The Nail Polish: An Exercise in Writing

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In a college writing class we were given an assignment and a time limit of 15 minutes. In that 15 minutes we were to choose from a list of items and write an entire story (for as long as we could) about the item or object that we chose.

I think about this assignment often. I can’t recall what exactly I wrote but I do recall that I chose nail polish. I also can recall the response my writing got me when I read it aloud to the class. It was a wonderful feeling. I felt so full of passion and talent. I felt peace and in that moment people enjoyed something that I created. It was and still is one of my favorite memories. There is nothing quite like being recognized for something you care deeply about.

Here I am typing on my iPhone while lying in bed and I can’t stop thinking. Writing calms my brain and my nerves.

A small glass bottle of knockout red lies on the stand. I reach over and my fingers touch its cold hard shell. I twirl it in those crooked fingers for a bit as I ready my hands. Just a calming moment to steady myself before this tedious task.

I break the seal and the bottle cracks where the dried paint has entombed the liquid wonder. It coughs in relief as the fumes permeate my nostrils. The fumes burn a bit and the intensity takes me a second to adjust but the smell is a sweet-sour one that I sit and savor. It is a quiet moment of enjoyment surrounded by these noxious fumes. I’m hoping that my brain isn’t suffering damage from this intense scent but I sit here and take it all in nonetheless.

It is an unforgettable odor. An odor that reeks of femininity and passion. The scent is a memory of parties and dresses. The nail polish is such a simple extravagance and yet it plays so much importance to so many.

As a girl I remember seeing painted fingernails. I was filled with envy at the beauty they gave the owner. I so had wished that someone would have taken the time to show me such kindness and beauty. I was brushed aside too often for any woman to have ever brushed my nails with paint. The irony in it is amusingly sad in ways.

I am now a woman who is awkward and unsure of herself with nail polish. It seems a falsity for me to wear it now. For so long I had longed for it and now that I am able to wear it everyday I simply go without, but today is special. Today I am going to share a moment with my own daughter. Today I will be the kindness that she too longs for.

I take her tiny hand in my own and she smiles so earnestly at me. Her skin is so soft and delicate. It reminds me of how truly innocent and young she is. How often we overlook the youth. Her happiness is so easily attained in this simple gesture of holding hands.

We sit hand in hand fumes swirling about our eager faces and we brush. One small stroke and then another on each of her dainty nails. The color is vibrant and it bleeds easily onto her nail covering the natural color with its own cherry coating.

She sits like a statue not wanting to touch anything for fear of ruining her fresh paint. She sits and smiles as though she has been given the greatest gift. I wonder to myself what is she feeling? How happy she seems with her new fingernails. She is bliss and so am I.

Something that once brought sadness to me can now be a shared joy. We can create new memories with something so simple. The nail
polish was once a toppled jar spilling thick liquid into my life. I had scoured and scraped for so long and it seemed I could never pick it all out. Now I can pick the bottle up again and I have found that it was never really spilled at all. The bottle is still full and it’s waiting to be used.

2 thoughts on “The Nail Polish: An Exercise in Writing

  1. I loved reading this post! I can so relate … I don’t have children, but the nail polish. Can almost feel your excitement, while reading that assignment out loud!

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