THE JANITOR

Let’s call him Johnny.

Johnny grew up in a laid-back town down a countryside that teemed with fresh bounties from its seas and farms. He was born to a poor family that struggled to make ends meet with what meager profit they earned from a tiny eatery they owned at the marketplace.

Back in college, in the city, Johnny woke up at four in the mornings. He had to make it to a 5:00 AM part-time shift at a then-renowned company he worked for. He walked his way from his rented home to work since there weren’t several jeepneys or kartilyas (horse-drawn vehicles) by the time he left his place.

His office wasn’t one with computers or any cool electronic devices at the time. His station was the company’s entire perimeter. His work wasn’t much of thinking but rather of keeping the place neat and — fresh. His teammates were neither professionals nor fellow working students. Johnny worked with his brooms and dustpans in the morning, at noon, and afternoon. He was a janitor – a very good one at that.

After his early morning shift, Johnny would run back to his place for a quick wash, a nonsense breakfast (sometimes), and on to school. There was barely time for study. His college days weren’t about “being in college” but coping with life as much as he could. Weekends also meant going home to help out at the eatery back at the marketplace.

Life demanded too much from someone who barely had enough.

After morning class, Johnny would sprint back to janitorial work. He picked up his brooms, dustpans, and bins over and over again and cleaned up all there was to get rid of. The job was neither anything complex, nor was it something easy. Johnny would sweat all over and melt under the heat, with only a quick rest every now and then.

He would sit on his tiny low chair holding his broom, dustpan and bin beside him. Sitting there in a corner, watching company employees walk the grounds, coming in and going out. Johnny formed a habit of following them with a blank stare while smelling different scents of perfumes as they passed by him.

“Will I ever get to wear a good perfume?”, he pondered. He would give out a heavy sigh, looked up at the nothingness of the heavens, and would soon go back to sweeping away leaves and other pieces of matter that didn’t seem to matter anymore. Once done with noontime shift, Johnny ran back to school subjects again and then go back to his part-time station in the afternoon for the last shift.

Johnny graduated with a degree in commerce from a public university, however, ended up performing as vocalist in several bands singing at hotels and resorts. Since then and until now, he’s always been a music figure in his small town.

Now a retired musician, Johnny sings at the church on Saturdays and Sundays. He still wakes up at four in the morning every single day, this time to comply with his jogging routine. At home, he has a total of twelve brooms, some of which he promised to give to the janitor at the marketplace.

And as if he never had enough of the job before, Johnny still sweeps the grounds surrounding his home and his neighbors’…morning, noon, and afternoon. No longer for a meager weekly pay, but merely because he thinks there’s no better thing to do than…well, clean up!

Right now, one of Johnny’s kids is fondly thinking about him, so she wrote daddy’s story. In fact, it just ended.

Johnny’s daughter,

Ayna

 

 

 

 

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THE JANITOR

Ten Years Later

I hate the thought of having to feel weird about coming home. I have here in my flat a pair of luggage, a box, and a backpack; and it’s strange to see them all ready for my flight in the next ten days. I’m half excited, half anxious because this time, it’s gonna be “for real” and I’m bringing with me ten years of my life back home. It’s not as if I’ve been living in the other hemisphere – not even out of the country – but I’d love to exaggerate things a bit, so I will.

When I left home for university ten years ago, I had a grandiose plan. I brought with me some big dreams. I’d be this, I’d be that. And I dreamed and daydreamed of them at every chance I had. I did imagine gathering flattering titles and then landing on a really nice job in the metropolis, where I’d have to always put on corporate clothes and talk big things with big people. Sooner, I’d be rich. I was ambitious. In fact, very ambitious and it was a good thing, except that life, surprisingly or not, didn’t go as planned.

I thought…I thought…I thought of so many things…of a different kind of life – one that’s different from what’s coming home with me. 

Ten years later, what have I become?

Precisely not how I imagined it. I look at myself in the mirror and I am ordinary and life’s definitely far from grand. No titles garnered, no flattering awards, no overwhelming place that I personally own, no car, no hacker-friendly bank accounts. Oh, and not yet married, got no kids! But I managed to work for a company though small was award-winning, and where I had to look business-y when talking big things with big guys. It somehow made me richer – at least a bit richer than when I was just imagining life after school. That’s basically the story.

When I think of all those years and chances gone, it’s only failure after failure I could see. Errors, I’m made of errors. The beautiful token expected of a ten-year story turned into a rusty trophy made of brittle pieces. Many times I asked myself, “What have I done?”

Then I see my bags and boxes all packed with my story of ten years away from home. “Who have I become?” I smile a pretty one because there are so many things to be truly grateful for. I had my plans but God had a story to tell.

My purpose for leaving home was university but life took me to a maze full of right and wrong turns. I made it a point to be always different but I found joy in sisterhood, friendship, and belongingness. I prayed so hard that life be grand but I bumped into its simplicity and I felt the bliss.

I was wrong to believe that this decade-long adventure was all about beating expectations and chasing dreams. Nobody told me I was to live a story to make me understand who I am, accept what I am not, and be grateful for all that there is.

Thank God. It’s been lovely. Now, fly me home.

Love,
Ayna

 

Ten Years Later