Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Tailor

I could tell that the tailor used to be a smoker. Either that or he’s had to take his habit outside, now that it’s no longer legal to smoke inside buildings in the state of Rhode Island. The drop ceiling was the first thing I noticed when I walked in. A zillion years ago, when the joint was first decorated, those tiles were probably white. But they hung in yellowish grey, and the once clear panels barely allowed the light through. The fluorescent lamp flickered behind it. The tailor was probably used to the flickering by then, and used the swing-arm lamp over his machine anyway.

I waited for him to finish ironing a hem, while I examined his small shop. The wood veneer paneled walls were the same ones that we had in our family room when I was a kid. But his were a bit more yellow-greenish, probably from the smoke. Dad quit when I was 6, so our walls never got the chance to absorb the nicotine. Behind the counter, by the window, was a rack containing multiple spools of thread in an array of colors. In front of that was his sewing machine, and beside it the small ironing board and an iron—plugged in and ready for action.  The iron sighed and a cloud of steam escaped its pores as he set it aside.

Stuck to the paneled walls were clippings from the newspaper—articles and cartoons—that yellowed from either having been up for too long, or from the smoke. Pictures of a young woman, presumably his daughter, in a wedding dress were framed and hung as well. I remember thinking how handy it must have been for the bride to be the daughter of a tailor. The alterations on my no-frills wedding dress cost the same as the dress itself. She must have saved a bundle.

He turned his attention to me and wordlessly jutted his chin at the jeans I'd brought in.  I showed him the jeans I’d just bought at the used clothing store the day before, and explained that they were too long.  He cocked his head, his helmet shaped toupee stayed fixed to his head.  It was the color that his hair probably was in the 60s.  His lined face did not match the sand colored fake hair. 

“Go put them on,” he pointed to the curtain. “We get the right length.” He said in an accent I couldn’t place. I stood behind the curtain, trying to get it to close completely. The panels split in the middle, and left about an inch of visibility between them. I tried pulling both together, but then there was an inch or so on each side. I decided that 1 inch exposure in the middle was better than a total of 2 inches exposure on the sides and changed as fast as I could.

He cuffed the jeans, drew a chalk line on one of the pant legs and grunted, “Eight dollars. Ready on Tuesday.” When he said Tuesday it sounded like "Tuzdeh."  I ducked behind the curtains again, and tried without a different result to get them to close. When I came out from behind the curtain he handed me a slip and instructed me to fill in my name and phone number. He pinned one copy to the jeans, and I tucked the other into my purse.

On my way out I noticed the TV. It was off, but I wondered if he normally had it on while he worked just to keep himself company. It had an antenna on it, and I wondered if it was off because the tailor didn’t bother to get cable in his shop now that TV antennas don’t work anymore. The screen was a dormant greenish grey color, and one of the dials on the front was broken.

I forgot to pick up my jeans on Tuesday. Then I went to jury duty on Wednesday. Then Thanksgiving happened. And then I forgot about the jeans altogether until I noticed the slip in my purse. Yesterday I pulled into the tailor’s small parking lot, large enough to hold 1-2 cars. I parked behind a red Jeep Cherokee with an Armenia sticker on the window. I walked into the shop and the tailor popped out from the Cherokee and followed me into the shop. I wondered what he was doing in the car, and figured he was probably listening to the radio and smoking but couldn’t be sure.

I took in the faint scent of cigarettes, a worn out air freshener on the end of the counter, and the smell of other people’s clothes. It had a bar room Salvation Army store kind of a smell to it. The TV was on this time, and I watched it while he went into the back to get my jeans. A talk show was on, and the camera focused on an older woman in a tank top and black bra railed on about her teenaged son’s girlfriend. She gestured wildly at whatever offense the girlfriend committed, and the flab on her upper arms jiggled. The stretched out tattoo on that part of her arm swung with her flesh. I pressed my arms closer to my body out of reflex; I’ve become conscious about the extra flesh on the backs of my arms. Apparently the son’s girlfriend went and got herself knocked up, and of course the son had nothing to do with any of that.

The talk show host introduced the girlfriend, and the older woman leapt out of her chair and got into the girlfriend’s face. She pointed her finger into the girl’s face and screamed at her, most of it was bleeped, but her arm flab inadvertently got involved in her tirade. The show’s bodyguards stood by to intervene, if necessary.

“Wow. What are you watching?” I asked the tailor.

He scratched his obvious toupee and said, “I do not think this is even real.”  He thumbed through a wad of cash in his pocket and gave me change for my $10 bill.  The jeans are the perfect length.



Blogger *~*Cece*~* said...

I love the way you write, I saw & smelled it all.

December 2, 2009 at 10:14 PM  
Blogger BJ Knapp said...

Aw... thanks Darlin'. It's kind of a pointless story, but it was so much fun to write it.

December 3, 2009 at 10:53 AM  
Blogger Taoist Biker said...

Pointless stories are often the best ones, though, aren't they?

December 3, 2009 at 11:48 AM  
Blogger BJ Knapp said...

TB, that's what I struggle with sometimes. I am always compelled to have some sort of witty conclusion to what I write here. When really I should be viewing my blog as a writing playground where I can try out different things and see how they work.

December 3, 2009 at 2:18 PM  

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