I tried to control my anger aware that this operator was all
we had. She was our link to the outside world. She was very empathic and apologetic. We had to keep her that way.
Then suddenly we heard banging on the outside elevator door.
It was the building manager. My new acquaintance and I looked at each other. We started yelling for help. The manager yelled
back that because of a new city ordinance she could not try to get the door open until the elevator repairperson
We begged her. She stood her ground although most apologetically.
She told us that there was a water main that had flooded near the expressway exit and our repairperson was stuck in the traffic
jam around it. She tried to engage us in conversation. She assured us that the elevator would not fall. Until she mentioned
it, that thought had never occurred to me.
My cellmate and I together faced something worse than potential
danger. We faced the agony of irrational fear and panic. We had to make a choice. It was then that the humanity happened.
We started telling each other our life's story. We took turns. We smiled and laughed. Then suddenly one of us would remember
where we were and that we were trapped. We could see it in each other’s eyes when it happened. One of us would drift
away and go inside where a consuming terror threatened rationality and focus.
At that moment, the other would work harder to entertain and
engage. We were relating like old friends who moved together gracefully with purpose. We were at that time and in that space
devoted strangers who had bonded.
The first elevator repairperson finally made it. He, however,
could not figure out the problem so he called for assistance. We pleaded for them to just pull the doors open. We had both
seen this done a million times in movies. They were sorry but they could not. The approach to freedom had to begin on top
of the elevator car.
In our cramped quarters, my new companion and I paced and
talked. We knew somehow that each was keeping the other from absolutely losing it. She was my lifeline and I was hers. Logically
one knows how it will end. However, not being able to leave a space can paralyze one with desperation.
When the doors were finally pried open, we were between floors.
I let her go first. When I was helped out, she and I embraced and cried. It was the first tears we had shed that day. There
had been no room in that elevator for tears. There had only been space for two strangers and their caring for one other.
We have seen each other in the building now and then. We are
usually rushing in or out with bags and packages. We always pause and smile. We remember the terror. We acknowledge the miraculous
connection that happened between us.