The shop was saturated with the sharp smell of acrylic and nail polish. Women departed with shapely nails painted in exotic colors. I presented my gift card to a young girl at the front counter, ready to experience my first manicure. She guided me through the shop, leading me past plush rooms with massage beds and foot tubs filled with steaming water. Lavender tea scented the air and soft music glided from tiny speakers.
I was steered towards a padded chair and seated before a spotless counter; a short pile of downy towels rested at one end; a couple of small bowls with clear solution sat in the centre. The aesthetician offered me a cup of tea and I accepted, enjoying the mild taste on my tongue. She took my fingers, gently massaging each one, and I winced when she hit a tender joint, but she was quick to move on, expertly inducing blood flow to my nails. She chatted amiably as she trimmed my nails, then picked up a file and began to shape and buff the tips. She placed my fingertips into a warm solution and exited the room; she returned with a fresh cup of tea, reached for a towel, removed my hands and patted them dry, preparing them for the paraffin dip. I was looking forward to this part of the treatment. I heard that hot paraffin was beneficial for the ache of arthritis and I was looking forward to the experience.
She brought over a couple of sheer plastic bags filled with a hot substance; the warmth emanated through the plastic. She placed my left hand inside the bag and did the same with my right. The heat swathed over my fingers, pacifying the tenderness of the old lady. I melted into my seat, enjoying the restorative energy of the dip, savouring the dwindling ache from my sore fingers. She prepared the materials for my French polish while I languished in the luxurious comfort of the dip.
All too soon, my hands were removed, cleaned and prepped for the polish. The dip had left my skin incredibly soft, like the new fuzz of a kitten. The redness across my knuckles vanished, and I was left with only marginal puffiness around my finger joints. My hands looked normal; normal enough to slide a ring on them later that night.