At last the elevator doors opened and freed the revelers, fleeing like poached parrots back into freedom, and there was a sense of emergent vengeance in the air, carefree, whistling vengeance: a car keyed or a wife fucked, a wig pulled, a cocktail thrown, a black shirt bleached, drunk texts to an ex, and they walked out whistling, gripping the cobblestone.
In the corner of the elevator stood Denne, muttering motherfuckers, watching them on the street. He'd been stuck with the revelers since the fifth floor, pressed in the corner while the man with the most colorful camp shirt had joked about the people whom the crowded elevator had mercifully stranded at each descending floor. The women laughed until their jewelry shook and it looked like they were weightless.
Earlier they'd discussed what to wear in Europe this time of year. The entire time Denne had thought he should've taken the stairs, he'd take the stairs when the situation called for it. Years ago, in an anonymous office tower, swerving down flight after flight, the many-storeyed corkscrew of scuffed concrete, blackened wads of gum and cigarette butts, he had prided himself on his ability to trot down two stairs at a time. Drills, evacuations, whatever the situation called for, two stairs at a time.
One of the women had turned to another, adjusting an earring: If you're going to Paris this time of year, bring a sweater.
Denne pressed five and the doors closed on the lobby, then were jarred open by a pug's head. It was followed by a woman in athletic gear, wearing a shirt bearing a manipulation of the Twitter bird.
Good, Banana, you held the door for us. Do you know where that club is by any chance? The Khmer Vert?
Denne shook his head and pressed five again.
Can you press four for me, thanks much. All the way to four he scowled at the dog scowling back at him while the woman tapped on her phone, her eyes scanning old texts with the manic rhythm of a kit-cat clock.
The doors opened to the fourth floor, where bright signs were posted for both advanced leadership and estate planning seminars. The woman scraped the elevator floor with her sneaker like a bull before the charge. Come, Banana, she said, and walked off in the direction of advanced leadership.
Denne decided to follow them until he'd reached the nearest men's room. The hands-free soap dispenser was utterly fucked and disrespectful to one's personal time, so he was forced to writhe in various states of supplication until a drop of Dawn spurtled into his folded palms. He then shifted over to the hands-free faucet, moving his palms this way and that, trying to find the sweet spot, wetting his hands in erratic bursts. He went to the hands-free dryer and wharved his wrists to it, watching his arm hairs, now curled like clefs, now scraped straight by the galeforce air, and he wondered about the rolling cloth towel dispensers of yore, the pull rag, that seemed to live on solely in dives.
On the way out Denne went for some sanitizer at the hands-free dispenser. Before the door he froze, the sanitizer on his hands prickly cool, and for a moment stood there with eyes closed, hands up as in benediction, air drying. He stretched and sustained the unswerving moment. At any time someone could walk in, notify security, and have him admitted somewhere unpleasant with fluorescence.
He was still thinking about the situation that had been his life, the abstract outline of the situation and its ragged demands. An expert crisis manager, the Picasso of contingency plans, had once told him while breathlessly trotting down two stairs at a time that trust and courage were really all it took to remedy a bad situation. Denne had learned that the best crisis managers were also the worst at living in the present crises: they were always envisioning worst-case scenarios. Situations required nothing more than cliches commonly found at seminars. Trust. Courage. They sounded like the names of dogs.
Eyes shut and hands up, he elbowed the restroom's powermatic door opener and strode off in the general direction of the stairwell. His hands, cold and antiseptic as the wall they touched, guided him along and he began to hum.
As he walked beside the wall, touching it ecstatically, he smelled the indoor flora. Ornamental succulents, sentry-like in their smart black planters, scented the ambience in a pleasant, productivity-raising way. Denne paused and leaned against the wall for a moment with his eyes shut and let himself down slowly, still humming.
Natural and earthy notes combined with an invigorating floral accord, with subtle hints of sage. An uplifting, soothing, and nondrowsy environment.
Over the cool tiles of waxed onyx, on which he now lay face down, there was the rapid click of a woman's heels, the heartbeat of the wide open space, upwards of a hundred beats per minute if he was counting correctly.