Thursday, March 26, 2009

South Beach Story

I went to the tailor and shoe-repair shop near Espanola Way to have a pair of  trousers shortened and waited while a couple negotiated the price of repairing snake-skin boots.  The shop is run by Cubans working at their sewing machines under a canopy of dozens of feathered dream-catchers, those items usually found in tacky tourist shops.  These dream-catchers are not for sale.    The couple agreed on a price and moved toward the door.  I was about to step up to the counter when a man pushed ahead of me.  "I'm next," I said.  He gave way.  "I bet you're an entertainer," he said, perhaps on the evidence of my loud voice.  "I am, too," he said, and jumped on to platform where the seamstress usually pinned up hems.  He was spectacularly handsome, in his thirties, I guessed; just at that tipping point before the signs of aging become apparent.  In command of the platform, he began to sing in a perfectly pitched baritone:

My heart is sad and lonely
For you I cry
For you, dear only
I tell you I mean it
I'm all for you
Body and Soul . . .

He went on until the end of the song.  The women at the sewing machines looked up from their work; the machines stopped.  The proprietor, an attractive middle-aged woman, who, in the many times I had done business with her, had never smiled but leveled a glance at me that said: You may be happy now but you'll soon be miserable, now appeared thoughtful; her mouth softened; her hands were still.  The man sang as he stepped down from the platform.  I told him to go ahead of me, which he did with a bow.  He needed buttons sewn on his jacket.  In two minutes he was done and out the door.   The women went back to their work.  The proprietor gave me a price for shortening my trousers and for the first time looked into my eyes.  Her eyes were the color of caramel.  She seemed to be dreaming.

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