Periscope Depth

baby, I have no story to be told

“All right, you’re gonna have a quick conversation with my man Adele,” the salesman told me. “Real quick. Only a couple of words.”

“Adele?” I said. “Does he know he’s famous?”

I stood in the mirrored alcove of a Men’s Wearhouse, wearing a suit over a T-shirt. Joseph Abboud, single-breasted, taupe with dark buttons. Light but not summer weight.

A tailor emerged from a back room. Squat, Balkan, bald, thick glasses. He wore a dress shirt and a vest and he carried a small square of chalk, the size of four postage stamps, in one hand.

“Technically, it’s Adel,” the salesman said. “We just call him that.”

My conversation with Adel was only a few words, but it wasn’t quick. He looked me over in my suit and nodded. “Okay, my friend.” Then he turned me around by planting his hand in my back and pushing. He pinched the cuffs of my pants together and made tiny marks with the chalk. They felt like quick cuts: a Czech knife fighter bringing me down to his size.

He clambered up into the mirrored alcove with me and tucked a thumb into my waistband. “Good?” he asked.


He gave a snort, looked to the salesman and shrugged. “Good? Half inch?”

“I don’t know what I’m supposed to say here,” I said.

“He’s saying it’s kind of snug,” the salesman said. “If it’s comfortable for you, it’s fine. Just don’t eat too much.” Having always been a skinny motherfucker, I didn’t see any problems.

Adel stepped back down off the platform. He produced a laminate card with three cuff length options: casual, business and dress. He pointed to each and grunted. I indicated the middle path, recommended by Aristotle and endorsed by generations. He nodded and knelt in front of me, marking a II on each cuff in chalk.

“Hands,” he said, and I gave him them. He shook them out as if to wring water off them, then hung them back at my side. With a small wooden ruler, he measured the length of my thumb.

“Okay, my friend.” And that ended it. Adel gave some of the measurements he’d taken to the salesman. Then he retreated to the back of the store. I don’t know what a Central European tailor does between clients. Maybe he reads magazines, or writes to the folks back home, or watches Sports Center, or eats Goldfish. My guess: when you’re the difference between feeling okay about a $600 suit and feeling fantastic, you can do whatever the hell you want.