Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Captain Clean

Looking out my lounge room window, I regularly see one of the women who lives in the apartment block opposite.  She lives upstairs in the front apartment.  The three windows which face me have six blue and white, china ornaments.  They look like ducks wearing bonnets.  The blinds are always closed.  She recently had a new security door fitted.  The difference between the old one and the new is hard to spot from over here.  There was great excitement when it was put in place. The tradesman who installed it looked bemused.

I've never met this woman.  I've seen her many times.  Whenever I see her she is wearing elbow length rubber gloves and carrying a cloth.  She wears beige pants and a variety of pale blue striped polo shirts with runners on her feet.  She has short, blond, permed hair and wears small gold hoops in her ears.

She comes out of her apartment and dusts the outside window ledge. She sweeps the tiny length of cement outside her place, stopping at the invisible boundary of the next apartment.  She picks up the doormat and shakes it over the balcony, then sweeps the cement again.  Then she vigorously wipes her feet on the newly cleaned doormat and goes inside.

A short time later she re-emerges with a spray bottle.  She squirts the windows and then wipes.  She does the same with the front door, then she cleans the wires and lattice of the security door, paying special attention to the door knobs.  She repeats the foot wiping ritual and goes inside.

This time she comes out with a garbage bag.  As she walks along the first floor walkway to the stairs she wipes the handrail.  On arrival at the communal bins she places her rubbish inside and then turns to the bank of letter boxes.  She spends time dusting and wiping.  The bank of letterboxes is under a conifer which sheds sap and needles.  Dusting and wiping here seems futile.

She purposefully strides back up the stairs, wiping the rail on the other side as she goes.  On reaching her apartment she wipes her feet again and then spends about five minutes in this small square area wiping the vertical bars of the balcony.

I wonder about this woman.  Is she a clean freak or does she have something deeper going on?  I've never seen anyone else come or go from her apartment.  Looking over, her place seems to glow and pulsate with cleanliness.  I imagine the interior of the apartment would be austere with no decoration; clean, clear surfaces that suffocate life.  The ducks wearing bonnets in the window seem out of place in such a place.  Music, television, even conversation are never heard leaking from her place.

If she looks over at my place she'll see all the doors and windows flung open.  There may be clean washing piled on the couch waiting to be folded and put away.  She'll see my latest knitting project in progress on the couch, books piled from floor to nearly ceiling, birthday cards on display.

She may be sitting inside writing about the woman who lives opposite her who lives in chaotic disarray.  I can feel her judgement when she looks across.

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