The guy, he’s just a guy, right? A guy in the elevator kiosk on Fifty, a building in NYC, Midtown. A suit guy, gray and white with a slash of red down the middle. Shiny black shoes. A face and some hair. Manicured fingernails and hands that have just enough knuckle and just enough bulging veins to be masculine. Scent of…what? Something expensive and subtle, musk and flowers and fruit, just at the very edge of noticeable. An accent that’s every suburb in the U.S. You know that he goes home to an apartment that’s furnished in the kind of way that would work for a catalog shoot, you know that his girl is desirable in that I’m-a-business-woman-but-fuck-like-a-hooker fantasy kind of way. You know that he drives his car from underground garage to underground garage and that valets spend almost as much time behind the wheel as he does. You know that he meets other suit guys for cocktails after work. You know that he drops the name of his school whenever he can. You know that he’s been slotted & tracked, destined from birth for an eventual promotion to VP in charge of whatever, a corner office, a giggling secretary, alcoholism, passionless affairs, stock options, retirement to a house on Cape Cod and a condo in Miami. He’s maybe five years older than me, and he’s done.

The package, it’s a package. It’s brown. It’s paper, but not an envelope. A wrapped box, maybe, but it doesn’t have the rigid feel of cardboard. Not stiff, but not spongy. Just there. Really. That’s it. There. It’s about so big by so big, comfortable to carry, but you know that you’ve got it under one arm. It’s not heavy, not light. Something that won’t make it hard to run up a flight of stairs or open a fire door. Would probably fit in my messenger bag. It’s whatever. It’s a package. I’ve carried hundreds. It’s just a package.

There’s the handoff, in the elevator kiosk on Fifty, the suit to the polo shirt. “Hey, how ya doin’?” Handing over the clipboard, the tag ready to be filled out and signed. “Good, good, sorry about the delay.” A scritch-scratch with my ballpoint, destination point and that signature, the signature which is God in this business, jotted along the dotted line. “No problem, that’s the job, right?” Dry little chuckle, the whitecollar giving props to the bluecollar as the clipboard comes back to me. I could strangle him to death right here, clock him in the head with the hard edge of the clipboard and send him to his knees, leap on him, bury my thumbs into the soft hollow of his neck, an inch above that red slash of a tie. Strangle him to death in front of all the security cameras and they’d never stop me in time. Catch me on the way out, sure. Blocking the stairwells, locking the lobby doors. Rentacops pounding leather through the maintenance hallways, hellbent on earning their minimum wage plus 10% bringing down the psycho who just took out a promising young exec from the heralded firm of Whomsoever & Whomsoever. A blurb on page six of the Metro Section, twenty seconds and a couple of soundbites on the 11 o’clock local news. My shaved head and leering grin getting marched out of the courthouse in an orange jumpsuit. Would I be a force, in prison? Would I find previously untapped reservoirs of internal steel and sheer brutality? Or, really, would I just be one more ugly bitch traded for a rock of crack and a handful of stale Marlboros?

The handoff, and there’s that package, just a package, into my hands from his and all the legal paperwork in the world, all the screaming and whining and arguing, all the denial and tantrums and outright lies in the world won’t refute that I took it of my own free will, with a smile on my face, completely uncoerced, absolutely of my own volition. Just like hundreds of other times. That’s the job, right?

And I’m stepping into the elevator and suit guy, with his woefully unmolested throat, is buzzing into the security door with his white plastic keycard, I’m glancing down at the tag, seeing where I’m going. And the doors are closing, and my eyes are bugging and I’ve got just the time to say it before the suit escapes into his safe, locked inner sanctum.

“Fucking Pennsylvania?

And maybe it’s just me playing tricks on me, but just before the doors click shut, somewhere there’s a dry little chuckle. The elevator hums, and I’m descending.


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