'Acetone Smells Like Death' by April Bradley

I’ve worn the same fingernail polish since my grandmother’s funeral in June, and I can’t tell the difference between the sheen of pink from the layers of my nails. It’s possible that instead of paring off bits of polish, I’m peeling away bits of myself. I’d go to the women at the salon who speak Korean when I tell them I need another manicure for another funeral, but acetone now smells like death and my nails are the kind of wreck that reveals oblivion, sometimes dirty, bitten and uneven, patchy and peeling. A salon is the last thing before I finish packing for Nashville, before the funerals, before the wakes, before I drink too much and smoke more than I should with my sister, but goddamn our nails look great. For my mother I chose Scarlett and let it chip because she was a defiant woman; French tips for my grandfather because I’ve never, and he appreciated a well-dressed woman; a classic nude for Kathleen, my former Mother-in-law, a woman so gracious she never let my divorce from her son get in the way of our relationship. My grandmother preferred her granddaughters in colour, so we wore reds, corals, lapis, turquoises, purples. I’ve gotten my nails done more this year than I have in the last decade. I look at my nails and I imagine each of them taking my hand, caressing my fingers and shaking their heads, smiling. But it’s my grandmother I hear, Sweet baby girl, go get your nails done. You are such a smart, pretty thing.


First published in The Airgonaut, December 2016.

Comments

  1. Love.love, love this story.

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  2. Gillian Walker25 June 2017 at 12:15

    This is such a beautiful piece April, I love it.

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  3. Wonderful, April (from Digby Beaumont; can't get the profile to work)

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