Humanity at the Grovetown Nail Spa

Kristie Robin Johnson

After 73 days of 140 miles of mind-numbing asphalt lined by pines and oaks and cedars, ink and paper and computer screens deciding if I am rich or poor or worthy of Uncle Sam’s largesse, over two months of waiting to be told if my kids can eat or get their teeth cleaned or get paranoia-inducing vaccines, and answering stupid questions like, “What are you going to do now?” and “What about the kids?”  when they really want to ask “Who’s giving you handouts?” and “How much debt have you racked up?” and wanting to look them in the eye and say “I’m a fucking writer and you’re a fucking coward,” but don’t, instead I nod and smile without showing my teeth and say, “We get by just fine,” eleven Tuesday mornings spent in a run-down school cafeteria plagued with rotting ceilings and mold (my OCD at panic levels), sitting and conversing with undereducated holy women almost as old as the decrepit building suffocating me and then holding hands in a circle and praying with them in their Old Testament ritual to their Old Testament God, all just to pay my tuition, and eleven Tuesday nights black as sin, exhaustion weighing down, sheer will keeping the black Sonata in between the yellow lines, ten weeks of  “taking the leap” and “stepping out on faith” and proving a short, yellow, biggity ex-husband wrong, I find myself at the store front, neon blazing “OPEN,” not caring about cost as though I am rich, head bowed just slightly because I know that I am not, walking in—at first gaze a row of dutiful hunched backs tending to ankles and heels and toes—the weird aroma of acetone mixed with hot wax mixed with fried chicken from next door is somehow relaxing and I can’t help but smile (all teeth) at the meaty, pink, thick-skinned women who remind me of the salmon that we talked about during my last visit several months ago where I met Rosie, as pretty and naïve as her name, who held me captive with the stories about how she was a native Alaskan Eskimo and how her mother moved all the way to Georgia to make tired, insecure women feel attractive and how her daughter’s father needed to grow up and how she had a crush on one of the construction workers across the parking lot, while she pressed firm her thick digits into the flesh of my bare calves, kneading the weary dough, and then I remembered how her skin touching mine lulled me into a trance and away from autistic teenager meltdowns, sexless divorced life, fruitless work, and while she blew warm air from her mouth through her tightened lips over my thin-skinned and freshly painted toes, I confessed “I am a writer” and she believed me and in that moment she was Magdalene with silk onyx hair engaged in holy sacrament and I was unworthy, but then with a waking jolt a voice calls out “How we help you today?” and I reply “Mani-pedi. Is Rosie working today?” and her big-boned mother yells “Rosee!” and from the back she appears, directs me to a chair, runs water into the shiny white basin, with delicate hands lowers my left foot into the bubbling brew followed by the right, and once submerged a thousand hours of ache escapes the balls of my spent feet and Rosie looks up at me, grinning wide and glowing with our thick unforgiving summer, jet-black wisps of her hair glued to her temples, and I think I see something akin to love.

Kristie Robin Johnson is a native of Augusta, GA. She is currently enrolled in the MFA Creative Writing program at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville, GA. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Atlanta Free Speech, HEArt Online Journal, Rigorous Lit Mag, and Under the Gum Tree.