• Dzama

Going Up

This is the longest escalator- I feel like I’ve been on it forever. I’m not even halfway up. And it’s moving so slowly. The backs of the people ahead of me- not very flattering. And behind me there is an ocean of people staring silently up at me- their faces frozen a kind of hollow derision. My left hand grips my briefcase, my right rests on the oily rubber handrail, which is moving annoyingly slower than the metal steps I’m standing on.

The down escalator is within view across a stainless steel median, and now and then I’ll inadvertently catch someone’s eye. What a collection of doomed souls. They look to me like they’re begging me to take them with me, up instead of down. I stare back blankly. What can I do for them? Sooner or later our roles will be reversed anyway and I’ll be going down and they’ll be going up. I’ll be the one with the pleading eyes. At least then I’ll have been to the surface, inhaled some fresh air that was not recirculated ad infinitum. At that point I may as well be going down.

I look over and find myself inadvertently locking eyes with this red-headed girl on the down escalator. We’re locked in this stare when both escalators jerk to a stop. There’s an awkward moment where we both look away and then back. Then all the lights go out.

I feel a moment of clarity while everyone’s shouting and crying in the darkness. I calmly set down my briefcase and climb over the handrail, unsteadily spanning the median in the black void until I make it to the other side. I move towards where I think the girl was just standing and hear a voice that sounds like it could match her face. Hey, pardon me, I’m the guy from the up escalator. I was just staring at you before the lights went out. I’m reaching out my hand. At this point someone below us starts screaming a truly horrific scream. Maybe that’s what causes the girl to unquestioningly reach out and find my hand. I pull her up and, as the volume of panic increases all around us, we carefully climb the steel median, our hands locked together. Occasionally the steep grade causes us to slip but we don’t let go. We don’t even talk, we just hold each other’s hands like school kids and keep going up.

 

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