Sometimes as I pull the squeegee down the panes, I look at the bright sunlight outside, the sea, occasional cloud in the distance, gulls diving for flotsam in the harbour… and I see nothing. I switch off and turn blank. What was the name for that, again? Our yoga teacher mentioned it, but it was so long ago. I haven’t been willing to spend money on yoga for years. Last time was in 2008 with Maria, a Swedish girl I had a crush on. Then she went back to Karlskrona.
My name is Aditya and I’m a window washer at Harpa. Officially: a maintenance crew officer at the Concert Hall & Conference Centre. Fancy, eh? But I mostly wash inside windows, that’s what I do; no need to make it sound better than it is, I’m no Yank.
As soon as we’ve finished the whole lot in a fortnight, we start cleaning anew the ones we did first. The whole building is just glass. In various shapes, slanted at various angles, tinted in various hues, bizarre and at first snubbed by Reykjavíkers, especially when it almost remained unfinished when banks crashed.
Usually I do notice things as I work, though. On different sides of the building I am working on, it can be the waves dancing in the inner harbour, a lone man down the pier, bent against the November gale, people rushing in and out of the Kolaportid Flea Market across the old railway tracks, the plot I park my car in next to it, or the Arnarhóll park, on the other side.
This job is good, as it demands zero mental activity; you switch your body on an automatic pilot, put earplugs on and observe, or think whatever you wish. I used to whistle, but that nasty Snorri who acts like some big boss even though he’s just a foreman told me he was going to report me. “Harpa is for culture”, he said, “classical music! Not your techno. Do you even know what that is, Adit?” he asked me sneering.
Jerk! Who listens to techno? What century is he from? And of course I know what classical music is. I used to play piano. My parents insisted on it when I was five. We were supposed to assimilate to Copenhagen’s society fully, according to their Brahminic Weltanschauung. I gave up three years later. They kept it at home until recently, but sold it when the crisis hit. And that condescending shortening of my name. As if it were so hard to pronounce for Icelanders with all “ty” and “dy” and “ky” sounds in their language.
Still, it’s gotten better than before now. I came to Iceland, am making a living, and can even save some money for the big trip I’ve been planning. The same beautiful sun, so distant from the gloomy late autumn weather outside, the sun back where my family hailed from when I was eighteen months old, where I can lay down under a coconut tree and watch local girls, their skin dark like mine, waver seductively, dancing in the breeze.
Like the waves in the harbour, behind the screen I am cleaning. ’Cause, you see, my name’s Aditya and I am a window washer.