“Your hands are bad,” the manicurist told me. “Very, very bad.”
She was looking at my palms as she spoke–my actual nails are not so very bad, oddly enough. I don’t bite them, but I keep them short so that they won’t break when I climb. My palms, however, are a different matter. There are calluses at the base of each finger. My fingertips are red and sensitive, and the horizontal lines that mark my knuckles are often ripped–not enough to bleed, just enough to look ragged. I put salve on the tears to help the skin heal into new calluses. It’s an endless cycle.
It’s not pretty. Neither are the bruises on my elbows and knees. It’s funny, though, how something that looks so weak and busted happens in the moments I feel the strongest. (Not always. Sometimes the bruises come from moments of stupidity rather than strength.) I am not one of those people who goes around spouting nonsense like “Pain is weakness leaving the body.” Those people are idiots. Never listen to those people.
But I will say that there are moments when pain and ecstasy share the same breath. When I look at the wall and think, Right. This is going to hurt. And it does hurt, and it leaves a mark, but it also feels amazing.
My manicurist tells me that I will never find a boy with my hands like this, because nice boys don’t like rough girls. As a feminist, I should be offended, I suppose, but really I’m absurdly pleased that she thinks it’s only my hands that hold me back. Most people say it’s my bad attitude.
She shakes her head at me. She speaks limited English; I speak even more limited Mongolian. We don’t understand each other very well.
“You will be careful and not hurt yourself,” she tells me. “No more like this.”
And I nod even though I don’t mean it.
Because those are the times when I get stronger.