Her name is Pea. Yes like the vegetable. She wears a red woven, string bracelet around her left wrist. I instantly think Kabala. The mystical Judaism that Madonna, that paragon of all things hip, has made so popular. I only think of it as a New York City or Los Angeles pheunomina. Not Durham, North Carolina where I sit and wait as Pea organizes the tools of her trade. Pea is quite serious as she scraps off the old gel polish, soaks my hands, does my cuticles. Her brow is tense in concentration. “Now,” she says it is time to pick the new color.” I look through the sample card and see a deep purple that catches my eye. Pea responds, “Yes, but look at this.” It is a deep red, blood red. “This color give you power. This color better for you.” I immediately respond, “Yes, that’s it!” Peas nods her head knowingly. “Yes, this is for you. Some power.” How could she know? I decide to ask about her red woven bracelet. “I am a Buddhist. I go to a temple in Greensboro. The priest blesses it and it protects me. Brings me good luck.” “You drive an hour to temple?” “Oh yes, she says with my husband and brother-in-law, who is very funny. The trip goes by quickly. We laugh. We talk. Plus the Cambodian food is much better in Greensboro. No place here to eat good Cambodian food.”
Cambodia. My head floods with the Khmer Rouge, the Killing Fields and Swimming to Cambodia by Spalding Gray. Pea takes on a new meaning in my mind. A survivor.
She wears a ring on her left hand. “Do you have any children?” She laughs, “A boy who thinks I should wear more clothes when I work. He is very concerned for me.” I look. I see a green, wrinkled tank top and matching sweater. “You look fine to me.” “Oh no,” she replies, “my son would have me covered head to toe like those Muslim women.” “Well, what about your husband?” “He does not care.” “How old is your boy?” “Eleven,” Pea responds, “An eleven year old tyrant.”
Peas stops talking. Only to ask if I want the paraffin treatment. “No thank you.” She then massages my hands deeply, hitting many beautiful places. I even soft moan.
“O.K. Miss Kate you are done.” I make sure to leave a generous tip. As I am pulling on my coat, Pea comes to me say thank you and then reminds me to stay with the blood red color for a few months. “You a sweet lady. You need it.” I assure her I will. Happy New Year. You never know what you will discover engaging in the world.