In The Beginning

Entry by: jaguar

11th May 2015
The Cleaner

When I say what I do some people sniff as if I'm unclean. That's their problem. I like my job on the whole. How you can change the way things look and make it fresh again. How you can help.

I wasn't looking for a new customer but you asked and I agreed. I knew you by sight, we live a few streets away from each other. Your husband's a Doctor and you work for charity. You must be good people. I thought there wouldn't be dirt I couldn't shift with you.

Still I'm always nervous at the start. Will there be something I can't deal with? Will I meet your standards? Should I move the heavy furniture every time I come? Have you actually timed how long this should take? There is an intimacy in this role which demands trust from both sides.

You are clearly not the kind of couple who clean before I come. I prefer that, I like people to be open. I don’t like to feel as if I’m sinking through the layers of who they are, in free fall to their real selves. As if they're trying to suck me in with their pretence.

In the beginning it’s always a clean slate. The noticing dirties it, adds the bits of fluff behind the doors. The hastily scribbled notes that begin to smear my view of you. Something I spot that cobwebs the corners. Yet, however hard I try to steer clear, I can’t help but get dirtied by you each week.

I shake your quilt straight and the crumpled teddy falls out. Even as I try to keep my mind closed against the noise, it tells me your stories. This teddy reminds me of the contrast between your loose grin and your eyes, dark as the bear’s and beady.

Why are you sleeping with a symbol of childhood? Why is your husband exiled in the spare bedroom? What happened between you to create this rough barricade of remembered hurts?

I’m snagged by a book on your shelf, how to prepare your body for pregnancy. How long did you hope for? Was that what got ripped out of you? My wannabe little girl with your butterfly frocks and your twirling ribbons. With all your fortieth birthday cards ripped right through and stuffed in the bottom of the general waste bin. You're normally religious about recycling. I exhume and rebury the cards under old Guardians.

Your teddy bear is suffering from general wear. When you first got him, was it to show love, congratulations or sympathy? Was the bear to comfort you because you were afraid to sleep alone? You should be afraid of it.

Today you are both working from home. I tiptoe round, waltzing with my hoover but your husband still winces at my approach. He makes me think of Teddy Roosevelt’s original bear, tethered and helpless. How the only mercy granted was death. What blundering idiots people can be when they try to make themselves look good.

I watch his eyes soft-toy you. How he wants to be your protection against hard knocks. How he forgives you his exclusion from the omnipresence of your grief. He waits in doorways for you to come to him. His solace, his solidarity are emptied into air. You cry alone for your lost potential, clutching a piece of the past.

I spray blue, scrape at lime-scale and shine the taps. I rinse all your cells, your chrysalis down the sink. I pull the hair from the plughole and scrub at your hair-dye stains dripped down the bath like blood. I tut-tut and I hum.

But I want to scream at you to let go. I want to shake you until you see how these lost moments blemish everything. How they’re piling up and obscuring who you were and all the people you might still be. How you're tethering yourself to the past like a sacrifice.

Please don't make the same mistake as me. Drop that bear and go hug the human in the here and now. Let him give you something better than imagined warmth. I doubt you'll listen to me, I'm just the cleaner. I put the hoover on again before my silence overpowers us all.