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the timesweeper

No one pays attention to the man with a mop and bucket. He nudges empty chip bags and banana peels into a pan at the end of a long handle. He whistles as he moves along the corridors, the only evidence that breath flows through his lungs, that he is more than a moving part of the buildings. No one pays attention to the man with a mop and bucket, but they would if they knew.

 

He pays attention.

 

He is faceless. Defined by his job. Cleans floors of classrooms he never sat in, much less moved on from. His face is equal parts sweat, dust, and the scars that come from looks that cut. But he moves like clockwork, because the universe wants it that way.

 

He pads along in work boots that have overstayed their welcome in this, their one lifetime. They have a singular job, and they’ve more than done it. But he keeps them, anyhow. I know there is something more to this man. I know it because I’ve seen it.

 

People don’t look much at me, either, so I understand that part. Kids here only know me for the late fees, the shhh, be quiets, and the glares over my glasses when they’re eating in my library. I, too, live in a world of silence.

 

I see him move by my window at the same time every morning. 9:15, on the dot. Then again, after lunch, 12:05. Always admired that punctuality. I’m a librarian. I was born paying attention to whether or not things happen on time. That and order. I love order. So when Albert - that’s the janitor - when Albert passes by, I always give him a smile. He always smiles back but the warmth never reaches his eyes. Kind of like when you work through a bad headache, and you’re polite in all the expected ways but everyone knows you’re off. That’s Albert. He’s got something going on behind those eyes and I can’t quite tell what it is. But like I said, I’ve seen things. Albert isn’t a normal man. Things happen when he’s around.