You know you were supposed to get married to me this morning, a woman says into her phone as she steps into my elevator.
Hello? The doors are closing, and she’s losing reception. Bit of panic in her voice, but no tears, not yet.
She looks at the floor. It will be a long ride up today. And frankly, I have my own problems.
If we make it to the top, there will be a view of City Hall and the park. Fountain. Flowers. Lovers. Others.
She looks at the floor numbers. She looks like she doesn’t want to talk. Certainly not about the weather. She is sweating. We both are.
We watch the floor numbers change on the panel. They glow. The numbers move slowly. Time does also. The woman makes a small animal noise, as if trapped, in a box.
You know what, you’re lucky. That’s what I tell her.
She looks up. She looks at my face, not long enough to remember it later, maybe. She looks at my bag of tools. Wrenches. Tape.
I say: This is the same elevator that got stuck last week, with two people trapped inside. It took all night to get them out. What I’m trying to say is that she should be happy the elevator is running smoothly right now.
She tells me: I was one of those people that night.
What are the chances? And I pretend to be surprised, somewhat. I know what the chances are.
It was the best night of my life, she says, warming up. I met a man, she says, before our elevator doors open, and—
I don’t say anything. I don’t say anything about how something like an elevator needs to be inspected on a regular basis.
She apologizes. She shouldn’t have told me. It might have been too much.
She shakes her phone, hoping for a signal, a sign. Good luck. She seems flustered. Flimsy dress, a little fancy for work. She readjusts whatever she’s carrying. She’s doing her best, but things slip. She could do more. A beep makes her jump. She exits onto the wrong floor.
High heels. Old building. Gaps. Ornaments. Gargoyles. Be careful.
But I let her go without a warning.
A woman was recently killed by an elevator in midtown when it trapped her between the door and the wall. A woman was recently killed by a man in an elevator. A woman was recently killed by her husband. A woman was recently killed by a stranger.
Tara Deal is the author of two award-wining novellas, That Night Alive (Miami University Press) and Palms Are Not Trees After All (Texas Review Press). Her work has also appeared in American Literary Review, Passages North, Tampa Review Online, and Washington Square Review, among others. www.taradeal.com