There was this man who walked to work the same way everyday. He walked upon the same particular cracks with the same part of his shoes. He did not stray from his familiar path when either going to the office or returning home. He wore gray or blue suits with a white shirt and solid black ties. The shoes were black full oxford brogues with “W” tooled toe box designs. A black jazz styled pork pie hat sat upon his head. He spoke to no one and sat quietly on the subway car seat preferring the aisle, if at all possible.
His mind thought of running from the ordinary world in which he lived. He was a man stuck in the mundane, yet wishing to escape it. He cycled back from the present moment to the future. He always answered questions about the time and place that lied ahead with, “wait and see”. He had a wait and see life. The job that filled his day was one that kept him isolated and in his head.
Drifting thoughts of walks on woodland trails stopping to sit on a log listening to a stream flow below. Crows speaking together in packs deciding if the man sitting below is a friend of the wild world. Shedding the suit for jeans and flannel with a ball cap to shade his eyes, with soft shoes for his feet, all made him close his eyes in his office chair. Wait and see.
He was a man, yet acted like a mother who wouldn’t let go. He was an emotional caregiver carrying the weight of an empty wife, and damaged children. He thought he was the protector, but instead, wounded himself. Instead of being a pillar, he was a pile of rubble. The dream of a time that would be all his own was faraway in that place of wait and see.
On this day, he entered the elevator to travel to the 16th floor, where he would enter it on the ground floor, alone; but, standing before him, under the brightly lit domed fixture was a woman in a red skirt wearing a red jacket over her gray blouse, standing there in the shiny metal box looking back at him. He entered and stood next to this stranger, then pushed the button that would lift him up to his destination.
She touched his hand and said her name was Eleanor and she had been waiting for him. He turned only his head in her direction with the look of curious fear across his face. “You were waiting for me? I don’t know you. Who are you? Should I know you?”
She smiled and answered back, “Yes, and no to the final three.” The elevator stopped. The door opened on the 15th floor. He looked up at the round, lighted number selections noticing that he was not at his destination. His index finger touched the number 16 but the doors did not shut. Nothing moved. There he was with Eleanor, and no one else was around. The floor was empty. The space was cleared of all things. She got off. Then turned, smiled and said, “ Bye for now, James”, which was his name. The doors closed and up to the next floor he went.
The doors opened as they usually did to what was his familiar office space. As he walked off, a co-worker walked past, then, looked strangely at him, as if it was not him, Mr. Pork Pie Hat.
Compelled, James walked to the stairwell, opened the heavy metal door, then down the steel steps surrounded by concrete walls to the 15th floor. He had never been there before, and opened up that door. He found a large space filled with office cubicles, and people rushing about. There he stood frozen watching activity that for most, would be commonplace. But, of course, for James, it gave him a spinal rush of coldness.
He turned, walked back up the single flight of stairs, opened the door to where he worked, and then down the hall to his office, where he sat down in his familiar padded high back chair, then, with deliberate calmness, took hold of a tack pin and pricked himself to see if he was really awake. He was, without a doubt, very much in the present. Sitting straight up, starring at the calming Monet poster framed 10 feet from him on an off-white wall, he gazed at the water lilies floating in shades of blue and green reflections wondering what just happened to him. He drew a blank. His imagination stood still. Nowhere to go. At that moment, without hesitation, he picked up the yellow file folder lying before him and opened it. (793 words.)