I think I’m having an affair with my manicurist.
I look forward to seeing her like we have a standing date; every 2 to 3 weeks, usually on Saturday or Sunday mornings. I wake up early on my weekend (a rarity for me), trying to avoid the rush of women getting their nails, toes, eyebrows did. I always ask for her. I sit before her. we exchange familiar how are yous. smiling, she comments on the bright colors I wear. the first time I told her my name, she smiled and said “everything about you is free.” that made my spirit happy.
she’s in her mid to late twenties, wears heels all day and pretty things while everyone else wears sneakers and flip flops. she dresses up for work like work is on her way to somewhere sexier and more important.
while all the other manicurists ask me to pick from a photo album of nail designs so they can carefully stare at it then re-create the image on my nails, lily (my manicurist) just asks me to pick the colors I want and tells me “I know what you want.” I tell her she’s an artist. she laughs. I tell her I’m serious. she smiles and goes about the business of making my nails beautiful. she designs beauty off the top of her head, each nail a unique design of fuschia, purple, turquoise, yellow, lavender, gold glitter and silver glitter. each nail is an impromptu improvisational work of art that will live on my body for the next few weeks. each time I look at my nails, catch a stranger on the train admiring my nails or a friend compliments me on my nails, I smile and silently thank lily. I am consistent with this self-love ritual of taking the time to get my nails done. even when I don’t make dance class as often as I like or don’t drink as much water as I know I should, I make sure I tend to my nails, I make sure that I take that time to relax and let myself be still.
I watch her, like a student, I watch her take care to take care, speaking rapidly to her coworkers, laughing at their jokes, making her own. she occasionally laughs with me, asks me how I am but is mostly quiet, firm with the filing, cutting and buffing of my nails. firm but gentle with it too. knowing in a way that comes with repetition—like I know my poems, she knows my nails.
the last time she did my nails, when she was done, I looked at the masterpiece of my nails and beamed, “you’re the best!” she responded, “I like it when you say that. because it’s true.” lily got that undercover swagger like what!?!
me? I love butches like some of y’all like your coffee black, no sugar—strong and undiluted. y’all know this. but. but there’s something subtly hypnotic about her, quiet and lovely. charming and laid back. femme. feminine in this sweet way that brings softness to my eyes.
this affair is a sweet little thing. a hushed secret that amuses me. no kissing. she’s held my hands more tenderly than some former lovers. that’s real talk. I watch her. one of those women who doesn’t know how amazing she is. one of those women wrapped up in taking care of everyone else. I wonder if anyone holds her un-manicured hands with the tenderness she holds mine. I wonder if her eyes watch someone buff and polish and file and file and file again her nails, watch someone open bottle of liquid color and apply wet brush to her nails once twice, then a shiny, clear top coat. I wonder if anyone ever took her nails and made 10 visual art pieces on them for her to walk around with and feel beautiful because of.
she’s my favorite manicurist. her heels, her laughter, she’s soft spoken but her fire bursts out once in awhile in the way she sculpts her words, especially if she’s slightly annoyed. lily. the unexpected affair with no lovemaking, but plenty of intimate moments. we keep our clothes on and don’t kiss.