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Ask The Unhappiest Man In The Room

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When Levi got the news, he was heading out of his downtown office. A menacing, slender building with tall windows, surrounded by bigger buildings covered with even taller windows. His cellphone began to vibrate in his pocket as he took the first step onto the elevator. 

There was no thirteenth floor. The numbers skipped right to the fourteenth. The elevator chimed when the doors tapped shut.

Levi rarely answered his phone once he's off the clock. He doesn't answer for anyone. Friends aren't exempt from his much needed 'after hours' of doing fuck-all. Staring at all that paperwork, meticulously reading tiny-font documents, called for a solid eight hours of silent decompressing. 

Truthfully, and he wouldn't deny it, he had been terrible at maintaining his social life. All the time he could've been exercising productive emotional labor was absorbed by his company. Weekends that should've been reserved for dates were given to half-days on the golf course with the company president. Levi hates golf but had been surprisingly good at it (and he better be, having spent so much money on the clubs).

Performing politeness with his clients and secretary while maintaining excellence. It's a miracle he was able to find time to sleep. Hange's smiling face stretched across the screen. The LED light flashed like lightning. He grimaced a little, really grimaced like it hadn’t been months since their last conversation.

"Hello?"  Levi rasped.

"Levi." Hange sounded different but it had been a very long season. She breathed like there was a lot of phlegm in her throat.

"Yes." Levi balanced his cell phone on his shoulder, rummaged through his bag for a his cigarettes. 

The elevator floated down, gliding from the seventh floor, to the sixth, fifth...

"Erwin is dead."

Levi was young when his mother died. He can't recall if anyone had bluntly told him so. If he were to rely on his memory, he only remembers knowing like God had whispered it into his ear while he slept.

And from then on it had been a planted truth he had to deal with, water, and nurture.

But his first response to Erwin is dead was disbelief. What a shitty joke, Hange– he thought to himself. The second floor lit up and the elevator stopped. When the doors opened, no one was on the other side. 

Hange never joked about things like death.

It got so quiet in that spacious elevator, for that long moment, Levi sincerely believed Erwin is dead had killed him. His heart stopped. Hange held on to that windless silence with him. 

Erwin had committed suicide. Levi didn't ask but Hange never spared details. Could never hold water, not even in a tiny teacup. Erwin had driven himself to a campsite two towns over from where they had grown up. He'd lit a small charcoal grill in the back seat of his car, rolled up the windows and sat there alone until he fell asleep to never get back up.

The car ride home, for Levi, was thirty minutes in traffic, white knuckling his steering wheel and choking on the new seed he'd swallowed. 

Erwin drove, approximately, thirty minutes, contemplating what he was going to do. Alone. By Himself.

The first thing Levi did when he slid the keys into the lock of his expensive apartment, he shrugged out of his blazer, immediately dug the golf clubs out the back of his coat closet (when the fuck has he ever needed a fucking coat closet). He snatched the heaviest club and stormed back out the door, standing in his tiny patch of lawn. 

He asked where had time gone? God did not answer him. He never had.

Levi proceeded to hammer his expensive golf club into the dirt. The impact shot up his arm and the hard vibrations made him numb to his elbows. Over and over again until he struck a depression into the earth.

Levi can't remember screaming or crying. He blacked out, but his throat felt sore and dry as though both occurred simultaneously.

When catastrophes happen, some time later, people always ask "where were you during such and such..."

Levi received the news leaving a job he'd grown to hate in some search for himself while himself had never gone anywhere. 

He has been right there the whole time. In one spot. 

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