It was a shitty Monday morning – about 35 degrees and pouring down a biting rain. I walked into the lobby, grabbed the paper and headed towards the elevator. I peeled off my rain jacket, savoring my new found freedom, and banged my shoes to brush off any loose debris. I didn’t usually pay attention to the TV over in the corner, but that loud buzzing emergency warning was flashing, and it broke my concentration. Printed in big letters was a “Severe Weather Warning” for Norfolk and the Hampton Roads area.
“Oh great,” I thought, “now I’m gonna be stuck here all night.”
I let my feet drag me towards the elevator, reluctantly, unwillingly…mindlessly. It’s funny how the most pointless minute details in life fill your head; I didn’t even realize I was in the elevator.
“Hold dat elevatah!” I hear. I wanted to just let the door close, but suddenly a massive hand stops the door dead in its tracks.
“Asshole,” he said, looking me dead in the eye. “Not gonna help a brotha out? I…I don’t…particularly like you high an’ mighty biness folk, ruinin’ the world is all y’all do. An’ I’m stuck here on this miserable day cleanin’ up after your goddamn mess.”
“Look man, I was lost in thought. I’m sorry, I honestly meant nothing by it.” I said it rather unconvincingly with a chuckle; today was not my day.
“Well you was starin’ right at me. What, you too good to ride da elevatah with us peons? Why the hell you laughin’?”
The elevator rang, we passed the second floor. A light flickered.
“What was that?” I asked, nervously; the lights started to flicker.
“What’s that, why are we stoppin’, you pullin’ somethin’ on me white boy?”
“Wait, no….no, press the alarm button!” I slammed the red button; I had never pressed a button with such determination before. “Fuck, fuck, fuck,” I murmured under my breath. The lights went out.
I could no longer see him, but I knew my buddy was still in the elevator. I felt his enormous presence, and I could hear his breathing – more of a menacing wheeze. He had to be about 6’8″ and easily weighed 300 pounds. He was black, mixed of some kind I was sure. He had no hair, a full salt and pepper colored beard and wore jeans, faded at the bottom with some cheap brown boots. He had a dirty flannel on and a lanyard with an ID Key.
“Does your cell phone have service?” I asked after a long uncomfortable silence that seemed to frag on forever. “Mine doesn’t.”
“Nah… maintenance will get us outta here when they can. Well, I suppose if they’s feelin like it. ”
“Man, I told you I’m sorry, it was unintentional.”
“Was it intentional everytime you’d leave your office a mess? Was it intentional when you miss the trash? What about holdin’ the door for a brotha…was it intentional when you didn’t?”
“Busy? I’m sure. Must have a lot more time now that y’all closed the Richmond branch. Buddy a’ mine worked up there and now has no job, an’ I know y’all did it to keep some o’s in that bank account a’ yours.”
“Look, you get my homie a job down here and we’re all good. I know ’bout what you do. I’s seen ya aftah’ work and before work. I know you blackmail and I know you push those pills.”
I felt a lump form in my throat, I thought I’d been more than careful. “Today of all days,” I thought. I was already late for my board meeting when I walked into the building.
“It’s up to you, ya know…but I can tell you’s da smart type sir..Mister Johnson I mean.”
It all felt like a flashback, or a memory or something. It was too surreal.
“What was that?” I asked. The lights turned back on. The elevator made a strange clicking noise and then kicked back in. We were at floor three,
“This is my stop,” I said. “I’ll be in touch.”