#268: Clear Nail Polish

January 13th, 2014

The girlfriend has metal allergies, that’s important to know.

It’s important to know because some cheap silver and zircon knickknackery like the bit I had in my pocket could cause her to break out in an itchy rash. The skin turns green, she has to scratch, the whole caboodle. But she wanted a particular bit of costume jewelry and told me not to go above $50 because we had better things to spend our money on.

I hoped my girlfriend would like it.

Allergies and cheap metal mean clear nail polish. And that meant the CVS at Damen and Lawrence a week before Christmas.

The overhead speakers blasted the song from the “Christmas Vacation” cartoon intro over the red, white and fake garland of a December chain store. It was after dark outside, so the fluorescent lighting made everything seem even more garish and unseemly indoors. I stared at shelves of red, reddish, redder, reddest, sparkly and blue nail polishes, unable to find the clear one I wanted.

The nail polish coats the cheap metal so it never touches that allergic skin. Then she gets to wear her bauble and I get to adhere to that $50 limit she insisted upon.

A $50 upper limit on jewelry. Right woman for me or what?

I hoped my girlfriend would like it.

We met at a Story Lab Chicago reading where we both went stag. Story Lab works out of the back room of the Black Rock Pub just a bit south of the CVS. The back room is dark wood, not the bright plastic of the drug store. The third Wednesday of each month, storytellers and live lit speakers invade the dark wood room to share their lives with a dense crowd.

The night I showed up stag, I grabbed a beer and an empty chair. I took a swig and noticed a cute girl giving me the eye.

She was slim with short, brown hair. Brown eyes forever locked in a sultry look. And yep, those eyes were definitely locked on me. It was hard to find excuses to keep peeking back — she was standing toward the back of the room, a bit behind me and to my right. But maybe a third of the times I did, she had those sultry browns locked, giving me the eye.

After the show, I turned back, saw her, took a swig of my beer and walked up to try my luck. When she cracked a joke about the Missouri Compromise of 1820, I decided to ask her out.

I found out a month or two in that I had stolen her chair. She was giving me the eye, the evil eye.

And now I was at a CVS buying nail polish for her costume jewelry a week before Christmas, trying to decide if the “Christmas Vacation” song was by Paul McCartney and Wings or if that was “Wonderful Christmastime” and if I should pick up a bag of peanut M&M’s too.

I hoped my girlfriend would like it.

We played board games at a bar that does that sort of thing on our first date. We started texting a lot. We decided to keep it casual, then realized after a few months we were casually spending every moment together.

We decided to be a couple at the Art Institute of Chicago. They had a thing where guerrilla marketers dressed as Roy Lichtenstein paintings. I have a framed photo of that night on my desk. The photo is of me, her and a guerrilla marketer dressed as a Roy Lichtenstein painting.

I hoped my girlfriend would like it. The jewelry, I mean. I know she likes the photo. She has a copy on her wall.

At the checkout of the CVS, the clerk’s name was Jaye. He was a guy. A guy named Jaye. I thought that was odd.

She was cute and giving me the eye at the Story Lab reading. I stole her chair and we started dating at a Lichtenstein. And I had some jewelry she forbade me from spending more than $50 on. I hoped my girlfriend would like it.

Remember when she smiled?

I hoped my girlfriend would like it.

Remember when she laughed and started sending funny texts?

I hoped my girlfriend would like it.

The Missouri Compromise of 1820.

Clear nail polish.

“Christmas Vacation.” Wings? Mavis Staples? Peanut M&M’s.

Story Lab. $50 limit. His name was Jaye but he was a boy. I thought the chair was free. I thought the chair was free and now I was in a CVS buying clear nail polish to paint some low-cost jewelry so the metal-allergic girlfriend wouldn’t get an itchy rash.

And a ring finger is a hell of a place to get a rash.

My girlfriend didn’t like it. My fiancĂ©e loved it.

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You are currently reading #268: Clear Nail Polish by Paul Dailing at 1,001 Chicago Afternoons.

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