by Eileen Malone
I give the security guard your name, say you
are on the thirteenth floor. He says oh no, all the
shrinks are on the twelfth floor, presses a button
on his podium. I have to hurry down the hall
before the elevator doors slide shut. The express
cab lifts me straight up. I can’t get off any other
place because there are no buttons inside the
elevator, just a camera.
When the doors open. I get off and check the
listing on the twelfth floor wall which doesn’t
show your name among those listed as
psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist. Of course
not, this is the wrong floor. It doesn’t go any
higher. Looks like I have to go across the hall to
another elevator to take me further up.
Now, the security guard is inside the cab wearing
the gloves of an elevator operator. Asks what
floor please. I tell him I want the thirteenth floor.
He replies there is no thirteenth floor. The one he
pushes, the only one it makes sense to push, is
labeled fourteenth floor. We both face front, until
the car jerks to a stop.
On the fourteenth floor, which we all know is the
thirteenth, the security guy nudges a bit, almost
shoves a little so I have to either step out of the
way or exit. He does not excuse himself. Instead
talks over his shoulder as he walks away,
proclaiming that one delayed stop can upset the
entire prescribed order.
He’s obviously deranged. I hold the door open
behind him, lean out, scan the directory. Looks
like everyone here is a medical doctor. Of course
you are not listed here either. I push L for lobby.
Remind myself, as you suggested, reality is
believing all the lies everyone else believes.
I know I am going down from the thirteenth floor,
even though it is called something else, but if I
insist on what I believe to be the truth, expecting
the nonexistent thirteenth floor button to reveal
itself, I will be stuck here forever in an insane
loop of sleazy lounge music.
Whoa. What’s that? What feels like the elevator
clutch lurches. The car shudders. Lights flicker.
The very air turns bitter, metallic-black. It blows
strangely cold on the sweat forming above my
upper lip. Pushes the smell of grease up my nose.
I hear a cable snap.
Then feel a moment of sudden stillness before the
drop down a shaft which used to be a rabbit hole.
Words fly by, meanings lose all weight. I lose all
bone density, blood pressure. The freefalling I
dreaded is actually happening. I am plunging to
the pit. The security guy will find me on the floor,
curled in a fetal position. He will help me to your
office, the one I know, the one on the thirteenth
Truth will not set me free. My fear of elevators
only validates my psychosis. So when you ask
about my panic attack, I will tell you none of this
happened. I will cleverly lie.
And once again, you will be pleased with our
Eileen Malone has published in over 500 literary journals and
anthologies. Many of her works have won awards and four were
nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She lives in the coastal fog at the
edge of the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband who is a
retired elevator mechanic. She founded and now directs the open,
Soul-Making Keats Literary Competition and coordinates its annual
Awards Reading in San Francisco.