“Hold the elevator!” I called to Ms. Szemenski. She scrunched her nose at me as the doors closed. “That woman is evil,” I said out loud to what I thought was the empty lobby.
“You think so?” I heard a familiar voice behind me say.
I turned around quickly, embarrassed anyone heard me. “Oh, I’m glad it’s you,” I said to Riley, my gorgeous next door neighbor. “I thought you were Szemenski’s daughter, then I’d really be in for it.” It was a supposed to be a witty joke, and Riley was kind enough to smile politely, “Not that I could mistake you for her,” I thought of how closely Szemenski’s daughter resembled a sumo wrestler, “or anything.”
“Glad to hear it, Kurt,” Riley continued to smile her polite, yet dazzling smile as she pushed the ‘up’ button for the elevator.
I decided the best thing to do would be to change topics. “So, you’re playing a gig tonight?” As soon as I said the word ‘gig’ both of us flinched, there’s some vernacular I really shouldn’t try to use.
She nodded and her blue eyes seemed to pierce my very soul. The elevator dinged to announce it’s presence to us. I thought I had to be dreaming and yelled, “Five more minutes!” My arm spastically went flying behind me searching for my alarm clock.
Riley laughed nervously. “I think you just need to step in,” she said trying to get to the elevator behind me without getting too close to me or my waving arm.
I forced a laugh that probably made her more nervous and followed her in.
The doors closed and we were the only two in the elevator. Thank you Mrs. Szemenski, I thought, now is the time to be cool and witty.
The elevator car was very quiet.
“So,” she said apparently forgetting about the spastic arm just seconds earlier, “you just getting off work?”
I tugged at my tie to loosen it. “Yeah,”play it cool, “You?”
She nodded, “Yeah, just in time to change and head to the bar to set up for tonight.” Her fingers were playing with the top button of her pizza uniform.
“Oh,” I said searching for something witty but my mind went completely blank like a computer screen during a power outage. “So, you work for We Za Pizza, now? How do you like that?”
Riley looked at me. “It’s a job. Better hours than the department store, so that’s nice.” She hit the button to her floor again as if to make it hurry faster.
I looked at the doors. “That’s good,” I had no idea what I was saying. If only I could think of something amusing to say. Nothing came to me. “So, I was thinking, maybe some friends and I might come tonight. To listen to your band play, of course.”
I followed as her eyes looked down at my feet and slowly made their way up to my face. “I don’t think we play your kind of music,” she said slowly.
“No, see, I know this is how I look now, but it’s just for work. I clean up nicely, well, not that I wouldn’t be clean if I were to dress…” Danger Will Robinson, will somebody please shut me up! “That is to say, I mean, I look different now, but that’s just the work side of me. I have many different sides to me. I am a very complicated… fellow.”
Why don’t I just use my tie as a noose and put everyone out of their misery?
I held my breath waiting for her reaction to my blundering. If she never answered, I was prepared to die from asphyxiation. After my rambling, I would be doing a service for everyone.
To my relief, she smiled again, and I was able to release my intake of air. Unfortunately, I blew it right in her face.
She blinked her eyes. “We play at ten tonight.” Again, she sized me up. “Is that too late for you?”
“No!” Does she think I’m some kind of kid? “Today’s Friday, so I can sleep in tomorrow.” I stared straight ahead after I said it. Did I really have to share that much info with her?
She laughed. “Well, it will be nice to have a fan in the audience.” The elevator stopped at our floor and the door opened. “I’ll see you tonight.” We stepped out of the elevator and walked to our apartments.
Only after I closed my door did I realize, Who am I going to get to come with me tonight? I have no friends here, yet. No matter. One way or another I was going to hear Riley’s band. Thank you Ms. Szemenski.
“Hold the elevator!” Kurt hollered as the door was closing. Whoever was inside, let it close and I figured there was only one tenant in the building who would do such a thing: Ms. Szemenski.
“That woman is evil,” Kurt said.
“You think so?” I answered sarcastically.
Kurt jumped and turned around. “Oh, I’m glad it’s you,” he said and I couldn’t help but smile. He was tall, even taller than me, with brown wavy hair, but clean cut, and the most brilliant green eyes. ““I thought you were Szemenski’s daughter, then I’d really be in for it.” He spoke rapidly, “Not that I could mistake you for her, or anything.” Too bad I’m not his type. I looked down at my bare midriff where my ring was poking out of my belly button. Definitely not his type.
“Glad to hear it, Kurt,” I can be just as polite as he is, and I forced a smile. I pushed the ‘up’ button for the elevator.
“So,” he spoke again politely, “you’re playing a gig tonight?” I flinched because it was embarrassing he knew we were always playing at the same old bar.
The elevator dinged and he jumped. He yelled, “Five more minutes,” and he reached his arm back like he was looking for an alarm clock. It was as if he was acting goofy on purpose to cheer me up. It was working. “I think you just need to step in,” I said as I laughed nervously and stepped into the car. How could he possibly of known I had a rotten day and needed to laugh?
The doors closed and we were alone. I could have asked him several questions like how he liked being here since he moved in a month ago. Any number of things, but I figured he was used to more sophisticated conversation. “So, you just getting off work?”
“Yeah, you?” he asked. I felt like our conversation was like the old Atari game pong. And just as exciting.
I nodded, and could feel my cheeks turn red as I looked at my uniform. As embarrassing as it was for him to know my band was playing at the same old bar, me working at the pizza place was worse. “Yeah, just in time to change and head to the bar to set up for tonight,”
“Oh,” he said coolly. “So, you work for We Za Pizza now?” I closed my eyes as I realized the last time I talked to him, I still had my old job. I could just imagine him keeping some giant checklist with all the girls he meets and right now my name just received a huge checkmark beside the word FLAKE. “How do you like that?”
I had to be honest. I looked into his eyes, hoping he’d see the real me, and answered, “It’s a job.” That’s where the honesty ended. “ Better hours than the department store, so that’s nice.” Truth was, I got fired for being late too many times. It’s hard to get up in the mornings after playing at the bar all night.
I hit the button to my floor again to make the elevator go faster. I really didn’t want him to think I was a complete idiot before we got out of the elevator.
“That’s good,” he said nicely. “So, I was thinking, maybe some friends and I might come tonight.” I looked at him. “To listen to your band play, of course.”
He wants to come and listen to my band play? I looked at him from toe to head and realized, he was too uptown for the dive we play at. “I don’t think we play your kind of music.”
“No, see, I know this is how I look now,” he spoke rapidly, “but it’s just for work. I clean up nicely, well, not that I wouldn’t be clean if I were to dress…” He rambled on. I was used to guys who weren’t nervous around me at all, they just took what they wanted and said what they wanted without really respecting my feelings or thoughts. Kurt was different. Kurt was a nice guy and was a little nervous around me. I felt flattered and I hadn’t felt that way in a long time.
“I am a very complicated,” he continued, “fellow.”
I couldn’t help but smile and I could feel his hot breath on my face. “We play at ten tonight.” I looked at him again, worried that he might have to get up early in the morning for work. “Is that too late for you?”
“No!” He exclaimed. “Today’s Friday, I can sleep in tomorrow.”
I couldn’t help myself and laughed. “Well, it will be nice to have a fan in the audience,” and I meant it more than he realized. Normally, we just get a bunch of drunks who could not care less for our music and were there for the socializing.
The elevator opened to our floor. “I’ll see you at ten, then.” We stepped out and walked down the hall. I couldn’t help but smile. Thank you Mrs. Szemenski.