Boris holds out his hands, fan-like, and looks at them. He sees wonky picket fences, threads of worldwide webs, damning evidence of the digital age. He sees a cluster of quills, a bunch of bludgeons. Boris sighs. His hands are a pair of spindly glands secreting hieroglyphic secrets. With this filiform thought in mind, Boris decides to conceive cleaner and breathe better. He looks around and felicitously concludes that destiny is on his side. There, within eyeshot, is a nail salon, its existence pinkly announced in large letters. Boris quivers with epiphany, he shivers with a frisson of newfound purpose. He may be losing his mind, hair, nerve (etc.) but his nails keep on growing! It’s all about his nails! Dig in, cling on! Boris feels like he has nailed it at long last. The nails that crucified our saviour were not literal nails but the most outward and neglected extension of our own selves! Boris now knows what he must do. He must take better care of his nails lest they turn hard and unsightly and damn him to damnation.
Store bell: Ting-a-ling…
Boris is greeted by a womanly woman. Her nails, he clocks, are a work of art (Rothko comes to mind). She leads him to a remote corner of the salon where his ungainly nails are in the spotlight for the first time in his life. He is beadily sweating from excitement. He remembers a photo he once saw of a man who entered the record books for having the longest nails in the world (a helter skelter of wantonness). He remembers the drudgery of cutting his nails, the begrudging manner in which he half-heartedly kept them in check. He remembers the nail-biting misery that had been oppressing him until…
Ugnė: Ugh! I can hardly look at them!
Boris: Help me, I beg you! I’m at my wits’ end…
Ugnė: It’s almost as though your nails were seceding…
With Jesus-like mercy, Ugnė takes his hand and dips it into a paraffin bath. With surgeon-like skill, she gets to work on saving Boris’s buccaneering nails.
Ugnė: I’m Ugnė.
Boris: I’m Boris.
Ugnė: That’s a good, strong, sturdy name.
Boris: Thank you. I like your name too. It sounds like an inflected primordial grunt.
Ugnė: I beg your pardon?
Boris: I mean it as a compliment! Ug – ne. It’s like you are negating your own primacy. Only now do I really understand that you cosmeticians are at the cutting edge of morality.
Ugnė: What brings you here Boris? I’m guessing this is your first manicure…
Boris: Well, I’m hoping you can cure me!
Ugnė: Jesus Christ…
Boris: Exactly! You hit the nail on the head! I happened to be standing nearby, feeling a bit lost, when I saw your sign. I took it as a sign.
Ugnė: What do you do for a living?
Boris: I’m currently a supermarket cashier.
Ugnė: So that’s why you want your nails done!
Boris: That hadn’t even crossed my mind. I’m here to become a better person.
Ugnė: A what, sorry?
Boris: A better person.
Ugnė casts a worried glance around her. She calculates how long it would take her to get to the door. She regrets encountering him. She hopes it has enough food and water for a few days.
Ugnė: We all want to be better. That’s our tragedy.
Boris: Wise words! How long have you been doing nails?
Ugnė: Um, since school. Ten years now…
Boris: When did you realise this was your calling?
Ugnė: My what, sorry?
Boris: Your vocation – your purpose…
Ugnė: Oh. Right. I – I woke up and one day and thought: n-a-i-l-s…
Boris: You’re lucky to have that sense of certainty. I never imagined that I’d end up as a supermarket cashier. I’m still finding my feet to be honest. But I’m getting better at it. I’ve perfected my scanning technique and I’m faster than most of my colleagues.
Boris: If only we’d met sooner maybe things would be different.
Ugnė: It’s strange how things work out.
Boris: Isn’t it? I’ve never really understood what’s going on, internally speaking. It often feels as though life is pulling me in different directions, like it’s trying to dismember me.
Ugnė: It pulled you here for some reason.
Boris: Yes it did. And now my nails will get well again, thanks to you!
Boris: Yes Ugnė?
Ugnė: You’re probably a nice person but please shut up and stop talking.
Boris’s face collapses like Lisbon in 1755.
Ugnė: I’m only here to fix your nails. That’s it. Then you’ll be on your way and that will be that. I’m sure you’ll make a great supermarket cashier but I will avoid your checkout should I ever happen to be in your neck of the woods. I wish you and your nails well Boris but this is an utterly meaningless encounter beyond your nails and the time it takes me to do them.