Trapped in an elevator. It's the elevator from hell.
When the flesh slackens to surrender the bone. When the bone breaks to surrender the body. When the body wastes to disregard the sun. When all time becomes the cataract of a lifeless eye. In the morning. Perhaps today. Certainly sometime tomorrow.
Inevitably. It must come. It must come to us all.
Come it a devil in fear. Come it as God and in love. Come it a shock on no particular afternoon. Come it a dream in the night. Come it a cold, hard grip on the boardwalk to the tunes of a crashing surf. Come it however, yet it comes. Undeniably.
And pause to think of it, tremble a moment. The older the thought, the longer the tremble. Trembles that come in the night just before sleeping, in that pristine moment of waking wherein considerations of the day are weighed against the measures of a lifetime and are mostly found wanting. Or think of it not and hope it away.
Yet it comes. To us all. Inevitably.
I will be there, on the other side, waiting for you. Or perhaps it may come to pass that you shall be there waiting for me. One must be, or the other. No matter your name or the dates mapped by your calendars. No matter your hands that would save you or less likely save me. No matter your protests, whether offered or kept. No matter your money or the authority of your mighty hand. No matter your beauty or your age. No matter your doctrine or your discipline or the import of your days.
It is a door at the end of the hallway that is the end of all hallways, the one door we must all stand before naked and alone. Wherever our feet have carried us in life, wherever our minds have strayed, however we have traveled, it is the last passage, the final rite. It is the cellar basement or the apical flight of stairs.
For me, it is an elevator in a dark, brooding building that stands one among many, anonymous amid the skyline. It is a red, plush carpet rolled to the curb. It is a doorman that salutes in livery and smiles as a devil. It is a green dollar bill, crisp in the pocket and crackling in the grip. It is 'hello' and 'good day' and 'thank you, sir' and 'please'. It is a casual glance at a wristwatch on a Friday afternoon around three. It is polished wingtips and woolen suit coats and tailored shirts with starched collars and monogrammed cuffs. It is a square haircut atop a round head, and a bright red tie blown across a charcoal gray pinstripe.
It is I, standing in the foyer atop the red carpet so plush that I hate to touch it with my unclean feet. Cool air from the vents. A smell of lilac and spearmint and just a hint of young woman. Marble everywhere, even where it seems unnecessary. And where the marble is lacking, brass. And where the brass fails, glass. And in absence of glass, green things growing from big ceramic buckets and little clay pots and baskets hanging from cantilever supports.
Everything pastel and pleasant. Everything polished and pretty. Nothing out of place.
I seem a bastard at a lawn party. Eyes fall upon me blank and are cast away crumpled and discarded.
I feel for my tie to lay it straight. I feel for my lapels to get a grip on my collar and lay that straight. I check the slack of my belt and the sweep of my shirt's hem with a pair of hasty thumbs. I reassert the crease of my slacks and wish for brightly gleaming shoes.
While my vision settles deeper into the deep shadows and purges my sight of the fading sun. One step inside, across to the other side, and then another. Inevitably. Unwary the footfall that disturbs the serpent. Unwary, I say, and therefore unavoidable. Watch one way, perish by the other.
It is the nature of perishing. Avoid it to a point. But only to a point.
Eyes, I feel certain, follow my every slightest movement. Yet they are silent, skirting eyes that I cannot catch with my own.
Watched yet unseen, I pass from the foyer to the lobby, which is a great marble bowl with a fountain at the center and a ceiling thirty stories high. Beyond the lobby lies a deep crevasse in the stone face of a towering wall. There my plush, serpentine carpet comes to terminus and expires. Before a pair of gleaming brass doors.
These, the last doors. And I, unknowing, to stand before them and ponder their question.
A single button made of stone. A single finger to push it. Beckoned, that which the button calls come sliding home on a cold rail.
Unwary, I say the footfall is unavoidable, but it is never unforeseen. Every living thing suspects mortality from all quarters. Else the deer would not fear the hunter and the vine would not strangle. Yet the deer is quick to fear and the vine anxious to strangle, though all things must fail in their time. Every foot must falter and every grip slacken. Just so, the door must open and the doomed enter in.
I feel it must always approach stealthily and seem unobvious. A glimpse of fiery green eyes among the bush, then the tiger. A hint of asphyxiation, then the drowning. A sudden blare of horn, then the bumper. A seizure of the breast, then the floor.