The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Friday, November 03, 2006

You're a Pisa Work, Lady Godiva

By Anne Chudobiak

My beloved hairdresser Mathilde makes the appointment. Nails. Three o’clock.

We take her car. A Mercedes. I don’t know how old.

The shop is small. I squeeze in beside a guy--“What’s he doing here?”--and a lady who is drying her toes.

A woman takes my hand, asks me what I want (something that I had once years ago?). This must be the boss. Tami. “Rose et blanc,” she asks, incredulous. “En poudre?

Mathilde is a teeny bit jealous. “Can I get that next time, too?” she asks.

A phone rings.

“Honey,” says a woman, her hands laid out, freshly lacquered, temporarily disabled.

The guy beside me unzips a purse. “Hello?”

I am guided to a place by the window. I smile at the woman at the next table. She blushes. I know her. She co-owns a health food store, where she mans the cosmetics, non-toxic, of course. I feel as though I’ve caught her out, which only makes me feel more warmly towards her.

“Come by the store, tomorrow,” she tells me when she leaves. “I want to see how your nails turn out.”

An exaggerated woman bursts in, already tall, gigantic in heels, a shock of make-up, electric blond extensions. The braces on her teeth don’t help.

I gasp and Mathilde gives me a look.

C’est pour un party d’Hallowe’en,” the woman insists. She says hello to everyone in the room. She’d kiss us if she could. I grin fiendishly by way of apology.

“How long?” a woman with clippers asks me. I call her Silent Bob.

“Not too long that I can’t type,” I say, tapping my fingers on the table, wishing that I could get my pen from my bag. If that guy with the purse was my boyfriend, would he take dictation?

Encore?” asks Silent Bob.

Encore,” I say.

“Ok,” she says. “Lavez les mains.

I make my way past a nail-polish display (You’re a Pisa Work: pink; Lady Godiva: red), to the back of the shop, where an elderly Vietnamese lady, a friend of Tami’s, shoves me into a bathroom, saying, “Si vous voulez!” By this, I understand that I too will soon lose the use of my hands. I am already somewhat compromised. I struggle with the paper towel.

“It eez better if you pay now,” says Silent Bob when I emerge, my hands held out like a five-year-old’s, awaiting inspection (“Did you use soap? Let me smell.”)

Beside me, a customer prepares to leave. One of Tami’s minions helps her with her coat, doing up the buttons, wrapping the scarf around, once, twice, tenderly. “Is that how you like it?” she asks, before holding the door open and easing the woman onto the sidewalk. A rainy afternoon on the Plateau Mont-Royal. Pas mal gorgeous.


Blogger MelBell said...

I love this. More please?

Fri Nov 03, 10:07:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger J.A. McDougall said...

You have conveyed the impressions of visits like these so well, so beautifully...I love reading about your corner of the world. It is easy for a westerner like me to forget what it's like to be in a place where two languages are used within the same conversation. Thank you for reminding me of how that feels.

Fri Nov 03, 10:58:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

Reading your post I reminded of a time when I was a kid and my family went to Montreal. We had dinner at a Chinese Restaurant. For some reason I was shocked to hear French with an Asian accent. Shocked and delighted. I shock easily at this kind of thing. When we visited England that same year, there were black people with British accents. More delight. I grew up in the suburbs- first in English Quebec and then in Ontario, so mostly what I knew was American television. The real world is so much more interesting than our representations of it. Unless, of course, we keep our eyes open and try to put on the page what we really experience, like you've done here in your lovely post.

Fri Nov 03, 11:40:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger tamara said...

This made me giggle, Anne. Especially the health food store clerk. So perfectly true. I never felt so unkempt as I did when I was in Montreal! I love your 'day in the life' stuff.

Fri Nov 03, 12:42:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger moonlight ambulette said...

but why them be talkin' french talk? shyoot.

i mean.

this is lovely. the sense you convey of not-quite-belonging-there-ness -- but maybe that's just the feeling i get because i never feel like i belong in a nail salon -- i'm always convinced they're going to ask me to leave.

and they probably should.

Fri Nov 03, 02:57:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Just delightful! I'm there. To think you had to wash your own hands. Where's Madge and the Palmolive when you need her?

Fri Nov 03, 10:29:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Antonios Maltezos said...

I love this.

“Not too long that I can’t type,” I say, tapping my fingers on the table, wishing that I could get my pen from my bag.

Sun Nov 05, 11:21:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Patricia said...

Hey!!! finally I can comment, I keep thinking I did and then I come back and it's gone, anyway, love this, I just love it!!! communication is wild!! we currently have a taiwanese (sp) student living with us, she speaks little or no english,'s a challenge, lots of charades in our house, we're having a blast with it..xoxo

Sun Nov 05, 03:03:00 pm GMT-5  

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