Sydney walked the pedestrian mall until she couldn’t live with the birds. The pigeons troubled her with their pompous demands. With every shoulder bob, they tried to act innocent and wordless, but they didn’t fool Sydney. They rotated their necks in ways that told biological lies, and their eyes covered her with angles that shouldn’t succeed. Every curve of their sharp beaks was designed with a loudness meant to minimize people like Sydney. If she had stayed in the ped-mall, they would have shouted her secrets until everyone’s ears hurt as much as hers. Sydney would have become smaller every day until she was the exact size of pigeon food.
She walked away from them, prone to distraction and forgetting the need to breathe. Outside a high rise, she saw the polished elevator doors with a grandeur that re-filled her lungs. She stepped inside and knew this couldn’t be random. Sometimes, she could feel order in the back of her neck, centered in an object the size of a wine cork that throbbed when conducting its work. The cork fluttered when the elevator doors knew the perfect time to close. The vibration tickled her back into the womb and whispered that she should never leave the elevator. She was finally home.
Although she refused to look at it, her reflection in the glass walls moved her appearance to the fourth power. A dirty July sweatshirt, her trademark rejection of seasonal change, hung over the sun-bleached sweatpants that ended several inches above the clogs a nun walking through the ped-mall had given to her.
Sydney rode to the twenty-first floor where random people invented random commerce. On the way up, she held the handrails and closed her eyes. The elevator hugged her right back. When it stopped, Sydney thought the peace might end too early like the angel who had lived in her belly without a name—although she felt it could have been Elizabeth. Elizabeth, the one who trumped them all by leaving before she even arrived. Sydney worried the elevator might discard her too, but the cork throbbed while her stomach held her heart in threes and she returned to the ground floor.
Happy times from one to twenty-one and back again, and the only reason she wanted to leave was to make a quick dash to the ped-mall to tell the pigeons she had found the antidote. Maybe even bring one back to show it how strong the remedy was. That plan was suspended when the elevator sang an off-key note and the doors opened at number nine.
A lady, with gloves and hair of a matching snow white, stepped into the elevator. Sydney’s shoulders wanted to bob like the birds until she stole a look at the lady and saw her eyes fighting to see only the ground. Sydney laughed at their voices of posture like they were sisters sharing an inside joke. Her shoulders were going to move, and the best way she could think to stop offending her new sister was to sing.
She sang a song from the dormitory days when she belonged—when she was just like the others. In bed with Alex, the vulnerable poet who loved Jethro Tull and made it safe to dream about the future. As she sang, Alex’s favorite sandalwood incense returned to dance in her nostrils.
“I came upon Mother Goose…So I turned her loose…She was screaming.”
The index finger of a white glove abruptly struck the number four button, the elevator stopped, and her sister was sent back into the world. Sydney listened only to the silence of it all, fine to be left alone. She descended to one and prepared for another ascent to twenty-one, glowing in the soft light of the elevator while the cork settled down, slowing to a beat reserved for a time when it wouldn’t be needed.
(Previously published by Apeiron Review)