My eyes shoot open. I roll over on the bed, almost falling off the edge, and look at the alarm. 8.30 AM. Crap! I was late for office.
I should really stop reading those fanfics late into the night.
Luckily, I’ve had years of practice of waking up late, and am a sort of expert on the ultra-shot morning routine – without missing out on the necessaries. I’m done with my bathroom routine in a record 15 minutes, and put on the light blue shirt I had thankfully kept ironed the previous night. As I wriggle into my formal pants, I hop to the fridge and down a few milliliters of fruit juice. I walk back into the bedroom, and look at myself in the mirror for the first time that morning.
Disaster. I have no other word to describe the state my hair and face look like. My hair looks like a tornado hit it, and my face resembles a very un-cute panda, dark circles and all. I decide to take care of my face on the commute – who cares if anyone judges me for doing my makeup on the metro – and start brushing my hair into a ponytail.
I grab my bag, phone and keys and bolt out the front door. I press the button on the elevator when I remember I haven’t locked the door. Giving my already-sullen face a smack on the forehead, I run back and try to figure out which key locks the door.
“You comin’ in or not, lady?” Calls out the old lady who lives on the floor above from the elevator. For an old lady, she wasn’t very old-world politeness.
I turn back and give her a pleading look. “Please, hold the doors, I’m just trying to figure out which key locks the door!”
“It’s an automatic lock” calls out a nasal, condescending female voice. My eyes widen at my own stupidity and I run back to the elevator. As I look at the source of the voice, she smirks at me. It’s Snivella from the 10th floor. Obviously, that’s not her real name, but she’s one snivelling woman.
“Thanks” I tell her sarcastically, as the doors close. “You’re welcome” she says in that snooty voice of hers. Not wanting to upset my mind even further by looking at her smug face, I look around the elevator, surveying who else were there. There was Snivella, the old lady, the little girl from the floor above, on her way to school and the quiet, handsome, broody guy who lived on the 11th floor.
“Wow, pretty crowded today, huh,” I wonder out loud, to nobody’s interest. I shrug my shoulders and concentrate on the Kenny G elevator music. Phew. I can make it to office on time. All was calm.
Until the elevator started jerking and the lights started flickering. The elevator stopped and the lights went out.
Snivella started screaming so loud everyone had to shut their ears. “Will you please shut up?” I snapped into the darkness, not really knowing in whose direction I actually was snapping at. That seemed to shut her up, at least the screaming part. “Oh no, oh no, oh no,” she starts panting. God. Even the little girl seemed calm.
“It’s okay, just calm down,” I tell her, mustering all the niceness inside me, although the niceness seemed very reluctant to be directed towards her. “You don’t understand,” she wheezes. “I have claustrophobia, I’m on my way to a panic attack.”
I feel bad for having judged her. That was the moment when the lights flickered back to power. The old lady has a poker face, as if she’s been in hundreds of stuck elevators before. She reaches into her huge jute bag and pulls out a bottle of water and gives it to Snivella, who gratefully accepts it and starts gulping. The little girl seems anxious, but otherwise she’s calm. The broody guy is, well, broody, and sulking in the corner, with his blue file.
Suddenly the elevator phone starts ringing. The old lady picks it up as she’s the closest to it. “Yeah, we’re stuck… Uh-huh…. Oh, okay… Well, you better get it running in five minutes, young man, or else there’s no cookies for you this Sunday!” she says and hangs up. Wait, the old lady gives the watchman cookies?
“Why haven’t you ever offered cookies before?” I blurt out. Stupid me and my stupid flimsy verbal filter. She gives me this look as if the answer is obvious.
“Because it’s not you who brings my grocery bags to my apartment,” she retorts. The little girl giggles. Okay, that effectively made me feel bad second time in a row. “Sorry” I say in a small voice.
“Did you guys have breakfast?” she asks in a motherly tone. She doesn’t even wait for our answers as she starts passing around cookies and crackers and cheese, which we all happily accept with thank yous. “There’s even lasagna if we’re stuck here till lunch” she jokes, “but the watchman says the elevator should start working in a few minutes.”
Snivella seems to breathe a little better. The little girl looks extremely disappointed. “Hey, what’s wrong?” I ask her.
“I really wanted to skip school today! I didn’t do my math homework” she pouts. Everyone laughs; even Snivella lets out a wheezy one.
“Hey, I didn’t like math at first too. But when you practise a lot more, it’s easy!” I throw up my arms, and in the process knock the file out of Mr. Broody’s hands. It falls to the floor and the papers in it are strewn across the floor. I immediately bend down with him and start picking them up. “Thanks, but, it’s okay, I’ll take care –“ I cut him off by exclaiming, “Hey, I didn’t know you wrote poems!”
We’ve gathered all the papers by then and stand up. “They’re lyrics, actually, for a song in a movie” he says.
“Anything that I might of heard that you’ve written before?” I ask, and he goes on to cite a song that recently won an award. Everyone turns their heads to him. My eyes almost bug out of my head and he seems amused by my reaction.
“Wow,” I say. “Looks like we satisfy all those stuck-in-an-elevator movie clichés: A clumsy woman, a senior citizen, a little girl, an award-winning songwriter” I joke. Thankfully, they laugh at my joke this time. Self-confidence restored, I mentally pat myself on the back. “Seriously, all we’re missing is a pregnant woman!” I guffaw.
“I’m three months pregnant” says Snivella.
“Congratulations, uh….” Damn, I don’t know her name!
“Congratulations, Ruby,” everyone murmurs. She lets out a small thank you. And finally, thank god, the elevator starts moving. As soon as we reach the ground floor, everyone seems to be in an awkward hurry, trying to escape that cage of awkwardness.
Read The Room – A heartbreaking story of three roommates-cum-best friends told by Room 404.