15th Floor: Wait for an empty elevator. Push all the buttons so it stops at every floor to give yourself time to think on the way down.
14th Floor: When a woman gets on and sees the buttons all lit up, blame it on a bunch of obnoxious kids playing on the elevator: “Ridiculous.” Think of your own kids and wonder if you should’ve left your panties on.
13th Floor: When the woman tries to chat with you, avoid this by staring intently at your phone’s lock screen, a picture of your happy family. Wonder what they’re doing right now and think it's probably something fun, because no matter what else you can say about him, your husband’s always been a good dad.
12th Floor: When the woman decides the stairs would be faster and gets off, shiver as the breeze from the closing doors gently lifts your skirt. Become keenly aware of your missing panties. Remember waiting for the maître d’ before your anniversary dinner a few years ago when you surprised your husband by flicking up your skirt just enough to show him your bare ass, and how when you were seated in the corner booth in the dark alone under the white linen tablecloth your husband slid his hand up your thigh and slipped his finger inside you and kept it there even when the server came to take your drink orders.
11th Floor: When an elderly couple shuffles in and the man hesitates before all the glaring buttons, blame it on the drunk businessman who just got off: “Surprised he could even walk.” Think about the man you’re meeting tonight. When the old man chuckles at something the woman said and the two link arms and rest their heads together with the ease of continuous practice, wince from coveting.
10th Floor: When an actual drunk businessman gets on, looks you up and down like he knows you’re not wearing panties and steps closer to you, grimace at the smell of minibar wasabi peanuts and move closer to the elderly couple so like your parents. Wish they were your parents, so they could help you figure things out, but be glad they’re not, because how disappointed they’d be to see you here.
9th Floor: When the businessman’s phone rings and he’s all “gotta take this, sorry” and leaves, breathe a sigh of relief. Try again to think about the man you’re meeting. Wish the old couple would get off already because it’s hard to work up any anticipation with the poster children for marital bliss standing right there.
8th Floor: Consider taking the stairs but decide there’s no way you could make it down all those flights of stairs in these outrageous new stilettos without falling. Imagine your shame if the paramedics had to come, and there you’d be, sprawled in the lobby with your skirt flipped up over your head and your naked ass and venial intentions exposed for everyone to see. Decide against the stairs.
7th Floor: Think fuck this old couple. Force yourself to think about the man you’re meeting: his dark eyes and easy smile, his clever jokes, how he actually listened, how he talked about his wife and his kids, who are the same age as yours, how those things made spending the whole week with him seem safe somehow, because he’s clearly not the skeevy conference-predator type your friends warned you about.
6th Floor: When a couple with one too many small children to manage responsibly gets on, plaster yourself against the rear of the elevator. Flinch when the littlest boy tugs on your skirt to show you his lost tooth. Pray he doesn’t tug harder or there’s gonna be a full moon rising in this elevator. Giggle, imagining your husband’s laughter when you tell him about this. Remember you can never tell him about this.
5th Floor: Feel dirty.
4th Floor: Pay attention to how close and stuffy this elevator is, how loud those kids are, how happy the elderly couple looks watching them, maybe remembering their own. Remember your own.
3rd Floor: Fear that this elevator hangs by the thinnest of threads.
2nd Floor: When the door opens and the Brady Bunch and the old couple get off and the man you’re meeting lurches in with another woman, recognize her from the conference, think her name may be Mary, wonder if she's drunk, watch him tongue her neck, notice his smile when he sees you watching. Recoil. Feel sick. Realize the man actually was a skeevy asshole. Think holy crap think narrow escape because that desperate slut he’s slobbering all over could’ve been you. Forget why you ever got on this elevator. Yearn to tell your best friend all about this but remember that’s your husband. Remember it’s always been your husband. Shove yourself out through the elevator doors before they clamp shut. Drop your stilettos on the half-eaten omelet congealing on the room service tray outside Room 204 and run barefoot to the stairwell.
Julia Tagliere’s work has appeared in The Writer, Potomac Review, Gargoyle Magazine,
Washington Independent Review of Books, and numerous anthologies. Winner of the 2015
William Faulkner Literary Competition for Best Short Story, the 2017 Writers Center
Undiscovered Voices Fellowship, and the 2021 Nancy Zafris Short Story Fellowship, Julia
completed her M.A. in Writing at Johns Hopkins University and serves as an editor with The
Baltimore Review. She is currently working on her first story collection, Reliance, and hosts live,
bimonthly literary readings through the MoCo Underground Reading Series. Follow her at