A high pitched bell rang, announcing the arrival. The fake wood paneled doors slid open. A soft yellow light emanated from the tiny room. My feet were heavy with the morning fatigue, blocks in my boots. I flexed my leg muscles, forcing myself to move. The doors were just closing as I stepped inside. They reopened with another bell ding, as if the elevator was scolding me.
I turned and faced the doors, leaning against the back wall of the small box room. I called it the back wall, but I guess that was because I had decided the doors were the front, but the back wall could easily be identified as the front or side wall if your perception could be thus influenced. I squished my fingers hard against my eyes, pressing the squelchy globs into the sockets of my skull. The pressure felt elatedly glorious. I ground my eyes into myself and saw stars in the darkness, letting out a soft moan of pleasure.
The elevator began to rise at a steady, rapid speed. As the earth slipped inches and feet and meters farther away my heart started to beat faster. I dropped my hands promptly to my sides. my wrists aligned with my hips as if poised there by the robot designer. My breath rate accelerated in frequency. I was breathing more, but the breaths were shallow and tight in my chest. The more I took in oxygen, the more desperately I was gasping for air. My shoulders raised higher and higher until my back was hunched and they cuddled my ears. All of my muscles, especially those in my neck tightened.
Every inch of my being was so tight that I began to shake in a rhythm so small and quick that it may have looked as though my skin was vibrating on my skeleton.
The walls leaned in on me and the ceiling bore down. The room was clearly getting smaller, like the scene that still gave me nightmares from A New Hope. I couldn't absorb oxygen and my heart was jumping around my body. My blood pounded in my ears with a heavy throbbing. The gasping shallow air dove into my chest, missed my lungs, and clutched at my heart like an icy hand with a suffocating tight grip. My own palm flew to my chest and I grasped the sides of the elevator wall for support.
The intensity of the respiratory lacking air squeezing my heart filled my body and I felt an immense need to relieve the pressure. It was like being underwater inside my torso. I needed to get rid of the painful inner strangling. Leaning against the wall of the elevator, I held my chest and dry heaved painfully. I bent over, gagging, but nothing came out. Hot dry tears stung my eyes but never fell.
The tears filled me up inwardly, clinging to the inside of my throat and webbing together in a sticky mess. I wondered if spiders would crawl into my tear web and lay eggs and catch flies and mummify them for dinner. I wasn't actually sure how spiders prepared their meals.
Another high pitched bell dinged to signify imminent pain. Thus, trembling, gagging and holding my pain stricken chest, I stood hunched over when the doors opened. They slid apart in slow motion, revealing the crisp white and grey light of my office. A few of my coworkers stood in the lobby, holding files and piles of paper respectively. They looked into the elevator, naturally. I held up my hand in a half waved and tried to say something. My words came out like "hmmmgummmhumm" in a sound so soft I doubt it even made it out of the elevator. The first words of the day are always the mumbliest.
The doors began to close and my coworkers watched me lean back in agony. They didn't know about my panic attacks, or anything really personal about my anxiety. I didn't share a lot, but I knew they thought I was weird and different.
The elevator slid back to the first floor level. The decent was a slow journey downwards towards depression, down in elevation and down in mood. As did my height, my anxiety attack began to decrease as well. Down I traveled in the shaft, listening to the whir of the elevator, smelling the metal trying to quiet the screaming in my head.
Because of my anxiety attack, I was in the elevator for an extra minute. Because I was in the elevator for an extra minute, my cell phone didn't have reception for an extra minute. And that was the moment when you were weak, when you saw a picture of me online, when you heard my laugh in a dream. That weak moment was when you finally called me after all these years, and I missed the call.
You called to say you're sorry and you missed me and you were wrong and you wanted to be with me. You called to say you wanted me back, and that things would be different and that you forgave me for everything, or maybe you don't forgive me, because now that you think about it, there was nothing to forgive.
But you never said those things, because my phone went straight to voicemail, because I had no reception.
Drumming your fingers against the desk you listened to my voicemail pick up, before the phone actually rang. My squeaky voice tried desperately to seem polite and grown up, instead coming out unsure and scared. You listened and right at the beep you hung up. You stared at the phone for a second and then placed it on your clean, organized desk. You shook your head, amazed at yourself and your moment of insanity. What had you been thinking? You climbed back into bed with your perfect, beautiful girlfriend who didn't get crippling panic attacks in elevators, and forgot it ever happened.
Because I didn't have reception, my phone didn't tell me I had even missed a call at all. Maybe I hadn't. Whether or not you called me would remain in the schrodinger box of the elevator, simultaneously a transportation device and a coffin in which I am both crying and shaking until you open the doors and I stumble out.
The doors opened with the second to last ding of the morning. I stepped outside and walked around, breathing in deeply, feeling the color come back to my face. After walking around for a few minutes, my anxiety subsided and I headed back up to work.