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Culture

The Elevator – short story

Yusuf Hayati is a 37 year old man; a struggling bill-payer by day and an unmotivated janitor by night. He works the night shift at a local middle school cleaning toilets, mopping floors, disposing off garbage, and occasionally dozing off. One of the many things he hates about his job is cleaning the elevator. He absolutely despises it. It’s almost always littered with unwanted garbage; chewing gum stuck to the walls, discarded tissue papers and cigarette butts on the floor and so on. Moreover, the elevator frequently malfunctions; shutting the door involuntarily sometimes and rendering it immovable between floors for several minutes. “The usual crap!” – bemoans Yusuf.

One night, while cleaning the elevator’s interior and lamenting over his insignificant life and pitiful livelihood, the elevator door malfunctions and closes behind him. Yusuf, shrugs his shoulders, puts down the bucket of soapy water and lights up a cigarette. He presses the ‘open’ button on the keypad, leans back against the elevator wall and patiently awaits the usual 2-3 minutes to pass before the door opens again.

The elevator door opens. Yusuf drops his cigarette; his eyes gawking in shock, his mouth open in wonderment. A bright glimmering light resonates into the shabby chamber of the elevator. Yusuf realizes that this is not the ground floor to the maintenance area. Bewildered, he looks intently at what he sees. He catches a child playing with a little girl, who appears to be the child’s sister. He is on a tricycle while the girl chases him. He can hear the sound of a woman in the background calling out the child’s name; the name seems so familiar. He realizes that it is him!

Yusuf’s eyes well-up, he tries to say something and steps forward but the elevator door closes in a blink. The elevator starts to move and reaches the 2nd floor. The door opens again. He finds himself outside a house; an eerily familiar house. There are sounds of apparent yelling from inside. The next instant, a kid, appearing to be a teenager, slams the front door shut and walks out of the house with a knapsack. He walks on to the front lawn and into a car waiting for him. The car speeds off and disappears into the night. A man and a woman, come out of the house in robes. They are crying and shouting out a name. His name. Yusuf realizes that these are his parents, on the night he ran away from home at age 16 after being caught doing drugs. His throat stiffens with pain as he begins to weep, but before he could cry out to his late parents, the elevator door shuts off again dismissively!

It starts moving again and off to the last floor of the building; the 3rd floor. The door opens.Yusuf sees himself in a hospital bed, a blood transfusion process in the works. He is wired up in every way possible. He sees the doctor telling a woman something. The woman is holding a baby. The doctor finishes his private talk with her and takes off his glasses. The doctor’s words seem to make the woman’s face cringe. She looks at Yusuf; not the Yusuf in the hospital bed, but the one standing in the elevator. She looks straight at him, right at his face, with sinking eyes of hurt and despair. And she leaves. Never to be seen again. The woman is his wife.

Yusuf’s eyes burst with a flood of tears, his throat chokes and his legs become weak. He is unable to stand and he lowers himself down onto his feet; his back still against the elevator wall. Crying. He watches himself in the hospital bed in agony, as the elevator door slowly, gently closes.

Yusuf, the unmotivated, disinterested and hopeless part-time bill-payer and full-time drug addict, leaves the elevator and rushes back home. He runs up the shabby stairs to his dingy apartment, opens the door and calls out his wife’s name. He sees her on the sofa, sleeping. He feels a reassuring sense of peace and relief. He tip toes to the kitchen, and as he is about to reach the tap for water, he notices something. There lies on the kitchen counter, a pregnancy testing kit. The result on the stick appears to be positive. Yusuf’s eyes moisten; this time in unflinching joy. He drinks his glass of water on a chair opposite to the sofa. He gazes at his wife while she calmly sleeps. He finishes his glass and walks up to the computer table.

Before sunrise, he is last seen deleting certain names from his cell-phone and registering himself for an Electrical Technician’s course on the website of a local community college.

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