Bekim is not an Islamic fundamentalist; he is not a terrorist or any celebrity. He is an ordinary man, who makes a living by performing daily an ordinary job but wrongly categorized by most as appalling and disgraceful: he is a garbage collector on the sanitation truck.
Not everybody from Bekim’s far away land can boast a respectable and stable job so Bekim does not feel humiliated in any way for collecting garbage in America.
Bekim is a short man, bony, olive-skinned, prominent cheekbones, dark and narrow eyes, big nose, and a shy smile slipped under a well-groomed, dignified mustache. He came to America to gather some money and be able to marry back in his village. In Gulpazar, his native hamlet hidden at the foot of the mountains, the custom still prevails for the bride to be bought with a nice dowry. Maybe that is why there are so many unmarried girls and very few young men in the village - most bachelors left for foreign lands hoping to gather some money and come back and conquer their brides.
Bekim followed the custom, and promised Aisha he will return as soon as he had put enough money aside to pay for the wedding.
Bekim’s work is relatively simple: each morning, except Sundays, at six in the morning he leans out on the side of the green and white truck ready to empty out the garbage bins left at the end of driveways by busy people, most still in their beds at that hour. Bekim picks every waste container, lowers it to the car, and empties it automatically. The contents disappear within the jaws of steel, where they are finely ground and compacted.
When the metal beast belly is full, the garbage is unloaded at the station, sorted, processed, or incinerated.
Bekim works his shift with Sabri. Sabri drives the truck. His family is back at home, waiting every month for the money he sends every payday.
Their route is so precise and calculated so rigorous: they go twice a week on the same streets assigned to them.
Sabri is so used to the route that he knows exactly what time they will finish the job. At 12, Mondays and Thursdays for example, at the end of the last street, one dead end lane opening in a fenced park where everybody walked their dogs, both of them stop after the last house was serviced, and with their protective suits removed, they wash their hands with the clean water from a plastic drum, spread a mat in the truck cab and pray first of all. After pleading their sincere devotion to their Deity, they put out food packages and eat together, as appropriate.
In the last house lives Mrs. Thiess, a woman about 45-50 years old, pale, weak, wilted, dull gray-blond hair and a pair of thick spectacles. She is widowed and lives alone with two cats, which share the three rooms of her home. A tiny courtyard, surrounded by hedges trimmed professionally is visible in the back. The house is like any other houses around.
Every Monday and Thursday, the woman sits on the porch and looks at the two of them. She is not supervising or looking for mistakes they made, but instead, it seemed there was not enough company her cats offered so she was rather lonely. They addressed a few words each time she was out on porch. In general complains about the weather.
Bekim was missing the sun, burning sun from his native land, the one parching the dirt streets in his village and ripening the pomegranates.
One Monday morning, Mrs. Thiess invited them both to drink a cup of hot tea.
Outside was cold and cloudy, and Bekim’s skin felt tightened and tingly, so he accepted.
"Go in by yourself, because you are younger and have no family!” His partner whispered.
Bekim was a little baffled, but he did not want to refuse the invitation, so he crossed the threshold following the woman inside. He found it strange that he knew her usually shriveling, muffled in thick sweaters, yet today, although it was cold, Mrs. Thiess was wearing a thin silk gown, with large floral prints, poppies on a blue background, under which her bare legs were visible. Bekim entered the kitchen, where a whistling kettle and a plate of chocolate cookies were waiting for him on the table.
"This year, summer does not want to come," said Mrs. Thiess.
"Right," ... Bekim approved politely sipping from the cup the boiling tea, burning his lips.
"In my country, it's always hot and the sun shines all the time ... I think it's great to live there!"
"Yes, it's great," repeated the man, “here is different! "
After this brief dialogue, there was an awkward silence in the room. The woman looked at him with a mysterious smile, and he, more confused, silently admired the geometric designs on the kitchen floor tiles, not knowing what to say. After he finished his cake and emptied his cup of tea, Bekim rose, ready to leave, but Mrs. Thiess made a step towards him, and lifting her arms, she threw them around his neck.
"I want to have summer in November," she muttered, suddenly flushed, against his chest and biting her pale lips.
They made love right there on the kitchen table, then went into her bedroom. Ever since her husband died, no other man wrinkled amongst her beddings. After finishing, Bekim dressed himself quickly. From the steering wheel of the garbage truck, Sabri made signs to hurry but before leaving, Bekim told the woman, who looked after him dearly:
"Thursday will be summer!"
Bekim, garbage collector, neither a smooth talker nor a meteorologist, was right. The following Thursday, it felt like warm hairdryers began to blow from the mountains in the valleys, the sky was rinsed and filled with sun melting away all the ice.
Every Thursday, she waited for Bekim in the kitchen, the kettle whistling and a plate of chocolate brownies and every time after he emptied the trash bin in the pail, he drank his cup of tea.
When Sabri laughs at him, Bekim knows he is doing nothing wrong, quite the contrary; an old dervish said, when he was just a boy that the sin Allah finds hardest to forgive is a man refusing a woman invitation into her bed.
If the rule applies to women-all over the world, Bekim did not know.