Over thirty years ago, I had an after-school job at a dry cleaners, the same place that two of my sisters had worked at more than a decade earlier. The tailor and one of the workers knew me since I was about five years old. Working there was a bit Dickensian with the chemical smells, drudgery, and the oppressive heat. The other employees were great characters from The Carolinas, Jamaica, and Central America, or from right there in Westchester County, New York.
One woman who looked out for me was named Beulah. She was rail thin--wearing a size zero. Beulah was tough, smart and funny. We bonded quickly and would work the late shift together, sharing stories and a little libation at the end of the day. She had three little girls and an abusive husband who drifted in and out of her life. She also knew how to do everyone else's job in that place, and she did so when they wouldn't show up.