Short Story About Identity
The janitor was always depressed and cynical. This was nothing new. The monotony of his occupation had left him numb, but he had no complaints. The anxiety he used to experience had gradually dwindled over the years; by now he was far too uninterested in his day-to-day life to bother with stress. He had ceased to care long ago. The janitor’s nature had long been that of complete apathy, but recently a new sentiment had been attempting to creep into his psyche. He couldn’t put his finger on it exactly, but he had been feeling dangerously close to hopeful. He dreaded the thought. The janitor felt a general sense of happiness was uncalled for, and having zeal for life was an abomination. The cause for this newfound hope, if one dared to call it that, was a mystery. Nothing had changed, nor did he want any such thing to occur. The janitor was sufficiently baffled. Discarding an unorthodox grin that had taken him by surprise, he hurriedly shaped his countenance back to its usual grimace. This glimmer of joy was appalling, and was certainly unfounded in rationality. He found his sudden ability to emote rather discomforting, and sought a remedy for his deficiency in stagnation.
The janitor pushed the mop back and forth across the grimy restroom floor. He existed solely for the drudgery. Back and forth. He had grown accustomed to the sameness of each passing day, year after year, and had acquired a contempt for alteration of any sort. As he pushed the mop, he felt a faint sense of pride in his technique; a technique that had not changed in the slightest since he had perfected it over two decades ago. He maneuvered the mop in a manner that seemed less than unique to the untrained eye, but the janitor knew it was rather innovative. He found solace in his menial labor. Back and forth.
He had been under the employ of the same high school for nearly 26 years, and although it was a fine institution, he hated nothing more than the students that attended it. Not only were most of these vermin perverse and obscene; they were agonizingly gleeful. Constant laughter. A sea of smiles. A living nightmare. The janitor avoided the juveniles at all costs in an effort to eradicate their poisonous bliss from his life. Their giddiness sickened him greatly. People so inexplicably ecstatic were surely not to be trusted or associated with. He did not understand the wretched scholars, and he had no desire to.
An especially jovial youth entered the restroom much to the janitor’s disgust. The well-kept student’s eyes shone bright with fulfillment and his posture had an air of esteem. The smugness of the young man was astounding. As the boy whistled a pleasant tune the janitor’s usual grimace became a menacing scowl. He tried to rid his thoughts of this offensive creature’s irrational attitude. He focused on the sound of his mop pushing through the sludge as a means to ignore the aggressively cheerful whistling. Back and forth. The janitor was quite disgruntled by the intrusion on his solitude, but he carried on with his work.
He did not wish for the mopping to discontinue, but every job must come to an end. As he exited the restroom and walked into the crowded hallway filled with laughing children his rage reached its apex, his blood began to boil and he suddenly became very short of breath. The laughter grew louder and more maniacal, swimming around his head and disorienting him. He fell to his knees, clutching at his chest and smiling wildly. His vision faded completely to blackness and the janitor suddenly realized the source of his recent optimism as he embraced the eternal abyss. You see, dear reader, the janitor was not a very happy man.
more by S.P. REILLY
photograph by Oscar Keys