The room was bare. The walls were white and the floor was brown; there was an empty, stripped bed. By the open window was a dresser, but nothing was in it. It looked as though someone had left in a hurry, forgetting their life behind them. Sunlight came into the room, breaking up hanging silence. On the dresser was a silk scarf.
Emme had been folding clothes for three days. She laid them out on the bed, hung them on the dresser, folded them again. She put some in the suitcase, then took them out, feeling the fabric under her fingers, breathing in the scent of their perfume. She need only bring a few dresses; could only bring a few dresses, and she couldn’t choose. They were all so special and dear to her heart. They brought back memories she wanted to keep forever, memories that surely couldn’t exist in America. She stood over the bed, where the clothes laid sprawled out and wrinkled. She folded them again and set them back in the dresser.
She wondered why she was worried about the dresses. They were pretty, beautiful, even, but there would always be other dresses when she started her new life. The dresses could be made again. She stared at the nearly empty suitcase. So far, the only two things set permanently in place were a little journal for the long weeks at sea and the bedclothes. The ship left in less than an hour and she was in no position to leave. She could hear her mother getting ready downstairs, realized she was running out of time.
Thick socks, shawls, sun hats- she poured a pile unevenly into the big mouth of the suitcase. She knew the one thing she mustn’t forget, the one thing she could never leave without. The silk scarf was wrapped around the bed post. Her grandmother had given it to her before she died, back when the money and smiles were home every day for everyone. The most important memory of all. She wanted to remember the life that was torn away from her too quickly. And everyone told her that she was lucky, blessed to have such an opportunity; her friends at school told her they wished that they were her. But Emme didn’t want to leave. She still had so much left in France, all her friends, her family. She was leaving her life behind. Maybe her life would be better in America, but she couldn’t imagine how it could be better than the life she led where she was.
She jumped when she heard her mother calling her, and she hurriedly shoved three of the many dresses she had spent so much time worrying about into the suitcase. She tossed in a hairbrush, a postcard, anything irrelevant that had been lying around the room. She could feel tears coming on, pooling in the corners of her eyes. She tossed a family picture album and the rest of the dresses out the window. She couldn’t bear to look at them any longer. She fastened the latches on the old suitcase, fumbled with the ties, trying to close it.
And at last she came to the scarf. Even after many years, it was still bright green and blue. She wore it every day. She hesitated. Wouldn’t it be better to forget, not have to carry the pain over to her new life? She could start anew. It was too late to stop the tears as she clutched the scarf to herself. Her mother called one last time. She picked up the suitcase and headed towards the door. The decision was made. She looked at her life one last time. She turned around and walked out the door.
The room was bare. The walls were white and the floor was brown; there was an empty, stripped bed. By the open window was a dresser, but nothing was in it. It looked as though someone had left in a hurry, gathered the necessities but forgetting their life behind them. Sunlight came into the room, breaking up the hanging silence. On the dresser was a silk scarf.