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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Invisible Women : M

 It’s been a while and I am sorry. You probably got tired of waiting for me. I don’t blame you. I wonder if anyone is still left here...
May 17th went by just like any regular day. Some activists placed empty shoes on the “pogrom” site to honor the unseen, unheard people. Fliers appeared all over the city and stairway by Tavisupleba subway was painted in rainbow colors.
That day I arrived at the Pushkin square with my spare footwear to discover a man collecting shoes in big, black bags.  He told me that it was all gay propaganda. “But I brought shoes”, I whimpered. “You can put them down and I will collect them”, he answered very politely. He then complained that he “was forced to” throw away shoes.
Women were killed this spring, lots of women killed by angry men. Anyone notice that? Oh yes, government was preoccupied fighting gay propaganda (they demolished the rainbow stairs! Not painted over, demolished! I mean, the level of paranoia!!) just as it is preoccupied with incarcerating pot smokers at the moment.
I guess these several posts are my shoes. My attempt at “Dirty Pretty Things” (Haven’t seen it? Download right now!)
There are women in my life, who are invisible.  They are strong and they are independent and many times I look at them in awe. I just want you to know about them.  This is the first story:

M is smart, friendly, service-oriented. First time I walked into a salon where she worked (little, ugly thing  close to my house), she talked to me, explained stuff about my nails, hair, eyebrows, took care of my poor hands, walked me to the door and gave me her business card. As someone stuck in a post-soviet-service
limbo, I was pleasantly surprised. She was not nice because she worked in a high-class, expensive salon (it was yet another neighborhood barber shop) , not because I was someone important, but because that's how she usually talks to her clients.
Her skills are excellent. She had worked in Israel for many years, learning tricks of the industry, procuring better instruments, receiving better training. She was happy and busy and independent until one day her son almost boarded a bus that got blown to pieces in several minutes after the departure. They came back to Geo and she started working close to her house (to check in on her son).
Salon owner didn't treat M very well. He did not abuse her, nothing like that; he just did not value her. He had an exceptionally-trained nail technician in his shabby salon and he did not care.  He did not care about any of his female staff really. He was the boss who collected money.
M started saving funds, took a bank loan and eventually opened a tiny nail salon next to him. All of her clients moved away with her.  There she sworks now, in a neat little room that used to be a vegetable stand.
She decorated it and remodeled it and even extended walls a bit. Her salon has a tree in the middle. It was in the way and she did not want to cut it.
M is very strong. M sits all day, cutting people’s nails, shaping their eyebrows, she pays for the room, she pays for her life and she pays for her son’s life.  Sometimes she is sick, sometimes she is hungry - no time for lunch, though she never complains (We just chat about it. How are you? Oh well, hungry); she has never missed an appointment. Never. 
She is always fun. Sometimes she tells me her Israel stories. Some are funny, some are sad. How she got divorced.  How she loved. How she traveled. Other things.
Time after time she gives me mini lectures on skin care. She never judges me, no matter how horrible my nails look; doesn't reprimand me when sometimes I bite the skin on my fingers (gross).  She’s there, she’s always there and she probably does not even know how much security and stability her professional presence has given me over these, let’s see 3 years? 4 years? More? She has watched me change 4 jobs now.
I measure my month by how much time has passed since I last saw M.

I will always have M. Even when I move out of this place. I will make special trips to her little room with a tree.
M is invisible. M is not on TV. M does not attend rallies. M just does her job, professionally, cheerfully, with dignity. M is proud of her job. And I grow, I learn, I get inspired.

M is the first invisible woman I will tell you about. The first shoe that I put down.

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