You know how long it’s been: 1 year, 3 months and 11 days. Four hundred and sixty seven days in total since that last time you looked at your hands and you weren’t horrified by your ugly pale nails. Four hundred and sixty seven days of cheap nail polish that doesn’t last more than one shower (or the daily dish washing), of grown cuticles, bitten nails and bad filing technique. But also four hundred and sixty seven days where you completely forgot about how great it used to feel, how magical it was to sit there among the strong nail polish smell (it’s like petrol, intoxicatingly addictive) and the disinfectant; it’s like going to the dentist but without the trauma, as my mom would so accurately describe it.
So you enter the nail salon excited but totally unaware of the life-changing experience you’re about to have. The face mask is also not helping and the smell of the bright white shiny room is not as strong as it used to be. You sit on a comfortable chair and the nail technician asks you random questions: what colour you’d like, what shape you want for your nails, and you can barely reply because you have completely forgotten which nail shape you used to like and what colours you preferred (mainly because you only have a shitty pink nail polish at home and you got used to that or nothing). She asks you when was the last time you got your nails done, and that’s something you can finally answer with confidence—but you don’t say the exact number of days, that would be too weird, so you answer something like “a year or so”. She sympathises with you, and then commands you to relax and just enjoy.
And you do enjoy it. The nail file feels like some weird kind of nail message that finally manages to relax your overthinking mind. The cuticle remover takes all of your anxiety away (who knew it could be that easy?), and the base coat is like a warm balm of tranquility and reassurance. Even when you’re drowning in colour options, some of them that you don’t even remember existed, you don’t panic. You pick one that is not pink, because that’s the only thing you actually care about at this point after so many months, and can’t take your eyes off of your nails until the woman has finished with the first layer; it’s hypnotising, like those tiny kitchen cooking videos you haven’t been able to stop watching in the middle of your working day. You place your hand inside that amazing, fabulous, wonderful machine that dries your nail polish and that feels like a personal hand/finger warmer (like, how don’t we all own one of these?!), and then feel slightly sad when the 60 seconds are over and you have to take your hand out to the outside world. The second layer is as fascinating as the first one, and once she applies the top coat and adds some lavender oil to your cuticles you know you’ve become a new, better version of yourself
“They’re beautiful” you say, and smile despite the fact that nobody can see you doing it. But you feel renewed and powerful and you exit the nail salon ready to take on the world, and your shitty job, and your annoying neighbours and your irritating flatmate who refuses to put the toilet seat down. You’ve had your shock therapy, it only cost you 35 pounds and it will last for two weeks, but who’s counting anyway?
Siham Lee is a Chilean writer living in Glasgow. She’s currently doing a Mlitt in Creative Writing while writing short stories to keep herself alive and mentally stable in the midst of working on her first novel. The rest of the time she’s either rewatching Brooklyn 99 for the ninth time or eating all the cookies in the house.