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Between Manicures


The last step is my favorite: the oil. I extend freshly painted fingertips- my signature forest green- as Yanetza reaches under her desk. She pulls out a plastic squeeze bottle with a precise cone tip, like those red ones made for ketchup…which don’t look red because they’re clear and full of ketchup. Those are just red. This one is clear, but the oil makes it look yellow-ish.

Onto each finger, Yanetza squeezes a centimeter-wide drop where my cuticle and nail bed meet. She kneads the oil into my knuckles--they shimmer like plastic under her lamp. For a moment I imagine myself as a figure in a wax museum. Yanetza taps both of my hands lovingly and smiles at me with her eyes. This means “all done.” I stand up, pay at the front of the salon, and walk out to my car. Yanetza does the same, except without the paying and with the bottle of oil.

Her left hand mans the steering wheel and her right the oil. Somewhere after the salon and before her house, Yanetza pulls over. She turns the car off, gets out, opens the fuel door. The bottle does not leave her hand. Oil beams, laser-like, from the bottle into the tank with each of three long squeezes. Yanetza shuts the fuel door and stomps to the driver’s seat. The engine clears its throat before returning to life.

Her home is on a street I’ve never been to. Seven minutes pass between the time Yanetza leaves the salon and shoves keys into her front door’s lock. She has a canvas bag on her right shoulder, a zip-up sweatshirt pretending to be a scarf, and the tip of the squeeze bottle between her teeth. She raises an ear to the hinge, muttering something I can’t hear. The zip-up-sweatshirt-scarf hits the ground. With her left hand, Yanetza squeezes oil into the hinge. With her right, she opens and shuts the door. When she stops, I don’t know exactly why but I can guess.

I forget that Yanetza is a mother until she’s inside her home. Hands and words and oil fly. She turns on the gas stove. She tops the gas stove with adobo over chicken over oil over a teflon pan. Some of the oil drips onto the counter on its way to the pan--Yanetza rubs it into her palms and braids it into her daughter’s hair. Yanetza goes to shower and the oil is her shampoo, conditioner, body wash. When she gets out, it is her lotion, chapstick, pajamas, hairbrush, blowdryer, toothpaste.

She puts her daughter to sleep and scrubs down the kitchen counter with oil until it shines...but oil has a way of making everything shine so this takes no time at all. The chicken sits, still, on the stove in the pan in the adobo in the oil. It smells like smoke. Everything goes up in flames. She squeezes what’s left in the bottle over the fire and the fire grows…I don’t think a bigger fire is what she wanted. I don't know who finally puts the fire out but I can guess.

The next time she does my nails, Yanetza gives my hands that loving tap and my eyes that smile. This time, she uses no oil at all and I’m not sure why, but I can guess that too.

Excited to share my fiction on here for the first time!!

1 comentário

Carolina Pino
Carolina Pino
01 de out. de 2023

Ahhh! I loved reading this. Such an interesting perspective that leaves me w/ lots to think about :)

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