nail trimming: a tricky business
there's a new surprise, a limited release at the vistas cafeteria at the banff center this week. there is no menu board and sometimes, like all cafeterias, they run out of stuff, so if you dont pay attention, you lose out. as long as you never know what you lost out on, i guess it's all alright. what you never knew, you cant miss!
what im beating the bush around for is: a baby.
if i remember correctly, she's yeh-high and this-big. about 14 months old and has strawberry blond hair and still indecisive hazel-green eyes. like the trees. and four teeth, two on top, and bingo, two on bottom. i mean, who really cares about the can-be-numbered things anyways. numbered things can stay on paper somewheres, or on a database for a record. if you ever need it, just look it up. it's all the un-numbered things that makes an entity unique, i believe. if you dont believe me, look into a guinness book of record and see how many of those numbers will actually provoke or aspire you. think carefully, that's not the same as it being amusing or worthy of passing note. i meant something that takes you further from the present point, wherever it may go.
baby, naturally, has small hands. grabbing, licking, whatevers, offering, teasing, those tiny hands are busy. still not so sure about their own strength, the hands often gets messy squeezing an orange piece or crumbling a piece of quiche. it needs constantly wiped, cleaned and oh- the nail trimming.
now, i have nothing to do with a/any baby of any sort at this point. they simply arent around and for where i am- an arts/conference center in middle of touristy spot in middle of the rockies, it's rare to have a regular exposure to the subtle baby smell. so i consulted mr. salamander, who confirmed a hypothesis: that baby nail-trimming can either be moving or a wiggly fight.
my fingernails, broken and held together at times with superglue, they are used being banged around. hard, tough and perhaps a little thicker than normal people (i blame it on the repetitive impact on fingertips), i am used cutting them off whenever wherever as long as there is a garbage can and and a nail clipper. sometimes too short, sometimes too sharp on the edges, usually done in a hurry and a half.
i bet baby nails are trimmed with extreme care. they are so small and soft, thin and almost translucent. the ones i know, they are always trimmed with nail scissors, not clippers. too delicate for such barbaric tool, which literally just punch them off from the rest with a simple but sure lever mechanism (i dont know about yours, but i make a lot of noise and mess whenever i cut my nails; if im lucky, i may even get hit on the eyes with fragments. revenge for something i suppose). i can barely cut mine, i would never even attempt cut someone else's nail, forget baby's!!
though there was this one time where i did trim someone else's nails. and funny enough i remember so much about it. all i needed was a pink baby hand to look at.
long time ago, may be more than 10 years ago, i was doing a stint at a homeless shelter for a bit. for being a suicidal teenager, i think it was a fitting activity, among many that was suggested for me. i went and 'worked' diligently. as much and often as i could. where do you find the time, you ask: when you really dont have anything that you want to care for yourself, there is always abundance of time.
one homeless man, who referred himself as tom, used to be a regular. now that i think about him, i think he must have some serious mental illness. but it didnt click in then. he was a crazy homeless person, seldom spoke to anyone, never rude or violent, just confused at times. i know very little of him, except for the fact he pretty much fitted the general description of homeless man in his twilight years. aged, broken, abuse/abused, almost forgotten from rest of us. i never found out if it was 'tom' or 'thom,' but i guess it's too late.
one day there was a shortage of plastic utensils. i ended up taking my lunchbox utensils out, wash them so he could use it. it literally sent him to heaven for some reason, to hold metal utensils. it was so crazy that on the way home, i bought a one-person set of heavy, balanced cutlery set from nearby secondhand store. some heavy silver-plated thing. anyways, i started to bring that and a small stash of tea for tom. i would try the very best to serve him with that particular set of flatware. that really made his days i bet.
leaving late one day, i decided to make a second cup of tea and bring it to him, as a surprise. went down to the sleeping quarters, there was tom, curled on his side, trying to do something, unclear what though. i was just going to drop the tea off by his bed and leave to home. then he looked up and asked in very small voice:
'could i ask you for a favour?'
tom was trying to trim his nails but his hands has been marred by arthritis and god knows what, it was trying to be a larger task than he could handle. i sat on the side of the bed, realized that his hands are all dirty. went up, got a wet hot towel, and i scrubbed and trimmed his nails for a bit.
an old man, almost forgotten and powerless, nearly a spectre of a young man he was once, curled on his side like a baby, with thin blankets on top of him. hands scruppled and ruined over the ages and days, now being scrubbed with a wet towel. a lost kid, also almost forgotten and powerless, a shadow of a young person she could be but was not, sitting on the side of bed, holding hands of stranger, scrubbing then trimming those yellow, hardened nails, one by one.
he talked a great deal (for him anyways)- the whole time. the words came sound by sound. then came as words, sentences. fragmented, often making no sense than any sense really. soft and thin, like those worn blankets. connecting two strangers in that given moments, like a cloud made of warmth. nothing grand or profound. just nail trimming. like youve done, like ive done, millions of time by now. and more to do in upcoming days. but probably the first and may be the last time i will be trimming someone else's nail, with all the care i could pour on, as if trimming baby fingernails.
a small spark from mr. salamander brought a fragment of that unexplainable feelings of that afternoon, more than ten years ago. cliche you may say, but as im listening to gavin bryar's jesus'blood never failed me yet, just like the hot water with the small crunched tea leaves, im in a slight intoxication of the pale memory.
more than ten years ago. rememebered through the baby hands.
i hope tom is well.