Elevator Lady by Vincent Ternida
2019 CBC Short Story Prize longlist
Vincent Ternida has made the 2019 CBC Short Story Prize longlist for Elevator Lady.
Vincent Ternida is a screenwriter, filmmaker and author. He was a finalist for Writer's Guild Canada's Diverse Screenwriters West and a second rounder for Austin Film Festival's screenplay competition in 2013. Ternida's first novel, The Seven Muses of Harry Salcedo, was published by Asian Canadian Writer's Workshop. His short story Not All Bears Drink Mead will appear in Immersions: A Speculative Fiction Anthology, which will be released later this year.
Entry in five-ish words
Aspirations evolve as time passes.
The story's source of inspiration
"I took a trip to Japan and met old friends and acquaintances from different points of my life. I met a high school friend who envied Canada's liberal use of marijuana as Japan's narcotics laws are strict. I met a former love interest years after her ESL course in Vancouver and now she lives in Tokyo as a translator. I met a college acquaintance who immigrated to Japan and also sponsored her nanny to now take care of her children as she pursued a career in the video game industry.
"I felt there are so many intertwined lives in a vibrant city such as Tokyo and how my brief visit sent ripple effects that reminded my friends what dreams and ambitions we had in the past and how everything has changed because of our current lots in life. My high school friend wanted to be a successful DJ but now he works in customs and lives in Yokohama because he has two children. My lady friend dreamt of returning to Vancouver but she cannot afford it because of debt. Though my acquaintance felt content with her lot in life, she still struggled to assimilate within the Japanese community. She feared that her children would have a completely different set of values as she had. It all intersected when we ran into an elevator lady and my acquaintance wondered how [the elevator lady] ended up having this job and what her future held.
"I wrote the short story during a layover at Shanghai's international airport. I chose a time of the protagonist's life where she felt stuck, where dreams from her past now felt unreachable, complicated, and even absurd because of her current situation. She wondered what it would be like if she could just be the party girl Natsuki who was wild in Vancouver or the naive Natsuki who had a simple dream of being an elevator lady.
"We are the sum of our choices. When times are good, I feel we don't think about our past choices. However, when times are uncertain and we're in a situation that we don't like, we tend to blame our past selves and unfairly curse our past goals. These days, the world moves hyper fast and we fall into our own personal traps within our personal bubbles. This short story serves as a window in a life of someone in a time of great uncertainty as she questions her old dreams and old identity in relation to her unfulfilled present."
Natsuki always had two dreams she would recall: One was to leave Japan and travel around the world. In her 32 years, she made it as far as Vancouver and then she came hurtling back after three years. The other was to be an elevator lady. She felt the a calling on a grocery trip as a child. Dressed in a fitted green uniform, the elegant attendant skillfully assisted traffic into four elevators. The attendant's professionalism, grace, and confidence inspired Natsuki to aim for the dream throughout childhood.
Around lunchtime, Natsuki received a phone call as she dressed Yui, her three-year-old daughter. It probably could be another insurance agent. To her surprise, it was Hiroki, a past she would like to forget.
"Hey Nat, been a while," Hiroki said in straight English.
Natsuki froze, she didn't know how to reply. She was a translator for a mobile phone game company for years. Though she dealt with the intricacy of translating the English language, when it came to personal matters, she almost always found herself tongue tied. Why would Hiro call me now?
About the 2019 CBC Short Story Prize
The winner of the 2019 CBC Short Story Prize will receive $6,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts, have their work published on CBC Books and attend a two-week writing residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. Four finalists will each receive $1,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts and have their work published on CBC Books.