Julianne was in love with the smell of his cologne, a rich ether that hung in the elevator indicating that he had just been on board. When she first detected the special essence she thought it might be from the leather accents inside the elevator, the padded railing running along the three walls that hit just at the small of her back, the cushioned panel displaying the selection buttons. Warm leather was definitely in the mix, along with fine silver. A touch of carnation maybe, and a dash of spicy pepper. All smoked over alder chips outside in fresh mountain air.
His scent was not there everyday, not in the particular elevator she always took that was first on the right from the main door. The building was large with eight elevators, four on either side of the lobby, and the rush of people followed elevator chimes so he could be in that crowd quick-stepping toward any of the other seven elevators. Or he could have a different schedule than Julianne's standard hours. Or maybe he didn't work in this building at all and only occasionally had business in one of the offices on one of the 47 floors. She wondered about such things.
Julianne anticipated the next time and the next, as spring turned to summer and then summer was overtaken by an early autumn. She was caught off-guard by the chill one morning in late September. Her assistant had taken Julianne's coats to the dry cleaner in preparation for the colder weather ahead but had thoughtfully placed some folded pashmina shawls on the table in her apartment entryway for Julianne to grab should she need an extra layer. They were arranged alphabetically by color, making it easy for Julianne to finger through them. That morning, she selected the brown pashmina to coordinate with her copper-colored top. She wore her hair loose that day, and, while waiting for the bus in front of her apartment building she was grateful the news was correct about a lack of wind accompanying the crisp turn in the weather.
With no wind, then why the electric feeling in the air? - she wondered as she got off the bus a half block from her office. People brushed by her, some apologizing after they passed by, but her pace remained a graceful gait. Julianne practiced poise in everything she did in life; she made it her art form. Her family said that even her smile was one of poise. Some friends called her smile wistful. Her closest friends knew it as yearning.
Her morning was timed so that she avoided the frantic rushing toward elevator chimes that would overtake the lobby five or ten minutes later. She gauged the number of people in that space by the sound of their steps on the marble floor and by conversations, cell phones, general fidgeting in place. There were not so many that morning, maybe 15 people - all using other elevators that arrived on the first floor ahead of her regular ride. When hers chimed and the doors opened she entered on the side closest to the selection panel and dusted a button gently with two fingers, verifying the raised dots in the center that indicated her floor. From the main lobby doors a male voice called, "Wait! Hold that elevator!" -- and he was quickly inside with her, adding a genuine, "Thanks much."
If she had been the type she would have swooned. If she had been the type she would have said that she loved his cologne and asked the man what it was. If she had been the type she would have flirted with excitement to have him all alone with her in that small space after dreaming for so long of such a happening. But Julianne was none of those. She was the woman who took a quiet deep inhalation while resting the small of her back securely against the leather padded railing, who exhaled softly as the next piece of elevator music began. Julianne folded her hands against the softness of her shawl and smiled into the darkness.
MLydiaM ~ March 2011
This work of fiction is inspired by a photo prompt by Tess Kincaid at Magpie Tales.
I dedicate my vignette to the former Oregon School for the Blind, the destruction of which is nearly total at the time of this post.
To read about sale of former Oregon School for the Blind to Salem Hospital click here.