Dear Gentle Vietnamese Man Who Gave Me A Pedicure:
I realize that this may come across as bold, or conceited even, me writing to you as if you need a message. I’m aware that you don’t. I’m aware that you’re doing just fine. I’m aware that it’s me with the problem.
I was in a state that day, quite a state. The brink of depression? Buried anger? Indulging in regret? Who knows the root of darkness. But in the massage chair with its terrible kneading, my feet pruning in the whirl of warm, bubbly water you drew for me, I remained tucked inside myself until you sat before me.
And I saw you. Your underbite, the giant mole on your cheek, your insecurity, your relationship to somebody at the salon who must have given you this job. We both nodded toward the tangerine nail polish as if we’d been best friends forever, and this agreement meant something to me. See, I’d been standing before the row of tiny bottles unable to pick a shade for seemingly days, as if the decision truly mattered, as if the paralysis of my rumination or of my toe color was somehow equal to your plight as an immigrant.
You couldn’t speak English and you were tickling my arches during the rub down, but I didn’t laugh because I didn’t want you to think I was laughing at you; I would never. You had my back when it came time to choosing a hue, and I wouldn’t forget that. But I wondered to myself how many women sit here with their swollen ankles and don’t notice you, your hopeful eyes, your small frame but strong hands, your investment in their pampering. I almost neglected to note your smile, having been chained so entirely within myself and I would’ve missed the moment to connect and to feel lastima swoop down like a ravenous vulture who eats away at self-obsession.
I imagined how hard you fought to be here, filing my nails in the Land of Opportunity. My parents were fighters, too. And I didn’t want to judge you for fleeing your country for mine, and I didn’t want to pity you for your lot - I wanted to acknowledge your moxie. Because for the first time that day, hell that week, I thought of how lucky I was. And the antidote for gloom is always gratitude. What’s enough money to tip you for reminding me of that?
p.s. Since we’re here, please allow me to apologize for my heels. I run.