I was in an elevator going into the 9th floor. Every time the elevator started up again, it shook a little bit before it started moving, as if it had to plug itself back into the world every time before it took me where I needed to go. The raspy fluorescent light tube on the ceiling was blind on one side and the part that did work flickered at a high frequency. It seemed seldom this elevator was shut off, it had been running ever since it came into service.
The building I was in was rundown, it was old enough to have elevator operators pulling on a lever. But the one advancement it had in technology was that shaky elevator that seemed it wanted to go sideways more than it wanted to go up and down. The room I had to go into was at the very end of the hall, to the south side of the building. Tasteless green lamps perched above an old wooden end table, no bigger than a toilet, every fifteen or so feet. there were four of them on either side. The doors were just plain wood double doors, except for the gold trimming around the edges and the door handle. I placed my hand on it’s icy surface, paused to gather my wits, and walked in.
My purpose for being there was to attend a hearing regarding my mothers assets. She had neglected to write a will and I was to divide the winnings between my sister and I. The receptionist I checked in with was funny. Funny in the way that she seemed devoid of any human emotion, and her tone was dryer than a desert, even when I said, “I’m here to divide assets from my late mother.” She asked me to take a seat on the bright orange sofa. Everything in that room seemed to be themed like a black and white Vincent Price horror picture, except for that bright lively orange couch. Even the four magazines on the glass coffee table seemed to be in black and white. It was probably themed this way as I’m sure no one’s ever exuded in picking up the magazines. They’re covered in a thin film of dust.
“They’ll see you now.” Nodded the receptionist pointing at the only other door in the room with her black pen. I walked through the door to see my sister, dressed in a yellowish red sunburst sundress and white purse in her lap. Behind the desk were four lawyers, plain black suits with a row of three briefcases and one backgammon case alongside the desk by the window. I didn’t know whether I wanted to hug my sister to form an alliance or nod at her. She nodded first.
“Let me just say, I express my deepest condolences at your loss-” uttered the first lawyer, before my sister butted in, “It’s quite alright. I’m sure my brother and I would both agree in saying that isn’t necessary and it’d be in our best interest to get to the point. I want the assets in the banks, and he can have the house due to his higher suasion in sentimentalism.” She never even glanced back at me. I loved my big sister, but what happened to us that made us so cold? Now that I think about it, I really don’t know anything about her. Neither did I know anything about my own mother. My sister was dating a musician the last time I saw her, my mother spent most of her time on the ottoman in the living room with a glass of brandy and her collection of final essays from her twenty-four years as a professor in theology. We were raised by a series of maids and neighbors whom we can’t remember the names to unless we squinted our eyes hard enough.
Was this the dream my father wanted when he bedded and wedded my mother? Was it still his dream when the cancer took him? I was too young to remember my father’s scent, and left home younger than the recommended age of passage. We can’t be the only family like this. Is this my dilemma or our epidemic? “You can have it all. I just wanted to see if you were okay. Now that I’ve seen you, I think it’s safe to say that none of us were.” I left the room and called my wife and daughter I left back home in my little apartment in sunny California.