By: Fedosy Santaella
Illustrated by Henry González
Selection and Compilation: Carolina Fonseca
Engrossed in his thoughts, submerged in the mire of his worries, Pedro Rosales presses the up arrow and stands there, head bowed and shoulders slumped, morbidly burrowing deep into his own mental swamp as an unemployed man. Would this job he was about to apply for be a good thing? He would be working for a crummy production company, one of those that draw on desperate souls. They probably pay peanuts, and he would probably have to be up at all hours editing some garbage for TV. And to top it all off, he didn’t like the place, or even the first contact by phone, which felt cold, dismissive, and rushed. But he couldn’t afford to be picky about jobs; he had credit card debt, a feisty dog, and a girlfriend to take out on the town. Rosales stares at the folder, his CV inside. It feels warm, pulsating, anxious.
“Hey,” he hears behind him in a sharp, rough voice that sounds rather like a stool being dragged across a cement floor. Rosales turns and looks from side to side. No one to the left, no one to the right, no one in the suffocating depths of that basement parking lot.
“Hey, hey you.”
Rosales turns around slightly to place the voice. There it is, almost directly behind him. He barely noticed him when he arrived; now, as if someone had flashed a light on the guy, Rosales takes him in fully at a glance.
It’s a tall, wiry man, with a small square head, a military haircut, and a narrow weathered face like dry leather that has never seen a drop of water. His nose is flat and his mouth is an ugly, poorly placed gash. His tiny eyes bring to mind a crazed, hungry rat. He’s the type of man that Pedro Rosales avoids at all costs: a guy who drinks a beer and then crushes the can, a guy who spits on the floor, scratches his balls in public, and hates anyone who, like Rosales, has a certain intellectual air, what with the glasses and longish, styled hair. Rosales could easily imagine this guy in a boxing ring, throwing punches right and left, untrained, relying on instinct, on his inner fury, on his innate brutality. Maybe he is a boxer, he thought ironically. His name might be Boris Kluchenko, The White Menace, or something like that.
Anyway, this situation doesn’t look good, but it’s better to face it, because well, there’s no other choice. Pedro Rosales turns all the way around and says something that doesn’t sound very original, but is courteous and cautious:
“Yes, what can I do for you?”
“Do I look like an idiot?” grumbles the other guy.
“Do I look like an idiot, or a fool, or I don’t know, a jerk?”
“I’m sorry, sir, I don’t understand.”
“You pressed the elevator button.”
“Yes, I did,” answers Rosales, raising his eyebrows slightly in a feeble gesture meant to convey “obviously.”
“And didn’t you notice that the light was on?”
“Yes, of course, I…” mutters Rosales.
“And why was it on?” huffs ‘Boris.’
“Because someone pressed the button, I mean, I think…”
“Exactly, you said it: someone wanted to go up in the elevator and the only way to do that is to press the button, right?”
“Yes, yes,” concedes Rosales without yet understanding where this line of talk is going.
“That someone was me,” the man says, pointing to himself with thumbs like bazooka projectiles.
“I see, it was you,” says Rosales, essaying a friendly smile.
“Yes, and I think that pressing a button that had already been selected shows a real lack of respect.”
“Sorry, but this is ridiculous!” says Rosales, almost pleadingly.
“So, you say I’m ridiculous, to boot!”
“No, that wasn’t what I meant,” replies Rosales in a softer tone of voice, trying to placate the other guy. “I meant the bit about the elevator; it’s not important.”
The White Menace flaps his arms like an enormous maddened vulture, and executing a clumsy kind of tap dance, comes nose-to-nose with his opponent. Someone might think they were about to kiss.
“Not important? You think that what I did a few seconds before you got there is not important?”
“You’ve misunderstood me.”
Boris Kluchenko backs away from his imaginary antagonist and begins walking in circles, as if dancing in the ring. Then he points to Rosales with one hand, while his other fist grows larger and larger until it resembles that of the Fantastic Four’s Hellboy or Thing. Dancing in circles and brandishing his amplifying fist, ‘Boris’ says loudly:
“You must be one of those guys who waltzes into a company as a vice-president and fires everyone in order to hire his friends, ‘Because no one here is any good, I’m the one who knows how to get things done, me and my buddies, my buddies and me.’ I’m sure you reached the elevator and thought: ‘Look at this, the button is pressed all wrong. That light, I don’t know, there’s something strange here, I don’t trust it. I’d better press it myself, I know about pressing buttons, I have a graduate degree in button pressing’.”
Pedro Rosales wants to tell the other guy again that he’s wrong, that he, Pedro, is nothing more than an unemployed TV producer who came by to drop off his CV for a poorly-paid crap job, and that he was never a manager, much less a vice-president of anything. But then, the elevator bell pings; it’s piercing, imperious, hysterical, like the bell in a boxing ring that signals the round, the comprehensive walloping, the death by brain hemorrhage and severe contusions. And then, the fourth-rate boxer stops talking and stops dancing. Both men stare into the empty, expectant interior of the elevator. Neither moves; their faces show tension, a deep inner conflict.
Rosales thinks of a course of action, a desperate out, a possible way of avoiding his opponent’s blows, and so, without thinking twice, he lunges for the door. Boris Kluchenko also moves and reaches it at the same time as Rosales. Rosales closes his eyes, tightens his hold on the CV folder, and waits for the fray to begin. But no, Boris doesn’t attack him, Boris starts scuffling next to him; Rosales responds in kind, pushing, shoving, repelling the other guy, with both men trying to be the first to enter the empty elevator. In the midst of this struggle, the door closes. After stumbling a couple of steps backward, both of them stop as if posing to be captured for eternity in a photo that shows them slyly eyeing the button, the up arrow, the unlit arrow waiting to light up when pressed.
But neither of the contenders will do anything, since neither one will humble himself to do something for the other. The only thing they can do is wait for someone to come and press the button for them. After that, we’ll see…