The 22nd Floor
I really hated to see it go. My old apartment building was so beautiful. At one time, it was the most stunning piece of architecture in the city. Tourists traveled here just to see this building. I've lived here my whole life. Thirty-nine years in the same location. I was actually born in the elevator. My mom went into labor in our apartment on the 22nd floor, and she’d only made it down to the 14th floor when I was born. It was always a joke in my family that I couldn’t wait to enter the world and that the elevator in the building was too slow. In reality, it was. I remember having to leave 10 minutes earlier than the other kids that rode my bus, because of the time it took to get to the first floor. That was my only complaint though. I loved living on the top floor. The view of the city and the river was breathtaking. My parents enjoyed throwing parties and they always made it a point to have the patio open for everyone to enjoy. Life was good. My mother was a stay at home mom, and did all the cooking and cleaning, and if I do say so myself, she did a fantastic job of raising me. I was a little spoiled since I was an only child, but my parents always kept me grounded. My dad worked hard, and had come from a good family of hard workers, and he expected the same out of me.
While I experienced life and love growing up, I also experienced the pain of death and sadness in that apartment. My mother was diagnosed with cancer when I was 21. I was in the process of moving into an apartment one floor below when she was diagnosed. I canceled my plans to move even though I wasn’t going far. I wanted to be with my mom, and she was grateful that I was staying. She was only given a few months to live, but she was a determined woman and said that she would be here longer than that. She was. She died three years after her diagnosis. I believe it was the love between my parents that kept her going.
My mom and dad met in the restaurant on the first floor of the building. She was 18 and my dad was 20. They were at a party being held by my father’s father who owned a local company. My mother’s father worked for him, and it was a Christmas party; so everyone was expected to bring their families. From the stories I’ve been told, my dad accidentally dumped his plate of shrimp cocktail on my mother’s dress. He expected her to be angry and slap him, but she laughed and thanked him. She hated the dress that she was wearing, and this meant she could go to the restroom to change. Upon returning to the party, she discovered that my dad had changed his clothes so that she wouldn’t be the only person dressed casually. He said he didn’t want her to feel out of place. She was so moved by his thoughtfulness that she asked him to go out on a date with her the next evening. He said yes, and they married a year later across the street in a gazebo overlooking the river. I came along three years after that.
After my mom’s death, my father’s health went downhill quickly. It was as if he’d given up. He wasn’t old by any means, but he loved my mom with a passion I’ve never seen in any other couple. They had a foundation as strong as a hundred year old oak tree. I believe you really can die of a broken heart. At only 56 my father passed away.
I continued to live in the apartment. I just couldn’t let it go to anyone else. I had so many memories here. My job allowed me the luxury of staying, and I had only a few other financial obligations. I was lonely, but I stayed busy, and I bought a dog. He provided all the companionship I needed.
A couple months ago, I received a call at work that there was a fire in the building. I rushed home. I was relieved to find my dog. Monty had been rescued by the firefighters, but the building was really bad. They deemed it structurally unsound, and no one was able to even go in to get their possessions. The firemen were on the scene for several days getting as much out of the building as possible. They tried to go from apartment to apartment, but the damage was so bad that many things were mixed up. Several floors had collapsed so some of my stuff was actually on the 12th floor. I wasn’t happy, but I’ve always believed that everything happens for a reason. I wasn’t sure what the reason for this was, and my patience was tested every day until I had most of my stuff back, but I digress. The building had to be torn down.
I was living in another apartment on the other side of the river. It was painful looking across every day at an empty hole where all my memories had been built.
I kept a positive attitude though. Every day was a new day; closer to the dreams and goals I’d set for myself, and today, I’[d see one of those dreams come to life. I left my office and on my way back to my apartment I took a detour. I parked my car in a spot parallel to the river, and walked across the street to the vacant lot where my life had begun. All the rubble had been cleared and there was a tall fence around the property. A construction crew was there and they were going over some plans. One of them recognized me and opened the gate for me.
“Good afternoon Miss Miller,” said Paul.
“Good afternoon Paul. What’s going on?” I asked.
“Have a look. Here’s the plans for the new building. We’ve already dug the footers, and the building will begin on Monday morning,” he explained. He showed me a few specific things and described where certain important items would be located.
“Perfect! Things are going as planned. I’ll be back next Friday to check the progress. Please keep me posted and take pictures for me.”
My new apartment building would be built within six months, and I’d be back on the top floor, the 22nd floor, overlooking the river. Until then, I’d continue business as usual in my father’s old office, and I’d keep living in the apartment with my grandparents as we sat together and watched as my home was rebuilt to the same specifications that my father had built it with one exception; the elevator would be express. Life was good.