Lance reeked of tobacco, some of the embers burnt holes in his shirt of rainbows and buttons. He could still feel the cancer stick between his teeth and the more the clock ticked the more his cravings felt like needs gnawing on his patience leaving him with a scowl.
Trapped in a metal box with his goody two shoes advisor. Yolanda had stayed quiet the last few minutes, refusing to even look at him, her back straight and stiff as a steel rod and her lips pressed at an angle of control. Her disdain was warranted, Lance was not good. However you defined goodness, he felt he could not check any boxes on that list.
The longer he went without it, the more his thoughts tried to wander. Wander places thoughts should never go.
Not at eight a.m.
Not at all.
Crushed memories of touches toxic, more toxic than a deep inhale that blocked these thoughts with a rush and a high. Chemical reactions bury these thoughts. He fidgets, cursing bastard tears that he hadn’t even shed. And yet they pushed at the backs of his eyes taunting his strength. Showing and telling of weakness he wished to bury on his own but lacked the strength.
I just need a smoke…
Lance rolled his eyes, his nails bitten down dug into the skin of his palms as his limbs pulled tight begging for nicotine. He could tell she hated being trapped in there almost as much as he did, except maybe because of the nicotine withdrawals he suffered in silence. His stained fingers even ached with the tugs deep inside him.
Should he be ashamed that his vice would kill him one day? Should he try to kick it and let the poison on the other side flood in? Should he suffer alone without his best friend even if that best friend wished him dead?
Yolanda looked at her watch for the hundredth time and inhaled sharply through her nostrils, grating on his thin skin. Crinkled like paper and paste. He gritted his teeth before groaning.
“Every single time you check your watch time seems to slow more, they said thirty minutes so we have twenty minutes left. Take the pole out of your butt and relax,” Lance’s voice was malice and ice, his crystal eyes piercing her cool calm shell. Her shoulders sharpened like blades as she spun on her heel, bringing fire with her teeth. Control slips even for those than can hold on with an iron grip.
“And every time you breathe I smell cancer and death. You reek of incomplete cravings, you jitter and rock moving this metal coffin. Every day I have to ride up it with you to the office and now I’m trapped with it. Every. Day. I watch you from the corner of my eye, lackadaisical.” She grits her teeth as her lips curl. Every moment magnified her dislike of his presence, like running graters down her spine. Another bound bag to add behind his wall. The cracks he could feel in the dam would be sealed nice and tight soon. He had to believe that…
Lance wore smug even if pain filled his irises. How many times can a man die before he finally stops living? “So you want me to stop breathing, and I want you to stop moving. Maybe we’re better off dead the both of us.” His tone was dry and rasped from the smoke.
Silence eked soon after, both staring at the other with sour intent and barely veiled rage. He could smell her rosemary perfume, he could notice her crease less skirt was beige and her skin like an espresso. Even her hair that wished to be wild restrained in bands atop her head. He could see these things now, for a brief moment as neither spoke. Contrast to him, nicotine stains on his fingers, wrinkles on his button down and slacks. He wore black without apology. He heard once that you dressed to show your insides. So he did.
Then she opened ruby lips.
Before Yolanda could reply, the metal box swung and swayed. It heaved, pushing the both into the far wall. And then it dove, flying down the sixty floors they had traveled. Yolanda screamed till her heart met her lips with the beats it pounded. Lance gripped her to his chest and covered her body with his flat on the ground, remembering some program that talked about this situation before. Mindless her had thought then.
He shouts over the cries of metal and sparks of fire. “I smoke to forget! Secrets I’ve told no on! Shame that cuts deep! I was touched! Don’t tell me you have no vices! I plan to die honest if I must die now!”
Yolanda looked back at him, her eyes engulfed with a pain she hid before. “I drink to forget! I’ve been craving Jim Beam since I got to work!” That was when he noticed under the scents of conjoined sweat and her rosemary perfume, the smell of whiskey on her breath, seeping through her pores.
Tears fell, the both of them ready for the end. They held hands, desperate to be human. Then the elevator grinds to a halt and everything that moved went still. In the minutes that passed, they wear pulled up and examined. A few bandaids for them and the elevator they evacuated, and they were to go their separate ways again.
“I’m taking the stairs up, you?” Yolanda asks. Her eyes now opened would always look open to him. But adrenaline has faded and they were still alone. This wasn’t a fairytale, painted black like his insides, he knew then her place and his place would always be different.
I just— I just need a smoke…
“My vice wont allow it. Take my chances with the elevator.” He turns then and goes in alone. Watching Yolanda watch him as the metal doors close. Neither reaches for the other. Yolanda swallows words and turns to head up the stairs. Everything was different but nothing had changed.