Her springy, onyx curls shone under the tungsten lights. I noticed her legs, bare and smooth wading in a tub of warm water. We bantered about pedicure colors. My selection – icy purple. Hers – ruby red. I liked her. She smiled easily and laughed at my ironic humor.
Maybe it’s because it’s rare to see other foreigners in China. You tend to leap on them, circle them with a sense of relief and curiosity.
We peered out the plate glass window of the salon, commenting about the stooped over Chinese man passing by on a rusted bicycle. My feet sloshed in the toasty water and all my clamped muscles relaxed. She just left Egypt, taking a job in Hangzhou as a textile engineer and was speckled new, landed in China two weeks ago. How exotic! Cool. Origin stories always fascinate me.
So when she told me flat out she will not return to Egypt, the sentence sounded tinny, ill placed among the familiar scent of lacquer, my brain lulled by beautifying rituals.
Violence seemed so distant.
But then it arrived. Compressing the air with a hiss.