Aloysius looked down.
Thirty-two stories below him, he could see the ground. Infinitesimal human beings, greedily scrounging for something that would fill their aching souls, crowded the sidewalks. Alongside them, a river of cars square-danced their way through the streets. A faint murmur of honking could be heard from Aloysius’s vantage point, though the sound was dimmed by the steady rush of wind.
He held his balance, his life, by the railings. One hand plastered to the metal, the other carefully wiping the glass in front of him. He had only begun his work, the scorching sun just barely yawning at the open sky. Aloysius wanted nothing more than to drop down to the ground, find a park bench, and sleep for a couple hours. The shade below him looked so tantalizing, his fingers began to itch towards the pulley.
The window made an awful cry as the wiper met the glass, and he swore, remembering that his headphones had been left on the counter at home.
He never cared much for what was on the opposite side of the window, but today the wind whispered in his ear. Look, it told him, tell me what you see.
Inside was an office. Bare, and devoid of any decorations, his immediate reaction was disappointment. The scandanavian-esque architecture of the furniture suctioned any sign of life from the room. A thin desk, (an ugly one, he noted to himself) was pushed to the far left wall. A sheath of papers barely covering the nakedness. Next to it an (orange? He couldn’t tell through the tint) couch. Other than those two minimal pieces, the walls remained desolate.
So unimaginative, he scoffed.
He stayed crouched outside of the office, due to the stubborn bird feces that clung to the corner, and to his sudden curiosity in what inhabited this dull space. The longer he stood, however, the more unyielding the mess became. The odor began to accumulate under the blistering waves of the now direct sun. Once the last remnant was scraped away, he stood. Aloysius then noticed a movement inside.
A woman, around the age of twenty-five, was stepping inside. Her left shoulder was visible to him as she pushed the door open. It was when she turned to face him, that Aloysius drew a sharp breath.
She was carrying a baby on her hip. It was fast asleep, though she maneuvered easily despite the extra weight. She was palming a phone on the other hand, her face twisted with worry. She then walked towards the couch, and laid the baby on its back. The woman watched the infant for a moment- Was it curiosity? Infatuation? Affection? He couldn’t tell, as her back was turned against him.
She shuffled her way towards the desk that he had once insulted, and sat down. The call was extended for just a mere minute. She hung up, and set the phone in front of her.
The woman began to cry.
More than cry, her chest heaved, and her body rolled back and forth in waves of utter physical torture.
It looked as though she was having a seizure. She was convulsing, tears ladling out of her eye sockets, hands shaking as she unsurely clutched the end of the desk. Aloysius’s heart dropped.
How could he have been so cruel? It felt invasive to stand and watch, so he abandoned what was left of the bird's excess, and pulled the rope to lower himself down.
The narrow lift, barely balancing Aloysius and a bucket near his feet, rolled into place in front of the next window. This window was cleaner, exempt of any morsels of bird droppings.
Taking a deep breath, he reached for his instruments, and began the same process.
This time, however, he peered inside of the window curiously. It was as if a different world was spread in front of his eyes. The room was cluttered to the brim, just barely allowing a chunk of space for him to gape through. His gaze followed what he could see, myriads of books piled atop another in rolling blankets of paperback novels. Dispersed among the piles of junk were rare pieces of art. Miniature sculptures, or dusty mirrors cracked along the edges.
He pulled away. He could no longer integrate himself into these people’s lives, no longer become emotionally invested in their daily dramas. He was a window cleaner, nothing more.
Hours passed, and his arms melted into mechanical appliances, a slave to his numb brain. His feet became one with the lift, and he no longer paid attention to what was inside the building. Once the day was done, and he had just about collapsed of exhaustion, he peered one last time through the edifice of the floor he had landed on.
Inside, he saw nothing.
The walls were gone, the floor was gone. Everything was white. Aloysius’s head began to throb, his eyesight filled with reactive tears. Instead, as he stumbled backwards, he caught a glimpse of himself.
He was silhouetted against the landscape of Paris. The city spread behind him, turrets of old brick pummeling layers of smoke into the air. The Eiffel tower, just to the west, sitting underneath a lone cloud. The entire view was filled with city, miles upon miles of crumpled buildings, a wash of beige and empty windows.
He then focused back on himself. A man, in his forties, holding a brush and bucket. Knighting an orange vest, and a helmet far too big for his narrow, drooping face. He saw something else too. A kid, just around ten, sitting beside him and holding a toy car.
“Can we go to the zoo today, Daddy?”
“Not today, mon fils.”
The boy disappeared into the air, his eyes still aching in Aloysius' brain.
And then Aloysius began to cry. His reflection was something he didn’t even recognize beyond his uniform and peppered beard.
Wiping his tears, Aloysius swiveled to view the street across from him, and looked into the furrow of a building that resembled the one that he clung to. He caught a view of a lone man sitting in a rocking chair through a window on the third floor.
And that man turned right back to look at him.