Red Nails | J G James

I like my painted nails.  They’re painted red, Cha-Cha-Cha-Ching red, according to the little bottle of polish at the salon.  I imagine what can be done with my red nails. There’s a particularly handsome man, Michael, whose brown complexion would look lovely with red. Red-tipped fingers stroking his neck, massaging the tight muscles beside each shoulder blade, pressing down to the small of his back. But right now these nails are typing, tapping on a computer keyboard. The fluorescent lighting causes them to shine, but not with a romantic moon glow. These nails belong somewhere else.

Michael gets to work around nine. That is why I’m always in the lobby at nine. If the timing is right, I’ll see him arrive.  He’ll greet me with a charming smile.  I’m always disappointed to see him greet others with that same warm smile.

Last month I asked him out to lunch. We ate in the cafeteria. The whole time he never mentioned a girlfriend. He talked about Mondays he shoots pool at McKinnon’s bar, weekends he usually plays football, and he thinks he’s due a promotion by spring.

My red nails have stopped typing. I’m still picturing them on Michael. He works on the first floor; I’m on the third floor.  I think about an errand I can run. I make up an errand I can run.  I walk downstairs and as I near his row of workstations, I pull my shoulders back and raise my chin.  Glancing down the aisle towards his desk, I’m disappointed and relieved.  He’s not there. I walk by his desk. The computer is off, several folders are stacked on his chair.  He’s not in today.

Back at my keyboard, I strategize.  I’ll send him an e-mail.  My red nails type as I draft and re-draft.

 Hey Michael, how are things going?  

Short, succinct. It will be dreadful if he doesn’t respond.

I’m sitting at home leafing through Glamour magazine.  I have a movie playing which I half listen to and occasionally watch.  The phone hasn’t rung.  It’s sitting by my feet. I’m expecting a call.  Brad is married, but sometimes he comes over. I left a message on his work phone. I told him I had red nails and I thought he’d enjoy them.

The phone doesn’t ring.

The movie is halfway over.  I know because we still don’t know who the bad guy is, but we’re so close to finding out.  I know because there’s a timer on my DVD player and it tells me the movie has been playing for sixty minutes.

My shoes are off.  I observe my toes.  They are painted red too.  I like my feet.  I had a roommate in college who hated her feet.  Mine are lovely.  The skin is white, “translucent” someone once described them. I think my painted toes look bejeweled as if I had a ruby placed on each one.  Someone should enjoy these toes.

I dial Simon’s number.  He’s always home with his cable TV and his yellow cat.  Long ago I spent two years convincing him to open up to me.  He did.  He had not had sex in eight years, we had sex.  He was excited about it and we would meet once or twice a week.  After about six months I wanted us to go public.  I wanted us to go out on dates and tell our friends and family we were an item. He got tired of the conversation and told me not to contact him until I could forget about it.  So I did forget about it and I did contact him again.

Now we have sex about four times a year.  I call him more than that but he’s only in the mood about four times a year.

His phone is ringing.  His answering machine answers. I wait for the beep and start to leave my message:

“Simon, it’s me.  I just got my nails painted and …”

Simon interrupts. He’s home! We chat. I tell him I’d like to come by, he says sure.

Hanging up the phone, I rise.  Stretching one arm straight out, pushing my palm forward, spreading my fingers to make a fan, I admire my pretty red nails.

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