I love my dry cleaner (which is to say, the dry cleaner I go to the most; he’s not on my books or anything.)
He is good looking and very well turned out.
He’s Iranian. I can’t tell if he’s gay.
He once chased me down the street to give me back a tip. He said where he comes from tips are offensive and that he had made his profit and was happy.
I was taken aback and quite delighted.
Yesterday, I took in two of Gethin’s suit jackets.
He asked me to check the pockets and when I was doing so I said, ‘This is the bit where I find a lipstick’ (quite funnily, I thought).
Whereupon, he opened up, like a man who had been waiting some time for just this subject to be raised.
‘Let me tell you, I am 11 years in this business and I have seen it all.
Many, many problems between the man and the woman because of what he leaves behind.
Two break-ups. One, the man has Viagra in his pocket. I see little blue pills. I think ‘medication’. I give it back to the girlfriend. It’s news to her.
The other time a notebook. But not the one he likes his wife to see. She reads it. She doesn’t like what she reads. She leaves him.
And what do I do? If I tell the woman, I cause trouble. If I wait to see the man by himself, I am guilty, complicit.
And they see me differently. They get defensive. I think I’m doing a favour to be discreet but now I know something about them I should not and they get angry.
Drugs: cannabis, ecstasy, coke- lots of it.
And they call to find out where it is!
They say, ‘This cost me a lot of money. This cost me £150’ and I say, ‘I can’t keep that in my shop. I’m a dry cleaner, not a dealer’. And they say, ‘Where have you put it?’ so I point to the manhole outside and they get angry.
Now we know men. We know how they work.
We make them check their pockets.’
And throughout the story I gasp and laugh and exclaim, ‘No way!’.
But when I leave the shop and sit in the car I’m thinking, well, there are a lot of people from the BBC around here.