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Please don’t ask me what my name is.
Or in what city I was born.
Or where I grew up.
And especially not why I am here.
I stroll by the church, which I know is not the place for me.
I window-shop at a vintage clothing store, a novelty coin shop, and a scented wax outlet.
With $300 on my Bank of America card, I must choose my purchases wisely.
I am just another runaway girl on the streets- according to everyone else. I shudder at the thought of what could happen to me if I am not careful. I have heard one enough horror stories about young homeless girls who are forced to work as slaves or prostitutes.
To make sure that that won’t end up becoming my fate, I take care not to talk to any strangers. If I happen to glance at one, I casually look away.
The first thing I must do is rent out at some place for a few nights. After that I must immediately get a job. Any job will do. But secretly I am hoping to get a job as a busgirl or something.
If only there was a way to run away without having to leave home. I know what I have left behind and I need not be reminded of it.
I reminisce about the hot breezes and the massive umbrella trees that we used to practically live under. But then I recall the one too many unendurable fights I had to hear and face. They decided that they had enough of me themselves.
There was no place for me in that small, happy-go-lucky town which I came from.
I continue to pace down the city street and bite down hard on my lip to distract myself. There is no room for pain and sorrow in the city that never sleeps or stops working.
After taking a ten hour bus ride and having slept the night on a bench, I am ravenous.
Best hot dogs in town! Right here! Now!
I hear a plump, mustached man yell this out from behind his cart. He is rolling a long stick of hotdogs on a stove.
I watch the pale, limp sausages turn and turn and become crisp, tasty hot dogs that everyone craves.
The vendor looks past me until I fish out a buck and hand it to him.
Then he smiles warmly.
Ya know, it don’t get any better than this!
I smile and nod. I am not too sure how to address the city folk.
I have spent a total of one dollar fifty so far. Not too bad.
I scan every store window for an employees wanted sign. At this point it does not matter which store I choose.
I sigh and rub my eyes. I enter a clothing store, called Classic Threads, which has an employees wanted sign but that doesn’t need one because it screams those words. The thought of being inside that cold, bleak store gives me discomfort. I especially need discomfort-cold, bitter discomfort that is well-known to me, a poor lost girl trying to make a place for herself in this strange new world.
I know that there is a lot of work to be done there, that is if I do get hired. The line of interviewees is not very long.
But I put on my smile and try to make the best impression…
Four months later…
Things have improved. The store looks more inviting, like a hip clothing store. I put a lot of my effort into working. Not that I particularly care for this place. The owner, Ms. Mink, is an old frugal lady who always talks of achieving success. I do admire her though. She has more gusto at her age than any youth I have ever seen does.
Nevertheless, let’s just say that working here is not exactly the icing atop of my weird, unpredictable, twisted, cake of a life.
But I see this place as a reflection of myself that others must see. I must prove that I single-handedly turned this dirty, old cavern into a luxurious oasis for the teenage generation. I painfully remember how I was constantly accused of being a failure and a no-good back at home.
Besides, Mrs. Mink loves me. She is constantly riddling me with promises of promotions in her acquired grandma voice. If only she understood the psychology of teens better. Not having had any kids herself, her idea of entertaining them would be telling one of her arid stories about her bubbly youth while going through three packs of cigarettes.
Currently, my position is that of a sales associate. I have to say that that is not too bad for a nineteen year old like myself after only four months working here.
It is through my effort that this place looks how it does now. The walls are painted a fashionable burgundy color. The mannequins are set out in the display area with the priciest most fancy and intricate items in the store. Young hipsters are constantly swimming in and out of here like there is no tomorrow…
Six months later…
I have been bumped up to the position of store manager. When I am not attentively studying the faces of the customers, I am busy in my little office sketching. I come up with all kinds of designs even if they will always remain on the sheet of paper and never move from there.
Meanwhile Ms Mink often gets ill, but still insists on coming every day. I worry about her.
Three months later…
Ms Mink has seen them. She came up to my office one day and happened to spot my drawings. I was shaking as she started flipping through my sketch book. As much as she admires me, Ms Mink can be a very picky lady. She dresses very elegantly. That day she was clad in a black Chanel suit and diamond drop earrings. She refuses to sell any of those cheap, skimpy, dull clothes; the crap that youngsters are wearing these days. Instead our store is a plethora of fine, elegant, but also practical clothing that Ms Mink acquires either from auctions or from her monthly visits to France.
She sets down my sketches of dresses, blouses, pants; all of them are a fusion with the fine vintage items we sell here and the modern styles.
Ms Mink says nothing, but she sets down my sketches and smiles. This is not the same smile she has when she sees a content customer.
Five years later…
Ms Mink passed away last month. With remorse, I remember her. After all, she made me what I am today.
In her will, she named me the heir to this store, which is currently at it zenith, being the most popular store on this stretch.
With Ms Mink’s firm insistence, I applied to the university. I was very skeptical although I did have a 3.7 GPA in high school.
And with nothing on my resume but my GPA and my bizarre life story, I got accepted in! I of course paid my tuition fee myself; I used up a years worth of my earnings as store manager. Plus, Ms. Mink raised my salary. I graduated a year back, having majored in business and fashion design; they were the two things I knew after all.
I am currently the proprietor of Classic Threads. And tonight I have a journalist coming to cover a story about my store. I bring out some of Ms Mink’s personal favorite items plus some clothes that I designed myself.
One month later…
Today is a typical day at work for me. As much as I am content with my store’s status and reputation right now, I have plans for further expansion.
While I am in the midst of daydreaming, a customer walks in. I put on the same happy face from the day of my job interview five years ago.
Good day miss. I say.
It is a middle-aged lady with chestnut hair who looks eerily familiar. After two seconds, I realize that I am standing face-to-face with my mother, who once told me that it would be best for her to do without my old sinner self. The next day, I promptly left the house. After that, I did not once receive any sort of message from them; not even a missing report on the back of a milk carton. And I know for a fact that it was not difficult at all to reach me.
I sigh and look past my mother, who approaches.
I’m terribly sorry miss. I say regretfully. I am terribly busy with um...business affairs. Gwen here will assist you. I nudge my bouncy, blonde assistant, who does whatever I tell her to with a smile. Gwen reads my face and for once stops smiling. She mouths a ‘whats wrong?’, but I ignore her and walk away.
Before I can hear my mother’s doleful reply, I squeeze out the store as if I am going past a sea of people on the city subway. For the second time in my life, I feel uncomfortable and unwelcome in my own home…