To my left sat a mountain range – it would be breathtaking if my oxygen wasn’t already depleted up here. Peaks rose up sharply; they had aggressive personalities, jutting upward puncturing the clouds that dared to try and rise above them. The ethereal vapors merely molded around them, touching without touching, then gone with the wind, just like that.
On my right a deserted land sprawled like the whitest sheet of paper kept next to a telephone, with hardy shrubs for doodles. It looked as if a permanent layer of snow had settled, never to be moved by the elements. In reality it was the largest salt flat in the world. Walk too far in any direction and you would be preserved, after dying of thirst.
Shit! As I was committing the views to memory with Kodak eyes, a whip of wind plucked my sandwich from my loose grip. Somebody, somewhere down below, would stop and look around, puzzled, unable to figure out who had thrown sardines at them. The bitch of it was I’d only had one bite. A couple of colleagues sitting next to me laughed knowingly, but all I saw was grinning faces. The shrieking wind ripped noise and words from lips.
I looked at my watch. I had a rare hour to play with, my first break in months. Usually I cleaned the windows continually, never stopping staying hydrated with a camelback containing a special mix of blended foods and water. More money could be made while colleagues lazed on their platforms. I called them ‘swingers’. It would be easy to look down upon them to boost my own self esteem, but we were doing the same job. They called me Spiderman on account of me dangling by a solitary rope as I swung from window to window, bouncing off glass at the upper sections of the tower, where the platforms couldn’t get to. One of them gave me a Toby McGuire badge which I kept on my yellow jumpsuit. I hated Toby McGuire and every one of his films. But the badge reminded me of the camaraderie of us squeegies. It served as a strange mascot and put a smile on my face when I caught it looking back at me in the reflection of a spotless window.
What was I doing up here? I was saving up for a new life. New air. New people. Anything but this squeaky clean existence, dangling by a rope that felt like a thread. Every vivid dream contained shattered glass, even my subconscious was trying to tell me that change was necessary. Chromatic archetypal dreams returned, of falling while my teeth fell out. “There have been no fatalities,” reassured my boss through email, through his secretary, when I inquired about the safety of the job. For three years I believed it. Then word got to me that eight years ago two platforms had ‘malfunctioned’ and three workers had died. Grapevines aren’t always the most accurate, but the kicker was that their employer claimed they had all committed suicide in order to dodge any legal settlements to the families. That way the family of the three people the squeegies landed on at the bottom, did not get any payments either. Millions saved. What a success. How the lawyers must have partied. A bonus for you, you and you. Hell, you can use my holiday home anytime!
No matter what, those involved in the fix continued to fall – from grace and any semblance of being human. They were more twisted than the metal from the platforms they used for a sick sculpture after the accident which sat at the entrance to floors 150 in the lobby. There was no plaque. No name. Just some modernist monstrosity. Maybe someone did have a conscience. They weren’t going to advertise it in any case.
Idling as the winds picked up, I looked down. I never looked down. It wasn’t like I suffered vertigo. I mean the clouds were only ever a few hundred feet away anyway, creating the illusion of ground being much closer than it really was. But today I looked, and a rare parting of cloud let me see how far down it really was. People weren’t even ants -they were microscopic. Oh dear terra firma, where the ordinary people roam.
I looked up and the platformers gave me a thumbs up before heading inside through a roof hatch. A sudden loneliness overwhelmed me. Gusts of wind tried to comfort me by nearly ripping my face off. I liked my face. That was one thing I was sure of.
I slurped at my camelback through the straw: even it had run dry. I contemplated going inside to refuel. Maybe it was the prospect of being stared down by the suits and skirts that stopped me. ‘I’ve got enough’ reassured my internal dialogue.