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"Pretty," he says when you show your nails to him. The silver nail polish seems to be shimmering in the light in the room, and you blow on your fingers even though your nails are dry, just because suddenly you want him to stop looking at them.

The air is still inside the room and it seems all too big for just the two of you to be sitting in it, just the two of you and the chairs stacked in one corner and guitar that rests across his lap. You look at your own fingers, all filed and painted and pretty, at the silver color. You look at his fingers, rough and torn and the nails bitten down to the quick. So beautiful.

So pretty. So fascinating. He's not doing anything, just humming a tune to himself as he absent-mindedly pats the guitar. You don't recognize it; it's just one of those small snippets of song that he comes up with every once in a while.

It's pretty too. It sounds pretty, and you unconsciously find yourself making up lyrics to go with it, words running through your head. They sound good to you but…

You told yourself you wouldn't do this anymore. You wouldn't write any more songs for him because he told you not to. You bite your tongue instead to stop yourself from humming along and stare at your nails again, blow on them slowly even though they don't need any more drying. Suddenly you're aware of how bad it looks to you, unevenly applied. In some places it covers the nail to thickly and others it's not thick enough and there's some on your skin and it's just another one of those things that you can never get perfect.

Putting on nail polish. Writing a song. Talking to him.

His voice is the only sound in the room as he hums. Sometimes it gets louder and you think that he's about to sing but then it reduces.

And then it stops as he scribbles something on his hand. You're still watching his fingers, noticing the small ridges of tough skin, discolored, at the lines of nerves and the deep folds in his palm, how the ink seems so odd, so out of place as he shows you what he's written. You're not really reading the words, just noticing how the ink seems to disfigure his hands.

"How does that sound?" he asks, and you realize he's been speaking and you look up guiltily because you haven't been listening to him. Quickly your eyes dart down again, read the words scribbled on his palm. Simple, they're not much.

But you know what they mean. Only you know what they really mean, no one else apart from you… you and him… know what those words really mean. You look up again, meeting his eyes, seeing that familiar look in them. Almost like hope, but more than anything, looking for approval.

"It sounds…" you let your voice trail off as you look for the word to describe them, your eyes floating down to the fingers, at the hand that's resting on the forearm of the other, at the bitten fingernails and ridges of skin and thick fingers and you say the word, the only word you can think of to describe them.




© Marziya Mohammedali, 2001-2013