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Chapter 3 of "The Cleaners - An Adventure in Filth"

Alone, a cleaner can do very little.’ The Cleaners

“I have made some eggs and coffee. Are you hungry?” Rick asked joyfully.

I slowly maneuvered myself to the side of the bed, “Yes, that would be great.”

I had a very deep sensation of my body, sensing it from the top of my head to the tip of my toes. Every breath produced a wonderful tingling against the rhythm of heartbeat and pulse. I felt alive, yet still very tired.

All the usual thoughts of the day ahead, and the restlessness that would accompany them, were entirely absent. I wished only for the eggs and coffee. I was a child again.

I sat down to eat and forgotten the rich aroma of coffee. The first sip infused an energy that lit my solar plexus up like the Sun. The last glimmer of dusk’s light warmed my face and filled me with a feeling that I’d never experienced.

The texture and flavor of the eggs were strangely delicious. My stomach, indeed the whole of me, truly appreciated the effort of Rick's offering.

After my fill, and still experiencing this connection, I turned to Rick, “Have you been watching me all this time?”

Rick replied softly, “Yes. I have been watching you longer than you think. What has happened to you will take some time to digest. It is the way of things.”

I didn’t understand what he’d said but the tone of his voice and how it resonated felt true. I was content to listen.

He continued, “Rest for the next couple of days. Make your way slowly back into life. Everything will soon return to the way it was, but you now have a taste for something that can give you a certain direction. Contact me when you are able. It will be important to speak to one another.”

Rick placed a piece of paper containing his phone number on the table and quietly left. I went back to bed, and again, slept like a baby.

Two days passed, and as Rick had predicted, everything returned to normal. I felt sufficiently well enough to call him. We didn’t speak for long, only enough words to arrange our next meeting at the TXU Building for the following night.

As had happened in our first meeting, we met in the main foyer where we greeted each other, and I followed him to the same bare room. We sat down and shared a comfortable silence.

This meeting had an entirely different feel about it. I wondered whether I'd really recovered from a few days ago. I wasn’t sure. But this time I felt connected to Rick in a way that I’d never been connected to anyone. I couldn’t say what it was, but if I had to put it in a word, I would say he felt like a brother.

“How do you feel?” Rick asked.

“To be truthful,” I said, “I don’t know. So much has happened.”

“Good,” Rick replied.

“Good? How could this be good? I feel like a mess. I don’t know what’s happening. I don’t know who I am anymore.”

“Then you have come to something perhaps. Maybe you have a question?” asked Rick patiently.

I paused for a moment, searching for a response. Nothing came except the question I originally wanted to ask, “Why did you become a cleaner?”

“Very well, we can begin with this,” he replied as he sat back a little in his chair, making himself more vertical, more poised.

“I’m not a cleaner, as you put it, at least, not yet. I still pursue outside interests for which you know me well. I have, however, scaled them back to the degree that it affords me the time I need to devote myself to cleaning.

"You see, one can not clean straight away, it takes time and serious study. It is said that it takes at least twenty years to begin to understand what it means to clean, let alone undertake the task of cleaning itself.”

The whole time Rick was talking in this peculiar but very sincere way, I thought I knew what he was saying while not having the faintest clue what he was on about. This ‘double impression’ attracted my attention so much that I listened intently to everything he said in case something should fall through the cracks that I could understand.

Rick continued, “For me, the search for something that could give meaning and purpose to my life began at a young age. Of course, I was unaware of this at the time, but there was always something that itched. I was restless.

“The restlessness manifested in all ways common in youth. Education helped to smother the manifestations for a while.

"Soon enough the itch began to ache. When my intellect had sufficiently matured, questions formulated themselves but the world had no answers.

“A career helped again to smother what had been aching for so long, but inevitably, a point is reached where one’s life is put into question. If the question is strong enough, and the hunger deep enough, the search for a way of life within life becomes possible. It is at this point that we are able to receive help directly.”

I didn’t know what he meant by ‘help’ or ‘search for a way.’ I felt that I didn’t even have a question let alone searching for something. With these thoughts, I again listened intently.

He continued, “One may not understand the question that one has or even know of its existence, but one feels something, perhaps a certain movement towards oneself, a wish to know why?

“This wish works away in us. It is always there, and surfaces when something in us can receive what is always being given. If one has a certain discrimination towards this movement, even an unconscious one, it is possible to find threads to a living fabric.

“I was fortunate to find such a thread, but the means to seek a living fabric is still only a possibility for me. Much work, much preparation is needed on my part. And so, until an understanding grows concerning the work of cleaning, of purification, and becomes strong enough to truly accept the conditions in which I live, I am compelled to live two quite separate lives.”

After Rick finished, he became silent and deeply thoughtful, with a hint of tears. He looked up, as if in reverence, and then turned very attentively and said, “Consider yourself fortunate to have had these experiences. For a person of your type and nature you have been given a great gift. The price of this gift is much suffering and labor but its rewards are beyond description.”

I felt Rick put much more meaning into every word than I could possibly understand. Obviously, this ‘work of cleaning,’ as he phrased it, was very important to him. I felt sincerity in his voice as if he was pouring his heart out. Yet, at the same time there was this contained and highly articulated, almost calculated way that he expressed himself. I’d never heard anyone speak like this, but it moved me.

After a brief silence, and collecting my thoughts, I said, “I don’t understand very much of what you’re saying Rick but I appreciate you speaking with, and taking care of me. I don’t know how I can repay you.”

“It is not me that you have to repay,” Rick said sternly. “Try to understand what brought you here. What do you want? What is it that you wish to know? Keep these questions alive. When you are ready, you can contact me again if you wish.”

“OK,” I replied.

We quietly departed from our meeting.

I didn’t go into work for the rest of the week. The thought of it was too much. My Boss didn’t like it, but I didn’t care. By the time Sunday came around I felt sufficiently recovered. Much of what Rick said was still with me. Questions began to appear.

Was I searching for a way of life within life? Was this what I was missing? It seemed to have a grain of truth. I’d sampled, or should I say indulged in almost everything that life had to offer. I should be envied. I had thrown myself into a thousand activities, quite often very successfully.

I’d had a string of relationships. Nothing seemed to stick but that didn’t seem to matter. Then it all culminated one night. Like a Tidal wave that doesn’t show its full force until it reaches the shore. All the guilt, remorse and anguish swelling under the surface finally reached a point where it could emerge. It was almost fatal.

Was this what Rick was talking about? Was my life put into question by the primal forces of my subconscious? Maybe I didn’t know it was a question? I thought it was a sign of madness, depression, or as Bob Carter put it, a ‘nutter.’

This line of thinking completely changed my perspective. From a point of ‘no return’ I began to feel a point where I ‘could return,’ seeing possible connections between life events. Rick’s description of what lead him to become a cleaner, although obscure, nonetheless felt familiar.

The way he’d spoken about cleaning was intriguing. I’d never given the occupation much thought. It seemed fairly mundane. Most of what I knew about cleaning, and cleaners, were they were a cheap labor force, pretty much unskilled and relatively unseen.

The way Rick spoke about it, one could have been forgiven for thinking that he was speaking about something sacred. Yet, there was so much I’d experienced that indicated something very different about Rick, my Samaritan, and the people I saw working together.

It was like being in a game and not knowing the rules. You know the game must make sense to the people playing it but, until you understand its basis you’re lost. What could this game be? What was this ‘search’ Rick mentioned? What was the meaning and purpose he'd found in this thread, this living fabric he referred to?

A few days later I contacted Rick again and he invited me to a ‘cleaning day’ being held the following weekend. Though I didn’t know what this meant, I gladly accepted. I went back to work on Monday with an unusual zest.


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