The newly cleaned floor squeaked as I drearily dragged my feet to the next room. The mop in my hand was slowly getting heavier. Every minute I held that horrible mop, gravity pulled it down more and more. When I got to the next room, I flopped the stringy mop head onto the ground and began the forward and back motion that made up 75% of my life, 100% of my work life.
I am a night janitor, though I hate to admit it. The college I was constantly cleaning was empty and lonely by the time my shift started. The most fun I have had during my job is to stand in the center of a room and try to imagine who had stood there and what words had been exchanged at that very spot. I could never really know, because by the time I got there all the voices were gone. All the bodies roaming the halls that colleges should have were not there. It was gloomy.
Hardly at all did it seem like a college without college boys and girls there. The pure silence made it seem more like a cemetery than a school. All of this silent emptiness got me feeling bad for myself. How had I become a janitor? Why can't I be a doctor like my friend Summer? Why am I not a teacher, as I dreamed of in elementary school?
I was truly ashamed of myself and my life. My learning-disabled sister is doing much more with her life than I am. At least she has a family of her own. She has a husband and a daughter, basic to most people, but for me it would be a dream come true.
I shook off my awful thoughts and kept mopping, scrubbing extra hard in frustration at myself. The swishing noise was so repetitive that it seemed to make a beat, one that someone could dance to. Someone could dance to it if they had someone to dance with.
Two days later, Summer held a birthday party for her husband. Since I am both Summer and her husband's friend, I was invited.
I stood in my bathroom in my small house, getting ready for the party. I faced the mirror, stroking my hair with my pale, soap water worn hand. My hair was straggly and ¾ gray. It was embarrassing. I threw it up in a ponytail, then stepped back to look. My hair was not what I wanted it to be, not what it used to be. In disgust, I grabbed a hat and put it on so that all the hair was inside of it and not visible.
Once I was ready, I got in my old car and drove to the party. My car was red with dents in the left front side and on the bumper. Scratches ran all down the side from the past owner of the car. On the inside the leather seats were faded to almost a white color. They originally were golden brown when the car was new and perky. Now it was a sad old broken down thing.
I parked down the road from Summer's house, even though there was a spot right in front of her house. I walked the rest of the way. Pretending that my car was one of the beautiful and respectable ones parked closer to Summer's house was something I regularly did. What would Summer, being a doctor with lots of money, think if I pulled up in a piece of junk car?
As I entered through the party doors, I saw many people I didn't know. Then I saw Rick, Summer's husband. He was so charming, so funny and so handsome. I partly wished that I could be there when Rick and Summer first met, so that I could talk her out of marrying him. Then I could have him for myself.
"Hello, Anna." I jerked back into consciousness.
"Oh, hi Rick" I shakily said, noticing the awkwardness and odd timing of his greeting.
Rick nodded and then went over to get a can of soda. I looked around at everybody and then found someone I didn't know. She looked friendly and approachable. I went up to her.
"Hi, what's your name?" I asked.
"I'm Lindsay!" She stuck her hand out to be shaken. I grabbed it and smoothly shook it up and down.
"Nice to meet you. So what's your job? What do you do?" tilting her head in question as she said this.
That question, I dreaded that question. Everyone asked everyone else what their job was or who they worked for. Sometimes people ask to make small talk. Sometimes it's not. Either way, people want to know other people's jobs so that they can rank them. People think that if you know someone's job you can tell if you want to be their friend or not. Therefore, in order to keep my reputation, I left out some of the truth.
"I work at a college." Well, I did.
"Very nice. I'm a teacher too!" Lindsay was so excited about this thing she thought she had in common with me. I nodded, not to confirm that I was actually a teacher, because I wasn't. I nodded to acknowledge that she was a teacher.
"Oh." I was jealous. Teacher, that was my dream before I was stuck with the janitor business.
After a long night of talking with many people from a much higher class than me, I was exhausted. Yet I had to go for my shift as a night janitor right after the party. My hours were from 12:30 to 8:30 am. I actually usually got off work at 9 am. I always had something to finish up, and so my work went over time.
I decided to go shopping when my shift was over. It was about 9:30 am when I arrived at the store. It was creepily empty. I guess it was because it was 9:30 in the morning on a Monday. I do not know many people who shop at that time. Well, I don't really know a lot of people.
My shopping list was very small. It consisted of eggs, cereal, pasta, sauce, butter and bread. Since I lived by myself, this was really all I needed for the week. I started with getting eggs, which I am not picky about. I grabbed a carton and turned around to put it in my cart.
As I turned around, I caught a glimpse of Summer and her husband Rick. They were shopping in the next isle. “No!” I thought to myself. I was wearing my janitor's outfit!
I was terrified. I had gotten this far without her finding out I was a janitor. I was not about to let her find out now. I dived behind a tall stack of cans just in time. I was so well hidden behind the cans that when she rounded the corner she walked right past me. I sighed in relief, then I hustled out of there and got into my car.
The next day I was doing my awful job again. While I was vacuuming one of the top floor classrooms, my cell phone rang its annoying tone. I decided to pick it up.
"Yes. Who's this?"
"This is Summer." Her voice sounded urgent.
"Oh? What is it?"
"Rick. He's very sick." She paused, forming her words carefully in the intense situation.
"I need help to take care of him. Please come ASAP. Please?"
"Of course Summer."
I jumped in my car and speedily drove to her house. Without knocking, I rushed in. There was silence as Summer stared at me. Soon after, Rick, who was lying on the couch, stared at me in shock too.
"Um, hi guys." I said, not knowing why they looked so surprised. Summer pointed at my shirt. I looked down at it. I was still wearing my janitor shirt with the nametag that read:
I blushed, not knowing what to say.
"You, you're a janitor?" Summer stuttered. I looked down, kicked my feet and looked back up.
"Yes, I'm a janitor at a college."
Summer smiled. I expected her to be embarrassed of me and think of me as less, but she just smiled. She walked towards me and gave me the best hug in my whole life, the most meaningful hug. As she did this, with her head on my shoulder, she whispered, "You don't have to hide that from me."
I felt tears come to my eyes. I didn't quite know why. I wasn't sad, but the intenseness of the moment brought warm tears to my eyes.