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Friday, May 11, 2012

The Full Moon

I watched the moon grow from a skinny sliver in the sky to a full-blown marvel illuminating above. On the night of the full moon, I was going to do my first reading at an open mic. It was a season closer—a guaranteed packed house—and writers and performers have five minutes to dock from their 15 minutes of fame in trying to win over the crowd.
I contemplated this event many times as I gazed up at the sky, the lunar light a visual calendar for my upcoming night. In my day-dreams, I would have an epic performance. My words would flow effortlessly as I read aloud a five-page excerpt from my novel. Everyone would laugh at the funny points, especially the part when my protagonist meets her landlord’s stuffed Chihuahua, Vegas. When I finished, the crowd’s fervid laughter would light up the room and I would read the audience’s eyes like open books. They would be thinking, This girl’s got something. She is someone to look out for. My fantastical daydreams had soared madly all month, shooting up like an arrow that never falls down.
The morning of the performance I woke up with a pain in my chest, as if someone had taken a lead pipe and bashed the inside of my ribcage. I trembled in fetal position. What was wrong with me? Was I having a freakish asthma attack? Had I swallowed stones for breakfast? The pain only worsened as I opened my laptop to prepare. I tried reading my first paragraph aloud and keeled over in pain, tears oozing involuntarily out of my clenched shut eyes. If I weren’t only 31 and healthy as a horse, I’d have thought I was having a heart attack.
“Isn’t it obvious? You’re having anxiety about tonight,” my ruca counseled.
“Anxiety? Don’t be ridiculous,” I scoffed. “What’s so big about reading to a packed house full of nearly a hundred people for the very first…ugh,” I cringed. Just at the mention of it, a new surge of torment had shot through me.
The ruca shook her head. “You don’t have to do this tonight if you’re not emotionally ready.”
“But I have to go—I need to go!” I insisted stubbornly.
For the next hour and a half I attempted sitting up in bed to read my work only to fall back down, contorting miserably in pain like a bad double in an Exorcist scene. My mental will hashed out a long battle with my physical will, but in the end, it was my body that called the shots. I’m not going to make it, I decided. And as soon as I realized it, the pain began to magically and gradually alleviate from my chest, only proving my ruca’s point exactly: I wasn’t having a freakish asthma attack—I was having a terrible case of nerves about my very first performance.
After this realization, I took up a whole new battle and began to beat myself up ruthlessly for not making the show. I’m a failure, I’m a coward, I’m a royal and world-class wuss. I exhausted myself until I finally called a truce between my tender emotions and my ball-busting ego, who, when it comes to writing, is about as kind to me as Glee’s coach Sue. I’m hard on myself in every other aspect of my life…why couldn’t I let this one anxiety attack slide?
I spent the night in the comfort of my Frisco family’s house eating homemade strawberry shortcake and watching TV and movies, until my laughter no longer followed cue to the laugh-track and was indeed my own. The full moon burst out in the sky, growing brighter as the night grew darker. It wasn’t even a mocking reminder for not being at the show; instead its magnificent fullness seemed to grant me a strange sense of comfort. I supposed my own hopes were like the moon in many ways. Sometimes when I feel so depleted, a light in the sky fills itself back up, a glowing blaze that lights the way. There will be other open mics and other performances to go to. And for now, I'll have to be at peace with that much. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Miami Beet

It was a Saturday afternoon and the nail shop was as psychotic as ever. Women toiled with remote controls to their spa chairs—“How do you get it to knead and roll at the same time?” A teenager shouted on her phone that some girl was “hella stupid—ohmygod, hella stupid.” Shards of fingernails were free-flying from the tip of electric files, making mini chainsaw sounding screeches through the air, while dialogue between the Vietnamese technicians was nothing less than frantic. One of the technicians was begging a little girl to stay still so she could paint her toes, while her mother shouted in a heavy British accent: “I need to be out of here in 15 minutes—fifteen!” Fans spewed on wet nails, shiny, twinkling like diamonds, and the women getting dried sat tall and regal, just as proud as if there were indeed jewels at their fingertips.
For the last hour and a half, I’d been trying to keep a centered zen composure. But I waited forty minutes longer than quoted and when I finally got a seat, I soaked my fingertips in soapy lukewarm water while my technician, Mai, did an eyebrow wax for someone. By the time she came back, my fingertips were shriveled prunes in the cold dead liquid—and the girl next to me on the phone had—omg!—hella not shut up the entire time.
“You pay now before I paint,” Mai instructed, in her thick Vietnamese accent that I’ve come to comprehend fluently.
I shelled out the cash for my manicure. Ten bucks with tip money wasn’t much, but it also wasn’t nothing either. Especially if you do this once a week; forty bucks a month is at least a week’s worth of groceries, and here I was, applying it to the beauty at my fingertips. Today’s color was Miami Beet.
The shop went back to its normal chaos: “Mommy! I want my toes puh-pul!” the little girl began to throw a tantrum. “Is that your final coat? I really have to be leaving soon,” the mother rolled her eyes. A horrific shriek erupted from the waxing room. A lady who was old enough to be my grandmother was laughing uncontrollably as her feet were getting exfoliated. “So I was like ohmygod, really, that’s like hella whack for reals, like seriously?” “Then we’re going to a party tonight…” “Excuse me? Can I get a flower on my toe? I don’t care, just paint something pretty.” “How much longer for a wax?!” “You’re going to do my nails? I think I’ll wait for Mai, no offense.” “I need change for a ten!” “You want half hour foot massage? Twenty dollars extra.”
Mai finished the second topcoat on my nails and that’s when I looked at them for the first time. The color was stunning, the darkened fuchsia complimenting beautifully against my morena skin. I stared at them mesmerized, waiting for them to dry completely as the chaos continued to tornado all around me. The entire rest of the day, I would flash my nails in front of me at any opportune moment: pulling hairs out of my face that weren’t there, touching up my lip-gloss just to line a pretty painted finger around my lips.
Gone were the tugging hang-nails around my cuticles, gone was the roughness and jagged edges of my nails that had accumulated during my work-week. Judging by my hands, there was no sign of the stress I put on them from my bartending job that drives me more neurotic than this nail-shop, but nevertheless pays my rent, pays my bills—pays me the time to let me write while I’m waiting for my actual writing career to take off. I felt many things at that moment, but what I liked most was the feeling that I didn't feel: like a frustrated and bitter bartender who sometimes hides my calloused worked fingers in my pockets.
“You come back next week, I give you new manicure,” Mai pointed at me, once I was dry and stood to leave.
“Yes,” I promised, almost outside where the sunny afternoon I’d missed was now waning. I waved goodbye to the estrogen entropy, dazzling my fabulous Miami Beet nails. “I’ll be here! I’ll see you then.”