Old School

—Up! Going up!
She moves her left arm as if she still pushed the lever to close doors. At the same time, she collects the right arm to release the elevator.
—Crowded! Wait for the next one, please! The pantomime lasts all day, every day, without rest on weekends or holidays.

When there were no passengers, she jumped out on each floor to empty cigarette boxes into plastic bags. She was not paid to do this.

—Down! Will you go down, sir? I will wait for you! There is no need to run, not running, please! The elevator does not leave by itself! Take your time, watch your step!

Going down to the level floor were her favorites trips. The people left the elevator relieved. They turned to thank her, to say goodbye and to wish her good night.
—Goodbye, thank you.
—You are welcome, have a good night’s rest!
—Good night.
—Good night!
—Thank you, see you tomorrow.
—See you tomorrow, Lord willing!

She became visible after all. On the other hand, it was time to abandon the safety of the wooden box, time to walk down the street. Then she moved forward with quick steps, trying to control the agoraphobia. She arrived at the boarding house with her mouth full of sand, her heart overflowing with adrenaline. It was always like that, almost every day, for thirty years.

First, they took her stool; it occupied the place of another passenger. Then, they renovated the elevator panel. They ripped out the crank, left the buttons only. In addition to the floors’ buttons, there was an emergency button, an alarm button and then, open doors and close doors buttons. They installed an annoying buzzer on the outside of each floor; it warned people when the elevator arrived. With the anxious trill, came the illuminated arrows above each outer frame of the elevator, showing if it went up or down.

There was no sense, nor youth left to spend the whole day standing, going up and down smiling at people. Her figure occupied the place of another passenger. The Rectory building was always full of students and teachers.

Where would the operator go? Go home, go rest, they said. That hostel was never home. It was just a place to stay when she was not working. From her retirement to the asylum, two trips.

Brazilian, fluent in English, Spanish and French, Cristina Bresser de Campos graduated from Universidade Federal in Graphic Design. Two published books: Torre de Papel (Paper Tower), a short story anthology in 2015, and Quase tudo é risível (Almost Everything is Laughable), a novel, Nov 2016. Studied Creative Writing at University of Edinburgh in 2016. www.cristinabresser.com.br

See more from Cristina in issue 5.4