I went down to my favorite manicure place (New Modern French Nails, if anyone's genuinely curious) for the $20 mani/pedi special and picked my colors: Chocolate Kisses for the feet and, when that color turned out to be too streaky, I was forced to go with Wicked for the hands, which turned out to be superior anyway.
I like pedicures, but I usually feel weird about getting them, about paying minority women a paltry amount to fawn over your feet like you're some sort of queen or dutchess or at least a secondary character on a CW sitcom. So when my pedicurist started to talk to me in broken English, I listened up as best I could:
Cherub-faced pedicurist: "You on holiday today?"
Me: "What? Oh. Yes. Yes, I am."
CFP: "You a teacher?"
Me: "Oh, no. I work at [redacted]."
(A brief silence.)
CFP: "I am from Nepal. I wanted to be journalist. I like to...(she searches for words)...write. In newspaper. But now...fail."
Me: "Ah, yes."
I don't want to believe that she said "fail." I could barely understand her when she asked me whether I wanted her to pumice my feet; maybe I'm mistaken. But she kept talking.
CFP: "The fighting in Nepal got too bad. My daughter...is in India. I tell her to be journalist, but she likes...chemistry."
Me: "Oh. How old is she?" (I consider telling her that "chemistry" pays a hell of a lot better then "journalist," but I decide against it.)
(Another brief silence.)
CFP: "I married a bad man. Now all of my ambition...fail."
My heart breaks for her, but I have no idea what to say. I decide to counter with my own relationship failings, but I know anything I say is just going to sound overprivileged and rich and frivolous to a woman who has left everything she has to come to America and work in a fucking nail salon, where, presumably, she'll make more money than she ever could have in Nepal.
Me: "I don't know if I want to get married. I... I have a boyfriend, but..."
CFP: "Is he journalist?"
Me: "No, he's..." (I try to think of a way to explain his job in simple terms) "an artist. He does [redacted]."
CFP: "Ohhhh!" (she seems pleased) "You have...same hearts. Same mind. If you can support each other and help each other. Same hearts."
Me: (I smile.) "He's a good man."
My man is a good man, and, like everything else in life, it's complicated. Or maybe my head is. Not wars-in-Nepal complicated, but just complicated enough to make me second-guess the fairy tale. I wish it could be as simple as "same hearts, same mind."
I tip her five dollars, which is more than I usually give but still seems Scrooge-like. On my way out, after she's put my purse on my arm and tugged my rolled-up jeans back down around my ankles, she looks at me and says, "Nice to meet you."