Lioubov, mender of all coats, taperer of pants, hemmer of lock, seamstress of my heart—you are my one good reason for ever, ever stepping into NDG.
And today is no different. I carefully descend the neatly snow-swept steps into Elvis Shoe Repair and Valet Svc., your undisputed domain, and find you there as I left you—foot on Singer pedal, as warming as a hearth. I have come the long, winding road from St-Henri on the Canal for a bit of your needlework.
It’s been a fair five years now since you worked those first miracles on my new-old-stock JCPenney deer wool pea coat—a back stitch that got stuck and slit in a door I was holding open for some old spinster at Akhavan—still seamlessly mended and taken in for my slight frame, hanging now, worn out, in my closet.
Since then, it’s been many seasons of trousers entrusted. Anything from trusty 501s and occasional chinos—and ill-advised 532s and canvas work pants, both Swayze-inspired, and high-waisted—to be tapered dramatically and hemmed neatly.
And though I recall your professional skepticism those first few pairs—“you will not be able to take them off!”—I mostly sojourn in those memories mirthfully, all those times I made you take the measuring tape out, snickering all the while, showing me the extra half inch you had tacked on at the leg opening. You always abided and redid the work when I pointed it out—smiling, a clothier before a coxcomb—and finally learned I meant it soon enough.
I daresay you’ve since come to accept and cherish the fruits of my dandyism, though you’ve still got some kick and hijinks in you. Your snark, like your red-dyed bob, is a reassuring constant.
Today, for instance, is a mere hem job, but here you are again, rifling through the pockets of what I’ve brought you, tssk-tssking and snorting, pulling euros and loonies out of change pocket, bills and raffle tickets out of others: “You need a woman for such things! Like that pretty Ukrainian-looking girl with you once.”
Your recollections are always a bit of flattery, no doubt, and while I think the matter over as you’re clothes-pinning me into privacy in the change room, I don’t think I’ve met a woman I’d trust with my trousers quite as well.
I mean, would she stand me up on a sturdy wooden pro-grade thingy and dutifully tuck four months of creased double cuff inside my left leg, tugging at it like so, testing for leg clearance? Would she giggle and ask:
“You gonna make these tighter, like the other ones?”
Would she call me a “stilyaga” when I told her:
“Well these are my loosest jeans! But no, not this time around.”
How we laugh and laugh. How you kindly repeat it—Stilyaga—for mental note.
I mean no woman I meet will tell me she was a pharmacist in the empire. Hardly any other woman will make such buttery smooth work of 19oz selvedge—so tightly, solidly sewed, perfectly hemmed. No young, plush, daring partner will ensnare me in talk of those two X Masses on the horizon: Coca-Cola Xmas around the corner and Orthodox Christmas two weeks down the road. They have plenty else to wonder at, but they aren’t even of your world.
I mean, yeah, this single thing, new as it is, wouldn’t mind a little bit of that Ukrainian-looking friend, that part-time lover, or another. But my hems and tapers will likely be yours as long as you’ll have me. My altered heart is plucked with your Singer, Lioubov. And that’s that.
So now that you’re telling me you’re thinking of reverting to a home-based operation, chopping out a box for your productivity with your arms, explaining about all that time one can waste—time I’ve all too well laid as such—I’m not thinking of those women, or a woman, or the woman. The only thought on my mind is how to not lose you. My gams and clotheshorse tucks would never forgive if I did.
Leaving NDG with the finished work, I’m already longing for the next bit I’ll entrust you with. Maybe those black boot-cut relics I could resurrect for those many stilyaga days ahead. Maybe a German army parka to streamline. Or something new. Whatever it may be, I know you won’t disappoint. And that’s means a helluva lot, right now.