A TAILOR OF GREAT SADNESS
The suit was a beautiful thing, a nice soft grey fabric with white chalk stripes—like gangsters and high-
class lawyers wore in previous times. And it was my size. I mean, the jacket fit me perfectly, I assumed the
pants would. It was $3 I think. I don’t know what I was doing in Goodwill, but there I was and there it was
and if the gods had put a bullhorn directly to my ear the message couldn’t have been clearer; this suit
was meant for me. I had no use for a suit of course--no use whatsoever--but, you know, for three bucks I
could wear it to paint in. Jeans cost $6 in those days, good jeans were around $10.
So, I bought the thing and brought it up to my little loft and hung it somewhere so I could look at it once in
a while and dream of the day I would wear it.
One day, inspired by I don’t know what, I decided that I’d better try on the pants. And, though they were
long enough you could have put two of me in there at the waist. I spent a bit of time mulling over that,
wondering about the shape of the guy who had originally owned the thing. (my first guess…potato…) But,
I resigned myself to the fact that I’d just bought a suit coat, and that that was kinda cool in
Weeks later, while on my way downtown to a place with painted windows I passed by a tailor’s shop. Just
out of curiosity I decided to go in. There were two ancient, you know, relatively speaking, men in there,
each in white shirt and tie with rolled up sleeves, and they were talking quietly. The one behind the
counter stopped, needle in mid stitch, and took off his wire-rimmed glasses when I walked in. The one on
my side of the counter swung around slowly on his stool and looked at me inquiringly. What on earth
could this long haired kid in jeans want?
“You’re a tailor?”
“May I ask you a question?”
“Well, you see, I bought this suit, you know, at Goodwill. And though the jacket fits perfectly, the pants are
kinda big and…well, is there anything you could do about that?”
“That is possible.”
“How much would it cost to…I mean how much do you think it might cost to take in the waist…of the
“Take in is no problem. To let out; that’s another matter. But, take in…” He shrugged. He said something
to his friend in a language I’d never heard before. His friend sputtered a bit and shrugged and said
something back in one or two words.
“Bring me in these pants and I will see.”
“But, I need to know…well, you know, I need to know about how much. I need to know…if I can afford it. I’
m not rich.”
The two old gentlemen both laughed at that. “Who is?” They both nodded at the wisdom in that simple
statement. “You bring to me the pants and I will tell you how much.”
“Would it be more than $10?”
“You bring in these pants. OK, for $10 I will do this for you, could be maybe less.”
I RAN about thirty blocks. Fourteen blocks to my place—don’t forget three flights of stairs up, don’t forget
three flights of stairs rapidly down, carrying pants—and sixteen or seventeen blocks back, to the tailor’s
shop. When I arrived he was in the midst of pulling down the shade in the front door, closing up.
“Come in, come in,” he said bowing.
“I’m glad I made it,” I huffed.
I noticed that the tailor’s friend had left as I walked ahead and placed the pants on the counter. “These
are the pants I told you about,” I said, still huffing. He came around the counter and put on his
glasses, lifted the pants toward a light.
“This,” he said, “is a nice wool, a good wool. This is a very good wool.”
“Can you take them in?...You said it would only cost like $10.”
“Yes. How much do they need taken in…” he mulled out loud.
I knew it was more of a question for himself, but I wanted to be a part of the social arrangement. I
answered cleverly, “About a hundred miles I guess.”
He took off his glasses and looked up at me. “The funny business...?” he said sharply. (He pronounced it
piz-nez) “You come here to make the funny business?!”
I could see that he was furious. I didn’t know what I had done to upset him, but I wanted to apologize.
“You!” he shouted, “You always coming again with the funny business.”
He took my pants in a clump and thrust them toward me. “You will please leave my shop.” I took the pants.
“You will be kind to leave my shop,” he said walking over to the door and holding it open for me.
I had no idea what I had done; whatever it was, I was deeply deeply sorry that I had done it. And, even
now—I guess it’s been more than 40 years—when I think about that event, I ache with the desire to
apologize to that man, maybe explain myself, fix that goddamned mess somehow.
I dropped the pants in a garbage can on the way home, never wore the suit coat. I think, eventually, I
gave it back to Goodwill.