My heartbeat increased as she moved closer to my row. The entire hall was silent. As if time had come to a standstill. So quiet, that I was afraid if she heard me breathe I’d be in trouble. “Hands out front!” she yelled as she came to the boy just a few seats away from me. She wore her specs at the tip of her nose which I, for some pointless reason feared would slip off any second. With her gray and black frizzy hair tied up neatly in bun and a dress as pale as her skin, she almost seemed immortal.
“Hands out front!” she squawked. This time in front of me.
She had reached me.
Everything around me reeked of fear.
I couldn’t think clearly.
I shuffled in my position trying to get myself to speak up. But my lips wouldn’t part. “Hands..out….front! I said!” she yelled again almost startling me . I felt as if all eyes were on me now. And before I could even think, she quickly pulled both of my arms from behind me and firmly examined them thoroughly. “Long nails. I see…I see. Well I’ll take care of that.” she bellowed, while frantically scanning me throughly. I had shut my eyes by now. Hoping this whole situation would just vanish from right before me. I felt her bony cold grasp free from my arm while the other still as tight as ever. A sudden current of pain escalated throughout my entire body. Almost causing me to wail out loud, but it wasn’t that easy. Not for me.
nine and finally ten. I counted as the cold, metal clipper went one by one past each and every finger. With each count, more pain, more pulling and tearing, more shreds of skin and more warm sticky stuff oozing out.
Which I figured was blood.
But I had decided. I would only open my eyes once this nightmare was over.
A routine cleanliness check that would happen every week at Our Lady of Grace Juvenile School of Bronx. It was the newly appointed warden’s first day at work. She had just been transferred here from a prison job. You could easily guess she was “hell” just by looking at her.
Only if I were able to speak up.
Able to explain myself.
Able to tell her that my nail clipper had been snatched from me and flushed down the toilet by some bully.
But I was a wimp. Just as my father would say. I silently thought, while dragging myself through the dark hallway towards my bunk. “Here, I think you might need this.” said the freckled boy while handing over a pair of scissors. He had this sorry look on his face. His name was Nicholas. I remembered him from when I arrived here. It was also his first day that day.
I silently accepted the scissors and went on.
Hunkered beside my bunk and started snipping away.
Cutting off the remaining shreds of skin. The blood had dried up. My fingertips felt sore and my hands, sticky. But at least the nails had been cut. Till the very bottom. And that’s what mattered. Right?
Because till date I fear growing out my nails never being able to forget.
I learned my lesson.
Was it necessary?
I do not know.
Could there have been any other way of conveying it?