This third, and last, story about the women at the nail salon isn’t one I really know; it is woven from a few threads of detail given to me by her friends, but mostly from my imagination.

She is the lady that sings.

I don’t know her name and I can’t remember when she arrived, but I will never forget her voice.  Pop music usually invades the shop – apparently for the benefit of the customers – but every once in a while, Carol will put on Classical or Opera or just allow the shop to sit in silence for a bit.  It was a silent day the first time I heard her sing.  She walked out from the back of the shop, looking toward the windows and singing a Vietnamese song; her voice was gentle and clear.  She gave the words longing and anguish, and I felt as if I knew what the song was meant to say even though I didn’t understand the words.  She only sang for a minute and I am not sure she even knew she was singing; it was as if the song emanated from her and she sang, not for us, but for herself and in honor of the music.

I must have had a look of awe, because Jean approached me and said quietly,” Beautiful, yes?  She was a singer in Vietnam; for her life she sang.”

The woman who sings is the oldest in the shop, maybe 70.  She is short and a bit plump and has thinning grey hair that she allows to remain unkempt, as if she doesn’t have the time to care what others might think of her.  She is always smiling and seems to love the customers who joke and laugh the loudest, even though she moves quietly. I get the feeling that she has seen the darkest parts of life and has chosen to live inside her music and allow her voice to rise her up above trauma and pain.  Her upper back is covered in circular scars that look like they could have come from torture; they are definitely not shrapnel wounds as the circles are perfectly symmetrical, not haphazard like wounds that would have been caused by a blast.

I notice now that every time I am in the shop and she is there, the pop music is turned off.  It is as if she is being shown respect; all the women want to hear her sing.  I have heard her sing Opera in English and Italian, songs from musicals, and of course beautiful lilting songs from Vietnam.  Once, when Kim was away, the singing lady did my pedicure and I asked her about the song she was singing and if she sang professionally in Vietnam; she just smiled and kept singing.