Monday, November 8, 2010

Pretty Nails

Geneva sits in front of me and I take her hands in mine
to examine the work set in front of me.
Latex gloves hide my blue, purple and black painted fingernails.
Her fingernails are chipped, and the pale coral paint
appears to have faded into her puffy hands.
I remove the polish from Geneva’s nails, finger by finger.
Decaying enamel is revealed with each swipe
of an acetone-soaked cotton ball.
The dingy yellow nails are crooked, with strange bumps
that I can still identify through my gloved protection.
I clean underneath each overgrown nail, and clumps of unknown
matter fall from the tool I use.  By the time I am finished,
yellow and brown shades of color clutter the towel
I have placed underneath her hands to catch the globs
that have accumulated since her last visit.
Her nails are long and jagged; I file relentlessly
until there is a noticeable pile of nail dust gathered on the towel.
I do my best to not wince when Geneva lets out a sigh
and the particles fly up into the air, inevitably inhaled.
I line up the varying shades of pink and red, and I watch her
pick up each bottle and hold it next to her finger.
This is the one, she said, pushing a glittery purple polish
toward me that I had slipped into the mix.
I instantly sit up straighter and coat her nails in this brilliant color.
Each stroke becomes more and more difficult,
her shaking hands challenging my own steady one.
I finish the last nail, and remind her that she must be careful
not to smudge my handiwork.  Geneva winks at me
and waves both of her hands in the air, carelessly shouting,
Oh! This is going to get me a rich boyfriend!
She forgets why she is sitting in this room,
so I explain once again that today is manicure day.
I smile to myself and direct her to her room.

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