A couple days ago I got a manicure. I went to this little shop near our house, and, like all of the nail shops in Albuquerque, the employees are all Asian. A few of them have a fair command of the English language, but most of them only know the trade lingo ("Manicure?" "Pedicure?" "Rebase?" "Wax?" "$12.98"). That day I got my favorite young manicurist. She always recognizes me, even though I don't go in that often, always smiles, and knows enough English to get by; but she’s quite happy to do my manicure in complete silence, if I'll let her. This time I decided to try to engage her in conversation.
I asked her if she had taken a summer vacation. She shook her head and said, "Summer, too busy. But,” she added, “I go home Vietnam in fall!” When she told me this, her eyes lit up and she looked so happy. I asked if she would be visiting family, and she said "yes," and told me her mother, father, three brothers and one sister were all still living in Vietnam. She also said that she hadn't been back since she left, five years ago. I told her she must be very brave to have moved across the ocean by herself, but she shook her head again and said, "My husband live here."
Neither of us said anything for a minute or two, as she continued painting my nails, then she volunteered, “My father always tell me, ‘Don’t move far away. I will miss you too much.’” Then she got very quiet, and her eyes lost their sparkle. And I wished I had the words to make a difference, but suddenly it was my English that was inadequate.