Battle Scars

My toe is still numb. The big toe on my right foot. Actually just the upper left corner at the edge of the free edge of the nail. It's been numb since sometime around February or early March of 2007.

I blame a client. She was one of those on again/off again clients who had been coming to see me for years by that fateful evening in early '07. We'd been through a lot together throughout our relationship of something nearing 15 years. She was one of those people who come into your life and settle into your schedule as a regular client. The kind you want:  took good care of her nails and would absolutely DIE if she missed an appointment, only reluctantly taking her nails off for a few months when money got tight and everything else had been cut from the budget.

The type of client who is always sunny and funny and animated and you always look forward to seeing her and have a genuine great time during her visits.

Until you've known her for a little too long.

Some clients — like friends and lovers — come into your life and make your heart sing, and eventually settle into a comfortable routine that lasts for years, possibly for your entire career, and occasionally beyond that through your entire lifetime as good friends. And some clients — like friends and lovers — come into your life and make your heart sing, for a few months. Until they begin to reveal their full selves including all their incompatibilities with you, until they wear out their welcome and make you scramble desperately for a professional way to extricate yourself from the toxic cloud of doom that accompanies them to every appointment.

When a client goes bad like this, it's usually after you've befriended them on some level. After you've revealed more about yourself than you would to an ordinary client, and have learned more about the client than you ever wanted to know. Whether you think you've crossed that precarious line from client to friend or not, the problem lies in that client believing that you've crossed that line. Making a stand to set the record straight almost never goes smoothly, and rarely allows you to keep the client but lose the friend.

And that's how I ended up with nerve damage in my big toe. I'd been putting up with her for far too long. I was in a bad mood for the entire week leading up to her appointment, and it took an entire week after her appointment to recover. I had to clench my jaw and force a smile while I sat through her services, silently singing the Piña Colada Song in my mind to distract myself from the narcissistic misery she brought in with her and attempted to lay on my shoulders.

The last time I saw her, I was wearing Ugg Boots. It was one of those nights I worked late, and she was my last client. I came home around 9 p.m., emotionally exhausted and physically drained. Changing out of my work clothes and into some comfy pajamas my first priority. I was standing up, leaning over to take off my boots when something went wrong. I ended up slamming my foot — big toe first — into our bedroom floor. I crumpled into a heap of blubbering flesh on the floor while I cradled my pounding toe in my arms (which I'm proud to still be able to do, although it's certainly not as easy as it used to be) while I cursed the name of the client who had brought me to such a sad state.

I called her the next day to let her know I would no longer be able to do her nails. I didn't even bother finding a "professional" reason. I just told her I wouldn't do them anymore, end of statement. I hung up on her while she blubbered that her life was over and nobody else could do her nails like me.

It's been three years. I haven't spoken with her since. Hopefully her new nail tech has a stronger buffering system than I do. But my toe is still numb.

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