The button comes to life as I press down, shining in a dim ugly yellow. I stare up at the digital display above the door as the number decreases. I wait for the number to match the number posted on the wall. My waiting mind fill with anticipation and hopes for an empty space to open in front of me. For a chance to enjoy a moment of peace and quiet on a hectic day like today.
The door slides open and I’m surprised to see you standing there. You shift to the furthest corner of this small space as I walk in to occupy the opposing one. It’s as if there is a force field around each of us that prevents us from being close to the other.
You have your headphones on and you stare down at the floor. I take a peek at you and look at the switchboard filled with buttons and lights. I check to make sure the number one is lit. I take another peek at you as I lift my head up, trying to avoid your eyes. Then I’m looking up at the moving numbers counting down to our destination.
I can never get used to the feeling of falling as the small space we share drops closer to the real world. Our eyes are like the same positive ends of two magnets, always close to connecting but never actually does. And when it does we give each other an awkward smile, the kind that you don’t show your teeth and just kind of lift the sides of your mouth. The type of smile that is way too awkward for anywhere else but this space alone.
The numbers continue to fall closer to zero. The longing for escape is creeping up inside of me, as I’m sure it is in you. Even with the brightness of the fluorescent bulbs and the light tune playing in the background, I can’t help but feel the confines of this jail cell closing in on us. I look out of my peripheral to see you probably thinking the same thing. Seconds feel like minutes now.
As the fall comes to a slow stop, our bodies slump down slightly then we pick ourselves back up again as if all the awkwardness is lifted off our shoulders. We smile a smile of relief and finally made a genuine connections with our eyes, congratulating each other for making it through the ride. The confined space opens up to a space that seemed familiar yet a little different. You look up as you leave, escaping the grasp the floor had on your vision. I follow you out and take a deep breath as I exit the space that once trapped me. The air smells of freedom.