I sat on the soft-cushioned chair on that warmly-lit salon and feel like I have found the best place to finally surrender myself and my toenails. In hell days like Mondays, sometimes, a foot massage or nail cleaning services could be paradise enough for spartan legs who worked like hell–standing up for long hours in front of students and walking to get errands done. As I was thinking how tired my legs are, I never cared how the nail-cleaning lady looked like and instead directed my attention to the glass window that provided a great view of the grayish atmosphere with people and vehicles passing by. Even the sight of some good-looking men standing outside queuing up to pay their Leyeco bills did not give me the least excitement. I am simply tired and I need to be pampered. Even if it’s not for free, I, simply, don’t care.
The nail-cleaning lady approached me and asked if I would like a manicure or a pedicure. I told her I need a pedicure and again, I sank back to my reveries, my eyes seem to count the red-painted tricycles. She tried to smile at me but I was too tired to smile back. These are the rarest moments when tiredness took away my bubbly nature and all I could do was look at her and the bottles of nail-cleaning substances in her left hand.
She started spraying the cuticle remover on my nails and scraping my two-week old cuticles. I looked intently at her fingers and how she cleaned my toes. I was relieved she didn’t comment on my ugly discolored toenails that most nail-cleaning ladies did. Her fingers felt light on my feet and that assured me that she wouldn’t torture them as some people do as if they know my toenails all their lives!
There was this gay nail-cleaner who cleaned my toenails, two weeks ago. He felt like he had every right to do what he thought was best for my nails, digging soft skin at the sides of my nails and hurting some flesh inside my nails. I would’ve loved to kicked his face while he’s doing his job but then I ended up clenching my fist instead. I never go to that salon ever again.
Anyway, this lady was different. She scraped the cuticles subserviently as if my feet were all that matters to her. She didn’t even care looking up at the television even with the loud shrieking of girls on a suspense movie. And then suddenly, she asked me where I live. I hear my self giving a single-word answer. But she persisted asking me again where I worked and if I’m married. The first one is something of a standard but the second question is the one thing I hate the most.
But she looked so innocent as if that question was given by the Holy Spirit and she merely acted like a vessel of some important message from God. Her innocence made me smile and finally, I got comfortable with her. I adjusted my leg in such a way that they are stretched more on her chair. Then, more questions keep popping up and I continued with my single answers while looking at her and noticing her eyebags. I wonder how many hours has she had been working and if she still has to do chores when she comes home. I imagine herself having a baby who might wake up at night for milk. Her husband could be one of the tricycle drivers who earned a meager sum of money. But despite all that, they felt happy, they felt a certain lightness in their lives. Oh lightness, Oh emancipation, where could you be? I longed for you!
Her hands get lighter by the minute. After she gave her finishing touch, surprisingly, she massaged my feet with such grace everybody else in the room, the hairdresser and the other nail-cleaning ladies tried to look at her ‘coz it’s simply not part of the services anymore. hahaha.
I felt so damn lucky as if I have found a friend who understands my need even without me demanding it. In turn, I tried to repay her gentleness by opening some of myself more. I threw questions back at her and initiated a conversation. I asked why she speaks a little Tagalog. She told me, yes, she was new in Ormoc and had lived in Manila for a long time.
I could’ve stayed long enough to take advantage of the free massage of that generous, innocent-looking girl but then I felt guilty with the prying eyes of the other employees in that salon. I paid my bill and gave her a tip. I wish I could see her again next time. And hopefully, I will stop from merely uttering single-word answers. Maybe, I would tell her that my toenails need to be taken cared of because they were once damaged. And maybe, I would also love to here her life story then. And with that, a new door of possible near-friendships could be opened.