I found myself in a cramped closet filled with costumes and disguises. It was dark in the closet but there was a small skylight which cast down a narrow ray of sunshine, dimly hinting at the fake mustaches and spectacles on the shelves as well as the epaulets on the coat of a fake uniform hung on the clothes rack beside me. Another man came forward out of the darkness into the ray of sunlight. He was small and extremely frail. He looked as though no amount of food or nourishment could ever provide enough strength for his weak body. The light fell across his brow but left his eyes obscured in the shadows as he spoke. He told me that it was his job to follow people, to collect information about them, and he said that being small and hard to spot gave him an advantage. He pointed at the clothes hanging all around us and explained that he had to wear different disguises from the closet here to do his job.
At that moment, yet another man appeared. This one had a tailor’s tape measure and he immediately hoisted the frail man up onto a tall bar stool that he pulled out from the corner of the closet, and he began to take the frail man’s measurements, pulling his face into a long, sour expression as he read the tape. It began to feel close and crowded in the small closet, and I pressed back against the hanging coats and shirts to give the new man room to work. The frail man paid no attention to the man taking his measurements. He just went on talking to me and explaining how he needed to dress as a child for his present assignment. The man with the tape measure nodded to confirm this as he held the tape measure along the length of the frail man’s thin arm.
We all emerged from the closet once the frail man had been dressed in his disguise. He wore a small blue dress and a blonde wig with pigtails. In the bright hallway outside the closet, I had a better look at the man, and I could see that he was just a little over two feet tall, and I could see now that his right leg was missing from the knee down and that he supported himself on a short black cane with a gold handle. The man with the tape measure hurried over and attached a prosthetic leg to the frail man’s knee. It was a perfect match for the other leg, already dressed in the same white socks and patent leather shoes. The frail man hobbled forward a few steps on his new leg and then he handed over his cane to the man with the tape measure. As he started away down the hall, I watched him from behind, and I could tell the man by his walk, like picking someone out of a crowd, their face turned away, their back to you, nothing but their posture to know them by. And I could see it then. It was clearly an adult man with all the struggles and gravity and pain of an adult life. He would never pass for a child.