A different world swept over me as the elevator doors opened. The bell rang, announcing the return of a memory, and the doors slid apart like the jaws of time, ready to swallow me whole. A minute earlier that morning when I had arrived at the office it had been a Monday, one almost dead and forgotten about before it’d left its cradle. It was decidedly Sunday now, however, as I was lulled into a trans by the music coming from the elevator’s speakers. In fact, it was not just one but many Sundays that I found myself reliving as I mindlessly stepped inside the belly of the elevator, its toothless jaws slamming shut behind me.
I looked at my watch without being able to register the exact time. It was not morning anymore but around noon and I was in another country. I was back in England and it smelled differently there but the trumpet sounded just the same. I was on my own but not alone and soon I was laying down. I had grown a five-day beard, I realised, as I drew my tongue across the teeth I’d brushed not an hour before. It felt as if I had just licked an ashtray. I held a hand up to my mouth and found my breath one of decay as I exhaled and smelled what must have been a long Saturday night still lingering in my throat.
The headache crept over me then, starting from the base of my neck and making its way to my temples. With it came a familiar bittersweet feeling of achievement and regret and then, it struck me, I was back in my old apartment in the east of London, the one on Brick Lane I had lived in many years ago. I yawned, painfully aware on my headache and the taste in my mouth, as I stretched my limbs and realised that I had one foot left standing in an elevator in another time somewhere. I was naked but the tie was still chokingly tight around my neck and the suit jacket prevented me from ever really raising my hands too far up high. The elevator’s polished steel doors projected a vague reflection of me but I was blinded as I rolled over in my bed when the sun ambushed me from that familiar gap between the black-out curtain and the window. It was that same gap, impossible between these closed doors, that had forced me to shun one half of my old and faithful double bed in the mornings. My eyes clenched shut against that ray of day I had so often sought to keep out and I rolled back over on my other side again. Then, despite this morning’s breakfast, I felt a hunger crawling up in me, like one of those you get after having forgotten to have dinner the day before, or from having thrown it up somewhere along the way.
I flew upwards in the lift, passing floors at one per second though it felt as if I was reliving the better parts of the better part of two years. Standing up and lying down I shook my head to rid it of this devilish illusion. I could with effort see my muddled contour in the reflection of the elevator doors as I alone rose up from the street to my desk on the 22nd floor here in another city. But I also smelled the street market below, the one that had taken place each of those hundred Sundays I had spent in that London apartment, young and still at the beginning of my journey. It was raining but also it was not. Summers and winters overlapped as the familiar sounds and smells of those Sunday markets forced their way through the open windows of that flat I had abandoned.
I knew then where I was but no sooner was I vanishing. The smells, the headache and the bed disappeared while I was pulled back into the metallic insides of this time capsule that was about to spit me out a fraction of a minute after it had eaten me. The trumpet was fading out.
I tried to linger but could only hold on for a second, intense and longer than any other. I focused my gaze and thought that I had never left this place, that everything between then and now had only been a dream. Justine was lying beside me in the bed again, covered by my old sheets with her dirty blonde hair spread across the pillows. She lay away from me, unknowingly basking in the sunshine that ruled the gap between my window and the blind. I rose on my elbows, smiling, taking in this room that was now mine once more. But then the trumpet stopped. The trumpet of the street musician that had played that song as many Sundays as I could remember in that place. That trumped that woke me up at noon after often having fallen asleep just hours before, on Sunday mornings in London in that flat just on Brick Lane. That very same trumpet and that very same song which that man would play five times per hour for so many hours each Sunday back then. The very same song I hated when it woke me up but loved for all of that which it reminded me. That very song was fading out and the elevator was slowing down.
The synchronisation was peculiar in retrospect. The song slipped away and in that second, before the next one came on, when it was perfectly silent, the elevator accelerated its deceleration. I was on my feet again when that famous bell was heard and the doors unlocked, about to open. The next song came sneaking in and conquered the atmosphere of that small space that had just taken me back in years and up 22 floors at the same time. My office unveiled itself to me in another distinct melody when I stepped from Sundays into a stillborn Monday, not recognising the song that followed next.