Free To Go

By SAIDEE BROWN | Published: September 23, 2010

His shoulders were slumped with dread like there was an unseen force pushing down on him from above. His personal loathing monkey. She stood across from him in the elevator squinting her eyes making out the shape and color of the monkey thinking it should be called something. A hateful name like Mayloff or Scrotum. A dark dank mildewed name, something that sounded hard to get rid of. She had been watching his shoulders turn inward for weeks now. She had breathed only the acrid air of his caustic sighs not sure if it might be catching.
At first she was compassionate, she was concerned. She fetched water and made his favorite meals. She did all of his jobs around the house, she took great care of him. He only got worse. His pallor changed from white to grey, what meat he had on his thin frame melted off to become a part of the misery puddle he left behind. He came to look like an ashen skeleton. There were times when his sighs became almost comedic as they were frequent and long and loud. She would look up at him from across the room in anticipation of seeing his smile certain something must have changed and he was joking because that was the mock sigh to be sure. It wasn’t. His gaze would be stuck on that spot on the floor.
What if she walked over and pissed there on his spot. Would he look up. She wanted to. She wanted to walk right over and spread her legs apart and piss there right through her panties. But she would need a cigarette between her fingers before she could do anything like that and they had given up smoking long ago. They agreed it was for the best. Ah how she wanted to smoke. She could bare it all if she could hold a cigarette. If she could pause and blow out smoke she could deal with anything at least her sigh would look like something. At least then she would have changed things for a moment.
The elevator trembled a bit. Her shoulder pressed back against the paneled walls, her hips pushed back against the leather padding below the chair rail. His weight kept him in place where he sat on the bench near the button panel. He held his hat in his hands, spinning it, grasping it, wringing it. She liked a man in a hat. She liked the jauntiness of it, the whimsy it seemed to imply. She had been with mostly men who favored hats. They were all quite the opposite of that impression, they had all been tight, nervous, and extremely narcissistic like the hat held the picture together, like the stitches ended there and hid the loose ends beneath. It should have been a red flag for her after a while. Back away from the hat wearing man. He is self absorbed, he likes himself way more then he will ever like you. But no. It only egged her on more and there was always the chance that this one might be different, this one might really know how to wear a hat. She loved the drama of the hat, the moody eyes watching the world under the brim having deep thoughts. Deep like a kitchen sink thinking about waffles and the new counter girl at the news stand.
She watched the hat shake and spin, she wondered how it would keep its shape.
He looked up her through stray bangs his eyes sad and drooping. She met his look. He tried a weak smile and she looked away. She could not join him in the smile. She knew he was guilty about something, she knew he was torturing himself and she was tired of wondering what it could be. She stood up straighter. It was awkward. She knew him. She knew every inch of him. He was her lover after all, she knew the freckles on his thighs, the downy trail below his belly button, the way he took a shave in the shower, she knew the directions his balls twisted on a hot day and how they hung low and now here they were in this elevator and she felt other from him. She hardly knew him anymore. Their thoughts had strayed so far from each other that it felt like a door had been shut on the day and all the information she knew about the nature of the day had been sealed away from her. She no longer knew the temperature, the nature of the wind or the news it delivered with its odors, she knew nothing of the skies, couldn’t anticipate the weather to come or what it had been, she didn’t even know what time of day it was. It was a deep disconnect and she could only assume he felt as distant from her. She cleared her throat.
She looked at him but it only lasted the amount of time you give a stranger, a polite glance and she didn’t do it on purpose. It was an involuntary reaction. She knew if he asked he about whether or not she loved him any more that she would feel like a stranger was asking her. “love you, why I don’t even know you” except for the fact that she could color code the exact pink of his nipples on a paint chart at the hardware store from memory. They must have belonged to someone else but they hadn’t.
The elevator groaned and jerked a bit.
“The building is so old. either there is a ghost or this box isn’t up to code.”
“I am hoping for a ghost.” and there was enough said because he did know her. He knew she was afraid of being trapped, he knew she had terrible claustrophobia. He knew she wouldn’t do well in a broken elevator. She was so cool in terrible situations like the night in that hotel when they listened to a girl being beaten by her boyfriend and they listened for a long time. It was raining and the night had long passed from the dark romance of the kinky wild hotel sex and the drinks had worn off and the sting of the beard burn was settling in and he had dozed off. Maybe she had too but there was a loud noise.
They both became alert, listening, detached, voyeurs. They heard cursing and grandiose insults and threats and harsh laughter. They laid there like siblings whose parents were having a fight in the night two children listening to fighting parents holding hands in the night. And then it passed the place of being a good ole boy and girl fight. Something was broken and a shout and then something hit the wall they shared with the couple and there was a plea.
It was the plea. “No, no, no, no.” that moved her out of the bed. He grabbed at her wrist as she left the bed. He never wanted to get involved.
“It’s not our business. you don’t want to get mixed up in their business.”
“It will be the business of my heart if I regret not doing something” and she took her dress off the chair and walked out of the room. She had no shoes. She didn’t take her phone. She went and she would figure it out as she went along. She left him in bed alone.
Once in the hallway, the hot air plastic wrap on her skin, she walked to the neighboring door and knocked hard. The sound was nothing compared to the noises being made on the other side. She hesitated for a moment and then she turned the knob and pushed the door open. She did not enter, just made the door open as far as it could stopped by a tangle of clothes and a towel. The room was cluttered with food and trash, stuffing from a pillow, beer bottles, other bits of paraphernalia, newspapers, shoes. It was smoky and had the stale beer odor of rejection and loss. It took a few moments for her eyes to find the couple. The lay out of the room was mirror to hers next door but it was a den of debauchery whereas hers was a transient pause on the map.
Still she did not enter. The couple looked over from where the man had the woman pinned against the wall, his forearm jammed against her throat, her toes fully extended trying for some purchase, trying for some hope, her eyes were red rimmed, wide with fear but they accused her in the same way the mans did for the intrusion. Her eyes said she would protect the man, her eyes said she was not yet done here, her eyes condemned her to remain and play out the drama.
“What the fuck.” the man slurred “Who do you think you are you fucking bitch.”
Shouldn’t she be asking him that very question. She shrugged her shoulders and lowered her gaze onto him made herself steady.
“I’m just saying.” and she raised her hand palm up toward them from her side and shrugged.
He had relaxed his grip on his girlfriend and had backed away a bit. He was rubbing the scorn from his neck, the woman sinking to the floor.
She walked away leaving the door open and went back to her own room.
He was sitting on the side of the bed dressed now minus his shoes waiting to see if he would be needed. He looked pensive his hand up to his mouth, a bit of hair hanging down.
“What did you do?”
“Just opened the door really. Let some air in.” She took off her dress and laid back down on the bed. He kept his clothes on and laid down as well putting his head against her chest, he could hear her heart. He loved to hear her heart. He expected to have his ear assaulted by an elevated bump bump from her confrontation but instead he found her steady beat and he closed his eyes to the mystery of her and went to sleep.
It was there in people crisis that her strengths existed. She was not good in man made crisis, the crisis of the machine. She was not good with broken down cars, electrical fires. The elevator made no sense to her and so it wasn’t deserving of her trust.
Trust, that had long ago disappeared between them. Eroded like a windswept dune. How could it be repaired. They had talked about seeing a counselor but they both held the conviction that too much had been lost, too much time had passed and it was hard to remember what they fought about anymore. The marriage had come to suffer form amnesia. There was a ghost in this elevator she thought. The ghost of who we were, the ghost of the connection that was the thread that entwined them. She could barely make it out and she knew they were both haunted by it. The marriage was a ghost.
She could barely breath in the enclosed space and the man now had his back pressed against the wall like he was trying to push more room into the box. “What have we become?” He asked through his rasping thin voice. “We were different. Remember how we looked at our friends who split up, like they had a choice, like they weren’t trying hard enough. Did we do enough?”

“It doesn’t feel like there are any more choices for us except to be friendly when we see each other.”
“I feel like someone has died.”
the elevator smoothed back out and their bodies adjusted in weight as the elevator settled too the ground.
“Someone has died. Two someones.”
The doors were making sounds to signal an opening. they held fast to their spots looking at the others face. She felt the brimming sting of tears, the blink that rolled them a relief. He squeezed his knees and stood. He put his hand out and she pivoted her shoulders from the wall and came to stand beside him. The doors will open and then they will close. She felt like the marriage would forever ride in the elevator but they were free to go.

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