Emily Carter ran through the pouring rain to a large glass building at the end of the street. As the cold droplets pounded on her head, she wished she had remembered to set her alarm clock in the morning. She had missed the bus that morning, and after she had tried chasing it down the street, it had started to rain. Now, not only was she late for work, but she was also drenched from head to toe.
Lighting soared through the air, lighting up the cloudy sky. She tried to miss as many puddles as she could but her pants were still soaked up to the shins. At last she arrived at the revolving doors of the building. She hurried inside and sighed as the warmth surrounded her. She tipped her head to the receptionist and rounded the corner to the elevators. She shuffled nervously as she waited for the large elevator to arrive at the floor. She worked at one of the highest levels of the skyscraper, otherwise she may have taken the stairs.
Finally the elevator arrived and she stepped in and tapped the button for her floor. The elevator was grande, having just been renovated. It had large mirrors that covered all the walls and thick velvet covered seats. The elevator stopped at the next floor and a man in a large trench coat and hat entered. He took a seat across from her.
“Having a rough day?” The man asked her, nodding to her sodden clothes.
Emily shrugged and ran a hand through her dark, sopping hair. “I missed the bus.”
The man nodded his head and looked down at his shoes, not knowing what else to say. His hat was pulled down over his eyes so she couldn’t get a good look at his face. She had never seen him before although she knew most of the people in the building. She loved to talk to people and was well-acquainted with many. It struck her as odd that she had never seen this man before.
As the elevator reached the thirty-third floor the machine started to slow down. It slowly rumbled before jolting completely to a stop. The lights on the elevator went out and the red emergency lights turned on, casting everything into a dark shadow. Emily looked up at the man across from her confusion written on her face. The man continued to stare at the floor as if nothing had happened.
Emily bit her lip and reached over to the emergency phone. She put it to her ear and clicked the button. Only a soft buzzing sound came from the phone. Emily sighed and hung the phone back up. She then pulled out her own cell phone, only to find that there was no service. She was starting to get worried. What had caused the elevator to stop?
“What are we going to do? The elevator is stuck!” Emily asked the man.
“I don’t know,” the man said to his shoes.
Emily frowned and slouched back on her seat. If only she could have been stuck in an elevator with one of her friends. Clearly this man didn’t want to say anything to her. She looked around in the dark elevator. How long would they be trapped in there? What had caused the elevator to stop?
Emily attempted to make conversation with the mystery man. “What’s your name? I’m Emily Carter.”
“Arthur Green,” He mumbled, not bothering to look at her.
Emily was starting to get very annoyed with his reclusive behavior. The only thing he had even bothered to say to her was an insult. Emily bounced in her seat, aggravated by the prolonged silence. They sat for a few moments not speaking to one another. Arthur had not moved his position in a while and Emily was starting to think that he would never.
“I can’t take this anymore!” She said, leaping up from her seat. This caused the man to look up from the floor, his face cast in a deep shadow. “Why aren’t you trying to get out of here? You haven’t even checked your phone once to see if you can call someone. And you won’t even talk to me even though I may be the last person you ever see!”
Arthur sighed and leaned his head against the mirror behind him. “Relax, we’re not going to die.”
Emily rolled her eyes. “What makes you so sure? We are trapped in an elevator! An elevator! The cords could snap any minute.”
“The cords aren’t going to snap.”
“Oh, you’re so all knowing. I’m guessing you aren’t scared at all; you just think we are going to be moving again in no time. How do you know that someone didn’t cut the power to come and murder us?”
Arthur rubbed his face with his hands and half-sighed half-chuckled. “You like to worry don’t you?”
“I don’t worry, I’m just overly cautious. And now I am particularly cautious that you may be the culprit who cut the power. You haven’t shown me your face since you stepped in here.”
“I’m not here to murder you. The power probably got cut off from the storm. And the fact that I haven’t shown you my face, well that was because I didn’t think I was going to be stuck in an elevator with you.”
He tilted back his hat and placed it on the empty seat next to him. Then he removed his large trench coat and folded it onto his lap. Then he turned to face Emily, staring into her eyes for the first time. He had a fair face with light blue eyes. His hair, though darkened by the lighting, was a light blonde.
“Are you happy now?” He asked, giving her a tight smile.
Emily nodded, stunned how someone with such a face could hide behind snarky remarks and a hat. He seemed like the person who would be out in the world, talking to everyone he met. He seemed like the kind of guy that girls would fall all over. Definitely not the guy she was expecting.
“Not what you were expecting?” Arthur asked, reading her thoughts. He ran a hand through his thick hair, looking lazily at her.
“Not really,” she admitted.
“So I guess now that you’ve found out my secret, I should find out something about you.”
‘What do you want to know?” She asked, glad for the conversation.
He shrugged, “I don’t care.”
She pursed her lips, clearly he did not know how to have small talk.
“I live alone. I have no pets, or a car. That’s why I am wet, I missed the bus. Um… I have a sister, she lives a few streets away. I am very social and I have a lot of friends. Does that answer your question?”
“Sure,” He said, as though he hadn’t listened to a word she said.
“Okay,” She tapped her leg, thinking what to say next. “How come I’ve never seen you before? I know most of the people in this building and I’ve met all of them at least once.”
“Clearly not all of them,” He said, fiddling with the collar of his jacket.
“Why haven’t I seen you before?”
“I keep to myself.”
He scratched his cheek. “I like being alone.”
Emily inwardly groaned. Why was this man so hard to talk to? It was like everything he said got her nowhere.
“What do you like to do?” She asked.
“Stuff,” He said, not looking up.
“Stuff?” She repeated. “Stuff! We are probably going to be stuck in this elevator for a while. Why can’t you have a normal conversation?”
“I told you, I keep to myself.”
“Why?” She could feel her cheeks reddening. “Why do you keep to yourself? Why do you not want to even talk to me? It’s not like I’m going anywhere for the next while.”
Arthur rolled his eyes and then leaned forward on his knees. “Life’s been hard for me alright. I don’t go opening up myself to every random stranger I see. If you don’t like that, that’s your problem.”
“Whatever,” Emily turned away, disgusted by how this man had talked to her.
A few moments passed in silence and then Arthur said, “Look, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. It’s just that the people in my life have only dragged me down. I’ve learned to only rely on myself because that’s the only person I can ever count on.”
“Okay, I get it. Life’s been hard. Life is hard for everyone. But how come you can’t make simple conversation with someone like me. What happened?”
“If you want to know, I’ll tell you. Just letting you know, it’s not a pretty story.”
“I’m not going anywhere.”
He leaned back in his seat, focusing on his jacket. “My dad left me and my family when I was young. He left my mom with no money and no job. We were struggling. We lived on the edge, never knowing what would come next. I worked a lot of afterschool jobs. I put a whole bunch of money into savings to get into school. I got a scholarship and worked my way up. I was starting to make some decent money.
“Then my brother comes along. He had dropped out of highschool and had gotten in with a bad crowd. He asked for money to help him settle down, live a normal life. The next day I saw that he had stolen a bunch of my money and a lot of my stuff. Then he went and blew the whole thing on who-knows-what. Next thing you know, I’m broke and I’m struggling to get through college.
“Then a few years later, my brother showed up again. Apparently he got arrested for robbing some place. He was going to go to jail for a little bit. Then, a few weeks later my mom called. She tells me that she’s sick and has no money to help her. I find myself paying for her bills and everything because her new husband does nothing to help out. Turns out it was all for nothing because she died a few months later, nothing the doctors could do.
“So here I am with a missing father, dead mother, and a brother who’s in jail. I’m alone and all those people who I tried to help have betrayed me. I now finally have a good job and no one that I have to look out for. I’m free and I don’t have anyone who can drag me down.”
“Wow,” Emily said, for once she was at a loss of words. She never imagined that a guy like that would have such a sad story. “I’m sorry, I had no idea.”
“I guess that’s the thing right?” He smiled a sad smile, “We never really know who someone is until they tell their whole life story. The world is run on stereotypes. It’s how people choose friends and pick people for jobs. When someone first looks at you, that’s the end. They already think they know you. Sometimes the best people in the world are those who can see past the stereotypes. You are definitely someone who takes one look at a person and thinks they know exactly who that person is.”
Emily was aghast. She didn’t know what to say. She had just been deeply insulted by a random guy in a broken elevator.
A few minutes of silence after his speech, the elevator lights came back on and it started moving again. Arthur got off on his floor and left Emily alone. She looked at herself in the mirror wondering if what Arthur said was true. Did she really base people off of their first impressions? It seemed unreal that the whole thing ever happened. She had gotten stuck on an elevator and learned a life lesson. That seemed uncanny, unreal.
She always remembered that day, although sometimes she doubted it even happened. Each day she arrived at work hoping to see the man again. But she never did. She asked around the office but it seemed as if Arthur Green was a ghost. But real or not, she remembered that day. She remembered it as the day when darkness fell.