• Mathura Hawley


“ "You need this today,” she says firmly, “and what color?” I extend my hands into hers. “Black.""

I wake up to the alarm in my LA hotel room and look out the open sliding doors to my patio of colorful flowers. I grab my phone and publish something I wrote last night about this day, which would have been my one year wedding anniversary. I am here directing a celebrity photo shoot for a handbag company, and I am single. My coworkers are quietly supportive as some of them were at the wedding and know the year I have been through, my husband leaving abruptly a few months after the ceremony. The shoot is going well. I see the nail stylist at a table touching up her work, and I wait until she is alone. I say hello and she smiles with sparkling eyes that go right through me. “I was watching you today,” she says to me. “You have such energy around you.” She offers to take on my nails, and I tell her I will try during a break in the shoot, which doesn’t happen. She is about to leave and says goodbye to the team but then stops and asks me, “What about right now?” She wheels her case back to the table and opens it all again just for me. I sit opposite her. “Thank you so much,” I say, and she looks at my face and reads me again. “You need this today,” she says firmly, “and what color?” I extend my hands into hers. “Black.” I tell her what happened, as she paints, and it is the first time I have told it all to a stranger, the most safe I have felt in a year. She shares her own story, her hands still working on mine. My nails become black and they shine. She holds them up for me, and I nod. She takes off a mirrored necklace she is wearing and puts it around my neck, telling me it will reflect all negativity away from me, and that it is now mine. My eyes fill with tears. For the first time during a year of pain and panic attacks, when my spirit went dark and I stopped believing in anything, a stranger has seen me through a crowd, pulled me in, and reminded me of love and kindness. “You’re going to be OK,” she says softly, holding my gaze, and I do not look away, wanting so badly to believe her.

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