"What's the world for you if you can't make it up the way you want."

-Jazz, Toni Morrison


One year, in May, you meet a Frenchman. While dating, you find out Frenchmen are passionate and romantic. You learn about some physical preferences European men have when it comes to your lady parts. You learn Frenchwomen are generally neat, trimmed and waxed. 

A few years into your relationship, you and your Frenchman are separated by many miles and an ocean; he living in Paris and you in Arizona. He is coming for a long-awaited visit and it’s been months since you’ve seen each other. You panic and decide you need some spa time. 

You walk into your neighborhood beauty salon, where you met Karena months before. She does it all: manicures, pedicures, threading, waxing. She’s the only one who knows how to deal with your calloused, ashy feet. 

Karena becomes your beautician and your scourge. Karena is Russian.

She smiles and yells across the salon to greet you. Now everyone knows your name. Her heavy accent makes you smile and feel a tinge of nervousness. She takes one look at your brows and frowns while peering behind her large reading glasses that sit at the edge of her prominent nose. 

Oh no, your brows so bushee. Come here. I do your brows. Karena’s voice is brusque for a spa setting. 

She sits you down and out comes the white thread. Your eyes start watering at the sight of the innocent spool. She pats your brows with baby power. You forget and accidentally breathe in the white dust. You cough. She tilts your chin upward and your body tightens. 

Relax! she barks and presses her round body into yours to keep you still. Swish. Swish. 

The pangs of pain around your eyebrows make you flinch. Tears well up in your eyes but you’re too afraid to blink. A large tear rolls down your flushed cheek. You quickly try to brush it away before Karena can see, but she’s onto you. She knows you’re weak.  

Why you crying? Oh you big baby. Come, I do pedicure. You instantly relax, believing the torture is finally over. She massages and scrubs your callused feet with precision. The two of you chat and she asks about your Frenchman. Without thinking, you tell her he’s coming for a visit. 

You let me vax you, for your Frenchman. Her eyes and tone soften when she talks about her services.

Wax? Down there? you blurt out

Yes, I give you bikini vax for your Frenchman. You wonder if she thinks you’re an American bush woman and her mission is to tame your wild garden. You kindly decline in your mild-mannered way and tell her you’re afraid of the pain. 

Maybe next time, you say. It’s hard to tell Karena no. 

You exhale and sink a bit further into your spa chair while your feet soak in the warm tub. Karena steps into another room. A few minutes later she returns with a small, white, paper water cooler cup filled almost to the top with clear liquid and hands it to you. 

Drink thees. You feel nothing, she says. You dip your nose slightly into the cup and take a sip. Vodka. You’re shocked! 

You gave me alcohol? Karena laughs. 

Yes, you big baby. Drink. You feel nothing. You drink it down. It’s hard to tell Karena no. While a light buzz sets in, you sit and deliberate. 

Should I let her do it? I don’t want to go into that tiny room with her. That’s not a spa room, it’s a torture chamber. I gotta get out of here. In your semi-drunken state, you scheme your escape from the spa and from the grips of Karena.

Well, thanks…but ah…I have to go. Here’s what I owe you for today. I have to go pick up the Frenchman at the airport. You lie. 

But your toes. They not dry yet. You stay, she demands. 

That’s okay. I really have to go.

You stand up, balance yourself and quickly grab your purse. Still in your flimsy spa flip flops, you scoot your half-dried, painted toenails out the door as quickly as you can.

You survive another appointment with Karena. 

Christie Munson Muller is a nonprofit grant writer and travel and hiking blogger. She’s an aspiring memoir writer, currently working on a travel essay about meeting her French husband in Paris on a girl’s trip. When not writing, she’s out exploring the Southwest or on Duolingo, trying to learn French. She lives in Phoenix, AZ with her hubby, Stéphane and fur baby, Morgan.

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