A few days ago, as I was walking in the halls of the twelfth floor office I work in, I saw a hero coming to the elevators. Tall guy, trim, mid-twenties, blonde hair just a little too long, and a tailored suit that suggested money, taste, and the Nordic body of my dreams underneath. Far too young for me, of course, but the very image of the male lead in the story I am writing. And then he jabbed at the elevator buttons, both up and down.
“What a jerk,” I thought. If he wants to go up, and he’s pressed the down button, he’ll be interrupting the ride of people on their way down. Maybe he thinks he’ll get an elevator faster, but requesting both directions won’t do that. He’s arrogant and ignorant, and certainly no hero.
By the time I got back to my desk, I decided I was being too harsh. I’ve known people who always assume the worst, and it’s not a pleasant way to live. When you go out for dinner, you assume the cook is using second rate ingredients, the waiter is trying to overcharge you, and the babysitter is probably setting the house on fire. It tends to spoil the evening. Life is much happier if you look for the good.
Perhaps my hero made a mistake. He’s human – he forgot he actually needed to go down, or he forgot what floor he was on. It hasn’t been easy for him – thanks to his wealth and position, when he makes a mistake people assume he’s arrogant. As a result, he’s actually quite insecure and shy, which unfortunately just makes him seem even more arrogant.
Perhaps he changed his mind. He was going to go up to meet his lover, and then decided it really was all over between them, and he should just leave. Or maybe he was only leaving to pick up flowers, and would be back in twenty minutes to beg forgiveness – or make a random act of love. Or he was tempted by his mistress, but only for a moment. Sure, she had said she’d be happy to see him anytime, and having just been fired, it was tempting to fly into her arms for comfort. Later, after they made love in her corner office over looking the city, lights like stars twinkling above but everything was upside down with her, it would be awkward. He’d wish he’d never come, and she’d revel in her power over him, making him feel as small as when she’d publicly snubbed him at the grade eleven school dance, as he wondered why he couldn’t resist her. But he could, and that’s why he pressed the down button, a small victory, but one to celebrate.
Maybe he’s not distracted by a woman, but he did just get fired. He’d be stressed and nervous, and not paying attention to which elevator button he pressed. He needed to get out of the suddenly oppressive building. Despite the air conditioning and his summer weight suit, he was hot, mostly with the shame of losing the company he had founded six years earlier. Sure, the deal had made him a millionaire several times over, not to mention a spot on the town’s most eligible bachelor list, but to him money was just a tool that allowed him to build quality senior’s residences, providing the elderly with affordable dignified homes. He’d wanted to branch out into accessible housing for people of all ages, but the deal had soured and crooked partners bankrupted him and the firm. His last attempt to save it had backfired, when the woman he’d dated for months turned out to be the sister of a corrupt banker. He’d spend the weekend building a home for the Habitat for Humanity program, as it made him feel closer to his late carpenter father. The loss of money didn’t bother him as much as the broken trust. He’d swear to be more careful, with his money and his dating. Monday he would start over, because that’s what heroes do.
I’m not just looking for the good. I’m looking for the good story, complete with a happy ending.