Solace in a bottle of nail varnish


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For the first time in my life, I’ve successfully (kinda) painted my nails. Yes, not much of an achievement but I’ve never done it before though I vaguely remember a sitter painting my toenails a bright red when I was a little girl.

I get it now, why women and even men are willing to spend precious minutes cleaning their hands, nails, pushing back cuticles, snipping away hangnails.

There is a sort of peace to be found in slowly, deliberately painting coat upon coat of bright paint on keratin.

Being a novice, I ended up starting over, botching a few jobs, laying on varnish too thick, missing a spot.

There is no way to hurry it. You have to do it one nail at a time, patiently waiting for one hand to dry so you can start on the other. As I wait, I carefully rest my hands waiting for the few seconds it will take for the nail polish to dry. My too short nails end up having nail polish splattered all over the surrounding skin, leaving me to carefully clean away the extra bits with a cotton bud and remover.

Short, short nails. Deep, dark aubergine-red nail polish.

I think about how my ex-fiance hated the thought of me painting my nails. How he only begrudgingly approved of one particular shade of deep brown. Of an old lover sitting behind a table and slowly painting his nails black.

I wonder how my boyfriend is doing and if his exam for today is over. And I think about an old friend, now stranger, and how I can’t even get away from him on Facebook because our friends, they’re still our friends, though we have nothing in common anymore except a past I’m learning to slowly leave where it is.

So quickly I was replaced by a prettier, taller girl who probably makes him laugh better than I did. Then there’s the smaller girl who I find hard not to like, makes everyone laugh too. I hope she’s happier than she was those years ago when she was unhappy, lonely and unsure of where she was going or what she wanted.

Am I bitter? No. I’m just taking the time to accept things change and the people you’ll always love won’t always stay.

I smile instead as my nails dry as I think of the people who laugh and talk to me in a Gmail thread that has not died, though a year has come and gone. Of old friends becoming ever dearer, of dear friends reminding me “We’re still here. Really.”

It’s 1.50 am and my damned nails are finally dry.

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