To recover from that “I quit” text bubble-bursting day, I treated myself to a manicure.
Manicures are purely rescue missions from bad days.
I was a mess, and I was on a mission.
I always appear a nail novice, unable quickly enough to pick out my shade from the huge assortment of colorful tiny bottles on glass shelves.
It’s a moment when I know myself least well, and it is unsettling. I was taking too long, as a woman who came in after me, grabbed her own tiny bottle, as if they were just lightbulbs and she just needed the correct wattage.
I was taking as long as my mother can, at the market in front of the cat food section, until my nail lady asked, “any special occasion?”
I looked at her. Special occasion?
“What will you be wearing?”
Lol. Special occasions. School parties where I get to scoop out gooey pumpkin innards, or on new-dog walks, scoop up pup poop when Toby actually will do it outside.
I grabbed a color. It would be too red. But I was feeling suddenly emboldened.
The place was nearly empty, except for that other woman, who was having a pedicure. Clearly not a novice, as she played with her phone. (I rarely treat myself to pedicures, unable to inflict my feet on decent human beings.) She was a regular, I could tell by the intimacy of her remarks to the lady sitting at her feet, about how lately she’d been halving her Xanax pills just to take the edge off.
My own nail lady sat me down at a table and arranged one hand on what looked like a foam chopping block.
It had been so long since I’d been in there she clearly didn’t remember ever seeing me before. She had terrible worn-down nails herself, and I wondered if by the end of the day she was so sick of nails, she wanted to rip out her own.
I don’t like feeling like a novice. So with my free hand, I took out my own phone to play with it, something I never do, except when sitting in traffic when I shouldn’t.
Until she politely asked for my other hand. She was amused. “I need both hands.”
I might have blushed as I surrendered both hands.
And then I realized one of the real reasons I rarely get manicures, is just that: I don’t like giving up the use of my hands. Maybe that’s why I don’t meditate; because you have to sit there doing nothing. Hands flat and useless on your thighs.
Beyond some vapid conversation about how warm it was for December that even rose bushes were still budding, we didn’t talk. She filed, and I tried not to examine myself in the mirror along the wall behind her. I looked like hell; in stained sweatpants and my hair pulled back too tight – good god, when was the last time I’d measured my grey growth?
“So what’s your name?” She asked dully. She had to, right? Polite thing to do sitting too close across a skinny little nail table....
But I was glad she broke my self-assessment-mirror gaze. I needed to make an appointment with my colorist (at least then I could hold a kindle). “Sandy.”
She laughed, throwing her head back. I could see gold fillings.
She yelled out to the other nail ladies, “Her name is Sandy!!”
Well, I’m fairly used to the Sandy jokes by now. At first they were funny. That is, before the hurricane hit. Before we’d walk our streets and my son would ask, pointing to a neighbor’s car crushed beneath a a fallen tree, “Mommy, why did you do this? Why’d you get so mad?”
Then she looked at me, really, for the first time, and stabbing herself in her chest, said, “I”m Sandy too!”
We laughed and laughed and laughed. We’d both clearly had too much of Sandy stuff, which was enough to make us both instant Sandy sisters. We commiserated about how much we both wanted to change our names, and even came up with some choices: Samantha, Sally, Serena....
The pedicure lady was getting up to go put her feet under the dryer. “What devastation. We lost three oaks. And all those people in Long Beach....”
That silenced our laughter. It always does. Really. Call me Sam, short for Samantha.
Sobering-pedicure lady and I wound up at the drying station together. We had nothing to say. She’d said it all.
But when I started to leave she looked me in the eye, leaning over to give me some real advice: “Don’t rush it. Believe me. The slightest, thing, opening your car door...” she shook her head.
So I sat a few more minutes, my hands under the little drying machine.
Until I couldn’t stand the no-hands stuff any longer.
She was right. As careful as I was, I nicked both thumbs getting into the car.
Otherwise, I had eight other perfect nails. For a full week!
Though next time, I may just have to subject myself to the hands-free pedicure and surrender my toes.
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