May 6, 2010

The Sixth Floor

I waited as Oscar whisked two eggs in a small yellow bowl that had once been his mother's.

The bowl, which had traveled with Oscar everywhere over the years, featured a 1960's motif of roosters and farm houses in red relief.

He poured the batter of loosely whisked eggs and a dash of cold cream into a hot pan.

Less than two minutes later, in one motion, he both folded and plated my omelet.

I took a bite.

The cheese, an aged domestic white cheddar (though Oscar never revealed as much) had somehow melted, despite being a hard cheese. And the white pepper, which Oscar used liberally, surprised me, as only white pepper can. 

Then, my black rye toast arrived. Kosher with glossy crust, it would be more accurate to say that my black rye bread arrived as it hadn't been toasted so much as it was still warm from the oven, having just been baked. This was one of those really thick slices of black rye bread. The kind you only read about in magazines. And, though the bread had already been buttered for me, the marmalade--homemade, exquisitely tart and served lovingly in an antique aperitif glass--was all my own doing.

I ate my breakfast and chatted with Oscar, the owner of Oscar's Magic Kitchen & Property Taxes, with the kind of contentment other people find only in hard drugs or pulling off perfect revenges. I wiped my mouth on my hand loomed 100% hemp napkin and paid my bill: $1.80.

Oscar, I don't know how you do it..

It was then, with all the reluctance in the world, that I stepped back out into the gray, wet streets, my thin coat pulled around me. On the way I smoked what was left of my cigar. I was now well over an hour late for work.

I turned a corner, then another corner, then darted on tip-toes down a back alleyway (strewn with yesterday's bloody sausage factory output), then, lumbered (about fifteen blocks) cop-like, with heavy, hard boiled steps--through an especially tough neighborhood, then, adopting a more casual attitude, I glided, as though on skates, into the building where I worked.

Good morning!

The doorman, Mr. Hendricks, shook his head at me, You are very late, Ms. Victoria!

I was out of breath: Mr. Hendricks, if you please, may I get an elevator?


The sixth floor?

The sixth floor (pause) the SIXTH floor?

He nodded as he said it, as though to determine he had heard me correctly. He scratched his head. 

I suppose you want the sixth floor "right now", Ms. Victoria. Would that be accurate?

I would. I mean, only if..

Okay, then! Let's see..

And with that Mr. Hendricks very deliberately began paging through a document that sat before him on his podium. He licked the tip of his pencil, checked off a couple of things, then picked up his phone and placed a call. He looked straight at me with contempt as it rang forever. He then spoke barely audibly in another language to the other party. There was a big, seemingly empty pause.

Finally Mr. Hendricks slammed down the phone, and, without ever looking at me again, shouted, James! Take her to the sixth floor, "right away" will you, please?

I stepped onto the car. It, wallpapered in green voided velvet, plus one huge oval gold-leafed mirror--hanging at such an extreme angle as to threaten to fall off it's one precarious nail at any moment--plus two ashtrays, plus one spittoon, was probably the slowest method of getting anywhere in the world. But I couldn't take the stairs that morning, as they were still, presently, cordoned off by several layers of police tape.

I got onto the elevator. One door closed over another. Then another over that. And finally some apparatus was engaged by James via a crank wheel. And we were off, as they say, to the second floor.

All of the doors re-opened.

Three well outfitted people stepped hesitantly onto the car. One of them couldn't be bothered with getting all the way onto the car, for they were deeply into a conversation on their mobile. Someone finally yelled at them to get onto the car. At which point they all laughed hysterically.

I couldn't help but notice that they smelled strongly of whiskey.

Then, O! Is this car going UP?

At which point James promptly brought them back down to the lobby.

We resumed my trip, which was, this time, promised to go straight to the sixth floor, no matter what.

Wheels turned.

We traveled slowly.

We laughed. We spoke wistfully of our families.

Sixth floor!

I stepped up out of the car which had landed somewhat between floors, this time. James, being over worked, more than a little passive-aggressive and very, very high did this to people all day.

I walked as quietly down the corridor as I could. Like a ballerina or a super-spy. I noted, like always, that it smelled of soy sauce in that hallway. This naturally led to thoughts of all the other hallways in my life: There was the one that had smelled like White Castle, the one that had smelled like apples (or was it chamomile tea?)

I saw, at the very end, past all the other (mostly dark) offices, what was my office I approached my office. I stood at the door. I opened the door. I stepped very quietly in.

Then I saw it. A birthday with pie and fresh whipped cream was already in progress. The unmistakable smell of burnt birthday candles hung in the air, and, what with everyone crowded over by the long work table where most food related things occurred, it was clear that I hadn't been missed.

The fact that it was happening so early meant that there would be more than one birthday, that day. Yes. It was going to be one of those cake days where nothing got done.

And here's me, having already eaten.