I hobbled through the apartment lobby and my mood deflated at the sight of the huge sign on the elevator: OUT OF ORDER. My apartment was on the third floor, an easy walk on a good day – but this was not a good day. My puffy joints burned and shrieked at each movement. I grew weary after a few measly steps; all I wanted was to crawl under a warm blanket with an ice pack and a pain killer. The idea of climbing three floors was not appealing.
I heaved open the solid door leading to the stairs. The shiny surface of the concrete steps welcomed me with an oily grin. The stairs were painted in an uninspiring color, like gloomy clouds gathering for a squall; under the fluorescent lights the paint glistened like ice. I gawked at the white pock-marked walls and metal railing that ran alongside the stairs.
I approached the first step, feeling my foot slide on the dicey surface, and I couldn’t help but wonder what idiot actually thought this type of coating was suitable for a stairway. A chill hung in the air, penetrating my coat; I gripped the metal railing and rejoiced at its icy touch, a temporary relief on my hot, swollen hands. I pulled myself up, one step at a time, careful to place my feet in just the right spot, staying close to the wall in case of a misstep. My legs shook with the effort. I kept my head down to prevent the glare of the waxen walls from assaulting my sensitive eyes and counted each step – on the second floor landing, I rested and performed a tiny victory dance.
I pushed open the door to the third floor and shuffled towards my apartment; as I inserted my key, I heard the whine of the elevator, the rumble of the doors opening, and two residents chattering as they sauntered down the corridor.
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J.G. Chayko is a writer, actress, and international arthritis advocate who’s been involved in theatre for more than 30 years and has published poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction.