The invisibles

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Not many people can say that they start their day by saluting the stars. But that’s how my mornings, or should I say late nights, begin when the alarm clock goes off and I drag my confused body out of the bed. This has been my usual routine my whole life it seems, but I never really got used to it.

On my way out, I try to avoiding making much noise so I don’t wake up the neighbours. I rarely encounter anyone on the streets at this time. I camouflage myself in the dark and let my legs walk down the familiar route. Sometimes I think that at this early hour my soul has not yet returned to my body. That it’s still nicely tucked in my bed, refusing to awake against nature’s rhythm. When I arrive at our station I encounter the familiar faces of my colleagues in the locker room, but we rarely greet each other with words. We acknowledge each other’s presence when our eyes meet as we prepare for our daily assignments. Our silence is not a result of any ongoing dispute or bad blood. Most of us get along just fine. I guess we are simply in agreement that before the sunrise it is best to mute the sound. We save the words for later, for the first break when we all re-enter and have breakfast together. I mostly work alone, and this solitude offers much time to reflect. Mostly on our work that nobody recognizes, yet, if we didn’t do it, the whole city would notice the consequences. The work that knows no holidays. When others celebrate with their loved ones, we are always outside, be it chilling cold or unbearably hot.

Once the sun rises and the streets become flooded with people rushing to work, I take part in the tacit game of mutual ignoring. As I stand in one place or slowly move up and down the street, people pass me by, effortlessly avoiding collision. Our eyes never lock, I look down and focus on my work as hours go by.

But why am I telling you all this? Maybe because of what happened just yesterday? A few words that shook my silent real of routine.

Just when I was about to finish my shift and head to the station to sign off for the day, I noticed a rather agitated lady moving in my direction down the street dragging a visibly crossed boy by the hand. Once they passed me by, they stopped and turned around, just a few steps away from me. I could hear the woman say: “Is this what you want to become when you grow up? Take a good look! Go on! If you don’t behave and pay attention in school, this is how you will end up. You’ll be a garbageman.“

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