Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Going Down

The sharp suited man jabbed his finger impatiently at the fifth floor lift button. He wanted to get out of here, quick, double quick, to be alone, to take stock of what he'd been told. Here he could not think and he certainly did not want to talk, not to anyone. Hovering in the empty corridor at the lift doors he waited what seemed an eternity. The floor indicators rose, lingered and rose again, crept up to the floor below, skipped his floor, and shot to the very top of the building. Then they started descending slowly, he waited disconsolately as they lingered on the floor above. No sooner had this indicator turned itself off than the lift doors slid open; surprising him with their unexpected zeal.

The opening doors revealed two other men dressed in a more mundane fashion. How could he have anything in common with them? With his sharp suit he briefly glanced at them: could they guess his secret? He had hoped the lift would be empty; that he wouldn't have to acknowledge anyone. The more shabby of the two nodded at him as the doors shut and pressed the ground floor button. He did not respond to the gesture; instead he stared shamefaced at the door with, what he assumed were, their eyes burning knowingly into his back.

He expected worse to come, much worse, he could not escape telling all to his wife, she would have to know. Would she? Yes, she'd have to have the same tests, possibly the same drugs. He had to tell her tonight; hellish as that was it would be even worse if he procrastinated or she found out from some mischievous third party. She'd bare all this with a martyred scowl. And what then? There'd be the recrimination, the hurt feelings, the disappointment. And finally the retribution of silence. All for one sad encounter, in a far away city, which he didn't enjoy anyway, and so wished he could forget. However he never would be entitled to forget, he expected to be reminded of this incident, this pathetic encounter, for the rest of his life; every single time his wife had the smallest grievance against him, it would be there hanging as a vengeful accusation, the occasion of his betrayal.

The lift took as long to descend as it did to arrive and the uncomfortable atmosphere only increased the longer no one spoke. All three of the lift's occupants were going to the ground floor. Did those others have the same problem as he? How could he ask such a question? And how embarrassing if the answer was no? As the lift slowed he pushed himself as close to the door as possible – the better not to acknowledge the others. Only to find it was additional doors on the other side of the lift that opened onto the ground floor and he had to follow his inferiors out. None looked at each other as they hurried through the lobby, passed reception, passed the milling visitors. He finally lost sight of his unwelcome comrades as they scattered out onto the city streets.

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