A small leather suitcase sits open-faced on a purple and white floral bedspread. Just a little over half full, there are neatly folded shorts and colorful T-shirts stacked in neat little squares. Along the edges are soft balls of black and white socks. A young girl stands close to the bedside. In her arms is a striped sun dress. She presses the garment to her body and folds it, placing it carefully into the suitcase that sits like an open mouth, waiting to take whatever she gives.
The room hold the remnants of a recent childhood. The walls are painted a pale shade of pink. A stack of teddy bears sit in the corner close to a near-empty closet and the dark light of the night is blocked by a red velvet window shade. It is a girl’s room, but the girl in front of the suitcase is no longer a girl.
She is slender and tall, just over 5’8. Long brown wavy hair cascades down her back, looking like the rushing movement of a waterfall. The girl wears a long flowing nightgown with a yellow floral print on a white background. It is an old fashioned nightgown, covering her arms and legs and reaching her collar, but even beneath the yards of flowing cotton fabric, the body of a young woman pushes through, pushing itself outward like a daisy meeting the sun. The fabric below the lacy neckline is bulging with pointed breasts, but she stands in her bare feet beside the bed, next to the collection of little dolls on her dresser, the new woman still swimming through the child-like waves of time.
An older man with a weathered face and graying hair stands in the doorway, it is a threshold he cannot cross. But he stands staring in, looking at the girl he can barely recognize. Who is this woman in a girl’s room? He clears his throat and finally gives voice to his thoughts.
“Gloria, I really don’t know what you’re doing. You just can’t take a bus and get dropped off in the middle of the city. They’ll eat you alive there out there! Come on! You know better than this. You don’t know anybody there, you don’t have any friends there, you don’t even have a place to stay for Christ’s sake! What do you think you’re doing? Are you trying to kill your old man?”
The young girl holds still, then tucks another folded sun dress into her suitcase. She turns to her father. The gray hair by his ears, the sagging skin below his chin, the lines around his eyes, he looks older than he had at dinner. Wherever there was skin, there were worry lines etched into his face, but they had been there for years, slowly getting more and more defined. She looked at him with a small smile, a little bit of sympathy welling in her heart, giving him the smile of the truly innocent.
“You don’t need to worry. I know what I’m doing-”
“How can you possibly know what you’re doing?” he interrupted. “You’ve never been there, you have no place to stay. This is a half-baked plan at best.”
“Look, I’m almost eighteen, I can take care of myself.” She heard a small snort come from him. “I do. I told you already, I’m going to get a hotel room until I can find a place.”
“Do you have any idea how expensive hotel rooms are in New York? Your birthday money is going to disappear like that!” he snapped his fingers and tried to look out the window, but it was covered in a red shade.
“Look, I got to do this. My teacher said I have talent. What better place to go? I’m going to get a job and an apartment and it’s all going to be fine.”
The old man shook his head. He was powerless, unable to stop his daughter with force or words. She just had no idea…no idea at all. He shook his head and looked at his shoes, unsure of what to do next. She turned away from him, picking up another cotton T-shirt and folding it, tucking it neatly into the suitcase, it alone was going with her, into the heart of the city.