Under normal circumstances, Enzo wouldn’t talk to strangers on elevators. He would lean against the cold metal, gripping the bronze handle to the point of white knuckles, and hum along to the cheesy music under his breath.
But these weren’t normal circumstances.
He entered the platform, his bulking figure taking up almost half of the space. Cradling the bag of pistachios with one hand, he used the other to type in the floor number. As the doors were closing, he heard a grunt from behind them.
A thin, scrawny man skittered into the elevator just before the doors slid into place. The man had a gaunt face with an uncontrollable case of quavering. In his hand, he dragged a big black trash bag. He cleared his dry throat and turned away. A shinier version of himself appeared in the gray metal before him. And, despite Enzo’s disgust, he hugged the trash bag close to his chest.
Enzo was a statue, sizing up the man from three feet away. He tossed another pistachio into his mouth, the loud crunch bouncing off the walls. Floating uselessly around the elevator was the Pink Panther theme song, which Enzo thought was very fitting. Considering the rat man across from him was probably holding stolen goods.
Throwing pistachio after pistachio into his mouth, Enzo finally noticed the man staring at him with his snack, licking his dry lips every so often.
Enzo was suspicious of strangers, but he wasn’t gonna let him starve.
“Here,” Enzo said, flinging a hazel seed in his direction.
The man caught it in his wrinkled hands, devouring it and then licking up the excess salt. He was too invested in the small kindness to say thank you.
Enzo shifted on his feet. “So when’s the last time you’ve eaten?”
“Not long ago,” the man stuttered, and Enzo realized he was actually younger than he appeared.
“Why are you here?” Enzo asked, just as the elevator jerked to a stop and the music cut out like somebody had muted the world.
The man cursed clearly, not bothering to give Enzo an apologetic look. He inched over to the array of buttons, randomly punching them with his palm. None of them lit up. He groaned, returning quickly to his black plastic bag which he had left unguarded.
“You’re a thief, aren’t you?”
The man ignored Enzo once again, banging his fists against the elevator. “Touché,” he muttered, but it was lost in the hopeless pounds for help.
“What’s in the trash bag?” Enzo asked, his eyes glued to it.
The man turned to face him, beads of sweat dripping down his face. “Help me. The power is out. We need to make noise.”
Enzo dropped a pistachio that was headed for his mouth. “What? Really?” he strode over to the man, slamming his outstretched hands on the metal. “Help!” he screamed, “Help, help, help!”
The man covered his ears and scrunched up his nose. They were stuck.
An hour later, both pairs of hands were sore, and they were almost out of pistachios. They lay at the bottom of the elevator, sprawled out. Enzo’s ginormous build next to the man’s tiny one.
By then, Enzo was convinced he was going crazy. His hand was intertwined with the other man’s. “So what’s your name? Mine is Enzo.”
“Enzo,” the man echoed, “my name is Logan.”
Enzo frowned, “I’ve heard that name before.”
“Have you?” Logan asked, biting down on one of their last seeds.
Enzo was quiet. All he could think about was the dull elevator ceiling, too-salty pistachios, and his large hand holding Logan’s shriveled one. He thought about his life, and how great it was going to get. But now they were stuck in a small elevator, headed nowhere, and they were probably going to die.
“You’re new to this city,” Logan noticed.
Enzo sighed, “Yeah. I was just moving in. To this building, actually.”
“Hmm,” Logan picked excess pistachio out of the crevasses in his mouth. “But you were headed to Mr. Jones’ office. The last floor. Why?”
Enzo’s eyebrows raised slightly at Logan’s observations. “I’m about to pick up my key.”
Logan smiled. “I’m about to drop off my key.”
“You’re leaving the city?”
“Yeah. I came here with big dreams. It’s been three years, and I’ve accomplished nothing at all. Moving back in with my parents.” Logan bit his lip, grasping a handle of the trash bag.
Enzo blinked slowly. “So what’s in the bag?”
“Oh.” Enzo couldn’t believe he thought this guy was a criminal before. “Don’t leave,” he blurted out before his tongue could catch the nonsense. Caring about strangers was probably one of the side effects of starvation. He honestly couldn’t think at the moment.
A smile stretched on Logan’s lips. “I have to leave.”
“No, you don’t.”
“Yes, I do.”
Logan ended the conversation with his arms folded across his chest.
Loud voices called Enzo out of his sleep. He couldn’t remember falling asleep, but his hand was still twisted with Logan’s, who was snoring loudly.
“Can you hear us?” someone shouted from beyond the elevator.
Logan twitched awake. Enzo’s jaw was dropped open.
“Yes, we can hear you!” he called.
Logan’s eyes were wide, although he was still groggy. “Saved?” he asked, yawning.
“Saved,” Enzo confirmed, getting to his feet. He helped Logan up too.
The voice came on again. “This is the city fire department. We’re here to help. What we need you to do is try and push the doors apart. We’ll be pushing from the other side. If there is anyone who should not be pushing because of injuries, we ask you to just stay still.”
Both Enzo and Logan pushed. It wasn’t enough.
“Step back, Logan,” Enzo commanded.
Enzo picked him up by the back of his shirt and set him down next to the trash bag. Logan wailed like a child.
He then rammed into the doors and used his thick fingers to pry them open. They squeaked and metal scraped against metal. Finally, the doors slid aside.
Logan yelped, scurrying out of the elevator with his bag, past the firefighters, and onto the marble ground. He kissed it repeatedly.
Enzo wiped sweat off his forehead and stepped outside the elevator. A fireman grabbed his arm and led him to a corner. “Here,” he handed him bottled water. “You okay? We got the power working again.”
Enzo inhaled slowly. He nodded, but was actually feeling the opposite. Heading over to Logan, he grabbed the tiny man’s arm. “Let’s go.”
“Wait,” Logan said, standing up. “You’re here to collect the key for apartment 17A, right?”
Confusion crossed Enzo’s face. “How’d you—”
“Here,” Logan put his palm flat on Enzo’s and he could feel something small and metal. A key.
The realization dawned on Enzo a moment too late. “I’m moving into your old apartment.” He exhaled in an unnecessarily rushed way.
“The sink leaks,” was all Logan said before hauling his trash bag into another vacant elevator.
“Wait!” Enzo exclaimed, darting forward to stop him.
But Logan had already pressed the button. His smile was faraway, and it disappeared as soon as the elevator doors clicked close.