Elevator of Terror

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

Elevator of Terror

Linus knocked on the door and gave himself one final check.  His polo shirt finally seemed to be free of cat hair and the dress shoes he had had since college looked respectable enough.  What were the odds that she would want a good look at his shoes?  He heard movement in the hotel room and swallowed the nervous lump in his throat.  He heard the sound of the lock being turned and took a deep breath, sucking in his gut and hoping that his chest was puffed out.  When the door opened, Linus’ breath was immediately taken away.

Standing in front of Linus, in all her glory, was Brenda.  The two had met in a wedding yesterday; she was the maid of honor, he was the best man.  Linus had given a rather amusing toast and had convinced Brenda to share a few dances with him before the event had ended.  It had been the best possible first impression Linus could have made.  He had been wearing a tuxedo, he was charming, and the lighting had been just right.  He was drawn to Brenda, especially her height.  She had regaled him with stories of going to college on a basketball scholarship and he could see why.  With her heels, she was an inch or two taller than Linus, but with a sense of grace about her.  Her pixie-cut brown hair framed her round face just right.  She lived in Florida and had just the right amount of sun freckles dotting her nose and cheeks.  Linus knew they lived across the country from each other, but he asked her for a date regardless.  Now, upon seeing her attire compared to his, he wondered if hadn’t squandered the first impression he had made.

“Hey Linus”, Brenda said.  “Thanks for picking me up.”

Linus only nodded as he took in her appearance. Brenda wore black flats and wearing a tennis bracelet was Brenda.  But Linus couldn’t take her eyes off of her dress.  It wasn’t the length; it was the fit that surprised him.  It was a typical dress that went down to the knees and had a modest enough cut up top.  However it clung to every curve in her admittedly pleasant physique.  Every muscle, every curvature of her body was on display.  Linus tried his best to pick his jaw off the floor and look her in the eye.

“I’m ready if you are”, she offered.

“Oh, yeah”, Linus replied.  “Sorry, it’s, I, well, you look stunning.  I feel bad that my attire isn’t quite up to yours.”

“I think you look fine”, Brenda said as she walked up to him and put her hands on his chest.  “I like polo shirts.  And, can I let you in on a secret?”

“Sure”, he said.  He was grateful for anything that might resemble a conversation starter.

“I only brought this dress with me on a dare.  For Jackie’s bridal party we were all told to bring our sexiest dress.  It was jeans, my bridesmaid dress, or this.  I hope you don’t mind.”

“No, I don’t think I could possibly mind in the least.”

“Okay then.  Shall we?”

Taking up Brenda’s prompting, Linus offered his elbow and she linked elbows with him.  “So did you wear flats in case I wanted to feel taller?”

Brenda laughed.  “No, I didn’t think my white dress heels from yesterday would match.  Like I said, I only had so much attire to choose from.  I didn’t know how long the girls and I would be out and I refuse to wear heels for too long, you know?”

Linus did not know.  He pushed the button to cue the elevator and it graciously came to their floor scant seconds later.  He offered the door to her, watched her walk in, and then he stepped inside himself.  Linus pushed the lobby button and marveled at how slowly the elevator moved.

C’mon Linus, he thought to himself.  You’ve used up the attire conversation.  She gets it, she looks good.  Think of something else.  You can do this.  You’re charming enough; just pick a topic and form words.  Words that make a sentence would be terrific, but any words will do.  C’mon.  Any time now.  Seriously.  You get how she’s fidgeting with her bracelet right there?  You see that?  That’s a bad thing.  That signals boredom.  You might want to say something.  Or you could just stand here like a mime.  You always see mimes walking around with drop-dead gorgeous gals like her.  Oh no, wait.  You don’t.  Women want a guy who can carry a conversation.  It’s been ten floors.  Move it!  Linus was thoroughly regretting Brenda’s room being on the forty-second floor.

When the elevator reached the twenty-eight floor, an older couple came in.  Suddenly, Brenda started talking loudly and with hands flailing about in gestures.

“…so the guy is just lying there on the ground with blood pouring out of his nose.  All the while, I’m standing next to my husband, whose finger is still in the kitchen sink.  I’m wondering who this stranger is while at the same time freaking out about what to do about the finger.”

Linus was confused.  He looked at the elderly couple.  The sixty-something woman with a sparkly sequin dress hugged her husband closer while they both looked agog at Brenda.  Brenda had plenty more to say.

“Then I remember back to an episode of t.v. that I saw where they say they can reattach a finger if it’s well preserved.  Or maybe it was a movie.  Remind me, Linus, was it in that spy movie that we saw a few years ago?”  Linus looked around, having no response for this question.  He shrugged his shoulders.  “Well, I suppose it doesn’t really matter.  Anyway, I look all through the kitchen and find out that we don’t have any sandwich bags.  Not a one.  What are the odds, right?”

The elevator stopped at the sixteenth floor and a man in his early forties entered.  He took a spot in the front corner and closed his eyes and leaned against the back wall.  None of this gave Brenda any reason to pause her story.

“In the meantime, I hear the intruder is trying to get up.  I run back to Dirk’s side and try to get him off the floor.  He’s squeezing his finger in pain but he still manages to stand.  He looks at this man I’ve never seen before, and he tells him, ‘Guido, that’s my money.  I worked hard for it.’  This other guy, who I guess is Guido, just replies, ‘You don’t get it, Dirk.  You take three and a half million from the operation and don’t give us a cut, we’re going to take our cut from you.  The finger was just a first payment.’  I didn’t know what to do Linus, I really don’t.”  

“So what did you do?”  The man who looked so tired when he gotten on had woken up in five short flights.  He looked to Brenda pleadingly, wanting to know the rest of the story.

Brenda lookeds at him, fussed with her bracelet, and turned back to Linus.  “Anyway, I’m still worried about this finger I have in the sink.  What if gets all wrinkly like a raisin and the skin doesn’t match the rest of Dirk’s hand?  What if it falls down the sink?  How’m I supposed to get a finger out of the sink, Linus?  How?  I run to the living room, grab one of Dirk’s comic books, and throw it out of its bag.  Then I run back to the kitchen, fill it halfway with ice, put the finger in, and top it off with more ice.  Dirk and Guido had just gotten to their feet when I threw the bagged finger in the fridge.”

All eyes were locked in suspense on Brenda.  In any other room they’d be focused on the dress, but here she was the queen of the story.  Linus almost wished he had popcorn to excitedly nibble on while she continued.

“I tell them that I’m going to call the police, but Dirk won’t let me.  He tells me that the police are involved; that this goes up higher than I know.  The Guido guy pulls out a knife and eyes it while Dirk says something about ‘the government can’t be trusted on this’, or something like that.”  Brenda’s eyes flickered for a moment to the floor indicator lights above the elevator doors then she resumed her tale of horror.

“So there’s blood coming from Guido’s nose.  There’s a pool of blood where Dirk was standing, and as he’s holding his cut hand with the other hand, I can see that he’s gone with in the face.  He’s only seconds from passing out.”  Brenda grabbed Linus by the shirt collar and pulled him close.  She spoke in a whispered tone that the crowd in the elevator strained to hear.  “Dirk calls me over.  I lean in close.  He tells me, ‘There’s only one way out of this.  You’ve got to…’”

At that moment, the doors sent out a “bing” noise.  The mirror doors slid apart to reveal the lobby with its grand chandelier and old leather couches welcoming its guests.

“Oh, Linus, we’re here!”  Brenda was cheerful and pulled Linus out by the arm.  The three people that remained in the elevator hurried out.  They tried to remain subtle in how they followed, but Linus could sense them walking behind him.  “Where’s your car?”  Brenda’s calm demeanor was unchanged as Linus walked her to his vehicle.  The three others gave up and went about their night plans.

Linus opened the passenger door for Brenda.  She thanked him and lowered herself into the seat.  He closed the door, rushed to the other side, and nearly slammed the car door shut.

“So what happened next?  What about this former husband of yours?”  Linus didn’t know anything about a former spouse, but he wanted to hear the ending regardless.

“Oh that?”  Brenda laughed.  “That’s just my elevator story.”

Linus was dumb-founded.  Brenda’s attire was hardly the most engaging or amazing thing about her.  Feeling the ice had officially been broken; he put his hand on her leg and leaned in.

“You’re kind of fantastic.  You know that, right?”

“I like to liven people’s night up a little.  Who doesn’t like an exciting story?”

Linus turned the key in the ignition as he shook his head in small arcs from side to side.  He grinned and thought to himself, Best first date ever.

(Hollywood lore tells us that Alfred Hitchcock had his own “elevator story” that he used.  The idea just makes me want to hug him.)

The Ring and the First Date

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

The Ring and the First Date

She just seemed so darn nice.  I mean, in this world of people that are busily busing and bustling, she had this pleasant way about her.

We met in church.  “Met” would be a loose term; perhaps even inaccurate.  I started coming to the church after she did, so she already had her pew assignment all figured out.  Me, I had nothing to prove.  I sat in the middle of the middle.  The cool college kids sat off to the left.  The older folks tended towards their aisle seats in the back.  She happened to put herself about three rows from the front.

I don’t want to say that the only reason I went to that church was for attractive Christians, but it certainly wasn’t a deterrent.  Yes, I was looking for people my own age.  Still, I maintain that not once did I say, “Hey.  You look all kinds of Christian.  God thinks you and I should totally go out.”  (If you do hear that kind of line?  Run.  Run far.  Even if you’re wearing expensive heels.)  However, here was this lovely, seemingly normal, attractive gal.  So of course I took a liking to her.

Now, I’m not one that feels the need to introduce myself on first encounter.  I’m a patient enough type; I can wait to feel out a situation.  The more I waited, the more I wondered what was taking me so long.

I’m not a Christian that takes communion; it has never felt like something that I needed to do.  I stood in front of my seat and thought about God while everybody else lined all nice and orderly, took their bread and wine, and walked back to their seat.  I still think I’m probably the only one who just stood there the whole time.  (I checked with the pastors.  They didn’t really care.  They do communion their way, I practice it mine.)  However, whenever she was one of the servers, she just looked so darn welcoming.  She leaned towards people and smiled.  It was a pretty great smile.  She had that air about her; a kindness.  I’m a firm believer that there is not enough kindness in the world so how could I ignore someone who exemplified it so well?

As with all things that seem pretty intriguing, there was a catch.  She liked to raise her hand toward the ceiling during certain songs.  There, on the important finger, was a ring.  Well, shoot.  I checked for several Sundays to be certain.  Every week, there it was just as it had been before.

I don’t break up couples.  It’s bad mojo.  I figured some guy was rather blessed to have her in his life and I couldn’t blame him for making a commitment.  I thought the ring was a little small, personally, but if she liked it then that was all that mattered.  I assumed that the fellow had won the bout and I should keep to myself.

Yet, she still seemed so darn nice.  We were a few rows apart so there wasn’t really any reason for interaction between us.  I didn’t need to pass her the offering plate, she didn’t ask to share my hymnal; we just existed in our own little circles and that was fine.  Then, at some later time, we were encouraged to greet others in church.  I figured that was as good a time as any.  I walked up to her, told her that it was silly that we hadn’t said hello, and we both politely laughed at the awkwardness that we had both seen each other but were just now speaking.  Surely I could have a friend who was engaged; I’ve done it before.

After that, we talked a bit.  There was no time for actual conversations, just chit-chat.  I went jogging straight after church and used the excuse that I didn’t want to be late for my running buddy.  At the same time, she always had people waiting to speak to her.  I could hardly blame them.  I did start to question where this guy was.  If he loved her enough to give her a ring, how could he be okay with not sitting next to her each Sunday morning?  So I did what any person in this age of technology does.  I sent her a message on Facebook.

I’d like to state that it was a grand e-mail; that the lines and phrases were inspiring and that none could have matched their brilliance while attaining the perfect amount of sentimentality.  The problem with that is that my parents raised me not to lie.  I can’t even claim the above as a slight exaggeration.  No, I’m sure it was something along the lines of, “You seem interesting.  I’d like to take you to coffee if you’re up for it”.  (shrug)  There are times when I am less than eloquent.

For some reason, she agreed.  We figured an area near the church was a safe halfway point for both of us, so we met at the closest coffee shop.  It was towards the middle of the week and I had a break between my two jobs so I walked to my destination.  I arrived; as is my habit, early.  Quite early.  Too early.  I peeked inside the store just to make sure that she wasn’t as early.  I didn’t see her, so I planted myself in one of the chairs outside and did my best to look calm and nonchalant.  I would like to think that I pulled it off, but I would also like to think that credit card bills won’t make me cringe.  Regardless, it was a nice, cloudless, sunny day outside.  There are far worse weather conditions to be had in Seattle, so I lounged about wishing there were fewer cars on the road.

About ten minutes after we were supposed to meet, she came out of the store.  She had been inside studying for class the entire time.  I made my apologies, and eventually we sat down and started having a discussion.  This, sadly, was not my greatest moment of conversation.  I’m pretty sure that I said, “What haven’t I asked you about…” or “What can I ask you nex…t” to her three or four times.  In an hour.  There were long pauses.  Honestly, it was rather sad.

She, however, was pretty much what I expected.  She was very kind.  Her family sounded like they were just as welcoming as she was.  She was from a desert state so the hot sun didn’t bother her a bit.  She was trying to make a career out of helping people.  In short, she was rather impressive.

Oh, and I found out about the ring.  She hadn’t mentioned any boyfriend or fiancée in the first half hour of our chat, so I inquired about her jewelry.  She talked about her earrings.  Since I did not get the answer I had been looking for, I tried again.  In my own, oh-so subtle way, I prompted, “Tell me about this ring here.”  She looked at the small jewel on her finger and smiled, “Oh, that’s my purity ring.”

My brain was annoyed.  That’s it?  That’s why I’ve waited this long to talk to you, I thought to myself.  Because of a purity ring?  Really?  I believe what I actually said out loud was something to the tune of, “Oh, well that’s nice.”

After about an hour we had decided that was probably enough for the day.  A hug was exchanged, she went back to school and I walked back to work.  When I got back and looked at myself in the mirror I saw just how red I was.  Sunburns don’t visit me often, but when they do they leave parting gifts that I don’t soon forget.  It was effectively deployed, thorough, and painful.  Yet if I had to do it again, I would have.  Even though there was never a second date, I still maintain that it was worth it.

At the end of the day I had successfully learned three lessons.  One, if you’re curious about something (especially if it is a someone), you’d better get off your butt and just ask questions.  The answers may not be what you were expecting.  Two, sunscreen is our friend.  We should embrace it.  Finally, and most importantly, I had given it a shot.  I didn’t have to be that guy who sits in the pew and wonders.  I was the guy who was curious, took action, and doesn’t have to remember her in twenty years and wonder, “what if”.  I don’t have to speculate because I was brave enough to find out the truth.

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