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The way it worked in that beautiful, implacably impractical old building, was that the filing room that her shitty company rented was down in the second sub-basement. When her boss handed her another fat sheaf of documents for filing Laney had to cross the whole fifth floor to get to the tiny, battered old service elevator and wait in the claustrophobic little box as the faint sound of grinding metal described her descent into the bowels of the earth.
The air-con in the small open-plan office worked fitfully, and the office air was stale and hot. The air in the elevator was musty, well-aged and hot. Once the door had finally opened on sub-basement two, the air down there sweated with the exertions of some old generator that was roaring and chugging away even at the height of summer. It was very, very hot. She could feel the condensation clinging to her skin. All of their files were damp, something her boss was well aware of and seemed to care very little about. No-one seemed to care much about anything that happened at her little company, least of all Laney.
So she would file the files amongst their clammy brethren, get back into the vintage heat of the age-worn elevator and this time punch the top floor, waiting as the elevator groaned and moaned its way back up its narrow, filthy shaft.
On the seventh floor she’d slip out onto the fire escape, skip up the clanging metal steps and onto the roof where she would squat in the shade of an old service shack and smoke a much-needed cigarette. The air outside, in summertime, was very, very hot and very, very dry.
Laney thought about stripping naked every day. She dreamed of the cold shower that she’d jump into as soon as she got home, and she smoked her cigarettes and endured the heat and headed back to her desk praying that someone had finally gotten the air-con working the way it should. Back at her desk she could still smell the tobacco; still smell the stale old air of the elevator and the muggy, ripe air of the basement. The scents stuck with her all day long.
The back of her blouse was plastered to her by the middle of the morning. She felt trickles of perspiration running down the small of her back to hit the waistband of her skirt, and below that she felt more little drops making their way over the curve of her backside, slipping down between her cheeks and making her squirm.
Laney hated summer.
– – –
“Run these downstairs will you, Elaine.”
Laney looked down at the stack of files, up at the retreating, sweat-stained back of her boss and then down at herself, and the worn old jacket she was having dry-cleaned every week. It wasn’t like she worked with a bunch of lecherous old perverts, but her top was almost constantly damp and clingy at work. If she took the jacket off then that would be sharing more details of her bra and perspiration situation than she was comfortable with. She tried to keep the jacket on most of the time despite the discomfort, but when she really felt that things were getting desperate she slipped it off to go down to the basement.
Things were getting desperate. She glanced around, slipped it neatly onto the back of her chair, grabbed the files and her cigarettes and trotted quickly out into the hot, dead air of the corridor. There was nothing too scandalous, she noted. Yes, you could tell she was wearing a bra, but then, that was hardly news. People could deal with that.
Laney had always thought that old, old buildings with thick, stone walls should be cool havens from hellish summers. That had been her experience at college, and it had held true until she’d started working here. Some combination of window placement and lack of proper ventilation turned the gracefully crumbling property into a kind of rudimentary kiln. The employees of the half-a-dozen or so small companies that rented space there were all slowly dehydrating into terracotta mannequins.
There was no-one else around, so she used the walk to the elevator to pluck clumsily at her damp blouse, pulling it out from under her arms, away from her back, trying to get it to outline her underwear just a little less. There was another problem, in that her panties were resembling a hot, damp second skin by now, clinging and riding up in a really annoying way. But even in the deserted corridor she didn’t feel like she could slip and hand up her skirt and sort them out right there.
The elevator’s chime of arrival seemed to choke in the heat. The door opened and in she stepped, back in the elevator that was big enough for two and a half people – as long as they had no concept of personal space.
It was a beige 1970s number – no window and, in an interestingly hellish design choice, everything but the ceiling was beige linoleum. It smelled like an abandoned tax office. The buttons were plastic and anonymous, and the cover had long since vanished from the recessed emergency phone.
She pressed B2 and started her descent.
– – –
The filing was a mindless, if sweaty, job and by the time she’d reached the roof it kağıthane escort felt like every part of her body was trying to stick to every other part it happened to touch. The worst was her thighs, and the cheeks of her ass. Down in the basement she had allowed herself a little rearrangement, but even down there in that dank little hole she had felt too self-conscious to really hike up her skirt and sort things out.
Squatting, balanced on the balls of her feet in her short heels, careful not to let any part of her body emerge into the searing light of the sun, and careful not to rock back and lean against the hotplate surface of the shed, she smoked and considered more drastic options.
She could come to work without panties, right? She smiled at the thought, without seriously considering it. How about stark naked? Ugh, but sitting naked on the chairs in her office? Another bead of sweat slid between her shoulder blades and she sighed.
She imagined sitting in that ratty old office, rubbing her thighs together, the only keeper of a very private secret. She imagined having to think twice before she stooped to pick up a box of spilled paperclips. She let her mind keep turning over, and thought about the kind of guy she would love to be getting hot and sticky with in her office. None of the middle aged gents she was currently stuck whiling her time away with anyway.
Oh, a maintenance guy? Here to fix the copier (Laney kind of resented the copier since it was the source of all those goddamn files she had to take downstairs all the time)… and she said- Oh, I think it’s jammed right down here at the bottom… bending at the waist her feet touching, bare legs perfect and straight as she leans down and the skirt comes up…
And him, his face, he was…
Goddamn it! It was too hot for her to even come up with a guy she wanted to fuck! Her brain was overheated and her cigarette was finished.
When she stood up she watched heat haze from the rooftop blurring the buildings that loomed up around her. She had to brace herself before she stepped back out of the shade.
– – –
Down the fire escape to the seventh floor and back into the hot box. Not that it was really any hotter than anywhere else in Laney’s workday world. She pushed the button for the fifth floor, relieved to see that she wasn’t leaving trails of sweat from her fingertips yet, and looked up as the box started to move. She stared at the neon, buzzing away behind its cheap plastic cover. That was probably adding to the heat too.
But almost immediately the elevator started to laboriously slow down. Someone on six had called it? Laney was stunned. She tried to recall if she had ever had to share this horrible little machine with anyone else, and couldn’t remember a single occasion. At one of the building Christmas parties when people had been heading up to the roof to smoke together? No, most people had taken the stairs or the bigger elevator at the front of the building.
The elevator that annoyingly didn’t go below ground level.
So, could she share? Should she just get out and walk down? She should, right? But then why should she give up the little automatic box? Whoever was waiting could keep waiting, or walk down themselves.
And in the middle of this flustered little private debate the elevator came to its familiar, juddering halt and the doors started to open.
She kind of wished she was still wearing her jacket.
The impression of movement, of a swinging momentum, hit her before she really processed anything else. Some guy was waiting, young-ish and tall-ish and he was swinging right into the elevator with her. Swinging?
“Oh, Jesus, sorry.” Crutches! He was on crutches and he’d been wrestling with something – a wallet, she saw now – when the elevator had come. Without thinking and without looking he’d heaved himself forwards, and now he was clumsily trying to keep from falling into the elevator on top of her. “I didn’t see that there was anyone else… Jesus, hold on I’m just…”
The door of the tiny compartment was still open and Laney knew she should hop out. He was on crutches, that was why he was calling the closest elevator, and she really should let him fit inside and jump out.
But with one rigidly supported leg and two extra spindly metal attachments, he was blocking her path. She couldn’t squeeze past him, and he didn’t seem to be adept enough at manoeuvring himself to let her out.
His momentum had landed his good foot just inside the metal lip of the chamber, one crutch further in, the other still pointing outside. He was gripping his wallet tight, which made moving the crutch (one of those standard looking modern things that gripped around his upper arm, and had a handle half way down for him to hold onto) more difficult, and while he did seem to be trying to get out of her way, it wasn’t occurring to him to back up out of the elevator completely.
“I’ll just…” Laney began, “I mean, if you let me…” She made a couple of kartal escort strange, aimless movements, trying to show that she was trying to get past him, but controlling his unruly supports seemed some way beyond him.
“Sure, sure, thanks, I’ll just-” He got his weight onto his good foot properly, and hopped himself to one side, getting his back to the wall of the elevator and making the whole thing lurch sickeningly.
And the door started to close.
Somehow, his second crutch and his left arm had ended up twisted behind him, still sticking out into the hallway. As the door buzzed closed, and Laney started pointing and reaching to where he was mostly obscuring the lift controls, saying “the button is just… if you can reach it or… I can…” he finally managed to correct the bent limb and yank the crutch into the elevator. The doors clunked shut.
“Wow, close!” he grinned, and Laney pursed her lips as the elevator started moving. It shuddered. It creaked.
“I’m really sorry,” he continued, a little bashfully “I just got these things and they take a lot of getting used to…”
“Ah, yeah, sure,” she smiled tightly and tried to count the extra degrees of heat that had entered the elevator with him. She glanced at him and was kind of happy to see that his eyes weren’t tracing the line of her bra that was visible through her clinging blouse. She noted – with that little half guilty kick of ‘what does that matter anyway?’ – that he was Asian, ethnically Japanese or Korean or something. And she also noted, with some satisfaction, that he was sweating through his shirt as much as she was.
“Well, I’m gonna jump out, so…” He was kinda cute, she thought, remembering the fantasy that had expired from heat exhaustion on the roof. He would’ve fit right into that little scenario, but here… She was having trouble thinking sexy thoughts. It was mostly claustrophobia she was feeling. That, and the feeling of being a joint of meat stuffed into an oven.
“Oh, of course, here, let me…” She shuffled to the front of the lift, and he moved awkwardly to the side and around behind her so that he wasn’t in her way.
Now they were arranged properly, like people ought to stand in an elevator – everyone facing the front. If only it had been a normal sized elevator and she wasn’t worried about backing into him, and she couldn’t see his crutches sticking out on either side of her.
Still only a few more seconds until she could…
The elevator lurched again.
The light flickered, went out, came back on.
Wait, she’d never known more than one person to take this thing at a time had she?
And then it dropped.
And then it stopped.
And then it dropped again.
– – –
“Holy shit! Holy shit! Are you- you okay?”
The lights were out again, and Laney swore they were swinging. That was impossible, right?
“Fuck, are we swinging?” They certainly weren’t moving up or down at all.
The elevator had dropped three times. Each time there had been a few seconds, perhaps, of all-consuming terror and then some kind of safety mechanism had kicked in. Now the lights had gone out once more. A lurch and a terrifying grinding noise, and Laney had ended up pressed back against the injured man’s body heat (noticeably hotter, even in the hotbox they were crammed into). She’d pulled away without an apology and now had her hands pressed against the door in the dark.
“We can’t be swinging, if we’re stopped… I think there has to be clamps or something holding us in place.” His voice sounded shaky, unsure. “We’re not swinging. We’re okay,” he stated, more firmly.
“We dropped three times.” Laney whispered, wondering how far down the shaft they had come. If it happened again… would that be it?
The lights flickered back on again.
She looked back over her shoulder at him. Young, a little younger than her perhaps, with short, clipped hair and a lean frame. He wasn’t as tall as she’d first thought, she saw now, and noticed too that though he was wearing half a suit, his jacket was nowhere to be seen. He was still holding his wallet though, awkwardly, as he gripped his crutch at the same time. There was some kind of support around his left ankle that stretched up and was fastened over his neatly pressed pants.
Well, it didn’t look like he was going to attack her or anything…
“I guess this is my fault, huh?” he was looking around the tiny elevator, “It says it can carry four people but… I don’t see how.”
Laney sighed and rolled her shoulders. They weren’t falling, they weren’t going to die. “It’ll probably start back up again in a minute.” She crossed her hands behind her back, realised that they were going to be remarkably close to his crotch there, and brought them back around in front of her.
“This building looks so old! I wonder if this elevator ever gets serviced or anything.”
“Hah, not that I can remember.” Laney’s answer was followed by an awkward silence, which reinforced the weird küçükçekmece escort absence of noise from the elevator mechanism.
“Do you work here?”
“Uh-huh.” Any minute now, everything would start up and they’d be able to get out.
“I was just visiting my brother. He works up there on the 6th floor.”
“I see.” Any minute now.
“Oh, my name’s Joe by the way.” His hand appeared over her shoulder, the crutch – still attached to his arm – bumped into her back. She smiled, tightly, again, and reached up to politely shake his hand.
“Laney,” she said.
Any minute now.
– – –
“I wonder how long the emergency phone has been dead.”
Laney shifted on her feet, her calves tired from keeping herself standing straight, not touching Joe, not touching the creepy linoleum walls or the scratched paint of the door. For a while the fear of being crushed, or smashed to death had helped her forget the heat. But now she was well aware of it again, could feel its hands on her head, around her neck, sliding up her legs.
Thirty minutes with no sound, no movement and no noticeable airflow. She heard Joe, taking a break from his relentless, youthful optimism, loosen his tie. One crutch was leaning right beside her against the wall of the elevator, while he was still, she assumed supporting himself a little with the other.
“Oh, I can put my wallet away, at fucking last.” He swore! Well, that was something to make him a little more human in her head.
“Ok, I think we should start shouting for help now,” she blurted. There was a moment before he replied.
“Yeah, I think you’re right. Does anyone use this lift much?”
“Just for filing really. This is the only way down to the basement.”
“And how often do people file?”
“I go down there twice a day I guess. I don’t know how I would know about anyone else…” Laney bit her tongue. It was the heat making her snippy, the oppressive, invasive, inescapable heat. Fuck, she hated it. And she hated summer, and she hated this fucking city too.
“Well, I guess your boss will miss you, right?”
“Ha! Eventually,” she conceded. So they had tried the elevator emergency phone, which it turned out had passed away some time ago. Laney’s phone was in her bag under her desk and Joe’s phone had no reception – which wasn’t unusual in this sturdy old stone building.
“HEY!” Laney started with the old fallbacks, “CAN ANYONE HEAR ME?”
A booming rattle made her jump. Joe was using his crutch to bang on the floor, and he started joining in too.
“HEY! HEY! ANYONE THERE?”
“THE FUCKING LIFT IS BUST! HELP!”
“HELP! WE’RE STUCK IN HERE!”
“Here, bang on the door,” Laney shifted against the wall at last, giving Joe the room to reach past her and bang on the door, chipping off even more of the ancient, probably carcinogenic, paint.
“HEY…” Bang! Bang!
“Wait! Did you hear something?” They both froze and held their breaths. There was no world outside the elevator. No sound at all. Laney twisted and looked back over her shoulder to see Joe smiling ruefully. “Guess not,” she found herself smiling back.
– – –
“What does your brother do?” The space between their chests when they were facing, even like this – Laney with her back to the door, Joe leaning against the back wall – was two feet at the most.
“He’s an accountant. So am I actually.”
“Wow, so you did that in the line of accountancy?” They were taking a break; nervous of using up oxygen (paranoid perhaps, but this was probably the right time to be cautious about things like that) and conscious of every exertion they made raising both their body heat, and the heat inside their little metal cell.
Laney didn’t want to move her arm to point at his leg, moving her arm meant feeling the sweat sodden fabric in her armpit, possibly brushing against the walls which were starting to bead with condensation themselves. Plus it was just plain tiring.
“I was hit by a cyclist.” Joe smiled wearily, and Laney wondered again how she looked under this hideous yellow neon. She reached up and brushed her limp, chestnut bangs back behind her left ear. Not plastered to her yet, but she could feel the sweat starting to make its way down her brow.
“Yeah, down near the markets?”
“Oh, right,” she smiled, “where they’re all weaving in and out…”
“Yeah, that’s the place.”
They hadn’t heard so much as a murmur since the lift had first dropped. Jesus, where did her co-workers think she was? Did they think she’d just bunked off home?
Joe looked away from her face and, without thinking Laney took the opportunity to look down at herself. Her hair, tied back simply behind her head probably looked a little limp, but that wasn’t a problem. The problem was that her blouse was really getting… very wet. It was clinging to her, and while it wasn’t like she had amazing curves to accentuate, she could see the pattern on her cups starting to show through. She should turn around again, turn her back on this cute guy to try and preserve some dignity.
When she looked up, she was horrified to see that he had been following her gaze. She blushed, her cheeks impossibly feeling hotter than they already were.
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