Being that it was sandal weather and time for her feet to reveal themselves to prospective dating partners, Bernice wondered what color to paint her toenails. There were so many choices: reds and pinks were her favorites. Forget those navy blues and blacks those young girls liked; those dark colors were too dense to ride upon the insignificant weight of a nail. She thought a person should reserve black for funerals, that it was totally unsuitable to make appearances on a young girl’s hands, just like Vaneeta’s in her Sophomore English class, and certainly unsuitable for a white woman like herself in her forties.
During the school year, Bernice only wore clear. She didn’t want to distract her students from their discussion of Ralph Waldo Emerson or Emily Dickinson. Transcendentalists like Bernice took their colors seriously. She knew about a great aunt in the family who had healed people through the laying on of color, an art that had been lost in the handing down. Even so, Bernice was a believer, had taken months to figure out the right swatches for her living room. She’d finally painted her walls light brown and deep purple, but as for her nails; they were apple red.
Looking out on the patio, she felt like she was in the mountains, not in a town house facing a major highway with a dozen or so more units being built behind her. She’d even started dating and was meeting Jeffrey for the first time at the Starbucks close to the university. They had been corresponding for weeks now, but neither of them had profile photos. She didn’t want her ex to know she was going out, and Jeffrey had said pretty much the same thing.
Bernice had never thought of asking him to send her a picture. She was worried that she might not like him, but he sounded so nice. He worked at the local radio station, and said she’d recognize him by his Diamondbacks cap. Bernice walked into the store and saw a man sitting near the windows and recognized the cap. He was the color of warm coffee. She nearly knocked over the napkin dispenser with her purse. “Hi, I’m Bernice.”
“Jeffrey,” he said, and he pulled out her chair. “What can I get you?”
“Small coffee.” Anything larger would take too much time.
Before he left for the counter, he admired her hands and said, “You’ve got nice nails.”