VIETNAM NAIL SALON

Linda Secrest
 
 

Yellow faces, sidelong eyes
greet unsuspecting women at the parlor door.
Broken English for service.
“You want fill or manicure?” she asks.
“How much?” you ask.

“$30 dolla fill, $20 dolla manicure,” the reply.
“I would like to get a manicure, but $20 dollars is too much,” I say.
“o.k., $15 dolla, pick color, sit there,” she says directly.

You sit face to face
she inspects your nails
with dental like instruments.
A sharp, chiseled little knife
pushes back your cuticles.

Her apathetic eyes lock with yours,
from her stoic lips she asks,
“you want squarl or rounld nays?”
she motions a half-moon then a box with her fingers.
A wince of confusion hits, 
then by deduction you figure:
Do you want square or round nails?

“Oh, I want round,” I indicate with a half-moon.
She files with precision, but
gazing at the first nail
it was square as a welcome mat.

I say “No, no, I want round.”
A straight line for a mouth, she says,
“you no like?”

I stare at the contours of her face.
A deeper look reveals her inner turmoil.
She fled communism, abuse.

Her small hands and small stature,
weak and hungry.
Not fattened up yet
with overfilled Big Macs.

The white of her eyes malnourished
sunken at the slant.
Rejected by her ancestors
a traitor of the flock.

She fled oppression,
but pines for a language she may
never understand.

I beam, “I like, very beautiful nails!”
A smile cracks upon her face, she understands,
as her gentle hand square off the other nine nails.
 
 

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