My ruby red nails were the only thing between the tears in my eyes and the saline beginning to drip from hers. This blurred line of vision had connected us across the table, my hands in hers as she painted my grown-out nails; a result of contentment, she said.
“My English is no good. Forgive me.”
“That’s okay,” I said, recognizing language barriers are easy bridges to cross when connected on a level that transcends words. It was the eyes where we had met honestly, and I was paralyzed in all the truth that held me there.
“I don’t know why I tell you my story. I don’t know why…”
“Stories are great things to tell.”
Just then she lowered her head, as if ashamed of having already said too much. Wherever the threshold between fear and freedom was, daring to cross it alone was unimaginable. A deep exhale escaped her lungs. My nails were flawless.
“You know, you’re a good mother. Your children listen to you and have made you proud. It’s the most important role you could ever play,” I said. “Don’t be too hard on yourself. Besides, I didn’t turn out half-bad either. I even grew out my nails.”
She looked up and again our eyes met. Though she was not my mother and hardly spoke English, it was important for her to know that she was so much more than the countless nails she has painted. She is the conversations that have kept me coming back since high school, college and now the beginnings of a career.
“When are you going to have a boyfriend, huh?”
“Any minute now.”
“I know. Soon,” she said. But all I heard was, “Patience, child.” And to me, this sounded an awful lot like God. God and I were speaking face to face in the nail salon on a rainy Friday. My tears were mirroing the weather in an otherwordly mirage, and I, in disbelief that to indeed be losing it like this. I couldn’t even wipe my eyes if I tried. The humility.
Somewhere between her anguish and my fading endurance, was the brilliant red on my hands where our lives had intersected. It was a stop light for us to rest along our separate journeys. Somehow, we ended up providing solace for our stories, all of which unraveled in a moment that began with:
“You take care of me?”
“You take care of me?”
“You take care of me?” she said, pointing to the chair I should have been sitting in. You see, I had sat in her chair unknowingly. Across the table was where people sat to get their
feet washed nails painted by Jesus.