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“So what’s the over under on Brian?” she asked me in the hallway.

“Who?” I asked, nervous about what conversation I was about to have.

“Laundrie. Brian Laundrie.”

“Oh,” I said, “I have no idea. I haven’t been following it.”

“Ah,” she said back. Then nothing. I thought it was about to be an awkward elevator ride up. I hadn’t seen this person in weeks and I couldn’t talk about the thing she wanted to talk about. It felt like a strange thing to even bring up at face-value, but I wasn’t all that surprised. We work in the news industry after all. I scrambled to find something else to talk about, but luckily a former co-worker saw me, waved, and walked over with her team. We all happened to be getting on the same elevator, and the first woman asked the new group the same question as we piled in. She was met with a huge response. “Oh, he’s dead!” “No! I bet you any money he’s in Mexico.” “But what about the human remains?” “I bet you he cut off his finger!” “Yeah, I think he’s dead.”

“I don’t,” I butted in. No one acknowledged.

I listened to the theories until we got to my floor, wishing I could contribute but knowing I may not have been heard. They broke off to another conversation about where the team was headed and what was next for the day ahead. It was quite an eventful trip if you think about it. But my floor was up. I said goodbye as I exited, unsure if anyone said it back. And as I walked back to my desk, it dawned on me that, for the first time, I didn’t need them to say anything back to me. They were having their own conversation and it was fine. They were all going their own way, I just happened to be there. I wasn’t an interruption. I wasn’t anything. We were all just there. And maybe, that’s how it’s always been.

I think a younger me would have dismissed their chatter as stupid, or somehow “going along with the crowd.” The case of Gabby Petito has gripped this nation, turning everyone into investigators hoping to blow this case wide open. As if they hit the button and the doors open, bringing down the perfect solution that descended from the top floor. While there will always be a part of me that doesn’t want to talk about what’s popular, this doesn’t mean what they talk about has no right to be spoken of. People will talk. They’ll ride to their own floors. They’ll have their conversations and I don’t have to be included in each and every single one of them.

But it’s got me wondering if I’ll actually ever be a party to one.

This feels like the weirdest time of my life. I know everyone is going through it right now, but there’s less and less people on my floor who want to go where I want to go. Sure, I’m there to discuss what’s hot in the news, but I’d love to talk about the deep, dark shit that’s only reserved for those closest to you. And it’s feeling less and less likely I’ll get that. I’m not sure what I did to close any of those doors, but as I get older, I’m starting to not care as much. It’s as if it’s all being left behind. I can walk in a group and be on the outside, not wishing someone would turn around and include me. I speak of solo missions a lot. Maybe it’s just time to hit the emergency break and stop riding a lift that’s honestly been going nowhere. I can move on all on my own, and for once, that doesn’t feel like a problem.

As I get older and “time is running out” so to speak, I’m trying to picture what directions my life could conceivably go. I still think I can do whatever makes me happy and create a comfortable living that way. There’s so many different levels I could visit, and there’s less of an urgency to make sure everything happens before I have to get back on the lift. It’s a nice feeling. But the one thing I cannot do is make someone care specifically about me. People are going to go their own way no matter what, so I have to reserve the idea that I could be alone from here on out. I don’t fear that. It actually clicked the other day as I crossed past my half-birthday. I’m on a ride that’s leaving with or without me, and even if I miss one elevator, another is usually on its way. There’s endless opportunities, worlds to be revealed as the doors open. I could be in a full car or just me and one other person. Maybe I’ve actually preferred being alone. No one can bother me, no one tries to make small talk. I can just be me and find other outlets to go deeper and not keep it all laying waste in a stalled car.

I’ll always want what I want, but can live with where my life takes me. You won’t hear any complaints from me anymore. Have fun. Do your own thing. Be detectives and discuss your theories. We’ve all got an invitation to the top floor at the end of it, anyway. But if you ever want to try to sneak away to gain roof access early, that’s certainly something we could talk about.

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