Through The Window
By Katina Pontikes
I clean windows for a living. Window Washing Technician is my official position. People stand mouths agape when I tell them what I do. Apparently, an awful lot of people fear dizzying heights. Not me. I love the wind, the quiet, the almost hypnotic sound of my squeegee as I follow the same pattern on each window to remove the liquid cleaner. Thump, drag, wipe. Thump, drap,wipe. I can complete the windows of a high-rise unit in twenty minutes.
Twenty minutes is a short or a long time, depending on who’s counting the minutes. I think I’m efficient. The tenants of the high rises feel that a guy hanging from a rope at the fifteenth floor is nerve-wracking. And they don’t like feeling like they are in a fishbowl. Most of them leave the rooms I am cleaning so they don’t experience facing their own fear of heights. And no one wants to witness an accident.
I am focused on my job, but sometimes I can’t help but see something from the windows where tenants haven’t closed their blinds. Take yesterday. I had just begun cleaning what seemed like a den, when a middle-aged lady came from an adjoining bathroom straight into the room I was washing. She had an open robe, nude underneath, hair twisted in a towel. I know she saw me right away, because she crossed the front of her robe to close it as our eyes met. I pretended I hadn’t seen her by focusing diligently on an invisible spot.
Only a few minutes later, I was washing windows of a large kitchen area. She popped up again, this time her figure in my peripheral vision. Her wet hair had been combed in a swept back style, and she had on what looked like running clothes, very form fitting. Her figure was sharp. The oddest part was as I looked down to feign interest in a lower area of the window, I caught sight of her shoes. They made no sense. She had on silver evening shoes with little rhinestones glistening from the spiky heels. As she teetered out of the room, she swayed a bit from side to side. I wasn’t sure who was in the greatest danger at that moment, her or me.
I’d made my progress to the balcony area, which had a short, clear half partition under the railing. Oddly, the lady had now moved to this room, without any shoes on at all, and was polishing her toenails. This task would take at least as long as my work. I was beginning to realize there was a method to her appearances. I still focused on my work as I neared completion of her unit.
Then the woman came walking right up to the window, very unusual behavior in my line of work. She had clear, smooth skin and her lips were wet with some clear glossy gel. She looked me right in the eyes, noting that I was expectantly looking back. I really had no choice, as she was one inch from the window. She never mouthed a word, never attempted to open the sliding door to the balcony. Ever so calmly, she took out a red lipstick, and dirtying the inside of her window, she wrote her phone number in reverse, very easy for me to read. She put the cap back on the lipstick tube, grabbed a purse and left her apartment. I made a note of the number and then continued to finish the job.
People would be surprised at the hidden benefits of a job as lonely as mine.