Friday, October 8, 2010

Norman, the Janitor, Part I


Nights are long, but that’s okay. I don’t have anything else to do, and I sleep better in the day, when it’s light outside.

When I get here at 4:30, the only people left in the building are a few teachers, working in their rooms. I walk past their doors with my head down. I don’t look in, and they don’t ever say anything to me, and that’s the way I like it. There are usually a small group of kids still left at the after-school program. I can hear their voices, high and shrill, all through the school. I don’t go anywhere near there, not until later. Not until the heavy outer door has opened and closed for the last time, and stillness settles over the building.

It’s better then, when the whole building is mine.

“How can you stand it?” John asked me once. John works in the city, in a busy office, and gets nervous every time he comes out to visit me. Wildewood is too rural for him, and my job as night janitor is the worst job in town, according to him. But he’s not me, and I gave up long ago trying to explain to him why I like it.

He doesn’t have to come. I wouldn’t mind at all if he didn’t, but he takes his job as my brother very seriously. “You should get a different job. Surely someone in town would hire you to do something, where you wouldn’t have to be alone all night long, every night. Or you could move in with me. Cindy wouldn’t mind. There are lots of jobs in the city that would be more exciting.”

But that’s crazy. I could never live in the city, could never live with John and Cindy. I like my life here. I like my job. The being alone is the part I like the best. I don’t mind the echoing hallways, or the dark rooms. I don’t need anyone to talk to. I push my broom along the hallways, and admire the dustless gleam that appears behind the broom. I go into the rooms, one by one, with my cart. I turn on the light and put the chair up on the desks and sweep the floors. I spray the boards with board-cleaner and polish the white-board until it gleams. I always stop to admire the spotless boards. I don’t even mind cleaning the bathrooms, even though too many boys miss the toilet. I just don’t look too closely, and when I’m done, all the stools gleam too. There’s a certain amount of satisfaction in that.

And when I’m alone, I know that the voices in my head are just that, voices. It’s only when I’m around other people that I can’t tell, and that worries me. So I’ll stay, and I’ll do my job, and everything will be as it always was.

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