This week's Red Writing Hood challenge is to:
"Think of a person you don't like, and describe what you might say if you had to share an elevator ride together. Then describe what happens when the elevator breaks down. For six hours."
My Own Worst Enemy
I wonder if there are security cameras in elevators. I hope not.
I mean, yes, I suppose they would be useful for the muggings and assaults. I can get behind that, to a degree.
But yet---there's something about the sealed momentary isolation, that pregnant pause between floors.
Especially when you're alone. Like that day. Especially when you're typically accompanied by two knucklehead boys, who view elevators as the perfect venue for cage fighting. Like most days.
I hummed to myself, enjoying the rare elevator ride without bloodshed. Then she skulked in. Her beaky little face and beady brown eyes sucked away my peace like a Dyson.
It seems like she's been with me my entire life, much like a mole or an unfortunate skin tag. I run into her everywhere---during my daily commute, in the morning, during lunch, even at my kid's birthday party.
I swear, she even finds her way into my dreams.
I pushed the "close" button and busied myself with my cell phone, pretexting (my word for "pretend texting") to avoid eye contact. .
I continued to type to nobody, writing, "IhateherIhateherIhateher," when I felt a sudden thump, and a sickening grinding of gears. Stuck.
I rolled my eyes to myself, continuing to pretext. She watched me, smirking.
"You think I don't know what you're doing?" she hissed, "What are you hiding from?"
I lifted my head up, and gazed at her thin upper lip, stained with cranberry lip gloss. It may have looked good twelve hours ago, but now it highlighted the geologic decline of her face. "I don't have anything to hide," I replied, "Like you said, you know exactly what I'm doing."
She grinned, "Yeah. You're hiding from me. You know I'll tell it like it is." She laughed softly to herself, "I know why you hide behind that phone."
"Um-hm," I said. I turned to my phone. No service. I sighed and waved my hand in the air. "Well, enlighten me, Oh Wise One."
She sat down on the floor of the elevator, crossing her long legs, her right foot kicking idly. "You know that you don't really have anything to say. You know that it's a lot easier to comment about the weather on Facebook than actually call somebody with that fancy phone."
"Hey!" I said, "Maryland is now a hands-free state! I don't call anybody because I do not drive distracted! And when I'm at home, the kids are always demanding my attention. I really can't use the phone."
She shook her head slowly. "Really? That's a nice story. You know it's utter bullshit."
I stood up, pressed the UP button, once, twice, three times. I exhaled heavily, then griped, "What the fuck is going on with this elevator?"
"We'll be here for at least six hours," she replied. "Leave it to you to choose this one."
I laughed, "We'll you're here too, Einstein."
She stepped closer to me, "Yes. Of course I am. Why wouldn't I be?" Her brown eyes narrowed. "You need me here."
"No," I said. I swallowed hard. "I really don't. I've worked pretty damn hard to avoid you."
"Yes," she said, "That's it exactly! You avoid things. You don't call people. You don't make plans. You let your friends slip away. Why do you do that?"
I sat there, staring at the floor of the elevator, willing it to whisk me up, up, and away. I twisted my wedding ring, and noted that my pinky was trembling slightly. "I don't know," I mumbled.
"You do too," she answered. "You're avoiding again."
"Whatever," I said, turning my full attention to a hangnail.
"Dammit, Helen!" she said, "You wear your issues like a thrift-store poncho. If a friend doesn't call, it's because they hate you. If you don't get enough comments on your blog, it's because you are a terrible writer. If the world is not shitting glittery rainbows every time you open your mouth, it's because you suck. Is that about right?"
I said nothing. I turned to my hangnail, tugging gently, twisting the loose skin back and forth. With each tug, I felt a fresh jab, another reminder.
"Fine," she said, "Avoid some more. Don't engage, build up your little electronic walls, and watch your world grow smaller and smaller. Just don't take me with you."
I chuckled softly. "Don't take me with you? I am you. You're along for this ride, like it or not."
"That may be," she said, "But I'll fight you. I'll open your wounds. I won't make it easy for you to disappear."
She jutted out her chin, and held out her hand.
I really hope that they don't have cameras in elevators. I hope that there isn't some bored security man, wearing a pretend badge and a three-day-old beard in some room. I hope he isn't watching me, talking to myself, at the mirrored walls of a stalled elevator. I hope he doesn't see that hand, half outstretched, half contained. Stuck in-between. Nowhere.
I would hate for him to see my own worst enemy.