Derek Thomas looked at himself in the mirror. He looked ridiculous. He was wearing his new uniform, it was a bellhop kind of deal only he didn’t work at the main desk, he operated the elevators. He’d just been hired by the administration of the oh so sophisticated Dakota Apartments. Truth is, he was desperate and so he took the job. He had to, he was practically broke, living in his best friend Raul’s living room. Luckily he didn’t have to wear a hat, but suits had never looked good on him.
He left the bathroom and grabbed his backpack from the beaten up red couch.
“Wish me luck, Mr. Pawton.” He said as he patted the head of Raul’s fat cat. The feline just hissed at him in contempt. Great.
“Hey, Rul!” He yelled, “I’m leaving!”
His short friend called out from his room, “Wait, without breakfast? I was gonna make waffles.”
“Well why didn’t you?” Derek asked him.
“It’s 7. Seven a.m.” Raul said, “You know Daddy don’t wake up before 12.” And that was only because he had work at 12:30.
Derek shook his head, “First, you’re awake right now. Second, don’t call yourself that. Ever.”
Raul scoffed at him, “‘Cause you woke me up, buey !”
Derek smiled, “Goodbye, Raul.” He said.
“Buena suerte!” Was called after him, “I’ll make waffles for when you come back!”
“Just don’t eat them all.” And Derek closed the door of the tiny flat. He had no idea how Rul was gonna make waffles, they didn’t have a waffle maker or dough or anything. Plus, Derek would be coming home late. But then again, waffles are a all day kind of meal.
He waved at Jerry, the cocaine dealer that hung out outside the apartments, and grabbed his bike from where he kept it underneath the steps that lead to the entrance.
“You starting your new job, Thomas?” Jerry said to him through cigarette smoke.
Derek nodded at him, “That’s right. At the Dakota Building, you know?”
Jerry whistled, “Boy, do I knoow. That’s where them fancy rich celebrities live.” He hit Derek’s shoulder, “Hey Thomas, You think you can get me a John Lennon autograph?”
Derek laughed, “I doubt John friggin’ Lennon’s gonna give an autograph to the elevator guy.”
“I don’t know man,” said Jerry after another drag of his cigarette, “Ma cousin Timo, you know Timo right? He met him once like back in ‘73 or somethin’ and said the brother was real nice.” He chuckled, “And not just in the behavioral sense, if you get what I’m sayin’” At Derek’s groan he laughed. “I’m just saying, you a handsome man Thomas, you could score a Beatle.”
Derek frowned at him, “He’s straight. He’s married.”
Jerry raised an unimpressed eyebrow, “So was you, but then you wasn’t no more.”
The other man just shook his head at him, “I’m late.” And he hopped on his bike and started to head away.
“Look man, just try to get me an autograph!” Jerry called, “Timo don’t let me see his!”
Derek waved at him. Yeah sure, like he’d meet the John Lennon on his first day.
John stared out the window as he rocked his son Sean in his arms. He was humming a gentle lullaby to put him back to sleep. Sean wasn’t usually awake this early, and neither was John, but Yoko had come in earlier and woke them both up.
Well, not really. She’d come into the bedroom where John was sleeping and started to go through her wardrobe, not caring about the noise.
“Mother?” John had asked, half-asleep.
Yoko had just hummed in reply. She grabbed a short dress and looked at it in the mirror.
John took one look at her and sighed. She’d only come in for clothes to take back to her ‘work studio’ if work meant ‘sex with young and handsome assistants.’ John was a fool for hoping that day would be different from all the others.
“Are you coming back for dinner?” He asked, knowing there was no way she would come home any earlier than that.
Yoko still didn’t look at him, “I don’t know, John. I’ll see if I have time.”
John scoffed, “Busy day, have you?”
His wife turned to look at him, “Yes.” Was all she said.
They had looked at each other for a minute. Yoko hadn’t looked tired. She was dressed, her eyes looked alert, her mouth a fine line. John on the other hand looked at right mess. Shadows under his eyes, gaunt limbs, hair thinning. She looked beautiful and young, even as she carried on with the Heroin and all that other shit. John had gotten clean of everything except tobacco and the occasional drink and he still looked like shite. No wonder she was having an affair with her young, muscular, and handsome assistant.
John finally looked away and sighed. As he heard his wife keep on packing her clothes, he dared to speak up, “Sean misses you. Wonders why you’re never home.”
Yoko scoffed, “Don’t be ridiculous, John. I’m not always away.”
John rolled his eyes, “Oh, please.”
Without looking at him she continued, “Watch your tone, John.”
He got out of bed, “Why?” He didn’t walk towards her, but made sure his gaze burned her back.
“Because I’m your wife, I know you’re not natural husband material John, but I do wish you would try harder.”
It was like she had driven a dagger into his back, and his mind was overcomed by pain and humiliation. And then anger, he wasn’t husband material? Who was the one fucking the assistant? After the whole May Pang situation, that she had arranged, they had both agreed that, for the sake of their Sean, they would be faithful. And John had been faithful. All those months spent away, even with the kind May by his side, had been total agony. He had begged Yoko to let him come back home to her, and she had kept on insisting that he still wasn’t ready. John now figured that she had had a lover too, and that’s why she wanted John away.
He was awoken by the sound of the bedroom door opening, Yoko was leaving already.
He swallowed his anger, “Won’t you say hi to Sean?”
Yoko stopped, she was silent for a moment and foolish John actually had thought that she was going to change her mind. That she was going to stay in that day and spend it with them, maybe bake some bread.
But all she said was, “It’s too early.”
And this time John hadn’t swallowed his anger, he had walked to the door and slammed it shut. “Look, Yoko,” He said, “You can cheat on me, disregard me, and disrespect me. But don’t you dare, ” He snarled, “Don’t you dare, ignore my son.”
Yoko didn’t back down, she never did. “Your son?” She seemed amused, “You mean the son I carried for nine months? The one I gave birth too? The one I could take away from you any day?” Before a shocked John could respond she stepped closer and continued, “You think they would let you keep him? And even if you did, I am in control of the money, John. I’d leave you without a penny.” She was inches shorter than him and yet she felt like a giant. “How would you support yourselves? Your music?” She laughed, not the kind laugh that used to drive John mad with love, this was a cruel laugh, a taunt. “You, John Lennon, are an old washed-up singer incapable of writing a single hit on your own.”
John blinked and looked at the ground. There was too much to process. He was pushed against the door, incapable of moving his gaze away from her savage eyes. He felt his eyes getting wet but he held the tears back. He wasn’t about to cry in front of her, she had lost that right. Damn him, sensitive fool. As she stared him down with honest eyes, John realized that she was probably right. She could take Sean away, and take all the money he’d earned and put her in charge of with her. And she was also right saying he was old. Who would listen to his music nowadays? A thirty-seven year old ex-drug addict whose nights of entertainment had gone from drinking and dancing himself into oblivion to making up crazy characters and mad adventures to amuse his two year old. Not that he preferred the former over the latter. He’d take Sean any day. But if she took Sean? He’d be lost. Lost and alone. John would probably die if she took him away. And damn her she knew that, and she threatened to do so anyway. It wasn’t the first time, probably wouldn’t be the last. But fuck him if John didn’t believe her every time.
A small hand had raised his chin, Yoko had looked at him and he’d thought he had seen a brief spark of regret. But her tone was firm as she said, “Apologize to me, John.”
John knew he had to submit, he always did. And he hated himself for it. But he wouldn’t risk losing Sean and ending up alone. He’s swallowed and looked over his wife’s shoulder but she had forcibly adjusted his head so that he looked directly at her.
John swallowed again, cursed himself for his wet eyes, and softly whispered, “I’m sorry, Mother.”
Her hand tightened on his chin, all her pity and regret had vanished, “Don’t whisper, John. It’s pathetic, be a man.”
John had cleared his choked up throat. “I’m sorry, Mother.” He had repeated in a louder yet no more stronger voice.
After that Yoko had left, without saying hello to Sean. John swore at himself, maybe if he hadn’t pushed she would have gone into his room and said good morning to him. Idiot.
As she had left the apartment Yoko had called out to him, “And no, John. I won’t be coming back for dinner.”
And John cursed himself for that too. And for the way the door had slammed as she’d left. That was the sound that had woken up Sean, and John was still trying to make him go back to sleep.
He looked out the window and wondered when was the last time he had gone outside. On his own, and beyond the radius of where he went with his walks with Sean. When was the last time he had gone out and hung out with his friends. Or even called them without Yoko either listening in or nagging him about it later. John had no idea how she found out about him calling his friends, but she did and she was very ‘concerned’ about them, she would say. Of course there was a nanny they occasionally hired when both John and Yoko would out, but those hours where always tense for John. He couldn’t help but worry about his son, and so he spent any time he didn’t have to go out with him.
John sighed and decided that he and Sean would go out today. And he wouldn’t even consult Yoko’s book to see if it would be okay for him to do so. Screw her and her stars. He needed to get out.
As he came to this realization, John saw a man riding his bike pedaling like a madman. He almost crashed the thing into Arnold Johnson, a pompous jackass that lived two floors down and worked in either a bank, or the government, or a fancy-ass company. Point is, Johnson was an asshole. John laughed as he saw the rather rotund man fall on his ass in the pavement. The thing hadn’t even touched him! He saw the bike rider (That was wearing a suit??) move his hands in apology but then running before the rich man could retort. John laughed again. He was distracted by Sean making a whining sound. John smiled at him son and sighed. “You’re not going back to sleep are you, Sean-Chan?” His son didn’t answer him, only looked at him with wide eyes.
John smiled a sad smile. If only Yoko could see in Sean what he saw. (He often wondered if this was how Cynthia felt back in the days. And then the guilt ate at him. So he stopped wondering.)
“Come on, let’s get you dressed.” he told his baby.
Derek groaned as he finally took his place on the elevator. He’d been late and he had nearly crashed into some old white dude that looked like a damn orange, and his new boss had yelled at him. The man that had been covering his shift had glared at him with a passion and stepped on his foot as they exchanged places. And everything was so damn tidy. So clean and sparkly and a single doorknob was probably more expensive than Rul’s entire flat and Derek so didn’t belong here but he hadn’t gotten fired and he was going to prove to that self-righteous bell hopper that Derek was not some simpleton that would fail on the first day, no sir nah.
Time went on and his day got better. He met an amazing old lady that looked like she was ready to declare war on the Soviets, their dog, and your mum. She had asked for his name and had then gone into a story about an old lover she had had during the first world war called Dereck. With a C. Fancy.
Then he had met Bob. Bob had been high off his arse. And he had had a pooddle with him. Bob had said that he was a painter. Derek had said that he looked like one. Bob had looked offended. The poodle looked offended. Derek was just confused. Bob had exited the lift without looking away from Derek until the doors closed. Derek was left feeling odd and baffled.
There were a couple of other people, some he was sure he had seen in the papers before.
Then, as the lift doors opened on the 7th floor, Derek’s jaw dropped. John Winston Ono Lennon stood in front of him, holding a baby in a carrier. The singer walked in, seemingly not noticing the look Derek was shooting him. In fact, he had not even looked at Derek, the man seemed lost in thought.
It was only after a minute went by and they still hadn’t moved that John snapped out of his thoughts, “Hey, what’s wrong?” He asked and then turned to look at the operator. And then stopped. Because holy shit, the man was hot. Not in an Elvis kind of way, or even a Bowie. More like hot in a casually ‘I woke up like this’ look, his beard didn’t match the uniform and his blue eyes seemed to electrifying for a regular man. He seemed welt built, about John’s age, and slightly taller.
For a moment there was silence, as the two men looked at each other. Then Derek cleared his throat. “Sorry, sir. I just didn’t expect to meet you.” God that sounded stupid. The man lived in the building, of course Derek was going to meet him.
“Huh?” Was all John said. He had been looking at the man’s hair, it looked incredibly soft, even brushed to the side as it was John could see that it couldn’t possibly be tamed. He wondered if the man was like that as well.
“Mr. Lennon?” Derek repeated as he looked at the singer. Jerry’s cousin had been right. Lennon was ‘nice.’ those cheekbones, oh boy. He was wearing a dark coat with a small pin on the left side, a long blue scarf, his famous round glasses, and a beret that matched the scarf. And he looked incredibly cute holding a baby close to his chest. But Derek waived those thoughts away. That’s right. The man had a baby . He was married. To Yoko friggin’ Ono. And no matter what the rumours said, Derek doubted he batted for the same team as him.
John snapped out of it. Damn it, Johnny, control yourself! He thought. He had a reputation to maintain. He narrowed his eyes, “I asked what’s wrong? I have places to be, y’know.” Liar, John never had plans these days. And Sean seemed content to lie against his chest, in an elevator, with his dad and the hot new guy.
“I apologize.” And Derek looked away from the celebrity and focused on moving the lift. As they were going down, he suddenly burst out laughing. John looked at him like he’d dropped his brain.
John frowned at the man, and moved Sean subtly away. Hot as he may be, this new guy was creeping him out a bit.
Derek saw him move, “I’m sorry. It’s just, this is my first day-”
“I noticed.” John said and regretted it as soon as he saw the man pause and look down. John swallowed, “Well, go on.” Wow this lift was slow….Good.
Derek looked up, “My friend said I was gonna meet you today, and I thought that was crazy. But,” He gestured at the singer, “Here you are.”
John smiled, “Yes sir, I am. Paul McCartney in the flesh.”
Derek chuckled. John thought he had a great smile, had the lift always been this hot?
John’s eyes looked down for a moment in victory and when he looked up again he asked, “What’s your name?”
Derek offered a hand, “Derek Thomas, monopoly extraordinaire and now elevator operator.”
Could this man be more perfect?? John looooved monopoly and he hadn’t played in years. Yoko thought the game taught distrust and selfishness. And it probably did but John was still the best at it. He wondered what that said about him. John shock his hand, “John, as you know.” He looked at his son, “And this here is Sean.”
Derek smiled at the way his eyes lit up as John looked at his son. He was about to speak when they touched down, he slowly opened the doors and the singer walked out with a soft “Thank you.”
As John walked away Derek called out, “See you when you return, Mr. Lennon.”
John looked back at him and smiled, he couldn’t remember the last time he’d had someone waiting up for him, if he’d ever had. “I’ll see you then, Derek.” He took one step away then stopped again. “Oh, and…” Derek had a confused look on. John smiled softly at him, “Call me John.” After that, he walked outside.
Derek let out a breath. Had the John Lennon just told him, an old, divorced, ex-alcoholic loser to call him John ? Holy shit, he loved this job.