The elevator bell rings and we step inside, the door sliding closed behind us. The four of us punch our floors, six, seven, eleven and nineteen. I’m going the highest.
The elderly lady directly to my left stares straight ahead, her eyes on the mirrored door. She clutches a purple handbag that doesn’t match her light blue dress and black shoes. Her eyes are a dim gray and her face holds the wrinkles of a life near spent. Yet she goes into work each day as if she were in her early thirties. It’s in her face, her eyes…
The man in the left corner, closest to the door wears a pressed blue pin striped suit, matching shoes and matching tie. His hair is near perfect, He brushes an invisible strand out of his face. Fake baked tan skin rounds off his false good looks. He stares down at a handheld device—I’m guessing a blackberry—punching on keys with a little pen. Self assured Important. Everyone else evolves around him.
A pretty blond stands to my right, her hair full of waves, her eyes shimmering, lips a perfect red. The dress she wears hugs her figure and I can’t imagine her wearing clothing like the elderly lady to my left. Too much pride in that body, in those features. She pushes her chest out a little, probably to get the suit’s attention. I want to smile but refrain. Blondie is a woman who knows how to use her assets to get what she wants.
As the elevator lurches upward I glance at each of them, notice their flaws, their ages, their lifelines stretched across their faces.
One by one, they file off on their respective floors and I see…
The Suit is first and he departs on the sixth floor, his briefcase traded for a baseball glove, his suit for a pair of dirty jeans and a t-shirt, his hair poking in all directions; gum smacking. The hopes of any little boy who ever played a sport still carried in his heart. I notice his old sneakers—Converse scrolled across the back. He has written the number 3 on the sides, possibly the jersey number of his favorite player. There is a field waiting for him and other boys with gloves and bats in hand. As the doors slide shut he is greeted by old friends and family.
On the seventh floor the door opens and the elderly lady shuffles toward it. As she crosses through the threshold I see the drab blue dress is gone, replaced by a frilly white one—her Sunday best. She holds a basket in her hand instead of a purse. There are eggs in the basket. She skips off and looks under a bush.
“I found one! I found one!” Her joyous proclamation fills my heart and I smile. Two adults kneel beside her, a man and a woman. They hug and congratulate her. The man kisses her on the head.
The door hisses shut and we ascend.
On the eleventh floor Blondie gets off and her head is full of precious ringlets that bounce with each step. She wears socks with frilly laces and slip on shoes; her dress is yellow and there is a bandage on one knee. The room before her holds a dollhouse. She picks up one of the dolls and hugs it tight. She sits on the floor and cradles the doll like a baby. I hear the toy coo and realize the baby is real and not a plastic store bought item. Blondie tickles beneath the child’s chin and giggles happily.
I am left alone as the elevator continues upward. It reaches the nineteenth floor and the doors open. I look out into white puffs of cloud that await me. I step off and see other elevators, others like me. Some of them wipe tears from their eyes. Others smile from the joy of delivering the children to their destinations, to their happiest times; times before life took over and changed them into the adults they became. Before decisions and indecisions, wrong and right moves, love and heartbreak ruled their lives and skewed their views. Before the downward spiral of life–real life.
The door remains open and I look back to it. I wonder if I will ever know that forever peace, forever joy of my greatest times as a child, when Mommy baked apple pies and Daddy held my hand as we walked the trails in the woods; when the best present was time spent with my parents.
I sigh and move back onto the elevator. There are more children who need to be taken home. I can already feel their presence and tastes their sorrows. The doors close and the elevator descends.
Then, it stops on the ninth floor. The doors open and I stare into a familiar room. I hear my name and I exit the elevator. I don’t look back as the doors close and the elevator moves on. The fresh smell of apple pie drifts in the air. I hear my name and I turn to see Daddy standing there, his strong hands held out to me.
“Come on, son, let’s go for a walk.”
My heart leaps and I grab Daddy’s work-rough hands and I know my journey has finally found an end. As we walk toward the woods not far from home I smile. Never again will I go to the highest floor, the only one left on the elevator at the ride’s end. As my heart leaps I say a silent thank you and then turn my attention to a world long gone and a heaven far better than I ever imagined.