It was my first time.
Don’t ask how old I was, for by many standards it was late enough to have ushered in at least three babies, if not four. Perhaps, a few dinosaurs too. But so what? Don’t they say there is a right time for everything, and if indecisiveness, ignorance or fear-of-the-unknown has delayed the much needed, blame the lateness on a cocktail of Karma and Kismet with a dash of Zodiac? That is exactly what I was doing as I bathed and perfumed myself, and dressed it all up in Sunday best. Especially the tiny vales between my ten toes, you know, where the dirt unseen rests feeling cosily at home till you discover it one day when it has formed a tiny hill there, much like termites. Or moles. I wore my best flip-flops to walk to the occasion too.
After all, I was going for my virginal pedicure.
A lot of firsts happen after your marriage. Ouch! But many in the days just before it too. Somewhere in my 20s I was off to a salon which promised me the most freebies (read pint-sized bottle of Bisleri, a mug of coffee, an umbrella stand to hang my coat/dupatta). Freebies, for the palatial fortune I was to exchange for just getting my dear nails clipped. Moral of the story till now being, I like freebies, and that then I had no idea about pedicures.
A separate section called ‘Foot-see’ opened into a pink and black room lined with chairs which would put the PM’s gaddi to shame - with their grandeur, their gadgetry and the chest-size of the gentlemen standing behind them. Men? Suddenly my nervous lips licked the lip gloss away and my toes twisted into such strange positions of awkwardness that they could just have been possessed with the spirit of an ashamed exorcist himself. I cushioned myself into one which seemed three sizes too big for me, and dipped my feet into a tub of water I swear I wanted to put my head in. And drown. Why? Here I was, ready to risk a pedicure just to escape that-talk-which-forms-the-about-to-be-married-day-at-home, and all I got was a brain on an over-drive, trying to think of ways to keep the legs together enough to please the nuns and fathers who moulded me in school but apart still so the young man with the lovely cheek bones could reach all corners of my feet once they were soft. And supple. And ready to be peeled.
I peeked at my two innocent feet somewhere down there and blessed the bubbles in the water which were, truth be told, quite relaxing. What wasn’t relaxing was the man with cucumbers on his eyes sitting next to me, getting a head massage, a facial and a pedicure done, even as he spoke on the phone sealing a property deal. Because now, as my eyes held him while his the cucumber slices, I felt it rising up my gut, twirling in my belly and knocking on my teeth to open up my mouth, for Laughter Express was on its way. With its brakes failed!
To not laugh is impossible for me. Ever since I remember I have had uncanny urges to laugh at just the socially wrong times. For instance, as a little girl in stranger aunties’ and uncles’ arms I would laugh with glee, sometimes because their nostrils looked like obstacle courses and often because the hair on the chin would be singing to me in the breeze. Of course, I escaped censure then, for because of my laughter they gave themselves certificates of merit for being good with kids. Later, I started getting caught. In standard 7, after chopping the hard ink-erasing dirty green rubber into tiny pieces and putting them on the head of the girl just before me, I started laughing. Mrs. Abraham did not find humour in the concept of pulleys and fulcrum that she was teaching and I was standing outside my class the next moment. Still giggling, by the way. And braces on teeth played traitor too, for my mouth would barely close. In standard 12 it did not help to have a Hindi teacher who kept repeating to us ‘Bharat krishi pradan desh hai’ after every full stop, and tautology I do find amusing. What to do! Also, if you think no one gets sent out of class on laughing out-of-context (but in-context with what’s inside the head, imagined or in full view of) you are wrong!
Present, in Foot-see now.
Testosterone had done its deed on that man next to me, and in patches it had left hair-free there was cream. If he was Greek, I could have passed him off as a chocolate frost cake with a cherry on top. But he wasn’t, and there was nothing on top. With jeans folded up to his knees his feet were getting massaged, as mine would be soon. I watched out of curiosity, I swear, for it was my first time and clearly he was a veteran. And then, the right pressure points started getting activated on his sole by a man in black who seemed responsible for his feet by the day, and his drunken safety as a bouncer at night. And how they touched his soul! ‘Why don’t you talk to Golden Foresssttt … ten, he will give ten … its two bighaaaa … aah … so what if the approach road it narrow … oooh … 20 flats? Hmm … mmm … no man, just getting paddy done ... nnnn...’ and it went on. Property dealing and orgasmic foot healing, as the pedi-curer did his job as if nothing was wrong with the world.
My belly was distended with the whole 9 months of laughter, as if an army of feathers was tickling it on the inside. I had to get it out, oh, I just had to laugh. Should I fake a phone call and release it? Bathroom, no, I won’t reach in time. Shame shame! Marriageable woman and still doesn’t know how to hold it in. Little did I know the solution lay in the problem itself, for as my good looking worked my now-soft feet, the tickle buds all over them got provoked beyond all Edens. Forget awkward toes and legs apart moments and all monster men frothing next door. Forget even that I was all grown up. It started showing its teeth, from the feet upwards, and with all things in the head acting the very fuel for it.
First, a little giggle. Then two, together. And then, like floodgates of a whole generation repressed from expressing, I laughed. The mouth-wide-open, head-thrown-back variety of laughter. Louder than ever. The dumbstruck staff stared, first at my funny feet and then at my face contorted like a monkey, as I jerked my right foot alternatively away and towards my attendant to make them clean. Almost as if I was cycling! This had to stop. And stop it I did. I just told myself then that maybe this could wait too for after marriage, among other things. Ouch!
Of course, I paid the full amount. My overly tickly feet were not their problem. Thankfully, neither was my tickly tummy for the man who was now in stage four. Of his paddy, of course.
P.S. - I continue a virgin in this department. True story, this.
[Written for WordPress Daily Prompts : 365 Writing Prompts. The prompt for today was - From the gut - Tell us about the last time you had a real, deep, crying-from laughing belly laugh]