My wife Jordan is goofing around at home when she decides to paint my fingernails, which probably seems pretty strange. I say OK because I’m not doing much besides watching Entertainment Tonight. So there she goes and paints my nails.
Jordan is odd. I think about her oddness from time to time. I wonder why I married her. I’ve known her forever. I’m her only friend. I think I felt sorry for her. But then I realize I have no friends besides her, so she probably felt sorry for me. It’s sort of a mutual pity marriage. It’s like, “You’re too damaged to find anyone else. You’re damaged goods. I’ll take you. I’m partial to damaged goods.” And vice versa.
We’re both like stuff that falls off a truck onto a freeway, all damaged, and no one wants us. I’m that entertainment center that falls off the truck and shoots everywhere. That is me, all torn up, missing pieces, smashed into by cars and trucks. Just a total mess. And Jordan seems to like torn up and damaged entertainment centers.
Jordan is an armoire that falls off a truck and splinters everywhere. Some people slam on their brakes, get out of their cars, and shove the whole mess off the road. Then it starts raining and soaking this armoire. Mold grows on it. That is Jordan. But I like moldy, splintered armoires. So, I take her home with me.
While she is painting my nails, she starts telling me about this guy at the gym she thinks is cute and that I should see him, but I’m not sure what she’s getting at.
“What are you talking about?” I say.
“Oh, nothing,” she says. “I’m just sort of lonely sometimes.” Jordan is making no sense.
“That’s too bad,” I say. “Do you have anything to get this polish off?”
“Sure,” she says. “Don’t worry.”
Later, I forget about the whole nail polish thing and go to bed. I’m so incredibly tired. When I get up in the morning, I realize that I forgot about a meeting that I have at eight. “Where is the nail polish remover?” I say to Jordan.
“We don’t have any,” she says.
“You told me we had some,” I say.
“Sorry,” she says. “I forgot.”
“Can you get some?”
“No,” she says. “I’m going to take a shower.” She goes into the bathroom and closes the door. I try it. It’s locked.
“Hey, can you get me some?”
She turns on the fan. “I can’t hear you,” she says.
I get in the car and go to Walgreens. I don’t like the whole driving business, but I remain calm. I find some nail polish remover. I take it up to the cash register. The cashier sees my nails and smiles. “That looks pretty. It’s a perfect shade for you,” she says. She has a hook for her left arm, and she’s skilled with it. She knows what she’s doing with that hook.
“Thanks. It was just a joke,” I say.
“That’s too bad, you look pretty,” she says. “You’re really pretty.”
I blush a little. She writes on a piece of paper and hands it to me. “Here’s my number. If you want to talk.”
“What would we talk about?”
“Anything,” she says.
I look at the number for a while and put it in my pocket.
“Bye.” She waves with her hook arm.
I try to remove the nail polish, but I don’t know what I’m doing. It looks crappy, but I have to get to work. I don’t have time to figure it out.
A few days later, Jordan finds the piece of paper with the cashier’s phone number.
“Whose number is this?” she says.
I look at the paper to refresh my memory. “That’s from the cashier when I bought the nail polish remover.”
“Why did he give you his number?”
“She, not he,” I say. “I don’t know, maybe she’s just lonely or something.”
“I don’t want you calling her,” she says. “What did she say to you?”
“I don’t remember,” I say.
“Think,” Jordan says.
I try to think about what the cashier said. “She had a hook for an arm,” I say.
“What did she say?”
“She said that that shade looked good on me,” I say.
“I said that,” my wife says.
“She said it too.”
My wife goes through all of the nail polish bottles she has sitting on the counter, finds a bottle, and throws it in the trash.
“What are you doing?” I say.
“I don’t want you to talk to her again or go to that store ever again,” she says. Jordan goes into the bathroom and slams the door. What’s her problem?
I feel like calling the cashier just to spite my wife. I take the number out of the trash, memorize it, and put it back in the trash. I look at the nail polish she threw away. It looks like the color she painted my fingernails.
I know I’m going to call the cashier sometime. I start planning. I’m going to call her during a break at work.
The next day at work I call the cashier. We talk for a while. I learn her name is Sophia. We talk about this and that—nothing really, and I tell her I have to go back to work.
“Did you take off the nail polish?” she says.
“I had to,” I say. “I had to go to work. The guys in the warehouse would’ve beat me up.”
“No, they wouldn’t,” she says. “They’d just ask you out.”
I laugh. “That’s funny.”
“You shouldn’t be so hard on yourself,” she says. “You’re very pretty.”
A few days later after work, I’m sitting there watching something on Bravo, and my wife says she wants to paint my toenails. I remind her of the fingernail fiasco. She says that everything will be fine, people won’t know my toenails are painted.
“I picked out the girliest pink I have,” she says.
“No way,” I say.
“Come on,” she says. “It’s for me. Do it for me. You’re girlier than I am, and I wear it.”
“Yeah, I guess I am girlier than you,” I say. “But Russell Crowe is girlier than you.”
Jordan laughs, which is good. She has seemed kind of down recently, so sure, I guess. “OK,” I say. “Go for it.”
She does a great job. My toenails look amazing. “That looks great,” I say. “You could paint nails for a living.”
At work the next day, I decide to call Sophia the cashier. I tell her about my toenails, and she says she wants to see them. I drive over to Walgreens during lunch and go inside.
I hang around until Sophia’s break. Then she follows me to the car. She sits in the passenger seat.
I take off my shoes and gym socks. “What do you think?” I say.
“Turn this way, let me get a closer look,” she says.
I twist in the seat until my feet are over on her side. I’m kind of nervous about the hook, like it’s going to snip off a toe (because there are two hooks and they open and close), but then I tell myself that only happens on James Bond or some movie like that.
When we were little, Jordan always had to be James Bond. I’d have to be the Bond Girl. She’d always have to be the guy who rescued everyone, and I had to be the one she rescued. I didn’t mind—seemed fine with me—so we got along well.
I can’t tell if Sophia is impressed with my nails or not. I’m thinking she’s not because she starts crying. “I wish my feet were that pretty,” she says after a long time.
“Ah, poor Sophia,” I say.
Sophia decides it’s time to take out a picture of her boyfriend from her purse. “He’s pretty,” I say.
“It sucks when your boyfriend is prettier than you,” she says and starts crying again.
“Is that hook dangerous?” I say. I’m trying to take her mind off her troubles.
“No, it won’t hurt you,” she says. “Put your finger in it.”
I put my finger in it, and she clamps down. I get a fit of the giggles. “That tickles,” I say.
“You should put your penis in it,” she says.
Suddenly there’s this pounding on my window. It’s my wife. It’s Jordan. She scares the shit out of me almost. I feel like I’m going to have a heart attack. She looks majorly peeved. “What the hell are you doing?” she says.
I put my socks and shoes back on. “Nothing,” I say. “I was just showing Sophia how good you are at painting nails.”
“Oh yeah, sure you were,” Jordan says. I can tell she wants to beat up someone, but no one steps forward. She opens the door.
“You did his nails?” Sophia says.
“Yeah,” Jordan says. She starts to get in the car. I scooch over toward Sophia. Something or someone gooses me. That’s a familiar feeling. It’s all really cozy. Not the goosing, but the close quarters.
“Can you do mine?” Sophia says.
“Come on,” I say. “She needs a pick-me-up.” For a little while I’m afraid they are going to get into a huge fight with Sophia snipping off pieces of Jordan with her hook. I feel dumb for thinking that, especially after our little experiment.
Instead, everyone (except me) seems calm and collected. I’m sweating and shaking a little, feeling like they could start punching each other at any time. The calm before the storm. And there I am, sitting right in the middle of the whole thing, the whole punching thing. But nothing happens.
(Jordan has been involved in at least one brawl. She wanted to tell me about it, but I covered my ears and said, “La la la la.”)
“OK,” Jordan says. Jordan picks up the picture. “Who’s this?”
“That’s my boyfriend,” Sophia says.
“He’s pretty,” Jordan says.
That night, after everyone’s work, Sophia is over. I can hear Jordan and Sophia out in the living room laughing and carrying on like they’re old friends. I think I’m OK, but I don’t like the idea of Jordan having a friend. I’m going to need to sabotage that. Then I realize that Jordan is trying to sabotage my friendship with Sophia. That’s what’s going on. Now it all makes sense. I need to steal Sophia back from Jordan. Or maybe Sophia can be our first friend. On the surface, she seems screwed up enough to make the cut—regardless of the hook—but I need to know more about her first. She seems like one of us. It feels weird to be branching out like this.