As I got on the elevator to go grab some lunch I took stock of the group I was about to join. Three men, all in suits and ties, seemingly from the same company.
Two were older. One looked to be around my age.
He leaned against the back wall of the elevator. All three had looked at me and sized me up as I entered. His eyes stayed on me the longest.
The other two were on either side of the elevator doors. In order for me to enter I had to walk between them. I glanced at the buttons to confirm the Lobby had been selected, then took a spot next to the man who was my age.
I made no eye contact. I said nothing. I stared at the doors and waited for the short trip down to be over.
The man said hello. I said hi in return but kept looking straight forward. He asked how my day was going. I said, “Fine, and you?” He laughed and said it was looking a “whole lot better now!”
I flinched away from him and took a sharp intake of breath. I couldn’t help it. The intensity of my negative reaction shocked me and I was so ashamed that it happened. I dared a glance in his direction to confirm if I was being made fun of or leered at, and I don’t think I was. He clarified that he was happy to be going to lunch. He looked a little confused by my behavior but I could see some sympathy there as well. It’s understandable; I probably had the wary and fear-filled look of a cornered animal in my posture and in my eyes.
This was not Old Self (OS). This was New Self (NS). OS would have made eye contact with all three and said hi. OS might have made one of her trademark horrible elevator jokes (favorite: “So, there’s a reason I’ve gathered you all here together today…”) just to break the ice and put some smiles on people’s faces. Banter would have ensued. Laughter would have happened.
NS doesn’t know how to do that anymore. NS keeps to herself, stays small, tries not to be noticed and fears having to engage.
I was thinking about OS during this elevator ride. The man who was my age was attractive. He was tall and broad-shouldered and had just enough of a paunch to look like someone who would give wonderful hugs. His face was cheery and open and his eyes were kind. He was someone I would have liked to know if I knew how to know people.
He gave me openings. Twice. After saying hello he joined the other two men in a brief discussion about where to have lunch and, after deciding, he turned to me and gently asked if I was on my way to lunch, too.
OS would have laughed, batted her eyelashes, asked if she was being invited to join them. OS would have welcomed the elevator flirtation and would have enjoyed the lift (pun intended).
NS felt heat flood her face as she stammered, “I’m… just… grabbing something… quick… and I’m going to eat at my desk,” the last of the words coming out in a rush. She didn’t make eye contact. She kept staring at the elevator doors feeling shame for her very existence but not understanding why.
It’s a pity, really. Who knows who that man was or what may have happened if OS had been with me instead of NS. The odds of me ever bumping into him again are slim; of me behaving differently should I ever see him again, negligible.
He was a very nice looking man, though. He seemed sweet. I regret that it wasn’t OS in the elevator with me.