I had to get downstairs. My roommate called, asking me to get some papers from Helen, the woman who runs the convenience store in our lobby. Helen left promptly at 7pm and it was 6:19pm.
I'm alone in the elevator when one of the drug dealers who live in my building gets in. He nods to me in greeting and pushes the button for the 4th floor. He asks me how I've been, if I'm having a good day, the usual small talk. "What about you," I ask, "how are you doing? I haven't seen you in a while."
"I've been away."
Was it just me or was this the longest elevator ride? That's when we realized the elevator wasn't moving. "Did the elevator stop?" he asked.
"It sure looks like it."
"Push the 'door open' button." he suggested. I did. We waited. Nothing.
I pull my cell phone out of my pocket and dial the front desk, "Hi, this is Celia. I'm stuck in the elevator, between floors six and five. Can you get us out?" He reassured me he'd send security up right away.
"I should've taken the stairs," he complained, "this is gonna take too long and I've got people to see."
I looked at the time on my phone - 6:26pm. I still had time. Then we hear banging from the elevator door, and voices. I bang the door in response. "Hello! Security? Can you get us out of here?" I yell.
From the top of the door we hear a faint, "Yes, this is security. Who's in there with you?"
I realize I don't know his name. I've seen him around for at least five years and I just know him as one of the drug dealers, the one with all the brothers and cousins, all sporting shaved heads like him. He was older, bigger, and his looks were more intimidating than his brothers and cousins. I didn't want to admit that I didn't know his name, so I squint, trying to make out the letters tattooed on his neck. I hope it spells his name and not his girlfriend's. I give up and he yells to the elevator ceiling, "It's me, Puppet."
I never would've guessed his name was Puppet, not from his looks, not from the letters tattoed around his neck. I thought I saw an "O" but couldn't make out the rest. The security guard came in faintly, "Puppet, man, just push the doors to the side. We're pushing out here."
All I could think of was getting to Helen before she left the convenience store at 7pm. "Tell Helen not to leave!" I ask the security guard. Puppet is grunting and the door isn't budging.
I could make out a muffled voice from the other side of the elevator door, "Push the number six button." Puppet stops pushing. I push number 6 and it stays lit. But buttons five and four darken. The voices outside grow distant. Are we falling? Puppet complains again, "I'm bored." We hear nothing from outside the door but silence.
"So do you still have a boyfriend?" asked Puppet. I look at him, wondering what neural pathways took him from pushing doors to wondering why he hasn't seen A around lately. "If we get bored we could make out," he suggested. I'm imagining introducing him to my astrologer and my parents, "This is my boyfriend, Puppet." Then, three heads explode, all at once. Then I visualize A's head exploding.
I laugh, "I'm involved." Yeah, involved with my imaginary boyfriend, who is nothing at all like the last real one. Involved with my vibrator, whose overuse I think bears more responsibility for my right shoulder pain than my car accident last month. Involved. That's a good word for it and Puppet has no idea what I'm talking about.
Puppet smiles at me, "I'm just saying, what happens in the elevator, stays in the elevator."
I change the subject, "So where did you go? Somewhere fun?"
"I was in jail."
All I could hear was the sound of me wishing I had weed.
Bored, Puppet resumes pushing the doors and we can hear the security guards on the other side. He asks, "Are you guys pushing on that side? Use the crowbar."
The muffled reply, "We lost the crowbar last week."
I look at my phone again - 6:47pm - and give up. I was just about to ask Puppet, "So you wanna make out?" when the doors part. Puppet strides out and says to no one in particular, "I'm not getting back on that thing man, I'm taking the stairs."
The security guards ride down the elevator with me. "What happened to your crowbar?" I ask the captain of security.
"Phil threw it at a tranny who was beating on Mike's head with her shoes. So they took it away from us."
"Did he hit the tranny?"
The elevator doors open and a man with long white hair stood in front of us in his bathrobe, big-ass stereo headphones wrapped around his head, clutching an air-freshener spray-can. We got off, he got on. As the doors closed, he sprays the air in the elevator. I had to ask the captain, "So, what's his story?"
"That's Dr. Smellgood. Haven't you ever seen him around? He sprays everybody who gets too close to him, he's always spraying air freshener around him."
What was I looking at that I never noticed Dr. Smellgood?
"He lives on the 9th floor, he has all these air fresheners laid out around his front door so that he hits all the air that comes in."
I wanted to ask the captain more questions, but I had to see Helen before she closed up shop and left. When I returned to the lobby, the captain was on patrol. There was a private sitting at the desk, but he didn't understand English. I took the only working elevator up to the 9th floor and peeked down one hallway - sure enough, there was a semi-circle of air fresheners and floodlights around one door half-way down the hall.