Elevator You/I Sequence Start
by Barbara Genova

it’s going down 

how many floors? nobody knows for sure, that’s the alleged beauty of it, light display says ninety levels overall 

silver doors stay shut after the signal it’s a relief 

you wait for the music to kick in but it never comes 

capacity: ten, occupants: two 

you can be the psychic you can be the action item 

you can be triangle wired and acid jeans and stare at the doors, safe in the knowledge i’d never call you slim 

you can be white stripe red star, the face, universal heir to the darkest triad of personality disorders and the urge to rule 

less than an hour ago you/i caved a man’s head in with a glass tray grabbed from the flower service table 

wanted to curb stomp him for real but there was no curb, we happened to be on the terrace of the tower hotel where eyeball used to work six-to-dawn shifts for food and sleep opportunities, what you gonna do, setting dictates your actions, you go to war with the army you have, diana ross said that exactly, it’s a famous quote! 

i/you went to war on the guy twitching on the ground 

ripped his sound patch out, threw a painted hand up in the air, spinning 

screamed at the crowd, tell your friends 

we’re coming back in two weeks leave town we’ll be back for each and every one who disrespected us 

and then: come on, honey 

that was for you, finger snap one two 

face wasn’t even scanning the room for escape pods 

eyeball could make a choice there and then, eyeball could still nope the fuck out of a fantasy revenge expedition, but could they 

speed box goes smooth, smells like dog fur, thank you, do not ask about dogs    

face is big on respect 

all those lonely rage-fueled nights spent banging to no avail on the partition panel as the neighbor celebrates his last fertile year, excuse me i’m trying to work here, who in hell wants to get pregnant on the planet, you tell me 

face got the two-week pancake done for the journey – it’s when you stick your head in a plastic bag and the needles go brrr 

was deemed unworthy of the shauna, wrangled the corrine out of a despondent, broke tech dude, so there’s red all over their skin in the shape of stars and stripes 

face hasn’t checked their reflection in any flat surface, not once!, that’s how much trust goes into the process 

we’ll be having a protection layer on the zero floor, allegedly 

some no-name kid, eyeball scouted him outside the strip mall 

asking about day labor he was, you tell me 

how contraband he is already, our chances are not beaming here 

good, said face earlier, i like our chances a lot, and besides, 

you gotta have a human shield 

face is set on vibrate tonight, full body shakes free hand grabs a bangle match and the white noise setting crashes just enough for a happy sunday my friend my dove to sweep in, golden and low, embracing us both 

was it you? (y/n) 

no me neither 

one of us starts singing 

if you’ve done nothing wrong you have nothing to fear 

if you’ve something to hide you shouldn’t even be here 

and it doesn’t take, that last e goes under, dives, gone, wheee 

we got in the elevator booth in a desert plaza, level 43, the service dropped us off after a remarkably sedated drive it must be said, two days ago i/you paid extra to smoke nonstop as calls were made and by cashout time we were semi-good with the driver man, driver man remembered us and wanted us to come back swinging 

music from a tin speaker never mind the blood dust on the seat 

acceptable night for a dive on the boulevard route 

modeled after the circonvallazione interna of cities past, that is correct 

face was still buzzing off the tower stunt – the guy had been asking for it, yes he was!, he had disrespected your girl twice in the span of twen-ty-four hours, called her trash form first then done, so, best believe your girl wasn’t gonna whistle a sentimental tune once her mind shot up in the game – her teeth gleaming black 

eyeball was all about the quicksand awaiting us both 

we stepped off the service car we marched towards the speed cabin, our shadows jumping fierce and tall ahead of us, one hand waving clear in the dark, the better to rip your braces off 

what’s on the zero floor? nobody knows 

people who’ve been down are crazy slippery, they change the subject it’s impolite to be blunt, it’s viewed as a micro-aggression 

still you hear things if you pay attention 

for instance: 

– blockades are there to keep them out, not to keep you in, 

– groups are organized and corralled by guides, there’s a reputational wildness to the border, a true disservice to its native charms, 

– yeah it’s, have you ever been in a parking lot riot, on the mainland?, same vibe, but think bus station,

– you have your masses of supplicants and your bright sides, you’re gonna have to run for the gates if you want to board on time, so it would behoove you to try and look like you know where you’re going, rookies, 

– oh dipende but i saw one man being smuggled out?, they were hiding him in a barrel of all places, he jumped straight into it, a bounce cat toy, 

– i bought this chain in the duty free shop, can’t miss it, they have security outside 

you are now thinking about: all of the above 

where’s your sense of wonder i ask 

ding 

attack stance 

false alarm 

door slides 

no one there 

possible but, what are the odds 

a switch from [huge mistake] to [resentful determination] is settling in your calves, then it’s all the way inside your legs and it’s spreading on your shoulder blades, it’s warm    

desire to rail your last words make a list of demands, sedation 

you crawl up and down the elevator walls here you click and search for the sign of human passage you find scratches and letters keyed in the metal, one of us is a decoy and an arrow 

any special identification mark? we both got plenty 

how would you be recognized otherwise 

if something bleak happens to you 

ain’t nobody in the habit of wearing tags around their neck but: 

one of us, two fingers never fully separated, has an arrow tattooed on the foot, jet blue pointing at the anomaly, and the name kath scribbled on their lower back 

what’s a decoy (you asked once) 

(you were so little you were fun you asked a bunch of questions, cute kids bro

one in two used to wear a bomber jacket with a fine golden snake on the left side 

one in two used to have a stun gun tucked in the pressure band of their underwear 

brush a thumb over your hip bone, is it still there (yes/no) 

you miss stuff sometimes, days skip to years to the break of dawn baby 

face was never that forward when it came to violent ends 

smashing up people in a public venue is actually pretty new 

eyeball stares at the door, allows a shiver to play out, then: 

– I gua-ran-tee you at some point an idle individual is going to rope us both in a conversation about which lifestyle would be preferable, eh, the gift of unnatural vision or the body coiled hissing beautiful – 

face cracks a half smile of gratitude and wetness, it’s an out, 

eyeball hasn’t seen the whole picture, per se, but it’s a massive given, the exiled love to play their rounds of choose in the black, as they roam and justify their blind turns off the beaten path;    

eyeball has to sing a little to get in the receiving zone, did you know that? deejay please pick up the phone i’m on the request line 

since when? since always 

can’t believe you never knew 

speed box goes faster as the end comes closer whoosh 

the blow makes you sway on the spot but you suck it in, you ok?, yeah 

remember, we make a run for it, and remember: we own this 

we are kings in the ruins we are gods to the living 

face licks her lips, cherry tongue swiping her front teeth on the way back, a gesture so familiar and so gone it hits a loose nerve inside your marrow, there’s a memory of her bending in the dark, getting dressed for school, 

fingers reeling in the empty space between us 

middle finger, ring finger 

come on 

honey 

you know you want to.


Barbara Genova (she/they) is the pen name of an actress/writer who got stranded in Central Europe during the first Covid lockdown of many. She’s the author of Dirt City, a monthly column hosted by Bureau of Complaint. Selected credits include Hobart, Strange Horizons, Expat Press, Misery Tourism, FERAL, 433, Last Estate, Anti-Heroin Chic, Witch Craft Mag, The Bear Creek Gazette, A Thin Slice of Anxiety and the New International Voices Series at IceFloe Press. [She can be found on Twitter @CallGenova (almost never) and on Instagram @thebarbaragenova (way more often), and you can, in fact, contact her directly – name dot surname at protonmail dot com] 

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