Night broke into a dreary day on the Ninth Floor. The recycled air was heavy with lament. Laurette stood at her window, staring through chicken wire and glass at the smoke stack.
The knock came abruptly on her door, but it didn’t startle her. It didn’t startle the smoke.
“It’s time for lunch!” said the cheery nurse, her voice bouncing of the plaster walls.
Laurette walked down the hall and ate her cold lunch, spaghetti colder than earthworms. She returned to the smokestack and stared. Another knock boomed into her room.
“It’s time for group!” said a different nurse. It didn’t matter.
Laurette kept staring at the smoke, as she was beckoned toward the meeting.
There was a woman playing guitar, and a room full of people who weren’t listening. The woman strummed and hummed a tune that could offend no one. Laurette glanced at the clock, then at the woman playing guitar, and back at the clock. The second hand flickered and climbed counter clockwise toward noon.
The woman was strumming her guitar backwards but Laurette didn’t say anything, she just kept staring, minding her business like everyone else in the room. She knew she couldn’t say anything because she was on the Ninth Floor. Time doesn’t reverse itself, not for anyone else.
When the guitar finished its strumming, the woman packed her things and took the elevator to the ground floor. Laurette was escorted back to her room.
She walked over the threshold of her dwelling, running her fingers along the plaster until she reached her window.
She stared through the glass-encased chicken wire and watched the smoke stuff itself back into its own column.