This bastard keeps breathing on my neck. We’re all packed shoulder to shoulder, front to back, waiting for the elevator to start moving again. The enclosed space is getting warmer and warmer as our crushed bodies continue to raise the room temperature. I try very hard not to move my hands in any direction for fear of brushing up against some stranger’s legs. But this person standing behind me is hitting the same spot where my neck meets my back with their breath over and over again. These humid particles of unwanted warmth keep spreading out, then dissipating just in time for the next volley to land. It’s coming straight from a mouth breather…hehh…hehh…hehh…at least, I imagine that nose air would feel different. Drier, perhaps.

Someone farts, because this purgatory is just gearing up. Everyone shifts restlessly as the stench reaches us in waves. Some even try to tuck their noses into their shirt. That’s tougher to do for the ones wearing button-downs. Someone in a distant corner mutters “come on, really?” but the rest of us are not brave enough to speak. Or we just recognize the uselessness in doing so.

There’s something about being too close to strangers. Packed in like this, it is easy to imagine we are a herd of livestock, just mounds of flesh to be consumed. By whom? I can’t answer that. Or I don’t want to. The implications would be too much. I shouldn’t let my mind wander in such ways.

The man to my right is beginning to fidget. I can hear his clothes rustling, can hear his knuckles crack as he moves them back and forth. He probably isn’t the only one who is getting claustrophobic. I feel a wave of heat emanate all over my body, and I am suddenly concerned about the amount of carbon dioxide I am breathing. Then that same breath hits my back again…hehh…hehh. I clench my fists. I want to go ballistic, to turn around, pushing everyone in my vicinity, and tell whoever this is to back the hell up. But instead, I squeeze my fists tight, telling myself that impulse, and the growing feeling of fever spreading over my body, is just my own nerves talking.

There is a lurch from the elevator, and we all gasp, some people actually clutching each other, expecting the whole thing to free fall. But it does not. Instead, it begins to head upward. We all give sighs of relief, and the air-conditioned air of the office that hits my face when I step out onto my floor has never felt fresher.