Let me tell you about a romantic escapade of mine…
It was springtime in Los Angeles and I had decided to take up running – a decision I frequently make and often regret. Upon returning to my apartment after a run, I called for the elevator, waited many long minutes before realizing it was out of order (as was usually the case), and headed toward the stairs. That’s when I heard a voice from within the elevator…
“Hello? Is anyone out there?”
The voice, belonging to a woman, had a petite gentleness to it, but more importantly, it was also distressed. I turned around and knocked on the elevator.
“Yeah! I’m out here. Are you stuck?”
“Yes! Oh thank goodness. I rang the emergency phone. They said they were sending somebody, but it’s been …so long. Can you find somebody? Like the manager or a maintenance guy or something?”
“Sure. I’ll be right back.”
Our manager was painfully neglectful. Once there was a brawl at a party (in the unit next to my own) which spilled out into the hallway and eventually made its way to the stairwell. There was still blood splattered on the walls of that stairwell for months. Contrary to various requests and pleas, the blood did not get cleaned up until just before an inspection visit from the central office, who left none the wiser.
In any case, I knew searching for the elusive manager would prove to be futile, which after knocking on her door and scanning the apartment grounds, it was. The maintenance guy, who was considerately more responsible, was also out of his office. I returned to the elevator.
“Hi, it’s me again.”
“Did you find the manager?”
“No, sorry. The maintenance guy is out too.”
“Oh God… I’m afraid…”
“Hey, listen. I’m gonna be right here outside the elevator door until someone comes. If you need to talk, I’m here. If you need anything, I’ll be here, right outside.”
“Really? Thank you so much.”
“How are you doing in there?”
“Okay, I guess. I’m a little claustrophobic.”
“Tell me about yourself. What’s your name?”
“I’m Quack. Nice to meet you, Jasmine.”
“Nice to meet you, Quack.”
Perhaps I was all too eagerly taking advantage of the opportunity to become a hero – a knight in shining armor. I suppose most guys would have jumped at the chance to help a damsel in distress. I was at the right place and the right time to be there for someone in need, but truth be told – what help could I have really been? I couldn’t pry open the elevator doors. All I could do was talk. But perhaps talking was all I needed to do.
In any case, to get her mind off of the situation, we talked and talked. I found out what she studied – she was a master student a couple years older than myself. She was from Hawaii. We talked about Los Angeles, Southern California, history, interests, travel… an hour went by, and what began as a dire situation turned into a pleasant afternoon of getting to know the neighbor. I think we even managed to create laughter.
I was comfortable talking with her. I even sensed a little bit of chemistry between us in the fluidity of our conversation and the ease with which we expressed ourselves to one another. I couldn’t help but imagine what she looked like – having spoken with a voice without a body for so long, I began to speak to the image of her I had created in my mind. She was tall with a darkly tan east asian complexion, a mature being with sharp eyes and long fingers. Of course, I knew nothing about her appearance beyond her being older and from Hawaii. The imagined figure was completely fictional. It’s not like I was going to ask through the elevator door, “By the way, how long are your fingers?”
Regardless, I looked forward to the moment when we would finally meet face to face – that moment where voice would meet body and body would meet voice, and we would have a complete picture of each other after what had turned out to be a literally-blind date. After all, during the half hour… hour… hour and a half of talking, we had gotten to know each other so well. Of course, I wasn’t expecting us to wind up together happily intertwined, but I can’t deny the thought had crossed my mind.
Finally, the elevator man showed up. I told her he was here, much to her joy, and walked over to let him in the entrance of the complex.
“Hi. The woman has been stuck there for about an hour and a half.”
“Damn. Okay, where’s the elevator room?”
“What’s the elevator room?”
“Are you the manager?”
“No. The manager is out right now.”
“Oh really. That would be a problem.”
Without the guidance of the manager, I was forced to lead the Elevator Man on a wild goose chase for the mystical elevator room that would somehow solve all problems, while periodically going down to the elevator to remind my lovely lady friend that I was still there, and that I just needed to help the Elevator Man. We ended up finding it, but it needed a key. Waiting on the elusive manager, he perched himself at the front door of the complex. I went back to the elevator to talk.
Another half an hour went by.
“Thank you so much for being here for me.”
“My pleasure, Jasmine. It’s the least I could do.”
Eventually the manager showed up and let the Elevator Man into the elevator room. He worked his magic, and suddenly the elevator hit the ground floor with a thud, and the doors began parting. This was the moment. This was the moment when I could finally have a face to the voice, and a voice to the body. When we would meet as people rather than as only language…
Out stepped Jasmine. I looked at her. She was short. Perhaps a little stubby. She looked at me. I was gangly. Acne. Perhaps a little pungent from my aforementioned run. We both continued to look at each other for a couple seconds.
“Well, again, thank you, Quack, for keeping me company.”
“My pleasure, Jasmine.”
And then we parted ways. I ran into her once or twice more in the apartment complex, and then never again. I don’t even remember if Jasmine is actually her name. It might be. I forgot what her name was.
Just how shallow are we?