New Toes and Geraldine

After a long day in Sierra Vista, I headed to the little place in the mall where I like to go for a pedicure. Amazingly, late on a Saturday afternoon, there was an empty chair, waiting just for me.

I chose my nail color and climbed into the massage chair, settling in with the rollers against my spine. A young Vietnamese man sat on the stool in front of me, giving me a shy smile. His name was Danh,  and his English was minimal, broken, and heavily accented. I handed him the green glittery polish I’d chosen.

I leaned against the chair, its rollers moving down and up my back, then squeezing and pulsing down and up my spine as my feet soaked in hot swirling water. Closed my eyes. Heaven.

Danh took my right foot out of the water and began diligently trimming my toenails. Then my left.

I opened my eyes and saw the big screen TV on the wall in front of me, sound off. It was tuned to Fox news, with the announcer’s words running across the bottom of the screen. I groaned inwardly.

Danh worked on my cuticles.

Images flashed across the TV screen. Hostages being released. Libyan rebels retaking towns. Tornadoes dashing across Georgia and Mississippi. Republican considering a presidential candidacy. Michele Bachman! Haley Barbour! Sarah Palin! I closed my eyes.

Danh filed my callused heels.

A few minutes later I opened my eyes again to see a photo of Geraldine Ferraro on the screen. I froze. The words sliding across the screen told me she’d died. Tears began to stream down my cheeks.

Danh exfoliated my legs with lavender scented sugar scrub.

1984. I was thirty-eight. Walter Mondale announced that his running mate would be Geraldine Ferraro. I watched it happen, live, on TV, weeping. “Finally!” I screamed into the desert surrounding my Tucson house. “Finally! Women are human beings! Anything can happen now!”

Danh massaged lotion into my legs and feet.

1986. I had moved to Kansas City. Geraldine Ferraro was coming to town, and I had a ticket to see and hear this woman who had smashed through a major glass ceiling.

I hopped into my pickup truck and headed to the hotel where she was speaking. I was caught in a traffic jam as I moved toward the nearby parking garage, and the sidewalks in front of the hotel were filled with protesters. Some spilled onto the street. Because it was a warm evening, I had my the driver’s side window down. One of the protesters, a woman dressed in black with her face painted stark white, stuck her head in the window and began screaming at me about Geraldine being a baby killer and a pawn of the devil for her pro-choice stance.

I told the woman to remove her head, but she only screamed louder. Slowly, I began to roll up my window. “You wouldn’t dare!”

“Try me,” I said, hoping she would, but she pulled her head out just before the window would have trapped it.

After parking, I went into the hotel, walked through the lobby and was about to enter the ballroom where Geraldine would speak. Walking down the hallway toward me was the Woman Herself. It was just to the two of us. She smiled warmly, thanking me for coming and reaching out to shake my hand.

“No,” I said. “Thank you. You have opened the way for us all.”

She gave me her wide grin and walked into the ballroom.

The massage chair shut off. I opened my eyes, punched the On button, and wiped my tears. Fox news was doing a story about what great pals Geraldine Ferraro and Sarah Palin were, sharing stories and common political stands.

Danh applied the sealer coat to my newly glitzed toes.