“The Window Cleaner” is a lovely essay by Giles Turnbull about James, a man who has made his living washing windows “for decades now.” I have always wondered what that would be like, and I love this:
I ask him what he thinks about as he’s cleaning, but he doesn’t answer directly. You get lost in your thoughts, he says. Best not to dwell on things, mind you. He enjoys being outside. He notices things—birdsong, insects, clouds, the weather, and the seasons. Things the rest of us miss as we bury our noses in our smartphones. His skin is coarse and roughened, but not tanned. When he smiles, which isn’t often, you get the sense that behind the lonely exterior he’s a kind man, someone who enjoys a laugh when there’s a laugh to be had. But he likes to be by himself. He’s happy that way.
James is absorbed in his work, which is meticulous, inch-perfect. As he steps off the ladder and lifts it, ready to climb to the next window, the sun pokes out from behind the clouds and a flash of light reflects off his handiwork. The same light glints off windows all the way down the street. A path James has carved himself, with a sponge and a cloth and a ladder.