I see a man. He is sweeping leaves off a path just beyond the house opposite. He is whistling a cheery tune that I have never heard before. I find it strangely alluring. The afternoon is sweltering, and I wonder what great fortitude it takes for a person to so willingly let himself be scorched.
Thankfully, I am in the shades, and nestled comfortably in smooth, soft linen. Above me, the fan whirls a gentle breeze.
How quite different are our inclinations – for while I prefer the whiff of books in a cool still, he prefers the rustle of shriveled leaves in a trembling heat. Still, I don’t understand how a person might possibly find enjoyment, in however enjoyable an endeavor, when the air all around stifles and sears in its super-heated form.
I finally tear my eyes from the window and try to find the word from which I had earlier departed. “Naivete”. There is it. But before I could finish it, I found myself trailing a thought that had curiously wandered back to that mysterious sweeping man.
Trying to read is pointless when your mind is distracted. I know that no speculation can ever satisfy as sweetly as the truth itself. I am going to ask the man for exactly that.
I step out of the house, and immediately, I am illuminated. It is so bright that my eyes instinctively seek seclusion behind a pair of valorous lids. Accustomization takes a while.
Just as I am about to greet the man, whose back I face, he swivels around and, from under his straw hat, offers a friendly smile. I have not known strangers to be so forthcoming; not especially when they have no favor to ask or message to transpire. Nevertheless, I return a smile. I point towards my house and tell him that that’s where I live. He nods; his slight smile never diminishing. The heat begins its ascent. My pores are pried open and, slowly, I feel the tickle of sweat. I casually side-step into the shade beneath the mango tree; I have not endurance to remain for long in Phalaris’s bull. Hastiness is key.
“Why do you sweep at this terrible hour?”
At first he seems to not understand me. Perhaps the heat waves had distorted my words. I repeat it more slowly.
He tells me that he does not mind the weather at all – he has long gotten used to it. Next, he tells me that sweeping is enjoyable and, furthermore, he has nothing else to do. At this point, I become so vexed by the heat and the sweating that I lose complete focus on what the man is saying. And by the time I’m done dabbing the sweat with my sleeves, he has already stopped talking.
He likes sweeping and he does not mind the weather. A personal preference, simple. This is all that I came for. Why did I even bother coming down.
I wish him well, wave goodbye, then hurry back into the beckoning solace of the house. I splash my face with cold water and quickly, the accumulated heat is flushed out.
When I return to my little nest beside the window, I again see the man; sweeping and whistling in that same insouciance, and bathing blissfully in the heat that intended to torture. I flip my book and locate the sentence I had just now failed to properly digest. “..because he claims that we have lost naivete.”
Suddenly, the sweeping stops. I look out the window and see the man hoisting a huge black bag of leaves. He slings the bag over his shoulder and disappears to beyond the frame of my window.
What was it that he had said just now? I think he said he had a family to take care of. And maybe he said that he enjoyed his work.