The window cleaner


 

The first thing she felt was an enormous blow to her body. For a second the pain was excruciating. Her body went limp. The next sensation was her head hitting the street causing a violent headache. Before her eyes started to dim she could just make out two blurred figures, arm in arm, entering the club across the street. She cried out. No sound came forth. Moments before she lost consciousness she vaguely saw of a pair of sensitive hands with long sensual fingers cleaning windowpanes. She was so close to touching these hands, yet so far. Tears started falling down her cheeks. All went quiet as darkness descended.

 

Six day earlier, one Friday morning, she lay in bed looking up at the ceiling wondering if she would ever conquer the demons that ran deep within her body. Childhood images of anguish raced through her mind.

 

She remembered her mother telling that as a baby her tiny hands were always ready to grab anything her heart desired. She was the only child of dotting parents who pandered to her every whim. Even in her formative years she was consistently spoilt. Consequently, when she didn’t get her own way there were excessive displays of tantrums. Her parents realized their mistake too late.

 

As a young adolescent she was marked with two pronounced character traits that she called her two little demons. Firstly, she was extremely possessive. Secondly, for no apparent reason she would have transient fixations for a particular person, or object. These passing fixations had disturbing emotional under currents as they oscillated between profound loves to irrepressible hatred. She remembered the time in a fit of demented temper she threw her doll into the kitchen fire; how she had loved that doll. Her mother was horrified.

 

She felt possessed by two restless separate rivers flowing through her veins each with their distinctive watercourse: One of loving the other of rejecting. With maturity she learned to control the flow of water and directed their currents into hidden canyons within her body. But occasionally the rivers overflowed their banks and the torrents of water subjected her to frenetic impulsive behavior. The image of her best friend’s party dress ruined because she had purposely spilt tomato ketchup on it, or when she set the neighbor’s dog tail on fire came drifting down memories lane. Jealousy, envy, or bloody-mindedness, the answers alluded her; they belonged to the currents that flowed in her veins.

 

Womanhood brought a modicum of objectivity to her emotional unsteadiness. Once she felt the water level rising in her veins she would have secretive talks with her evil spirits in an attempt to soothe their passions. In the majority of cases this worked. But it left her with a complex and secretive personality trait that on the surface was not apparent, as she possessed immense personal charm.

 

It was in the first two years of university life where she found emotional tranquility that she had never experienced before. Away from a stifling atmosphere of a small New England town, away from the strained relationship with her parents she enjoyed peace in the collegiate surroundings of the campus. Then one night, in December of her second year, she saw a young man that instantly sent her internal passionate rivers cascading down the canyons of her veins. Four months later they were married against the wishes of both sets of parents. John, her husband, was the third son of a wealthy New England family who considered he was too young to marry; her parents were more concerned by her emotional immaturity.

 

Marriage in no way disturbed their studies, much to the surprise of their respective families; each received a diploma in their chosen subjects. Once relieved from the hectic life of the university she insisted on having a child. Nine months later a tiny baby boy was born. She stopped any thought of finding a job, which pleased her husband, and devoted her energy in looking after their child. She enjoyed these early years of married life absent of any manifestation from her darker side. Money was never a problem. John had a good job on Wall Street and as a wedding present his family gave them a large apartment in central Manhattan.

 

But once their baby started formulating words her passion for John slowly transferred to this new possession in her life: her son. John started to fade into the background together with her love for him. She desperately tried to control these emotions of rejection. As John had never seen this side of her nature, he thought she was tied and it was a normal reaction after childbirth coupled with her undivided attention to their son’s needs. She knew the obscure side of her nature was getting the better of her. It was only a question of time before family quarrels became regular occurrence with their son trapped in the middle. Many a morning found her locked in the bathroom frantically reasoning with her demons. She needed to be alone to get her life into focus and try and control her emotional instability. John was most understanding and suggested he took their son to his parents for a few days.

 

John and her son had left two days ago; the apartment was quiet as she lay there that Friday morning reflecting on her situation. She could not decide whether she should consult a psychoanalyst, a subject she had never mentioned to John. She got out of bed to see what kind of day it was going to be. The sun was already high in the sky as she drew back the curtains and looked up towards a cloudless sky. The sky seemed to be full of tiny black specs and had a hazy quality to it. She stepped back to get a different viewpoint. At once she noticed the outside window were filthy. Surprised she had not noticed this before; she immediately decided to rectify the situation. She picked up the phone and called down to the front doorman.

 

“Is that you Frank?”

 

“Yes,” came the reply.

 

“This is Mrs.Davis, apartment 6 A. Frank. Any chance of getting somebody to clean my windows this afternoon?”

 

“Yes, Mrs. Davis I’ll fix it, can I say 2.30 this afternoon”

 

At 2.30 p.m. on the dot the inter- phone rang. She told the doorman to send up the window cleaner. Two minutes later she opened the door to find a tall young man standing there with a bucket in one hand and a window cleaner’s belt slung across his right shoulder. On his back he had a knapsack.

 

“Come in,” she said, “what’s your name?”

 

Before speaking he draw his tall frame to its full height, clicked his heals and in an elegant movement of his upper body, bowed

 

“Boris,” the word was spoken with a heavy foreign accent.

 

She was completely taken aback by this graceful movement of respect and nearly curtsied to acknowledge the gesture. She was about to say something but by the time she had collected her thoughts he had deposited the bucket and belt on the floor in the entrance and in a prolonged stylish movement made straight for the nearest window. There he stood looking intently at the window frame while gently caressing the pane of glass with long elegant fingers as if he was playing a musical instrument. For a second she stood transfixed by the movement of his hands as they moved across the glass. She shook her head to clear it of the seductive image before her.

 

“ What are you doing?” she asked.

 

He turned to look at her and said, “ me window cleaner, not speak the English so good. I look at work to be done before starting. Please water and table for my tools.”

 

For a second she stood there taking a good look at the window cleaner standing before her. He could have been a poet or musician; he had a sad romantic air about him that was instantly appealing. Without replying to his request she asked him what nationality he was?

 

“Russian,” he replied

 

“That fits,” she said

 

“Sorry not understand.”

 

She ignored this remark and asked him to follow her into the kitchen.

 

His first gesture was to fill the bucket with lukewarm water and place it on the kitchen table. He then removed his knapsack taking out a tightly rolled cloth that he placed on the table. With a swift movement he unrolled the cloth to reveal its contents. She could not believe her eyes; it was set up like a surgeon’s surgical knife pouch. At one end of the pouch were a series of leather clothes tightly rolled up, then came a selection of knives, no doubt for scraping off foreign deposits found on the glass, two window cleaner’s squeegees, various bottles containing different liquids, and at the other end of the pouch there were a series of tightly rolled up clean dusters. For the second time the movement of his hands hypnotized her as he selected his working instruments. She had never seen such a pair of beautiful hands; they were perfectly shaped with long graceful fingers that denoted strength and at the same time sensitivity. As he picked up his various tools the movement of his fingers represented to her a ballet of exquisite beauty that was being performed. She had difficulty in controlling her emotions; she wanted to start clapping in appreciation of the moment.

 

Quickly she left the kitchen saying. “ If you need anything, just call.”

 

She went to her bedroom to calm down. She heard him open a window in the sitting room and attach his belt to the outside hooks on the window frame. The next noise she heard was his body movement as he swung himself outside and closed the window. Then there was silence; she quietly opened the door to the sitting room to see what was happening. As she looked across the room at one of the windows all she saw was a pair of hands working their way across the windowpane. She was mesmerized, the ballet was in full swing, she nearly made the mistake of crossing the room allowing her fingers to follow the movement. Deep inside her the uncontrollable desire to possess those hands started to flow through her veins. This is ridiculous she thought, she must get a control of herself, she returned to her bedroom, and for distraction switched on the television. On several occasions she was very tempted to get up and see what he was doing. She heard him move about the apartment; even without these slight noises she could feel his presence.

 

It must have been about an hour and a half later when she heard a knock on her bedroom door and a voice say “ “Madame, finished, you want bedroom window done?”

 

She opened the door. Attentive to her emotional state she said in a calm authoritative voice, “yes, come in, I will go into the sitting room.”

 

In reality she wanted to kiss his hands and ask him to massage her. She could almost sense the long sensual fingers slowly caressing her body relieving it of all the emotional stress she was feeling and awakening the deep passion within. The darker side of her character was slowly taking control.

 

As she stepped in the sitting room the light coming from the widows stunned her. It danced and sparkled across perfectly clean glass. It was if the windows were one enormous diamond throwing glittering shafts of light around the room. The effect was quite extraordinary and sent a shiver of ecstasy down her spine. She moved towards a window to examine the work of art in more detail. The windowpane had been cleaned and polished with an ardor she had never seen before. Instantly she caught the imaginary vision of those beautiful hands as they delicately worked their way across the glass. She bent forward and kissed the windowpane.

 

She heard he had finished in the bedroom and was moving into the kitchen. She slipped into the bathroom to slash water on her face. As she raised her head from the basin she saw her face in the mirror. What was happening to her? The irrepressible desires that in her early years had tormented her were back with a vengeance. She glanced at her face in the mirror looking for an answer. All she saw was an attractive woman in her early thirties; her blond hair was cut closely to her head giving her a cute pageboy look. She moved closer to the mirror pleading for an answer. The only sound she heard was the window cleaner summoning her from the kitchen that he had finished. She called back she would be out in a minute. She wasn’t even sure she had enough self-control to go out to the kitchen and pay him. She felt her body trembling. She was completely obsessed by the Russian’s hands; the desire to kiss them was overwhelming. She wanted to own them, caress them, and fall in love with them. She told herself this was absurd, unreasonable, and completely outside any normal behavior. All true, but the deep silent rivers overflowing in her veins never obeyed these callings.

 

Holding herself erect she walked into the kitchen.

 

“Boris, you have done a splendid job, how much do I owe you?”

 

“Sixty- five dollars, please.”

 

With difficulty, measuring her steps she went over to a kitchen draw and fished out a hundred dollar bill. As she turned her brain screamed, “ don’t look at his hands, don’t look at his hands.” Looking directly into his face she passed over the hundred-dollar bill. “Please, keep the change.”

 

As the money passed from one hand to the other their fingers touched sending a piercing emotional shock down the back of her spine. At the same time a prodigious fiery heat engulfed the skin around her throat and started traveling up her face. She quickly turned her back on the window cleaner and led the way to the front door. She opened it letting him pass. On the doorstep he turned, clicked his heals and bowed, at the same time extending his right hand in thanks. Gently, with both hands, she took his hand and raised it to her lips. Never had she had the sense of kissing something so beautiful. She allowed her lips to linger a few seconds, the pleasure was intoxicating. He stood there a little astonished. Before he could say anything she had closed the door in his face. As she heard the door lock fasten she fell against the wall and subsided in a crouching position with her head in her hands. The emotion of the moment brought a flood of tears to her eyes. The next thing she remembered doing was switching on the hall light as her apartment was in total darkness.

 

That night her sleep was fitful. All she constantly thought about was the image of those beautiful hands, with their long sensual fingers cleaning the windows. Occasionally she got up to examine his work in the minutest details. Every corner of the window was immaculate, the windowpanes spotless, truly a flawless performance. She stood there in silence watching the imagery of his fingers dancing across the sparkling glass. As the dawn creep in the room she realized she had to see him again. Just once! Some strange inner voice told her if she could kiss those hands one more time may be her unbalanced emotional state might be cured.

 

Early next morning she was asking Frank for the name of window cleaning company he had called yesterday. An hour later she was in the entrance hall of Manhattan Window Cleaners, “the company that brings light into your life”. Appropriate she thought. As she approached the reception desk she heard a voice say, “can I help you?”

 

“Yes, I have come to enquire about signing a window cleaning contract.”

 

“Oh! That will be Peter Ingram, just a minute please.” She heard the receptionist call a number. Seconds later she was directed to office 249 that on the door was clearly marked Peter Ingram. Contract Manager. She entered to find a middle-aged man sitting behind a large desk.

 

“Please sit down. May I have your name and address?” his voice had a heavy New York accent. As he wrote down her details she had a moment to examine her interviewer. He was in the late stages of losing all his hair and she saw slight drops of perspiration on his balding crown. She noticed he had long dirty fingers nails and the cuffs of his shirt were tattered. One finger on his left hand supported a large vulgar college ring. She could not see his shoes but she imagined they were worn and no doubt unkempt. He looked up and asked her.

 

“ How many windows does the apartment have?”

 

“Excuse me.” She said in a firm voice. “Before we go into all the details I want to know if a window cleaner called Boris would be available.”

 

Without immediately replying his right hand crossed the desk and started operating a computer that dominated one side of the desk. “ Boris who?” He said.

 

“Boris who?” She repeated. There was a short pause as she collected her thoughts. “ Wait a minute, he cleaned my windows yesterday afternoon. I was highly satisfied with his work.”

 

There was silent as he looked intently at his computer screen.

 

“Yes, I have got him.” This was said with an air of contentment as if he had achieved an important assignment. “Boris Ivanosky, he’s a temporary worker with us, that only works three times a week.” He paused. “I see yesterday was his last day as he gave in his leaving notice a week ago.”

 

Agitated, she raised her voice. “Do you have any way of contacting him? May be I can persuade him to come and work for me.”

 

Peter Ingram looked up from his computer’s screen and glanced across the desk at the owner of the troubled voice. Before him he saw an appealing attractive young woman decidedly intent on locating this Boris. Her determination seemed odd given that Boris had only cleaned her windows once. May be not so surprising he thought. He had been in the business many years and knew that some of the younger guys didn’t only clean windows. This woman’s insistence on finding Boris peaked his interest. He looked back at his computer screen.

 

“I see I have a portable telephone number against his name.” There was a lull before he went on to say. “ When these guys leave they generally change their telephone numbers as our personnel department aggressively contacts them with special offers to come back and work for us, particularly if they are good. We are always short of good window clearers.” He knew the first part of his statement was not strictly true, but he wanted the woman to concentrate on signing the contract.

 

“Well, call the number and see if we can contact him.” This was given as an order with such vigor that the man immediately started dialing the number. Halfway through he stopped, looked up and said.

 

“Lady, we have plenty of good widow cleaners, rather than chase this Boris guy, let’s discuss your contract.”

 

“No, I insist on having Boris if I can persuade him to work for me. If not, I will sign a contract for another of your other window cleaners.”

 

“ Have it your own way.”

 

He dialed the number only to be told it was disconnected.

 

“Phone disconnected, this probably means he has found another job.”

 

For a split second the woman’s face showed a streak of panic as though she had lost an irreplaceable object. She quickly recovered. This time her voice was subdued and slightly strained as if she was disoriented by some mysterious struggle.

 

“Have you any other way of getting in contact with him? May be through a friend of his?”

 

“No, ma’am. This place is like a revolving door; we have over a two hundred employees. We work only by the telephone. When a guy joins use he has to put up a cash deposit; we then settle all accounts on a weekly basis. Now about that contract?”

 

In a dream she went through a series of questions and reluctantly signed a year’s window cleaning contract.

 

Once she had left the office Peter immediately picked up the phone and called Bill, Head of Personnel

 

“Hi Bill, it’s Peter. Tell me do you know anything about a guy call Boris Ivanosky?

 

“Yes, he just left. A Russian dude! I am told he was excellent window cleaner, in fact a bit of a maniac, but we are not sorry to see him leave as he was very slow, definitely not a moneymaker. There was talk amongst the guys that he had no objection to providing extra-curriculum activities.”

 

Ah! That explains it! I just had a crazy woman in here desperate to contact him. Mind you she was a good-looking chick. I would enjoy a little extra-curriculum activity myself.” Laughing he continued. “May be we should go out and clean a few windows. That’s where the action is.” Just before he rang off he asked. “Did he leave any address?

 

“Yes, I have an address for him.”

 

For a second Peter Ingram sat there contemplating a little scheme that ran across his mind. Slowly a smirk crossed his lips. “ Bill, don’t throw the Russian’s address away it might come in handy.”

 

 

Meanwhile downstairs as Mrs. Davis was leaving the company she asked the receptionist if she knew Boris Ivanosky.

 

She was surprised and taken aback by the reply.

 

“ Sure, who doesn’t? The romantic Russian guy; he was in here yesterday to pick up his pay.”

 

“Do you know where I can contact him?”

 

“A type like that never gives you his address.” As she turned to leave the receptionist called after her. “ I think he said he had found a job in a band somewhere in the East village, that’s all I know.”

 

She left wondering how she was going to find the Russian’s band. Once back in her apartment she took out the copy of the yellow pages and a detailed map of the East Village. She started writing down possible addresses where she thought she might be able to trace Boris.

 

In the early evening she received one of John’s frequent calls to see if she was all right. To prevent any probing questions she told him she was beginning feeling better, calmer, and in more control of her emotions, she felt the rest was doing her good, but she missed their son. When John put down the phone he was encouraged to think that the storm was passing and they might be able to live again as a happy family. She put down the phone full of remorse and fearful of the future.

 

Sunday and Monday she spent walking the streets of the East Village, knocking on doors, asking if anybody knew Boris. On Tuesday morning she sat in her kitchen in a state of abject depression. Her efforts had produced nothing, not even a lead. Wednesday shed a glimmer of light when somebody told her he thought he worked in a club on Watford Street that only opened on Thursday through Sunday nights. She immediately went to the address to find it confirmed what she had been told. As she ate supper alone in her apartment that night she pleaded that tomorrow her prayers would be answered.

 

The early evening, on the next day, found her sitting in a café on the opposite side of the street to the club intently watching the club’s door. Towards 7 o’clock the door opened from the inside. A scruffy looking man came out and looked up and down the street. He stood there for about ten minutes and them disappeared into the interior. Twelve minutes later she saw a man enter the club carrying a musical instrument case. She experienced a rush of blood through her veins. She touched her face and felt tiny spots of perspiration. Minutes later another musician entered the club. Then she saw him, arm in arm with a tall blond girl. They were walking swiftly towards the door. Her reaction was immediate; the café table fell to the floor smashing the coffee cup. She ran to the door. The couple had at this point just opened the door; without looking she dashed across the street. By the time the chaos of the accident had exploded in the street the young couple were peacefully installed in the large sound proofed room of the club.

 

Peter Ingram, the contract manager from the Manhattan Window cleaning company, had waited a few days before putting his little scheme into action. It amused him to imagine how much that crazy woman would pay to find Russian dude. He calculated by now she would be desperate. Before dialing her number he straighten his tie and ran a comb through his hair. As he dialed he thought it wasn’t a particularly nice jest, but why not? It was an expensive city and an easy buck wasn’t something one turns down. The phone started to ring, twenty seconds later it had switched to a recording machine. He left the following message. “ This is Peter Ingram at the Manhattan Cleaning Company. I have found your Russian guy, but my contact is asking to be paid for his effort. If you are interest please call me back on my direct line 345-67-98.

 

Delicately he replaced the receiver, leaned back on his swivel chair and enjoyed a moment of self-satisfaction.

 

Peter Ingram got the shock of his life when John returned the call.

 

 

-The end-



 
short stories
An Unusual Request
Bewitched and be wildered
A cry from the heart
Fate played a devilish hand
Frustration with a capital F
A roll of the dice
Living in the shadow of death
A lesson well learnt
The wedding
A pleasant ride, a pleasant talk
Sweet revenge
Drum beat, heartbeat
Skin deep
They came, they left no trace
The window cleaner
A delayed meeting
Hold on tight
In the name of my parents
Strange events
Sequel to Frustration with a capital F
A strange and beautiful love affair
The doll's dilemma, a chage of style
The poster hanger - It had to happen
They had nothing in common
A misplaced letter
Life's mysteries
poetry
An ode to cheese
The marshes
Waiting in vain
Day follows day
Sounds of the future
The dream of flight





writing in Paris, copyright 2005