The old manís hands shake nearly as much as his head the moment I step through the door of his Monroe Street store

I have passed this place a million times in my wandering, but never once imagined I would be in need of its services.

I dropped out of school partly because of its social agenda.

I thought dances, promise even football rallies held no pleasure for a boy like me.

The old man see this much in my eyes and asks what I want with him, looking surprised when I saw I need a tuxedo for a prom that isnít my own.

Mom conned me into a date with her best friendís niece, a girl who got stood up by her football captain boyfriend when she would give out like the cheer leaders did.

The w displays of the store have a parade of mannequins all of them dressed in one type of tuxedo or another.

But the old man looks at me and says he might not have the size in a style thatís right for me.

I guess he can read from me a life time of t-shirts and jeans.

He leads me back to the counter where he takes my measurements, the edge of his tape ticking my nose or ears, a tape stretched out along my arm like an uncoiled snake.

Around me, a forest of tuxedo stirs as the result of some draft as the old man pushes though them still dissatisfied with the choices.

He draws one of out of its plastic sleeve, then another as I finger an old cut in the wood of the counter, a wound left from cutting the fabric for some other soulís desperate creation.

The old manís hands still shake, but he never hurts me. He even treats me like I am someone important when I know Iím not.

His eyes look bloated as he peers through his round glasses at me, studying the length of my hair and the breath of my shoulders.

Finally, he emerges from the rear of the shop with a grin and a tuxedo he claims is perfect for me.

I look at my full form in the mirror and marvel at the change. I see my face and my body, but the person in the mirror isnít me.

ďIím renting you a memory,Ē the old man mumbles, when packages the tuxedo up for me to carry home. ďSuch things are priceless.Ē

He seems so pleased with himself, I half expect him to wave the fee, as if finding anything to suit a soul like mine payment enough.

But he takes my money, stuffing each wrinkled bill into his pocket while reminding me to have the suit back by Monday.

I know later, I wonít remember what the tuxedo looks like or whether or not I had a good time at the dance. I wonít even remember if I got the suit back on time. But I know Iíll never forget the old man.



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