It came to be the time when the nail tech bluntly states, “Wash you hand.” This brings me to the sink at the back of the nail salon, scrubbing away intently as a good client should, drying my hands, and the requisite journey along the same path I took to the sink to begin with.
The pedicure chairs are on the right side of the salon on my return trip. I notice an elderly woman in one of the chairs. And then I noticed that, from the knees down, both of her legs were nearly entirely black — a stark contrast to a life thoroughly and most obviously lived as a caucasian.
I didn’t want to stare, but it’s difficult when you see something that’s such a contrast to the definition of “normal.” Her calves were barely bigger than the circumference of her bones. I returned to my seat and went about the remainder of my nail appointment, the sweet thought that this woman, however old and with whatever ailment that rendered her legs to their current state, was for damn sure getting a pedicure.
Maybe ten minutes later, a nail tech appeared from the back of the salon and approached an elderly man whom I’d barely noticed who was sitting at the front of the salon. She squeaked an, “OK, she ready now,” and the man worked himself up out of his seat. He made his way to the back of the salon and positioned himself next to the elderly woman. With a practiced grace that’s rare to witness, he bent down and laced an arm beneath her knees and another underneath her arms. He then lifted her up as if she were made of air, a whisper of decades all bundled up for transport, and walked her over to the drying station. He set her down, gently positioned her legs, and then sat himself down on the opposite side. All of this was done without a word spoken between them, tied in a bow as he grabbed a pulp pop culture magazine and began to flip through.
There was a part of me that yearned to lean over and say hello but the lump in my throat made me think twice. It occurred to me that this wasn’t my story, one I wasn’t meant to be a part of. I didn’t need to know their names or details though my curiosity simply wanted to ask how they’d met and how long ago that had been. I went through the machinations of my own appointment, my mind lost in lavish scenarios about their love and the rings I noticed that each wore on the finger of import on their respective left hands.
After ten minutes of my daydreaming and an equal ten minutes of their drying time, the nail technician came over and put the woman’s socks and shoes on with care so rare I wanted to capture it like a lightening bug in a mason jar. The elderly woman paid and her husband asked, “You good?”
To which a simple, firm reply came: Yes.
The magazine found its way back to the haphazard stacks atop the drying station. He walked around to where his wife sat and with the same practiced grace, he repeated his move.
One arm under her knees.
The other under her arms.
The nail tech met them at the front door and they floated into the Colorado clear blue skies.
And there I sat, wondering how many moments like this I’ve missed because — well, not because I wasn’t looking. But rather because I get wrapped up in my ever so important day-to-day that beauty escapes me.
It was something so simple, this near-choreographed triad of tenderness I’d been lucky enough to witness.
And for the rest of yesterday (and even into today), all I can think is: It really is this simple — this thing about being human.
And I wonder why we do our best each day to make it so damn hard.
***This is for a beautiful lady named Jackie and her mom, Mozelle. While not the subjects of this post, they’re both responsible for some of the most beautiful stories I’ve ever heard.