At Least I have Nail Varnish

by George Pringle

I sat watching BBC news, on mute.  The subtitles were out of time with the mouth movements.  What a pain to be deaf and to know you’re being cheated. Like everyone else is one step ahead. The old lady infront had candy floss for hair…a cauliflower head.  A friend of mine once said old ladies have cauliflower heads.

I wondered, studying the back of this woman, whether I too would become a cauliflower head one day.  One moment, you’re a lithe thing, with hair that swings around your waist.  The next, you’re a cauliflower head.  Then you’re dead.

When my name was called, I entered the clinic.  “Miss Richards-Pringle”.  God I hated it when someone came out to shout my name and all the other patients looked around, to see where the person with this name might be.  This name, it was so longwinded.  So self-important.

My doctor was fairly elderly.  He had glasses and speckled, freckled arms.  His forehead was large and bald and flaky with small red discolourations.  It seemed entirely appropriate he worked in dermatology.

“Miss Richards-Pringle, what brings you here today?” he said, casting his eye over my notes.

“My nails.”

“I see, yes” he said, with a silence, running his eyes down the paper.

“Alright, well let’s have a look.”

He shifted himself towards me on his office chair, the claws of which scraped the floor.

He got out a torch and peered, with a laboured senility at my fingers with a magnifying glass.  The student doctor who was sitting in, started taking notes.

“Right index, minor pitting…right middle, serrated…left thumb, discolouration.  Yup…yup…yup”

Once he was done with his inspection there was a pause and he pushed himself clumsily back to his desk.  There was a moment of calm before he started his prognosis.  He said it quick, like a rehearsed speech and in a slapdash manner:

“Yes, it is seems you do have Psoriatic Nails.  Psoriatic Nails is a kind of Psoriasis.  It’s an autoimmune disease.  Now, there are a number of treatments for this condition.  We can use Salicylic Acid, Calcipotriol or Tazarotene…Local treatments applied are often not very effective, however.  Or we can inject steroids into the nail bed but this is not always successful and you can risk losing the nail and so we find usually, the best method is to just leave it.  I would say, looking at your case that perhaps it is best to not pursue a course of treatment.  What do you do for a living?”

“I work in a bar.”

“And so you use your hands a lot.  Do you often get your hands wet?”

“Yes.  I’m always washing up.”

“And do you wear gloves?”

“Not all the time.”

“I would suggest that you use gloves whenever you can and try to keep them dry…Yes, this is a nuisance, particularly since it is not the most attractive condition.  Some patients find that it flares up particularly when they are stressed.  Have you had a particularly stressful time?”

I sat there and thought for a moment.

“Well I guess it hasn’t been a very good year.  I mean, my boyfriend and I broke up He moved out.”

I glanced self-consciously to the student doctor taking notes.  He looked awkwardly at me before burying his eyes to the lines.

“Yes…” he said, seemingly deep in thought.

Somewhat brusquely, he suddenly slapped his hands on his lap.

“Well, fortunately for you, you are a woman and so you have nail varnish!”

I sat there, momentarily stunned.  I glanced down to my short, mutant fingernails. Their prehistoric contours and shades of agate reminded me of fossils.  I must have done so in a morose manner, for he went on…

“Don’t worry.  You’re a very attractive young woman. I’m sure you will find someone in no time.”