By Gillian Friedlander
The elevator in 500 Broadway reeks of urine and desperation and sour milk and lost hope.
Its four walls creak and crack with orange rust formed from the dripping tears of the frustrated and angry.
Through all hours of the day it shakes and shudders up and down the crumbling building, bringing a single mom who left four babes and her dignity an ocean away to her dark and cold apartment 5G, and dropping off a haggle of loose lipped- just at puberty Spanglish cussing girls to the lobby door leading to a mine field of possibilities, and bumping an eighty year old abuelo, who clutches to hope like is his last breath and endlessly dreams of watching his daughter raise a baby boy who is treated with decency, to the third floor.
Sometimes a green paper coats the stained door: “Out of order. Haul your tired, over worked, underpaid, unappreciated selves up the stairs.” Inside the broken elevator the souls of those taken by this New World, those lost to this American dream, gather around and swap stories of their hopes. Senor Garcia arrived in ’86, fathered three children, washed dishes for pennies, and died of a heart attack the day before his daughter graduated high school. Ms. Linda arrived in ’97, found safety in the arms of a drug slinging boyfriend, spent too many years in prison for possession of an ounce of grass, and died from a gunshot to the head. Senorita Marquez arrived in ’03 with two children, five grandchildren, and cancer. She died five months later from a lack of medical treatment. They all grasp desperately onto hope for the living they left behind
When the elevator starts up again, I can feel their empty eyes staring from the dirty corners, can feel the wisp of wasted prayers, can smell the desperation and fading hope.
I prefer to take the stairs.