Wednesday, February 3

The Easy Life of an Elevator

THEY ARE NOT strangers to me. I have seen them before; a father and son. The father’s broad shoulders, coated invariably in a grey jumper, beam and pulse beneath the evenly spaced lights of the building’s perimeter balcony. His swagger shadows over his son, who follows. They are quite the couple! Given the distance and my eyesight, I have never been able to see their faces, not clearly, but their figures are what stir me from my rollie at the open window. It is a night just like any other, but they are there.
On Sunday night they faced the fourth floor chore. I watched them come around from the side of the building into the bare colours of the lift entrance. No, I did not watch them enter the stage, but interrupted them. Yes, that’s it. In front of the lift were two-dozen dumbbells. It is strange to see two-dozen dumbbells, each standing on its end, or its head – one could not be sure. The two-dozen dumbbells stealing the light. They looked like they were made of silver, but no one makes dumbbells out of silver anymore. They were laid on sheets of newspaper, the dumbbells. There was an equal distance between each, on the X and the Y an equal distance. The father, his job to align the weights on the newspaper, had taken great care to place them so that an examining eye would not, without the aid of a measure, be able to differentiate the distances.
His son.
Here is a paragraph about his son that I wrote, all about his skinny slim frame lifting weights next to his father who looks on, not once helping. The paragraph does not exist.
I tapped my cigarette over the tray and sipped my wine. Sunday night is a night of leisure, of attempting to find something to write, of attempting to write, and of failing. I had found nothing to do besides watch this spectacle in front of me, although not much of a spectacle but a late night opportunity to witness a relationship. The father and son.
You see they were up to something with the dumbbells, taking them from one place to another. I started to wonder why they were being moved, relocated. Were they brand new, from the shop to the home? Was the previous owner too weak to carry them, all two-dozen? Were they offered up for sale in a pub booth by a man shaking his head at his son’s foolish purchase? ‘I can get you fifty quid for them.’ For sale at a hundred. ‘I’ll take them off you.’
In the lift they had lay down newspaper. That was something that caught my eye. These sacred dumbbells too holy to be resting upon the lift floor! I have never held a religious bodybuilding aid. There it was, the newspaper down, yet not one of the stories could be read. Newspaper covered the whole of the bottom of the lift. What are the stories about? the advertisements? The father looked on, his hands on his hips, as the son carried the dumbbells, two at a time, on to the newspaper’d floor of the lift. There is a personal ad about cat-sitting. There is a news story about a car that impaled itself on a traffic island, the old man passing out at the wheel but surviving, and thankful for it. The old man’s name is Roger. The father makes sure the son is delicate with the dumbbells. The dumbbells, like animals onto the ark, are carried in two by two, one in each hand. Noah performs his duties alone. The lift doors tried to close. The son carried the bells in, put them on the paper, and walked out to get another pair, while the eager doors tried to close, tried to steal their cargo. The boy spun on his heels, stretched out his arm. Resentfully the lift doors reopened. Each time one pair of dumbbells was stashed, the doors tried to close again, the boy once more forced to pierce the doors asunder. The father did nothing but watch, ensuring the stash was not damaged. I watched and thought up life stories for the two of them.
For the rest of the night – I went for a few more rollies at that window – the lift moved up and down the building with newspaper covering its floor. Up and down. Up and down. Up and down. That is all a lift is charged to do. O, the easy life of an elevator. At eleven-thirty-six a large family – mum, dad, three boys, four girls and one baby against its father – approached the lift and, seeing the newspaper, suspiciously took the stairs, except for one boy who took the lift by himself, and, at his emergence on the ground floor, was startled by his brother who leapt from behind the corner, scaring him. One brother chased another up to the car.

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