The light wood paneling and soft lighting leave me with little impression. I'm neither happy nor afraid as the ding announces the elevator's arrival. I move swiftly on, always a little nervous that the sensors won't detect my mass and the doors will close on me.
Inside the elevator is dark, yet reflective, and the soft lighting has followed me here as well. I look all around me, expecting to see my reflection, yet the walls are just dark enough that only a vague outline can be found.
The doors slide to a close and I blankly stare at where a control panel should be, yet I'm not worried that there aren't floors to choose from, as I do not know where I am going.
I feel the elevator begin to fall and I clearly hear voices outside the door. Who are they? How can they be so close when my ride is moving? Annoyed, I try to focus on my own thoughts, but the voices remain.
I try to relax against the wall, tilting my head back and closing my eyes to keep out the persistent soft light. The voices remain.
My brow furrows and I stamp my feet, trying to reaffirm my relaxed position in leaning against the wall. Yet the voices remain.
I straighten my spine and glower at the closed doors. Where are those voices coming from when I am clearly still descending in my elevator?
Where am I going anyway?
A lump rises in my throat, why did I get on this blasted thing in the first place?
"Hello?" I call out, wondering if the voices that seemed so distinct would be able to hear me as well.
I don't get an answer in return, yet I can still hear them talking. I press my ear to the door. Wait, is that my mom? It is! She's talking to me!
"Mom!" She continues to speak as though she doesn't hear my plea. I press my whole being against the elevator doors longing to hear her.
"You won't ever wander away from me again, especially in a zoo! Do you understand!" I recall the conversation clearly, I was six years old and in my excitement to see the tigers had not waited for her to help my little brother use the bathroom. I could feel the tug of her hand on mine as she pulled me toward the exit, determined for me to feel the full brunt of punishment. The wrought iron gate clangs open and on the other side wait my disappointed dad and brother. It was a quiet ride home.
My eyes open, the cold of the metal door sending chills through my body. I step back, horrified that I'm still in this mechanical box.
I throw my body against the doors, "Let me out!" The voices have returned, but once again they aren't a response to me.
I take a ragged breath and press my ear to the door once again. My palms are sweaty and shake, but I need to know what lies on the other side of the door. I close my eyes and attempt to steady the rising panic inside my being.
"You two need to explain to me how you came up with the exact same answers on this exam," Mrs. Anderson paced back and forth between us and the chalkboard.
"We did study together, ma'am," Jamie offered.
"No. No. Getting all the multiple choice right is one thing, but all your short answers are exactly the same!"
"We studied off the same study sheet, Mrs. Anderson. All those answers only required a two or three-word response," Jamie tried to reason with her again.
"Impossible. Unless you two were looking off one another's exams!"
Jamie looked at me for help, but I couldn't speak. My mouth only hung open with exasperation. I had never been punished for studying hard before, neither had Jamie.
Mrs. Anderson eyed me as well, but I didn't speak up. She wasn't going to believe us anyway. I slouched in my chair and stared at the dust bunny rolling about on the floor, persuaded to move by the circulated air from the vent.
"Very well. You both fail the exam and will serve detention for a week." We sat in silence for the remaining time of detention. When we were released, Jamie jumped at the chance to get out of the room, never giving me another glance.
I sagged against the elevator door, the voices having grown silent again. The elevator perpetually moving down. A single tear slowly trickles down my face, what sort of nightmare has locked me in this elevator?
Another voice comes again, "Yes, but why did you do it?" It felt like a dagger was being driven through my heart and I inhale sharply. This is not a conversation I care to repeat.
"Why did you do it? Aren't I enough for you?" I'm speechless, there wasn't a good reason at all. I simply got caught up in the moment, in the drink, in their eyes. The eyes watching me now cannot believe my betrayal. "I'm sorry," I whisper, but my words sound hollow, almost as hollow as I feel.
Quiet footsteps as they walk away, quiet sobs racking their body, I want to run after, but I don't. I turn and walk my own way.
My own way. I realize as I grow numb that as I tried so hard to not offend, to not confront, that I also forgot to connect to those closest in my life.
The ride lurches to a stop and I open my eyes, but I'm not in an elevator. The paramedic leans over, "What do you remember?"
I blink slowly. It would be easy not to respond this time, I obviously have a good excuse considering my current setting.
"I remember too much sometimes," I say quietly, my mouth dry.
"Don't we all. What is the last thing you remember?"
"Drinks at the bar."
The paramedic nods solemnly, but doesn't scold me. I sigh and close my eyes, hoping the elevator isn't waiting for me.