I stood admiring the reflection in the mirror:
“Yes. Very nice,” the assistant said, smoothing the creases in the fabric on my shoulders with a neat akimbo flush of her hands. “I don’t think we need to try another size, do we?”
There was a look of satisfaction on Amore’s face as she took me in, like she believed that I was the man of her dreams.
“No, I don’t think we do,” she responded to the assistant, a woman in her mid-fifties with long white-blonde hair done up in a rough ponytail, thick-framed rectangular glasses, and an easy manner that in my mere three and a half months in Munich I had learned not to expect from service personnel.
“Oh, my mistake! This one is not in the sale…” she added delicately.
We were in a tailor around the corner from Odeonsplatz next to the burning-flame holocaust memorial.
“I like it”, I ventured, helpfully. It was a plaid three-piece suit in hues of pastel blue and grey and it was very fetching.
“It’s €350 for everything, and that’s not bad for Munich,” she added, holding my gaze in the mirror.
I looked myself up and down carefully once again.
“I would like to take some time to consider it,” I told her, coming back from the brink, breaking her spell by turning to face Amore. “Se vuoi”, she said, untroubled.
After I’d changed back into my shit normal clothes, we waved goodbye to our hostess, I obliged myself to return later in the week to make the purchase, and then stepped out after Amore into the warmth of the late-afternoon sun. It had been a hot summer by Munich’s standards this year and it was still 24 degrees outside despite being around six pm. For a Scot, this is impossible to comprehend. The waning sunlight sparkled in the passing windscreens of the Mercedes, Teslas, and BMWs of the Münchner and we looked good in its reflection. I’d had a selfish day, buying clothes I didn’t need and eating food I could have lived without. Munich is a city where cashflow is not a problem. After moving here I’d been able to kiss my Scottish overdraft goodbye by earning the king’s ransom of €30,000 a year. A king’s ransom which I’m told, for Munich, is nothing. How such things are economically possible by working in a warehouse in a shopping centre, I am waiting for you to tell me, if you’re so smart. All I know is, the pitiful salaries of Theresa May’s joyless little Brexit tugboat were a smug laugh somewhere in the back of my mind and I’d moved on to pastures grün.
Off home we sauntered to make a change of clothes before heading out somewhere of Amore’s choosing for dinner. We were accosted as usual by the hugely overweight black cat that lies like hedonist-bot from Futurama at the side of the road near our building. He now approaches us without fail every time we go to or fro, after Amore on one occasion unwisely donated to him a morsel of Norwegian salmon that she’d had in her handbag. She can’t be the first to have been beguiled, I thought, as his belly swung like a hammock from side to side as he trundled along, before he flopped down at our feet next to the sunflower field outside our building. He reminds me of her grandmother’s cat, Paulino, who is morbidly obese and dependent on diet coke, with which his bowl by the bead-curtain is usually brimming. Paulino, in the most decadent act I have ever witnessed, actually sits at his bowl and quenches himself with his little paw, quite as though he were a fat little boy drinking from a lake with his cupped hand. Indeed, Paulino is the only obese Italian other than Pavarotti that I have ever seen, and as such can perhaps be described as Italy’s Shame, owed to the pretentious claims that Amore often makes about the quality of Italian food and the collective knowledge of her compatriots about how to prepare and how much of it to eat. Our little friend gave a languorous swish of his tail as I pulled her away by the hand.
“Dai amore, unlock”, she said as we got inside and up to our door.
“Unlock! Unlock!” I mimicked, kissing her nose.
“You taking the piss out of my English now are you mate?” she said.
“Dai amore, unlock I need pi-pi”.
I got my keys out and rustled them.
“You know”, I said, “I think I might buy that suit. It looked good, didn’t it?”
“Alright – scusa”.
I fed the key into the lock and turned. Or… at least I tried to.
“That’s… funny,” I said.
I scraped the key back out of the lock, examined it closely… it seemed fine; I blew across it, and gave it another try. The barest fraction of movement in the lock, and then, again, nothing.
The key’s not working, Amore…” I said, “Maybe we can try your one?”
“I don’t have my key, Amore”, she said, piss pooling around her sandals.
The thought of what happened next still enrages me to this day. Amore had left her key in the lock on the other side and I hadn’t noticed before I left for my day of commercial masturbation. It meant that the door was impervious to attempts from the outside to open it. The shit-eating self-satisfied smile on my face was well and truly wiped away. We contemplated many things, from climbing up via the terraces on the west side of the building and getting into our flat through what we’d convinced ourselves was an open window; to picking the lock with an earring Amore had extorted from a street-merchant in India (it came to snap inside the lock too). We ended up meeting our next door neighbour, a sweetheart by the name of Nadine who reminded me of Dawn from The Office. We wanted to see if we (I) could jump from her terrace over to ours and get in that way but the gap seemed much wider than I remembered and I decided not to risk accidental suicide. We called out a locksmith who smirked all through our entire conversation (translated where his English failed him by Nadine). He was tall, wearing black sweatpants, a black sweatshirt, he stunk of sweat and he was wearing a black cap on the back of his head who’s peak pointed upwards like those of the neds of my homeland. He’d brought a big black case with him. He quoted us a figure of €300-400 for his services, his beady eyes darting about as he did so, all while interjecting with the same stupid phrase I’ve replayed in my head many times since:
“This is because you called my company, not my personal cell number!” gesticulating with his hands and facing me as he said it every time, but closing his eyes at the end of the sentence to achieve what he evidently thought was some kind of effect.
We asked him to confirm that it would be no higher than this extortionate amount three separate times. If we said no we still paid the €20 call-out fee. “Hurry, hurry!” he urged, his phone ringing in his pocket constantly. “I’ve got ten other people waiting to see me!”
With one last look at our fucking door, which stood there like a wayward child caught in the act, we agreed. Then he looked over his shoulder and said “don’t film this”, before stooping to pop open the heavy case he’d brought with him. Inside was an array of screwdrivers organised in ascending order of length, a hammer and chisel, and other such implements that reminded me of my own DIY incompetence. After extracting what he was raking around for, he took all of fifteen seconds to open the door with it: a fucking laminated piece of fucking paper. As the door juddered open he spun on his heel with a big grin on his fucking face. The irritating simplicity of this solution humiliated us, if possible, to an even greater degree. We laughed and laughed and laughed to hide that fact, but, thank god, it was over. He’d produced a card reader from somewhere and he was standing there expectantly, next to the exposed threshold of our home. Amore got her card out: I was still waiting for my replacement card to arrive after I had WhatsApped a photo of my bank details to a Turk I’d met in a fake O2 shop a couple of days before. He handed the reader to her.
“Why does it say €900?” she asked, turning to look at me.
This unexpected hike caused an argument to erupt between us and him via Nadine, who looked stressed and apologetic, and I was starting to feel like I lived in a failed state where contract law did not apply.
“This is because you called my company, I keep telling you, and not my personal cell…” he said, again, smirking. I have fantasised about him slowly dying from cancer of the anus about once a week after this moment. He claimed that this was the figure he quoted plus the cost of his labour.
He then got nasty and threatened to call the police if we didn’t pay him (I wish the bastard had done); I told him to ask himself whether he really thought he deserved a higher hourly rate of pay than Cristiano Ronaldo, and; by reference to the fact that it was actually my birthday(!) (which the stupid prick might’ve noticed if he had done more than pretend to read the ID I’d handed him); and the fact that Amore stunk of piss, I talked him back down to an even €500. No nice new suit in the end, but at least Amore could get changed and I had learned the word schlüsseldienst. Happy Birthday to me.