Her suitcase sat looming in her room, ready to be transported to the car with or without its associated passenger. She had meticulously packed all that she could into the brand new blue duffle, purchased from Costco. It was more than just a suitcase however, she had purchased an enabler of travel and packed it full of items of comfort that would give her the confidence to face whatever the foreign world may bring. Scanning the aisles at Costco for the affordable, yet light and preferably stylish duffle bag had been an anxiety-inducing event all to itself. Millions of questions began to swirl around in her head, and she tried her best to suppress them in a rational manner, standing in the towering aisles of items in bulk, accented by the polished concrete floors that are so iconic of the warehouse shopping experience. You let go of aesthetics in a store for the sake of lower prices, and moving products in bulk, however it does not lend to the shopping experience or aid the shopper in making decisions at all. There is no clever sign pointing out how much money you will save if you buy this brand over that; no colorful display pairing the perfect items of clothing to compliment any body; no helpful store attendants just waiting to pounce on your indecision and hesitation, and point you in the direction of something you never realized you needed in your life but now is a necessity to have. Costco humbly and ungraciously lays out all the products it has to offer and expects the discerning shopper to sift through the options themselves. The price is always low, the products always basic, and choices ever changing.
Her move to England was not the glorified, empowering process that most fantasize moving abroad would entail. In fact, it was a series of unfortunate events and a test of perseverance and strength with every step. She should have realized that this was going to be that case when she woke the morning of her flight to violent stomach pains and compulsive vomiting.
Standing in this reality, she has paced the polished concrete for what seemed like an entire day, debating the choices that were unceremoniously laid out before her. Should she go for the seemingly indestructible silver, hard case suitcase with wheels that turn in all directions? Or should she choose the elongated duffle bag on wheels, with the convenient zippered subcompartments for organization? She was the first to purchase a suitcase in her family and would receive no worthwhile advice from her closest of kin, which is why she had taken on this shopping mission solo. She attempted to envision what she would look like with either suitcase, running through airports of foreign countries and pulling it into her room in England as the only familiar object that would be there to welcome her to her new home.
Nostalgia won the decision, and without another thought she decided on the blue duffle bag with wheels. Traveling the world was sadly something that was not accomplished within her immediate family. She had traveled to Germany with her brother and father in middle school, but since then her family had stayed behind while she blazed the trails abroad. Her hobby of traveling was inspired and enabled by a family that was not related to her by blood or marriage, but was her home away from home all the same. The Marsh family had been traveling to Europe every single summer since the children were old enough to fly. They had family in Holland, and were humble enough to recognize the value of visiting them every year despite the inconvenience or disruption that it may cause their lives stateside. She had been invited to join them on their yearly pilgrimage home her senior year of high school, and you could blame them for encouraging the travel habit that was growing to be her source of indulgement. They were the family that she wished she had grown up in to some extent, as every young adult would who feels unjustly positioned in life would. They were European and served mulled wine to high schoolers, didn’t censor the movies watched as a family, and were open when it came to discuss sexuality. They were every high schooler’s dream family, except of course for their own high schoolers. She smiled, thinking about the Marsh family and all the fun she had had with her second family over the years. The Marsh’s had always traveled with rolling duffle bags, and choosing that suitcase as her companion was a way to bring a little piece of her adopted family with her.
The once warm reminder of good times however had now turned into a ticking time bomb that just sat waiting in her room, looming above her head and bringing her nearer to departure from life as she knew it. That blue duffle bag was all that she was going to take with her for six months of her life. Now, six months is really not all that long of a trip in the scheme of things, however for her it was a lifetime. She had grown accustomed to moving frequently and erratically, in an effort to run away from her emotions and her responsibility to family. Six months was the most amount of time that she had consistently stayed somewhere since she was a kid, or since she had a complete family. This trip to England was another chance to run, and this time she was really committing to the space without realizing what it might entail. She had been running since the moment she was delivered the news that shattered her presumably normal and fortunate life. She wasn’t running from an abusive situation, or a bad boyfriend, as one might assume would be the reason behind a 20-year-old feeling the overwhelming need to leave the country and go someplace where no one will recognize her face. She was running from her own shadow – the shadow of who she had known herself to be growing up; the shadow that reminded her that she had once built a life that she would have never imagined being changed so abruptly; the shadow of her father.
Her father had been an extraordinary man who influenced her in ways that she is still discovering to this day. He was a quiet soul, but full of life if you were willing to look at life through his looking glass. He was the father that would kindly play Barbies with her when she had no other playmates, and was always wandering off on family vacations in order to take a look at things from an unexpected angle. He was a novel photographer, the pictures he would capture were a glimpse into the way he looked at life. He appreciated the simple, genuine moments in life. He appreciated the understated and took the time to provide attention to even the menial tasks and experiences in life. He was a for granted bright spot in her life, that she didn’t realize she would miss with the whole of her being until he was gone. So when he left her life suddenly and abruptly, her only reaction was to run, to leave behind all that reminded her of the life she once had with him and start a new life where she could hopefully not be the girl without a father, but just another girl.
Her past attempts of running away were successful enough, but time and her shadows were catching up with her the more comfortable and familiar she became in every new place. She had run away to Europe just four months after her life had changed with one phone call. She had run away to college in a state where she knew no one, to a school that she barely knew anything about, in an effort to start new. That new start proved to not be enough, and she ran away halfway through her second year in school, to Florida, under the cover of an internship, but scratching like a dope fiend two days dry to get away from the life she had grown familiar with at school. The running changed her scenery and forced a distraction from her thoughts and emotions, because when you move there is a lot to handle, new places to soak up, and always new people to meet that didn’t know her as The Girl Without a Father. Moving overwhelmed her with tasks and distractions, so that she would not sit down and think about what she was really running from. Traveling the world was encouraged and praised within her social circles, so her act of running and prolonging her emotional downfall was encouraged and enabled. She was always envied when she shared news of a new plane ticket being purchased, or plans to shake life up completely and move someplace new. However, she never envied herself, this was a necessity in her eyes, because if she didn’t keep moving, she would sink, and sink fast. In an effort to continue treading water, she had remembered just in time to apply to study abroad, and in her blacked-out state she had chosen an English speaking country to throw herself into. She didn’t recall ever actually applying to study abroad, however the finer details of her life were often blurred with the aid of spirits and weed, and this was yet another rash decision made in an intoxicated state, with the appearance of being an enriching and exciting life adventure.
The irony of the current situation began to sink in as she gripped the toilet bowl once again to heave the entire contents of her stomach into the receptacle. Here she is, beginning an exciting new adventure in life, and her body will not budge from the floor of the bathroom. Try as she might, it was crumbling under the pressure to revive and to make it out of the house. The wretched, sick feeling in her stomach had risen with the sun, and she had been chained to the toilet since then. Her mother and sister, caring and supportive as they are, were running around the house, helping her assemble any last minute items that she may have forgotten and preparing the car for the airport. There was an obvious sympathy for her state, shadowed by a justified skepticism, as this was not an unknown occurrence for the girl.
She had become accustomed to making herself comfortable in all sorts of places, however as of recent, the bathroom floor was one of the locations that she passed out on more often than not. She couldn’t recall when she had become so comfortable with this shameful fact, but from an outside observer she might as well have been bulimic. She would puke casually and often, and saw no reason for concern with her current practices. Her habit of vomiting was not induced by a hate of her physical appearance however, it was provoked by copious amounts of efficient alcohol consumption. It had become routine in her college life to drink too much, and then get sick in her friend Toby’s bathroom, to wake up to find that Toby had, yet again, kindly placed a pillow under her head and a blanket over her scantily clad body to make her slumber on the floor more comfortable. He was continuously gracious about the situation, and it fell into becoming a habit.
This was not one of those moments where she had indulged a bit too much in spirits and was now face down because of it; she had no certain cause of this violent purge her body initiated. She was just as confused about its oncoming as everyone else, or at least she told herself she was. In her non-denying mind, she could trace it right back to a nervous stomach. There was indeed the possibility that she had caught a bug, and that bug just coincidentally reared its ugly head the day she was supposed to leave for England, however she knew that was just a convenient hypothesis for her current state. She was just plain nervous, and she allowed her fears to manifest physically, through her illness and the physical purge of her body. What she really craved was a purge of her mind and her emotions so that she could better approach challenges in life.