The Weigh Up
He presses eight, I push ten. The elevator doors close and nothing needs to be said because everyone who works in the building knows these floors are occupied by lawyers and civil servants, in that order.
He unfolds a newspaper and starts in on me.
“So, are you guys busy on ten?”
“Always.” I correct my posture to match his.
Are we busy on ten? What exactly does he mean by that? Does he think I’m just rolling into the office at 11:00 a.m.? I should explain that my job entails fieldwork. Nah, sounds defensive. Besides, I don’t owe him an explanation and I don’t care what he thinks.
I bet he thinks I’m a slacker. Yep, that’s me, the lazy one with the “cush” job. What he doesn’t know is that while Daddy put him through law school, I worked full-time to pay for college. And he questions my work ethic?
He stands behind an expanded Wall Street Journal and brandishes it like a shield. Maybe I read the same thing. He doesn’t know. How could he?
He probably thinks government’s role is too big. Of course—until someone lays a hand on his mother in a nursing home or mistreats his child at day care. He’d waste no time rallying forces. The Department of Human Services would receive an overnight from the law office of Taddler & Dickey.
Government, no government. Make up your mind.
He peeks out from his newspaper. It startles me at first, as though he could eavesdrop on my thoughts. He doesn’t say a word; doesn’t need to. I follow his line of sight to a white chalky spot on the hem of my black pants.
Okay, now it’s personal.
So what? Something’s on my pants. What’s the big deal? I suppose now I’m just some sloppy social worker from the tenth floor. I don’t know where the mark came from. Maybe I brushed against something. That never happens to you though, does it?
Course not. It never happens to your wife either. She’s a stay-at-home mom with all the time in the world to keep herself and the rest of the family looking tiptop. No, I’m not jealous. I feel sorry for her. She’s beautiful, kind to a fault — and still you cheat on her.
He folds his paper and stuffs it into his leather case. The door opens on eight and he steps out, leading with his left tassel loafer. He glances over his shoulder and waves.
“Have a nice day.”
I smile. “You too.” No hard feelings, Mister. Just remember, all you know about me is that I work on the tenth floor.
The elevator doors close.
I moisten my fingertips with my tongue and rub out the spot.