Elevated

Michele Wong

Magnificent. We were on top of one of the world’s highest buildings. A deep breath in as we viewed the city skyline, Legoland with bits of blue jello.
“I don’t know,” she said.
Over 16000 feet, and she was telling me this.
“What are you saying Grace?”
“I don’t know. Maybe we rushed into things.”

It’s a second marriage on both sides, except she has adult children, and I have an aging Alsatian. There is a tremble in her voice. I feel sick. Maybe it was the couscous salad or the lamb souvlaki. It tasted off. But what do I know? Here, they spice things up, both in urban landscape and cuisine. But the drinks, the Fine Tipple with grapefruit—they know their alcohol, an odd strength given most of the population aren’t privy to drink.

We get back in the elevator. Elevators run on cables, but not the super-tower ones. These run electromagnetically. We were literally levitating via oversized magnets. Slipping through air like butter.

There’s a desert tour that Hamad has arranged for us. It’s my second one, but he did this for Grace. He knows we are more than business associates and likes that Grace’s grandfather was a rabbi. Still can’t recall--Hamad had taught us the word Nesma when a light breeze swept by during one of our open-air lunches. I had excitedly told him that it was similar to a Jewish expression that Grace’s grandfather would say to her and that she’d say to me when we first dated. But Grace had gotten angry and said, “That’s not it. You never listen!”

The phrase. What was it then?

Hamad laughs at our little tiffs. He likes contrasts. He’s a good guy. My one business contact who came through, and now our company was supplying his. A foreign feat for the books. One more contract like this and we were set for the quarter.

BOOM.

What the—.

There’s screaming. Crying. I grab Grace. She is shaking. BOOM again. An explosion? There had been rumours about a possible sabotage. The elevator vibrates. Then we go down. Down. Free fall. More than a heart should sustain. I am still holding her. On the observation deck, she asked for a trial separation. A terrible ask in a beautiful place. The surrounds seem jaded I said, so is our love she replied. Funny. Funny how I can hold her in the face of death when I couldn’t elsewhere.

We are lesbians in a Muslim country. We had to act like sisters. Who fought a lot. And stayed in untenable spaces of silence. Though I opened the car doors. And she cooked. And we grasped each other in the blue light of lust.

More screaming. What else can you do in a free fall? Take a deep breath. Stop the blowback of rejection. You are going to die for gawd’s sake.

Do I tell her how she’s made me feel of late? 50 seconds to parse life’s misperceptions. Do I tell her that the day she spent with her twins and “forgot” to invite me for their luncheon on a long labour day weekend, which I had booked time off, was downright inconsiderate? That rearranging and posting our then cold but impeccable looking dinner on Instagram makes hot tajin a moot point? And that her tasteless lace-up top was never lost,
just a little misplaced?

40 seconds. I smell lilies. The bouquet I bought her when I proposed. Cates Park. A liquid sunset. Her eyes bled love and I caught every tear.

Should I tell her I know about Helen? Had read her secret texts that one time Grace stepped into the shower and left her phone on her Facebook page.

Helen, my former running partner and old college roomie. Did they exchange numbers during one of our picnics? They had been secretly texting for four months.

One I loved as my sole friend, the other as soul mate. In the grand scheme of things, does possession matter, when all is dust, when we three have all loved?

The air filled with dying breaths, is suffocatingly warm.

Going to miss speeding down the highway along the Fraser. The caress of cold in the midst of summer. There is something binding about rivers and lemon orchards. They fill you, in flow and fragrance.

30 seconds, but whose counting? The literature was right. Time really slows down when your light is about to be snuffed.

What are the odds of going down like this? Of a Singapore introvert falling in love with a vivacious Calgary femme in a Californian business conference? Her Jewish knack of budgeting and my Asian knowledge of affordable resources won our mock project team first prize. We joked about Don Cherry and derivatives. I thought laughter and numbers don’t lie. I know—I stereotype too much.

20 seconds.

At least Grace will be in the paper tomorrow. That’s what she’s always wanted. A headline in the Vancouver Sun, a hashtag on Twitter. #InfluencerGraceFelltoGrace #TragicElevatorBeauty.

No more karaoke with Mother, her nurse arms fortified yet gentled with a thousand baby bums. One thing. Should’ve told her she did a cracking job. Cracking for a single mother with three kids and half a mortgage. Grace adored the tropical sun. The moon is closer at the equator. Since California, we have seen six different moons together. Should’ve sat in the patio last night instead of watching CNN during dinner. Regret is angular, yet blunt to the tongue.

Helen—four months! We’d only been married for six.

15 seconds. Think nice things.
Won’t have to pay Canada Revenue next year.
No more afternoon traffic. Unless they drive cars up there.

The desert has these flowers. They dot the brown sand like yellow raindrops.

Neshama Sheli! I look at Grace and yell this. Someone takes my hand. I hope it is hers but at thirty-two feet per second, any hand is my lover’s.