On Saturday, I found out what it feels like to be carried in the hands of an angel.
And by “angel,” I mean a 70-year-old Asian woman who gave me a pedicure. I’m a big enough man that I can admit my flaws, so I’ll confess that yes, I do incessantly pick at my nails. And in an effort to curb my bad habit, we thought it would be a good idea for me to get a mani-pedi so I had some sense of fiscal responsibility to honor every time I decided to anxiously rip my fingers apart.
Little did I know, I’d become putty in the hands of this saint. Hungover and unshowered, I walked into the salon on Saturday morning secretly wishing I was watching Gameday on the couch while burrito’d in a down blanket.
At first, I had no clue what to do. I felt like a high school freshman at his first homecoming. Was I supposed to sit down in the chair? How long do I wait until I put my feet in this water? What’s this weird effervescent thing she just put in the water? I know they asked if I wanted a mimosa, but is it appropriate for me to actually get one? I didn’t know which way was up.
From the back, she emerged. Standing no more than five feet tall, she was a giant in my mind. She began organizing everything in front of me while I awkwardly sat in my massage chair. Early on, it became very obvious that her English was lacking, but it soon became evident that she’d do all her talking with her hands anyway.
Grabbing me by the ankles, she submerged my feet into the miniature jacuzzi that sat at my feet. Uncomfortable, I sat there on my phone unsure of what to do before I was put at ease with an unexpected compliment.
"You have really nice feet." – Woman doing my pedicure, nbd
— Will deFries (@WilldeFries) October 17, 2015
Sure, she didn’t actually say it, but I could see it in her eyes. While yes, it came off as slightly flirtatious, she was a consummate professional. Smiling and mouthing what little English she knew, she guided my feet in and out of the bubble tub while simultaneously perfecting my toe cuticles while massaging my calves with some type of salt mixture that had to have been from Capri. Her tiny hands made me feel like I had the calves of someone who worked out, and the way she sanded and buffed my feet made me feel like she was preparing them for a Birkenstock commercial. See for yourself.
— Will deFries (@WilldeFries) October 19, 2015
For twenty minutes, we sat there as she pampered my feet and was more attentive than anyone I’d ever met. I made numerous attempts to not giggle as she inadvertently tickled my toes, but without hesitation, she applied pressure in all the right places to ensure I was at ease.
Before I knew it, she was drying my shins and guiding me to the table where she’d transform my hands. As she non-verbally instructed me to put them into a bowl of hot water to soften my skin, I felt uneasy. I had never done this before, and I clearly didn’t know how to position myself. I was stirred. Very stirred.
As she put on her glasses and draped a hot towel over my forearms, I almost felt as though she knew I needed a security blanket. Every move she made was intentional, every motion was deliberate. Pushing back my cuticles, she could clearly see how much I picked at my nails. But despite my shortcomings, she didn’t judge me. Not once. Instead, she kept her head down and cleaned my fingertips en route to the climax of it all — the hand massage.
Interlocking our fingers, she began rocking our hands back and forth. There we sat, in that moment, together. I have no recollection of my reaction or state of being in that time. All I knew was that my arms were lotioned to the elbows, and I never wanted it to end.
Bewilderment overtook me. Who was this woman? What was her background? Was she as shocked by all these feelings like I was, or was I just a pawn in her game of life?
As she stood from her chair, I wondered where she was going before she stood behind me and rubbed my shoulders. Her hands overtook my neck and began to rub from my hairline down to my shoulders. Clasping her hands together and slapping my back, I was feeling sensations I’d never felt before. Briefly, I closed my eyes and took in the salon’s ambient music.
Abruptly, I felt a shake. I opened my eyes not knowing what to expect.
“You done,” she whispered to me as she wiped off her hands and walked over to her next client. I sat in the chair as she attended to him. Empty, I arose from the camel computer chair and walked to the door. Desperately, I looked back to see if was watching me leave but she had her head down and her hand in the water, presumably testing the temperature for the next fortunate soul.
I sat in my car searching for acceptance. Acceptance that what happened was pure. Acceptance that my feelings towards her were okay. And acceptance that it was over. .