For a towering office building with more than thirty thousand employees, this twenty-square-foot-elevator that can only fit two-thirds of them at a time MAX felt even smaller today.
Ding. My neck snapped like a rubber band towards the golden floor indicator.
Seriously? I could feel the nerves above my temple coil—my ascension interrupted just one floor before arrival. I try to only imagine the ant farm of stacked cubicles, hoping it will distract me from all agitation. No luck. I swear to God I can feel the miniature hands on my wristwatch tick, commanding my pulse. I mean, really? This person better have a serious excuse to opt out of one measly flight—
The brass elevator doors slide open. The culprit appears, and panic rises in my chest like a hot air balloon. The inside of my throat constricts.
Oh my god. Am I having an allergic reaction to it?
A heavy-set bald man enters. His weight makes it feel like the floor’s dropping—matching my Titanic heart.
Oh god—I wince at his smooth, shiny reflective head entering. The man turns away. The doors shut before us.
THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP.
The lighting was already blinding, but not as much as the stranger’s gleaming scalp that accompanies me. Leaning as far back and away as possible, I let the wall catch me. It’s hard not to fixate on the crease lines on his scalp.
A shudder escapes my jaw.
Olive and her high school sweetheart broke up at the start of senior year, fourteen years ago. His diagnosis catalyzed it all. Along with losing his sanity, Robbie lost large sums of hair until finally opting to shave it clean completely. One day, while walking to class, Robbie veered into the hallway in front of her. The unexpecting Olive stopped in her tracks, stunned. Her mouth fell open as she stared at the blank back of his head. Robbie passed away twenty-four months later, but in Olive’s mind, he was dead and gone at that moment.
As we were jerked upward, the lights overhead flicker, until dimming completely dark. The floor jolts and bounces to a stop.
No, no, nooo—
I usher past him and thud my palms against the metal doors. This can’t be happening. This can’t be happening!
The Naked Head interrupts me, and abruptly spins me around.
The meek stranger now passionately cradles the back of my neck where my hair is standing up, while his other hand pulls at the small of my low back.
My eyelids submit like shades being tugged closed. His plump lips against mine cushion my creaking heart.
As he pulls away, I search his eyes. Water rushes to mine.
“It’s going to be okay,” the man said.
I return a kiss. The power restores.
The doors slide open, and I turn to my office to the right while Naked Head turns to the left. I smile to myself as I open the door.
The phone is already ringing when I enter.
“Hello, this is Olive. Thank you for calling the National Cancer Foundation. How can I assist your call?”
Photo credit: iStock.com
Samantha Jones is a student at Central Connecticut State University. You can find her on Twitter at @Samantha30068538.
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