Up and Down

Submitted by Ledezma Dreiss to Contest #5 in response to: Write a story about someone who is tired of their day-to-day routines.... view prompt

Wake up. 

Shower. 

Get dressed. 

Down an elevator. Jack had always wanted to live and work in the same building, so when an apartment became available in the building next door to the building he worked in, well, he had to jump at the opportunity. 


Pick up a taco and a coffee from the cute vendor in the lobby. Every day he would flirt, every day the cold shoulder. But warm taco and hot coffee. 


Up another elevator.

Through the side door - so no one notices.

Pull out chair.

Sit down.

Fire up the computer.


Work is pretty much a blur of email, meetings, redlines on construction documents, and the mindless chatter between coworkers. 


Shut down.

Stand up.

Down an elevator. 

Pick up dinner and beer.

Down a candy bar. 

Up an elevator.

Though the door.

Plop down on the couch.


Jack eats and drinks the evening away over sitcoms and reality TV. 


Undress.

Shower.

Sleep.


At night dreams replay the day's events. Jack often finds himself waking up from a dream thinking he had been at work all day. Sometimes he would experience the recurring dreams of his youth in which he was making his way to a strange place. Off into a field he would walk. Down a path. Into a cave where he would have to cling to the side...or was it a drainage ditch? He could never really tell, or remember. 


Beep of the alarm.

Down an elevator. 

Up an elevator. 

Computer.

Down an elevator.

Up an elevator.

Sleep.


Dream. Walking in this tunnel or tube. Crawling on his belly over a chest-high stone or shelf...smooth. Into a clearing, an opening, he never was able to stay long. 


Up.

Down.

Up.

Down.

Up.

Down.


The dreams happen less and less. The plainness of life is reflected in the sameness of dreams. He could be something more, something great. He could be a writer, writing of faraway lands, made up places that only existed in his mind. He could be an artist, painting landscapes that no one has ever seen, swirling with colors that swirl in his head. He could be a musician playing the sounds the world is longing to hear. 


At least weekends are a little different. Jack is pretty much programmed to wake up at the same time. He has coffee at home. Cereal, watches the news, puts on his running shoes, and down the elevator. He tries to run at least once during the weekend. Passing the faceless crowds on the downtown city streets. The faster he goes the quicker he can escape. He imagines himself all alone and flying. 


Running.

Stopping at lights and for cars. 

Running.

Trying not to run into the people who wander aimlessly on the massive sidewalks. Concrete bliss. He tries to run to a different place that he hasn’t seen before. In the 4 years that he’s been living here…or has it been 5?...he’s been to every nook and cranny of his neighborhood.

Stop to pull a protein pack from his pocket. 

Run.


On his way back he has to go up to work to check his email and to see if there are any fires he has to put out. There always are. He sits at his desk for a few hours responding to people. A mandatory meeting on Sunday to talk about a project that starts Monday, and half of the team won't be there. Sunday becomes a weekday. 


Dating is the same. He sees a pretty girl. Tries to chat with her. Maybe she’ll chat back. Maybe she’ll think something he said was funny, maybe not. Sometimes his smooth talking would land him a little more time with her, always a drink, if it went well, dinner. Really well, leads to a different Up. Down. Up. Down. But it rarely leads to that. Jack would always say something wrong. Maybe he spoke too much of his past?...baggage. Maybe not enough, did he really want to be this when he grew up? 


Sometimes he plays touch football in the park with his neighbors about a block over from where he lives. It always takes his mind off things for a little bit. Until someone breaks out the beer. And after the common talk about the weather and gas prices are done, talk about work always comes up. City planning, mergers, hostile takeovers, whatever else they had said. Jack was really good at blocking people out when they spoke. 


Jack lays in bed trying not to think of anything. The city lights flicker through a dancing curtain in the breeze of an open window. The nights are cooling down. It feels good flowing over his body. Only a thin sheet covers him. Maybe tomorrow will be different…


Jack’s dreams turn abstract. Colors of space and time beyond. Things he had never seen before. He wakes before the alarm. Gets dressed and takes the stairs down. He walks around his building to the other side where the main work entrance is. Walks up the staircase, watches the fountain for a minute. Takes a deep breath. Walks in the revolving door, and over to the taco cart. “Your usual?” she says with a sparkle in her eye.


“Of course”


She pours the coffee, bags the taco, and with a wink says “Today… It’s on the house”.


Up the elevator, because there are just too many floors to hike up. In through the front door of the office. A few people are chatting near the reception desk. “Hey Jack, you got a minute?” Feeling quite pleased with himself, “Of course.” Into a small conference room they both go, just the Big Boss and Jack. 


“Have a seat Jack,” he sits down and starts to feel the tension in the room. “We are going to have to let you go.” Devastated, Jack nods, doesn’t understand, can’t understand, “I understand”. He mopes his way back to his desk, dragging his feet the long way to the back where he sits. He feels all their eyes burning into the back of his head. It was early and his coworkers are getting coffee, printing faxes, talking about last night's TV shows, and talking about him.


Jack fires up his computer, sends out a few emails to friends who work in other offices to see if anyone is hiring. He thinks about redoing his resume, he thinks about walking out early. He starts to think about how perfect his life was. He worked hard to build this life, he had wanted this. The cliche, careful what you wish for, bounces through his mind. He envisions a sea of applications, interviews, and rejections. 


Jack walks over to the liquor store after work to buy the biggest, cheapest bottle of gin he can find and a pack of cigarettes. He hates drinking hard liquor without soda or some kind of juice. He had not smoked since he was in high school. He drinks late into the evening. The bottom of the bottle goes Up and the gin goes Down. He lights Up and smokes each one Down. 


Onto the seat of a chair Jack steps Up, and at the end of a rope Jack goes Down.



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