The lobby of my building was deserted and cavernous. Our footsteps echoed on the old marble floor as we carefully made our way to the elevator. We were dripping wet. Nobody wanted to slide down and break a bone. The hospitals weren’t what they once were.
While we waited for the elevator, I turned to check my small mailbox. It was habit. Moira snorted, “You think the postal service is really that faithful?” I actually did have mail from what was probably the last delivery ever to take place in Manhattan. I’d been delivered an advertising flier for the latest Disney On Broadway offering. “The Little Mermaid Swims Off The Stage And Right Into Your Heart! In 3-D!,” the glossy color flier promised.
The old elevator creaked into place. My elevator was the size of a little closet. It was so small that it only had one door, instead of the double doors that most people think of when they think of elevators. It was a squeeze for us to fit in, but we weren’t splitting up, not at this late date. We all crammed in with our guns and pets and luggage and guns. I had to contort around to press the button behind me.
My floor was quiet, too. I wondered if anyone was left in the building. I really didn’t want to know. There were a lot of older Cuban tenants. I wasn’t sure that they had been able to get along, given the current harsh conditions.
The air in my apartment was stale, but it still smelled like home to me. Once we struggled in and put our things into a pile on the floor, Jill and I let Bethel and Lexington out of their carriers. Bethel was overjoyed to be home. She ran around, showing off her digs to Lexington, then refusing to let Lexington enjoy any of the nicer features. Moira and Mike collapsed on my futon as Jill and I set up a makeshift litter box in the bathroom for Lexington out of a box and some shredded newspaper.
Jill and I went back to the living room and we all set to raiding my cabinets and fridge. Most of the food in the fridge wasn’t edible, anymore. But I did have a carton of juice that I hadn’t opened and some yogurt. I had ground beef in the freezer, and we popped that into the microwave to thaw.
I looked at the garbage bag full of off food and announced, “I’m taking this to the basement.” Everybody stiffened. “I don’t want to smell bad food. I want to be comfortable, here. I’m getting rid of this.” I headed for the door with the bag, and Mike sighed and got up to follow.
The trip down to the basement was uneventful. There wasn’t a lot of garbage in the big communal cans, which surprised me. People had obviously been using up whatever they had. Or maybe they were too afraid to leave their apartments to make garbage runs. As we headed back to the elevator, we heard the motor engage. We ran the last few steps, but it was too late. Someone else had called the elevator.
Mike nervously punched the call button about twenty times, and then we tried to pretend that it wasn’t a big deal that we had to wait for the elevator. We looked around the basement hallway like there was something to see. There wasn’t. Just paint flaking off the old, moist walls.
We heard the elevator door opening and closing on some distant floor above us. That was progress. The elevator would come back for us, soon. The motor engaged again and we shuffled our feet, nervously. The elevator wasn’t stopping. As we listened to the motor humming and not stopping, it occurred to us both that the occupant might be coming down to the basement. As the motor kept humming, it seemed a dead certainty that the person in the elevator was coming to the basement. I was surprised that someone else needed to do something in the basement, too. I hoped that the person didn’t need hot, steaming, human meat, because I didn’t think that anybody could hear us scream.
I smiled nervously at Mike, who didn’t smile back. I reminded myself that I was in my own building. I was in my home. I was probably going to know whoever was in the elevator, and this wasn’t going to be a big deal. After what seemed like an eternity, but was really only a few seconds, the little elevator ground to a halt and the doors opened.