“Where’ve you been? Long time since I’ve seen you!”
“I know. I’ve jus been really busy.”
She knew. I was sure of it. She could smell the deceit in the air. Or maybe that was just the acetone. Tanya wasn’t stupid though. I was positive that she knew that I was seeing someone else. I felt guilty for straying away from the one woman that had always been there for me. She’d put my first pair of tips on these very hands and I’d stuck with her ever since.
But I was sure that she wasn’t the type to sit around and wait for me. Just as I’d let someone else hold my hand, she’d held the hands of many others in my absence. I had needs and so did she so could I really blame her for not waiting for me? No, I could not. Expecting her to cater to only me would be selfish.
I found myself reminiscing on the good times we’d had together. She always knew what to say to make me smile. She always noticed when I’d changed my hair or complimented me on a necklace I might be wearing. She noticed the little things.
But in the past few months, I noticed that things had changed. I was once her first priority and now I often found myself waiting for her to acknowledge my existence, let alone give me the attention I needed. I could bet my entire paycheck that she didn’t even remember my favorite color anymore.
Jessica did though. She came to me out of nowhere and right away I knew I’d never be the same. When Ashley told me about her own experience with Jessica, my curiosity was sparked and it wasn’t long before I found myself in her walk way, sitting at her station and placing both hands into hers for her to do with them what she wanted. She spoiled me and showed me that attention that Tanya had been denying me. She was fun and energetic. And whenever I left her place, I felt like a brand new woman. There was an extra pep in my step. Jessica wasn’t Tanya but she was, dare I say it, better than her. After just one afternoon with Jessica, I knew that she was someone special. However, my loyalty to Tanya left me conflicted. Donnell Jones sang “Where I Wanna Be” through my ear buds as I sat and watched Jessica’s smooth strokes of nude colored polish coat my perfectly shaped pinky nail.
So there I was, siting before Tanya, both of us acting as if nothing was wrong even though we knew.
“I do this for you?”
“No, I went somewhere else this time.”
The sound of the cuticle buffer made the awkward silence seem larger than life. We knew that this would be the last time she would be seeing me. Perhaps it was for the best. Jessica left no corner unfiled and let no finger nail smudge. She was what I’d always wanted and needed in a manicurist. It was time I moved on.
After letting my nails dry, I walked over to Tanya’s station. She handed me the bill and I handed her the cash.
“So I see you in two weeks.”
“Yeah,” I lied.
She wouldn’t see me again. Our time was over and I would no longer pretend to be happy in this situation. My hands deserved better. I turned to walk out of Empress Nail Salon but before leaving, took one last look at the familiar hot pink walls and neon colored nail polishes that sat on shelves throughout the space. I sighed and looked one last time at Tanya who was looking back at me, mask covering her nose and mouth to protect her from the fumes of the acetone. She nodded knowingly, and let me go. Good Luck Nail Salon was my new home and Jessica was my new technician. I couldn’t have them both even if I wanted to.