Contemporary Fiction

This story contains themes or mentions of mental health issues.

If you look for things you will never find them. Especially if you keep looking. The trick is not to look for them, and then you will find them.

Sounds deep, doesn't it? I am always looking for wisdom. And that may sound banal, but at least less banal than saying that everyone must do their bit to save the planet, but that it won't look pretty. I do not understand such a sentence.

I spend my days writing stories. Well, what am I saying, days? I mean my free time. And I intend to write children's stories, but I don't think my stories are suitable for children. Or maybe they are. I don´t know.

When I start writing, it is always my intention to write a fairy tale or a fable. Maybe a parable. But somehow, I always end up with my crazy dad, who used to beat the living XXX out of me. He took pleasure in that.

Please don't look so upset. I know people think you shouldn't talk about your parents like that. Whatever.

This is what my childhood years looked like. And my childhood years were not suitable for children.

I think I'm better at reading books than writing them. But books are so expensive.

I work as a cleaning lady. I pick up dirty underpants, and tissues full of snot, wipe toothpaste off the sink, wipe off white powder and line up remote controls. I clean refrigerators and banisters. And while I´m doing all that I am making up poetry in my head. I can never remember afterward.

I am a woman of the world, a working woman of the world. At least that is how I like to see myself.

Don't think I didn't see that crooked smile.

Where was I? Right, my day job, now I remember.

A few of my clients. Wait a minute: can I say that? Or should I say, employer? Who cares. Whatever the name of the people I work for; some of them are students. Oh, you're giving me a strange look again. Students hire cleaners too these days. They make me a key so I can let myself in.

Usually, I am alone because they are not at home. I don't mind that at all, because I always have my little radio with me. That device knows exactly which channels I want to hear. I like music from the eighties. It always makes me feel like I am still young.

Today, most cleaners come from behind the former iron curtain. No offense! They are usually very intelligent people. I say that because people always assume that cleaners are low-skilled, or that you start cleaning when you really can't do anything else because you don't have any skills. And we have a very low status in society. And one thing is certain: we are paid very little.

But luckily, I'm never short of work. Not that I'm such a good cleaner. But I don´t want want to sell myself short; I do my job as best I can. I do the baseboards and light switches. I do all those things that most people don't have time for, or to be honest, don't think about. I have always hated dirty light switches. Maybe that's why I pay so much attention to them.

I do ironing as well, to bring in an extra penny. Shirts mostly.

I do honest work. And hard work!

In the evening I always fall asleep like a log from exhaustion. As a writer, of course, I think a lot. Sometimes I trust my thoughts to paper. Most of the time it's depressing, although I try so hard to make it interesting.

A few years ago, I had an employer who came from Italy. I don't know if he's still alive. He was an obsessive shoe collector. I could never remember his name. He didn't mind. I always cried when I was cleaning at his place. He had almost nothing. Well, the basics were there: a bed, a stove, a TV, and a small refrigerator. And dozens, if not hundreds, cardboard boxes crammed full of shoes. Italian designer shoes. And what I remember best; there was only a single picture on the wall. A yellowed polaroid photo of himself as a boy in Italy. He looked so good, and carefree. Tanned and barefoot. I've thought about it so many times. how could such a handsome boy, from beautiful distant Italy end up between countless cardboard boxes filled with shoes, halfway across the world? I did not understand. I didn't like looking at that picture because it always made me cry. That handsome child from back then, now in that measly flat. I think I must have been a detective in a past life. Like Miss Marple. I'm always looking for clues. The problem is I never know what the crime is.

I still think of him often. Not because he was such an extraordinary man, but because his stories were always so interesting. While I was cleaning, he told me his whole life story. However, there were things he never talked about, so there were quite a few holes in his story. While I was scrubbing the urine stains around the toilet, or sorting out his stockings, because if I didn't he was just walking around with two different socks, he was spreading his life out for me. I believe I was the only living soul he could speak to.

As I said, he didn't have that many things. And what he had was either broken or unusable. He had a vacuum cleaner that had given up the ghost twenty years ago. There was always a burnt saucepan on the counter. A rolled-up rug rested against a wall, the design of which I'd never seen, and he had an old set of videocassettes, all still wrapped up. The whole set. James Bond movies I believe they were. And all still wrapped, honestly, all twelve pieces or so.

There was a shelf in his bedroom. Don't ask me why, but I found that so degrading. Sounds crazy, doesn't it? Could be. But that shelf was full of fitted sheets for a double bed. Far too big for his small single box spring. They always slipped off. Oh, I almost forget something: there was also a bag in the kitchen. Like one of those ten-kilo bags. Long overdue, but I couldn't throw it away. That is food for the mice and the moths he justified. I've asked him so many times why he never got rid of anything, and he always gave me an answer that contained great wisdom.

-"If you never get rid of anything," he would say very philosophically and almost solemnly in that lovely Italian accent, "you'll always have something that floats to the surface one day and mock you."

And then I burst into tears again.

In time he began to grow sad. He was placed in another house by social services. And so it came to pass, that he had to let go of something old: me!

 That was that! And as the adage goes: life has to go on. I started placing advertisements in the newspaper to find work. Usually, this results in one-time jobs. But, I have to take what I can get.

And so I once had a biologically hazardous job: a very old dirty carpet, 

a refrigerator that hadn't been cleaned in forever, and a toilet that I still can't find words for. But the owner was such a lovely man. Everyone's friend and very exuberant. He didn't care that he lived in a shithole. He radiated such joie de vivre. When I asked him about the dark stains on the carpet, he shrugged his shoulders with a smile and said very cheerfully that those were souvenirs of a well-lived life. Messy but happy; you have those too.

They were not all happy in their mess, not by a long shot. Not that I was always able to do in-depth analysis while I was working.

I often think of an old lady who was seriously ill and lived in complete chaos. She was cared for by her husband. When I came in in the morning, I could hear her coughing up her insides in the bathroom. Then she called for her husband. The man had such sad and tired eyes. On the wall was a framed picture, one that showed how beautiful she had once been, long before illness began to plague her.

Under her bed were all kinds of things: clothes she had never worn, new and still wrapped. And old magazines in a plastic bag: porn magazines. I always pretended not to see.

I had another who lived on the top floor of an apartment building with no elevator. The very first time I went there to clean it didn't go well at all. Dei man had all kinds of collections. By the way, did you know that Dr. Freud also collected all kinds of things? But I'm sure the poor woman who cleaned the office of that cigar-smoking neurotic probably thought more of his collections, along the lines of the hoarding of nick-nacks.

Well, where was I again? The highest floor. He had quite a collection of barbie dolls. Well, not Barbie, but her boyfriend. I don't remember his name. He had about a dozen of them. I just found them creepy. They all wore an orange jumpsuit. That reminded me of serial killers.

Anyway, that apartment had a nice balcony, and I decided to get some fresh air and enjoy the nice view. Suddenly that man stood behind me, and my dear, how angry he was. I was terrified. All that swearing and cursing because I forgot to dust those scary barbie dolls. That saddened me. He was still stuck with one foot in the past. What a lonely life. A spotless apartment, a nice view of the whole city, with only a bunch of barbie dolls in ugly jumpsuits to stare at. Yes, I always cried when I left there too.

Do you know where I like to work the most? In homes of young couples. If they're still in love, I mean. They always leave love notes for each other: honey don't forget to take your lunch or something like that. You feel the love in the air. New love, before rot, begins to gnaw at that shiny newness. Then you will only find notes that say whose turn it is to carry the garbage out.

And I hate houses where there are no books. There's a song that says, don't ask me who sings it, that if you come into a house where there are no books, don't fuck them! Not that I would. Fuck them, I mean. I'm too old for that. Not that I'm going to tell you how old I am. You can forget about that.

But a house without books is a self-destructive thing. Don´t you think so?

Last week I had an interview for a job, and they asked me if I liked to clean. What can I say to that? It's not a passion of mine.

I am a cog in the wheel. That's how I see it.

There is always chaos. I make sure that there are fresh sheets on the bed, that the toilet is clean, and that you can eat off the floor. Or fuck.

My own life has always been chaotic. So, I started cleaning. At other people's houses.

Oh, and to answer your question: yes! My flat is a mess too: who wants to clean when they come home from work?

And now, I'm going to try 

to write a children's story again...

February 15, 2023 19:34

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