Nail Polish

This afternoon I brought over a bottle of nail polish to grandpa’s house.

“What is that for?” He asked, seeing me place it on the table.

“I’m doing my nails before we leave for Las Vegas.”

He grunted at this admission of superficiality then turned on the television.

A while later, he turned to watch me put the finishing touches on my toes.

“You’d better wash your hands after touching your feet like that,” he said.

I smiled punkishly and screwed the bottle closed. “I’ll just wash them okay,” I said, “Just before I serve you lunch.”

Suzanne Valdon (1865-1938)  Jeune Femme Assise  Oil on Canvas    

After lunch, the polish was dried and I lifted my feet to show him. They shone a bright glossy red called “hip-anema” (by Essie, in case you’re wondering), and I was quite pleased with the result.

“What do you think?” I asked him, wiggling my toes in the air in a fashion rather unbecoming of a twenty-seven year old lady, at the lunch table with her grandfather, no less.

He barely glanced at my feet and shook his head, continuing instead to work his teeth with a toothpick.

“You don’t like it?”

“No,” he said simply, but I could tell he was trying not to smile.

I shrugged and rose to clear the table for dessert, a vegan coconut pecan cream tart. I didn’t tell him it was vegan. Surprisingly he liked it. I refilled his tea and peppered him with some questions about his time in the army. There were, during the lighter times, coconuts and a monkey named Hey Hey.

Finally he looked at the clock. One PM – nap time. He made his way towards the living room while I flopped down on the couch in front of the TV. I put my feet up on the opposite armrest and gazed at them. Kind of like navel gazing, but further away. The early afternoon sun glinted off my freshly painted toenails and beyond them, grandpa’s hunched, sleepy figure was about to turn the corner. 

I wasn’t satisfied.

“Grandpa!” I called.

He paused but didn’t turn around. A mottled hand rested on the wall for support.

“You really don’t like my nails?”

He turned his head just slightly, one foot on the single step that led to the living room, “No, I do not. Not even a little bit.”

“Oh.”

“But it doesn’t matter what other people think,” he said, a yawn creeping into his gravelly voice, “As long as you like them.”

“But I really want you to like them,” I whined.

He lifted the other leg to turn the corner and chuckled with the confidence of a man who knew when his opinion mattered. In this case, it did not. What mattered was that he played along. And splendidly, as Grandpa does, he played along. 

“Well,” he said, disappearing behind the wall, “You are asking too much.”

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