The Writer’s Corner features poetry, essays, short stories, satire and various fiction and non-fiction from SCAD Atlanta students. To submit your own work for the Writer’s Corner, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Blocked” by Maggie Schneider
I’m in Hell. How did I get here exactly?
A half hour ago, I was in Purgatory, my favorite venue, getting ready to perform at my own album release party.
I was sitting at my merch table towards the back of the room chatting with my best friends who came to see me play. I was doing my usual routine: shaking hands with the venue staff, hugging family and waving to everyone who walked through the venue door. It was fun being surrounded by everyone, and of course hearing the usual remarks:
“Hannah, I love your new album. It’s been on repeat all day!”
“Can you autograph my shirt, Hannah?”
“I can’t wait to see you play!”
As I was thanking everyone for their support and signing CDs, I realized I had left my purse in my car.
“Let me get it for you,” my dad said, who was already pacing around the venue floor, which was his typical routine on show-nights. He wore a path along all four corners of the dark red venue for what seemed to be hours, nervously waiting for something to go wrong. But nothing ever did.
“No it’s okay, I’ll go get it. I’ll be right back,” I said, running out the door. It was a strange December night in Atlanta. There was a heaviness to the air, and the sun had already set. The sky was pitch black but not perfectly clear; the fog was enveloping Underground Atlanta, and the smell and weight of cigarette smoke filled my nostrils as I ran up each flight of stairs towards the parking deck. By the time I reached my car on the third level, I was huffing and puffing.
I got my purse out of my car and began to run again, until I saw a sign for elevators just around the corner. Looking down the stairway and seeing the gathering crowd, my decision to take the elevator was reinforced. My show was sold out and there were so many more people out there than I had thought. There were quite a few people sitting on the steps, having a smoke and giggling, while the front door was blocked with a line of fans showing their tickets to the guard. Moving through the crowd unnoticed was going to be a problem.
I ran over to the rusty elevator doors and pressed the button with the down-arrow on it. The button didn’t light up for a few moments, and so I continued poking it with my index finger again and again, until the white light flickered. I didn’t think much of it, as I impatiently tapped my toes to the drum beat I heard from downstairs.
When the elevator doors finally opened, I saw a young guy already standing behind the doors, his back firmly pressed against the back left corner of the wall. He was slight, almost emaciated, and looked to be in his early 20s. I briefly smiled at him, noticing that he was wearing one of my shirts, and walked into the elevator. He looked down for a few moments, as if trying not to acknowledge my presence, and kept pushing his glasses back up the bridge of his nose. He had black shaggy hair and a pale complexion, and I wondered if I had ever seen him before.
The elevator doors slowly closed and Skinny Guy had not pushed any of the buttons yet, so I leaned over and pressed the button for the first level. He slowly backed away from me as I did this. Was I making him uncomfortable? Was I too close? Or was it because my long brown hair got in his face? The button lit up and I quickly moved back to my corner.
All of a sudden, and moments ago, I felt the elevator move downward and then stop abruptly, as if it had finally resigned from its services. Suddenly, there was a rattling under my feet, and my own heart rate quickened. This could not be good. I gripped the wall of the elevator with my left hand and looked at Skinny Guy, who did not look as shaken up as I was. The shaking continued, and I started pushing buttons with reckless abandon, but nothing worked. I pressed the bright red emergency button, but it was out of service.
Yep. I was definitely in Hell.
Five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen minutes.
We’re still here. My fan and I have established a pattern. He continues to look down at his shoes in disbelief, every once in a while glancing at me, while every other minute I’m pressing another button in desperation. I know that there is no reception, but I continue to pull my phone out of my purse. I sigh and put my face in my hands – why the fuck didn’t I just take the stairs?
“So… How are you?” Skinny Guy asks me, now looking straight ahead at the rusty elevator doors. He has a really soft voice, the kind of voice of someone that wouldn’t even hurt a fly.
“Well, not great. We’re trapped in this elevator,” I say as I fidget with my hands, peeling my bright red nail polish off of my fingernails, one by one – nervous habit.
“You’re not claustrophobic are you?” he asks. “I don’t know, I might be after this.”
There’s a long pause. It’s slowly dawning on me that we might be here awhile. I may as well sit down. I sink to the floor holding onto my knees, hoping I won’t rattle the elevator. Nothing happens.
Skinny Guy finally looks at me, adjusting his glasses. “Wait a minute, aren’t you Hannah West?” he says, pointing to his shirt with my face on it. I blush.
“Yes, that’s me,” I say, forcing a smile when all I want to do is scream in frustration. Instead, I say “You coming to the show tonight?”
“Of course I am! I wouldn’t miss this for the world,” he replies, stuttering on his vowels. “I love the new album.”
“Thank you so much, that means a lot.” This is my pat answer. At least Skinny Guy is nice, I think. There could’ve been much worse guys to be stuck in an elevator with. I start feeling bad referring to him as Skinny Guy and I ask for his name.
“John, my name’s John,” he replies smiling. I go through my whole rehearsed routine once again and I shake his hand. It’s warm and sweaty, like a melting stick of butter, but I don’t make anything of it.
“Shouldn’t you be inside of the venue by now?” John asks, nervously laughing.
“Yeah I really should, but I forgot some stuff in my car and the stairs were packed, so here I am.”
“Oh man, I’m really sorry you’re stuck here – with me for that matter.” John slowly moves to the floor as I did, but stays in his corner. I noticed his face had turned as red as a ripened tomato.
“Oh please, you’re fine. It’s not your fault,” I say, trying to reassure him. My heart rate slows down. “We’re definitely going to be stuck here for a while, so tell me about yourself John.”
“What do you wanna know?” John asks, stuttering again.
“Anything! Where you’re from, what kind of music you like, anything.”
“Well,” he begins, “I’m from Conyers, Georgia, which isn’t too far from here. Maybe an hour from Atlanta in traffic. There’s not much to do there, so I come down to the city all the time for shows…I bought my ticket to your release party the second they went on sale. You’re my favorite singer.”
“Aww, that’s really sweet, thank you for being here!” I say. “Maybe we’ll both get to the show at some point.” I laugh but I’m not really joking. I check my phone again: 7:32 p.m.
“I’m supposed to be going onstage in about 30 minutes,” I say, hopelessly. Why does this elevator have to keep rattling? I stand up, trying to stop my legs from shaking. I walk over to the elevator doors and start hitting them as hard as I can with my palms. I start yelling “Help!” as I press my hands as hard as I can against the graffiti-lined doors. My fingers are beginning to sting. I read the word “Useless” in thick black sharpie on the silver metal. How ironic.
“Try to stay calm” John says, watching my outburst. “Someone will look for you, and find us.” I sit back down after a few more door-punches, a little embarrassed. I apologize to John and he shrugs.
“Why would you be a fan of mine?” I laugh. “Can’t you see I’m a mess?” I put my hands on my lap, my fingers still stinging, and my nail polish, now, completely chipped away.
“You’re not a mess. You’re beautiful, Hannah. You’re…special.” The boy turns over to look at me and stares at me intently, his big brown eyes widening like two focused camera lenses. His gaze makes me uncomfortable. It’s too serious. There’s something behind those eyes that’s too familiar…I sense something dark behind them.
“Thanks,” I say hesitating.
“No, I mean it.” He scoots over closer to me and tries to touch my hand. I pull my hand away sharply.
“What are you doing?” I ask with a very rough tone of voice. Suddenly my mouth feels dry like sandpaper. The elevator walls are beginning to close in.
“I just want to talk to you, tell you how I feel,” John says, trying to take my other hand. I put it behind my back.
“Please don’t touch me.” I’m trying not to scream. I hear my plead echo through the thick metal box. I’m having trouble breathing as I move back into the wall. Only, it seems as if the elevator has become smaller, as small as a shoebox in the last few moments.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you, please don’t be afraid of me” John says, crying at my feet. His glasses fog up as he wipes his nose with the bottom of his shirt. I look away and don’t say a word.
It’s 7:45 now and I haven’t moved an inch. John is back in his corner, staring at his shoes. I’m shivering, trying to send my dad text messages: Not Delivered!
The lights in the elevator begin to flicker on and off and a shiver goes down my spine. Finally, the bulb goes out altogether. The box is dark and filled with the freezing December air. My eyes
are watering and I can’t help but cry. I sob quietly and lightly brush off the tears from my face, hoping not to engage John.
“It’s going to be okay,” I hear John’s voice say. “We have each other.” I continue sniffling and shivering in the pitch black darkness, praying that I will become invisible. I shape myself into a ball and cling to my side of the wall. From his side, I hear noises and I feel movement. I’m afraid each rattle brings him closer.
Suddenly, I feel his breath on my ear: “Hannah.”
I grab my phone and turn my flashlight on, hitting John on the side of the head. The glasses fly off of John’s face as he falls downward, hitting his head on the hard floor.
“What the FUCK do you think you’re doing?” I scream, shining my phone’s flashlight in his eyes.
“How could you push me down… Do you treat ALL of your fans this way? I thought you were different” he yells back. His hands are over his eyes now, shielding himself from the light and maybe another blow.
“What do you mean by different?” I ask. “You’re scaring me! I told you not to touch me! Why didn’t you listen?”
“You ALSO told me you loved me on Facebook and I believed you! I sent you SO many messages and you didn’t respond to ANY of them. Is that how you treat people you love? Do you know how that makes me feel? I made excuses that you were busy…I knew that we would see each other tonight, and hoped that you’d see that we’re perfect together! We’re perfect together, Hannah!”
I stutter to try and find the right words. “I-I never told you I loved you…I don’t even know you!”
John’s mouth gapes wide open in disbelief, and his expression turns into anger. “You DO know me. I’ll show you.” He pulls out his phone and begins to read to me all of the messages he has sent.
4 weeks ago:
John Darcy: Hannah, I’m your biggest fan and I love you so much. I’d love to talk to you someday.
John Darcy: Goodnight love!
3 weeks ago:
John Darcy: Hannah please answer me back, you told me you loved me. I think we could be a perfect match. Let’s grab coffee sometime?
2 weeks ago:
John Darcy: Hannah!! Why are you avoiding me? John Darcy: Hannah??
John Darcy: I’ll be at your show. Can’t wait to finally see you.
The first message jolts my memory completely – John Darcy. I blocked his account after receiving his “goodnight” note and didn’t give it a second thought. That’s where I knew him from. But I play dumb.
“I never saw those messages,” I say, still shivering. “And I never told you that I loved you.”
“Yes you DID,” John screams, louder than ever before. His yell shakes the box violently. “When your album came out, you posted that you loved all your fans so much, especially the ones who have been with you since the beginning. I’ve ALWAYS been there for you.”
I stand up, still shining my phone’s flashlight on him. “I do love my fans,” I say, not so certain that John should be included in this group.
“No you don’t,” John says, shaking his head. “You don’t give a shit about anyone but yourself.” My body feels numb and I don’t know how to react. I can only manage to shake my head.
“It’s not true? I’m wrong? Prove me wrong Hannah,” John whispers, inching closer and closer to my face. He grabs my wrists, forcing me to drop my phone.
“Please,” I cry. “Don’t do this.”
His face draws closer and closer to mine, until his nose is pressed up against my cheek. His hot breath nauseates me and I turn my head. His lips move down my neck instead. I try backing up further and further against the elevator door but there’s nowhere to go.
I begin to scream. Just when I feel his sweaty palm covering my mouth, the elevator falls quickly and my stomach flips. The lights go back on. John, not expecting the movement or the light, is startled, and momentarily releases his hands. I take advantage of his confusion and kick him as hard as I can. He screams and doubles over in pain. He continues to sob and call my name.
The chime of the elevator goes off as I struggle to my feet. When the doors finally open, I rush out of the box and into the arms of my parents. The security guards quickly surround my number one fan. A part of me feels like I’m never going to feel safe again.
I know one thing for sure: this is going to make one hell of a song.