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The best looks

March 19, 2011

It’s very obvious when someone opens the front door of my apartment building.

You have to wave your little ID card in front of the electronic eye about three seconds longer than you should. You start to put your card away, but you realize the door still hasn’t unlocked. You move the card back to the electronic eye but before it gets there, the door beeps and unlocks.

Crap, you think – I’ll remember this next time.

You open the door – it creaks on its heavy hinges. Because you are clumsy, you push too hard and it slams into the doorstop with a dull thud.

‘Bing,’ the elevator door opens, out of sight, you hear the clacking of high heels as someone hustles inside. You increase your pace – your boots clop against the linoleum.

The person inside the elevator obviously hears you.

You hurry, you hurry – the elevator is in sight, door halfway closed – ‘whoa!’ you say, half-serious, half-wry – you throw your arm forward in hopes that this electronic eye works better than the last one(since if it doesn’t, you lose an arm instead of merely embarrassing yourself).

Lucky for you, the elevator bings again – the door slides open.

You step inside. And standing right in front of the buttons is a sheepish, twenty-something girl with blonde hair. And she’s giving you the look (not the look referenced in the title of this post…a different one). Her smile is shy, hesitant and vulnerable, she brushes her hair behind her ear, she tilts her head, her eyes flicker to meet your gaze for a microsecond and then dart away.

You shake your head, disoriented, as if all girls have the ability to disrupt your concentration with a smile (what kind of benevolent natural selection process would program men that way?).

You shake your head again – you wonder whether you are feeling well. Her hand draws away from the button panel, finger still outstretched. You trace its path with your eyes, and you see it – what she tried to divert you from with her ineffective distraction – it is pointing at the door-close button.

Her eyes meet yours, and they are full of a vicious and unrelenting hatred, hidden beneath the veneer of a vague social contract. You blink, and they are gone, replaced by an indifferent stare toward the front of the elevator.

That is the look. It’s that look that reminds you that there’s a cold-blooded, self-interested Darwinian at the core of each of us. The same look on the face of the man inside a fallout shelter as he listens to the distant thuds of fists pounding on the door from the outside during the apocalypse. The same look that simultaneously ensures his survival and condemns him to hell.

I don’t really know where I’m going with this story. I don’t want to preach some sort of morality.

But do us all a favor – don’t close the elevator on me. I won’t do it to you – I promise.

(I think)


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