I walk more easily in beautiful places than I do in places of beauty. Into the latter secret chambers I creep with trepidation, an interloper unsure of safe passage. I stake not one small shred of claim there; not to the scents, nor the lotions, nor the little pile of tools upon the table. Along the rutted lane I drive with abandon, gleeful grin on my smudged face. But in the house of style, I disassemble like a frightened child.
Today a slender woman took the gnarled toes on each of my feet and tried to calm the redness. She rubbed some grainy stuff into my heel. Above the mask which she wore for her protection, dark eyes peered into my pale gaze. An eyebrow raised; she’d seen the damaged toes, the scarring. She raised a thin finger and touched the side of my foot, then studied my face until I nodded. I couldn’t speak but she knew that I did not fear her touch.
I do not have these ladies tend my feet from any sense of vanity. The weakness of my torso and the tightness of my legs combine to prohibit self-ministration. Though I dutifully pick the little bottle with the palest possible color, in truth my only need rises from the certain knowledge that disease can follow neglect of my feet. I change establishments often, not because of sloppy service but from embarrassment.
Sometimes the nail ladies cluck and seem to scold me for the obvious length of time between pedicures. Other times, like today, they hesitate before proceeding, concerned about causing pain or worsening a condition that they don’t understand. The crooked toes, the swollen balls of my feet — I see why they would pause. Once or twice, a nail technician has refused service. I flee such encounters with scarlet cheeks and hot tears flowing unchecked through the creases of my aging skin.
Nearly all of the patrons in these establishments casually stroll into the place wearing open sandals. None of them want to mar the swabs of color. I can barely walk in such shoes. I always come in the same buckled Mary Janes that I wear every day. This causes trouble, because I can’t just waltz away from the pedicure chair with barely dry varnish. I also can’t stride across the shop and sit under the drying lights. Therefore I have to monopolize the station over-long.
Today the lady gently eased my feet back into my shoes after tenderly oiling my nails and wrapping my toes in a small square of plastic.
I’ve never seen anybody do that before, the lady next to me gushed. Nor had I, but the solution allowed me to rise from the chair after only twenty minutes.
The technician patted my arm with the same soft hand that had just guided my crippled feet into my shoes. She signaled her willingness to help me walk to the door despite the fact that I outweighed her by thirty pounds and towered over her by half a foot. I silently declined, but stopped and smiled, willing her to understand. Then I made my way to the cashier, avoiding the stares of three young girls in the waiting area. I paid, tipped twenty-percent and left. In forty minutes, I had barely said ten words to anyone.
Later, as I drove home, I spied a hawk high above Jackson Slough. I tried to photograph him but my trembling hands could not hold the camera still enough. All the pictures came out blurry. A pity, too; he had such lovely feet.
It’s the twentieth day of the sixty-seventh month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.