambition, or those people who would invent obstacles to convince themselves they can’t do any better in life. People like you! People who tell me all the time that I’m being rash or silly or delusional. I’ve lost some rounds but I’ve won many rounds too. This one was a biggie, though. I ended up flat broke! But you know what the crazy thing is? I don’t regret it, and I still want to do it my way!”
He smiled as he noticed how her face brightened up. He realized he hadn’t smiled like this in years.
“Look at me, I’m a 35 year-old single bankrupt woman with people watching my every move waiting for me to fail and I still believe I can do something will teach the world a lesson! Heck, I defy the basic theories of human psychology!”
He looked at her with admiration as silence prevailed for a moment until he broke it in a most unexpected way.
“I lied. I knew where I was going. I was going to the roof. I wanted to jump off it and kill myself.”
Her eyes widened. She waited for him to break into laughter or anything that indicates it was a joke, but he didn’t. The question then flowed out effortlessly: “And now what?”
But he didn’t have the time to answer. The elevator jolted again and started to move, then the door was opened to reveal apologetic maintenance workers. The elevator was on the first floor now, so they asked her where she wanted to go as to press the right buttons. She said she was going to the third floor. Then they asked him where he was going. They exchanged a weird inquisitive look, and just before the door closed again he said with his eyes fixed on hers:
“I was going down to the ground floor”