Elevator Buttons: A History

1

The first time he ever entered that elevator was freshman year. Thoma Jenson had invited him to "chill" in his apartment; it was a huge opportunity for a freshman. Jim didn't care that the building was three miles from campus. He hopped on his bike as soon as Thoma hung up the phone. By the time he reached the building, sweat stained the area under his pits and Jim was breathing hard. Jim let himself in through the unlocked glass doors and pressed the up button for the elevator. He leaned over and rested his palms against his knees, tracing the curls of the faded carpet with his eyes.

"Uh, excuse me," said a tremulous voice. Jim looked up as the elevator doors opened. She was pretty. Not in a tan and blonde kind of way, but more in an understated not-entirely-flawless skin, brown hair, and average height (but still shorter than him) kind of way.

"Oh! Sorry 'bout that," wheezed Jim as he stepped to the side. "I expected the elevator to, you know, ding or something."

"No, I think that's broken. Kinda like the rest of this stupid apartment."

She was halfway down the hall when Jim called out, "I'm Jim!"

She turned halfway to face him, "I'm Katie. Sophomore. I just moved in. Have you been here long?"

"No, I mean, I'm only a freshman. I'm just, you know, visiting? Thoma Jenson invited me over. Do you know him?"

"Oh. You're a friend of Thoma's?" Her tone was slightly hostile, and Jim wondered what he did wrong.

"Yeah, is that a problem? I just met him the other day and he seemed cool. He asked me to come hang out this afternoon."

"No, I guess it's not that big of a deal. I just live next door to him." Katie abruptly turned around and walked straight out the door.

Jim stepped into the elevator and leaned against the far wall as the doors soundlessly closed. "I guess I can't get your number, then."

2

Jim's weekend visits to Thoma's apartment were becoming a way of letting off steam. Classes were intense. The boys on his hall were rowdy and pugnacious. The weather was begging to settle into a winter chill. Jim just needed to get away from schoolwork and people. He wanted to hole up somewhere warm and just talk to somewhat civilized people. Unfortunately, Thoma's football game party didn't really offer much of that, but it was as close as he was going to get.

Jim entered and pressed the call button, preparing to wait for the elevator. He eyed the doors; sometimes, when he wasn't paying attention, they would soundlessly open and close before he even noticed. This time, Jim caught it just in time. He jumped in the elevator and was just about to press '2' when a feminine voice rang out through the hall.

"Wait a sec!" Jim caught a hint of brunette hair and blue jeans as the girl launched herself into the elevator.

"What floor?"

She took a deep breath. "Two, thanks."

Jim took her in. Her brown hair exploded from her head and seemed to obscure most of her features. He couldn't read the writing on her faded green t-shirt and her blue jeans seemed pretty nondescript. She wore standard white Keds, the bottoms of which were covered in mud. She clutched four bags; Jim knew at least one must contain a purse, but the re-usable grocery bags were as mismatched as her style.

"Kate, right?"

"Katie. I'm sorry, I totally blanked on your name."

"Jim. It's Jim. Do you need a hand with that?"

"No, I'm cool. Thanks, though."

"Yeah, sure." Jim didn't know what he had done wrong, but he was totally getting the brush-off. He looked down at his own sneakers, converse low-tops, and drummed his fingers on the elevator's decrepit rail. He could feel the elevator slowing, and prepared to leave. "So I'll see you later?"

"Yeah, sure." Her mimicry wasn't benign. Jeff sighed, but decided to ignore her. If he didn't know what he had done wrong than he couldn't fix it and she obviously wasn't going to let him in on her secret any time soon.

The elevator stopped and Jim waited for the doors to open. "Sometimes it takes a sec," Katie's voice held the slightest tremor. Expectantly, they both stared at the doors. Nothing happened.

"Are we stuck?" Jim asked.

"I guess. Maybe we should call the super?"

"Sure, but I don't live here. So maybe you'll call?" Jim didn't know why the sentence came out as a question. He didn't have the number, so she would have to call. There was no question to it, but he couldn't bring himself to be as abrupt with her as she was with him.

Katie took out a standard black flip phone and proceeded to scroll through her contacts. She raised the phone to her ear. "Mr. Philips? Yeah, it's Katie, from 3C. The elevator is stuck again." Kaitie listened for a few more seconds and then slammed the phone closed. "He said he has to call the company. It might take a couple of hours." She leaned back against the wall and collapsed to the floor with a huff.

Jim watched as she practically curled up into a ball, abandoning her shopping bags in the center of the floor. "We were practically at the floor, right? Maybe I can pry the doors open."

Katie moaned from her heap. "You can try, but the last time I was stuck here I couldn't get the doors open."

Jim moved over to the door and tried to wedge his fingers in the seam between the doors. No luck. He then tried to just push the doors to the side, but he couldn't get any purchase.

"You've been at it for half an hour. Want a Twizzler?"

While Jim had been struggling with the door Katie had been pilfering her shopping backs. A jumbo bag of Twizzlers lay open on her lap. "Sure." Jim plucked one for the package and sat down on the floor next to her. His legs slid out in front of him, a complete contrast to Katie's, tucked up neatly under her body. "Did you come prepared for this?"

"No. It's just the week's shopping."

"Oh. So you normally buy an economy pack of, uh, feminine products, two packs of Twizzlers and three bags of B-B-Q Lays, which just so happens to be my favorite?" Jim said, picking his way through her discarded shopping bags.

"Don't give me that face. I already got enough shit from the lady at the check-out."

"Far be it from me to get in between a girl and her eating habits. I have a sister; I know what it's about." This finally got a giggle out of Katie. "And what's in bag number three?" Jim peaked inside. "Ice cream? I never would've guessed." Jim's feigned surprise got more than giggles from Katie- she was practically guffawing.

"I guess we should eat that now. You know, before it melts."

"Sure. Do you have any spoons?"

"Oh!" Katie dove into the Wal-mart bag. "Ahah!" With a flourish she unearthed a bundle of metal teaspoons.

"So do you collect spoons or do you just buy them on a regular basis?" Jim asked as Katie struggled to open the packaging. "Here, let me." She handed him the spoons and Jim pulled out his keys.

"Don't make fun. My roommate accidentally dropped my last spoon in the trash can. She refused to go in after it. To give her some credit, it was pretty gross in there."

"I'm sure. Especially with all of those Twizzlers and chips." After taking his spoon, Jim passed her the rest. She opened the ice-cream and placed it in between their legs. She dug her spoon in and loaded it up with the desert. "At least I don't have to worry about you being anorexic."

Katie laughed. "No, that's never been a problem."

Jim took his scoop a savored the flavor. Coffee might not have been his favorite, but Katie was devouring the treat. They were busy eating their way through the half-gallon desert when the doors soundlessly opened. One second, Jim was enjoying a snack with a cute girl and the next she was sprinting for the exit.

Katie stood between the doors, stretching her arms out dramatically to keep them from closing. Jim gathered her bags and handed them to her.

"So I guess I'll see you around later?"

"Maybe next time you'll remember my name." Katie turned her back on him and started walking down the hall.

"Hey! You didn't remember my name, either."

3

It was almost spring, Jim could feel it. Every day was just a little less cold then the one before, and if it would just stop raining than everyone else would realize it, too. He zipped up his sweatshirt as he stared down the elevator doors. He could hear the elevator approaching his floor. He had already been waiting for the better part of five minutes, and if those doors didn't open soon, it was very possible that he would lose it.

After getting stuck in the elevator with Katie last semester he was desperate to see more of her. She was pretty, funny, and caring; pretty much the holy trinity in his dating bible. Unfortunately, Jim hadn't seen her a single time since. He had been to Thoma's every weekend. In fact, Katie was pretty much the only reason he still came to the upperclassman's 'get togethers'. The people were loud and obnoxious, and Jim found himself fitting in with an entirely different group of friends. He suffered through their heckling and fist bumps for the chance to see Katie.

Before Jim could run any further through his mental rant on the annoying habits of his 'friends,' the doors opened. Jim sprinted though, right into the overburdened arms of the only tenant of this stupid building that he actually wanted to see.

"Hey!"

"Oh my God, hey!" Jim's voice rose to practically feminine heights.

"So you're excited to see me?" Katie's eyes narrowed. Jim could practically feel her making a mental step back.

"I've kinda been waiting in the hall all day waiting for you to get back."

Katie laughed but then quickly choked it back. "You're joking, right? You aren't actually stalking me?"

"NO! That was definitely a joke. I've only been waiting for the past hour or two, not the whole day."

Katie let out a giggle, but then began to shift nervously. "So I gotta get to the freezer before the ice cream melts again." Jim looked down and noticed the same mismatching shopping bags. Katie stepped around him, heading for her door.

"Well, uh, before you go, I was wondering if you'd want to go out with me sometime?"

"Sure," she called over her shoulder. "How about this Friday?"

"That sounds good. I'll pick you up at eight?"

"That's good. Great, actually. You better take me somewhere good!" Katie called as she trundled down the hall.

"Without a doubt," Jim called down the corridor. He stepped back into the elevator that had, miraculously, waited for him. "It's a date," he whispered to the closed doors.

4

"So, do you have any plans for the weekend?" Katie asked.

They entered the elevator and Jim pressed three. Jim barely noticed the doors closing. They had been joking and laughing the whole night. Why stop now? "Nah. I've got a ton of work to do. You know, with classes and everything. So I think I'll just stay in the dorm. Maybe I'll hang at Thoma's a little. Have some guy time."

"You ass! You are not participating in that loser's parties. Do you know how loud they are? You are taking me out! Tomorrow night!" Two red spots appeared on Katie's cheeks and she was practically screaming. Jim silenced her with a kiss. It was just a quick peck, and he pulled away immediately.

The door opened on the third floor and Katie leaned over and pushed the button number four. As the doors closed once again, Katie put her arms around Jim's neck. "Let's try that again."