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ST. LOUIS I dream of glamour and riches.
The American dream is to make it big
and be the talk of the town. It’s to prove your
capabilities in success and money. Momma
and Papa once said they was’ poor during the
depression, but God was good and helped
every struggling American. I was not
comprehensive during that time, but Momma
said I was brought to provide her company
when drunken Papa worked at the factory from
dawn to midnight. Papa still ain’t good and I
was all my Momma got. Nineteen years later,
St. Louis continues to prosper, but I want more
in my life. I felt no struggle; Momma did
everything for me. Now: I want to do that for
I am my own motivation. Everyone in St.
Louis wants to rest in St. Louis, and Momma
wants the same for me. She don’t like it when I
talk nonsense about my freedom and
independence. I tell her I want to escape, be
free, be happy, in my own terms and will. She
gets angered and often says “To hell with it!”,
but I don’t reconsider. I feel she is envious that
there are opportunities outside of St. Louis now
than there were twenty years ago. *We still
haven’t been in hep, but I know her arguments
are not significant. Papa don’t even recall when
I leave the house to see my man. If he knew
while sober, he’d have shot him through the
heart. He too drunk to even speak so I never
spoke a word of my intentions. I cannot
achieve my dreams and desires here. Momma
and Papa will just have to hang tough. I have
saved up a good ol’ five grand for my plans. I
am leaving for Nevada. I want to become a
Vegas showgirl.
The ladies at the diner tell Momma she
done wrong not raising a home grown daughter
who go to church every Sunday and sing in
choir. She come home sometimes and start
screaming at me like I’m the devil. It ain’t easy
being a disgrace to society; wanting more
vulgarity than the church sees upon me. Also, I
don’t sing. I dance. I have always loved to
dance. I remember prancing around like
reindeer when I was a toddler to Frank Sinatra.
Instead of gospel and choir, I was living life
with movement*. I want to dance forever.
I left my man a while back once I told
him I’m leaving for Vegas. He no different than
Papa. Drinks and smokes all day and night.
We argued a lot; so much sometimes he would
hit me or pull out a gun or knife drunk. We’d
sneak out and make out on top of his trashed
car to demonstrate our affection afterwards. I
never smoked before him, but now I pull a
cigarette to destress. I guess a lover can
change one’s life.
People call me crazy. My friends try to
keep faith in me, but they just like my mother:
sees no better life outside St. Louis. They tell
me “Jane you ought to find a Momma’s boy
and live! You too much these days”. Just
imagining a life similar to my mother’s makes
me shake. It would never be fun. I am young,
and want to embrace my passion and desires. I
am also beautiful, which is a greater
advantage. There was a story in Sunday’s
paper about Las Vegas. They doin’ so good
after that damn Depression! We learned about
it in school. They got money from casinos and
shit. Even better, there are dancers from all
over that come to perform. I have been
rereading the section to make sure I was not
misinformed. How great would life be when all
there is to do is dance?
God knows I am meant to dance and
express freely. Being a showgirl is out of
normal here in St. Louis but it don't mean I
can't do it or be good at it. I envision nothing
but the glitz and glamour of the costumes. I
want to live in it because they look so beautiful.
I have never been on a plane. I feel
scared but there is no other way to go without
breaking the bank even more. I am questioning
if I have packed enough. Can't tell anymore
with all these thoughts in my head. I know I
hadn't just put all this work and money into the
decision. I am destined for this. I am born to be
a showgirl.
Today is June 2, 1958, and my flight for
Nevada is at 19:00. There are nearly 50 people
in our lounge. They look very wealthy; probably
got kids and major investments out of America.
Definitely not Mama and Papa. “Flight 13 St.
Louis to Las Vegas, boarding in 15 minutes on
Gate 7”. I am alarmed from the
announcements. My first flight for my first and
biggest dream.
I arrive clueless. It is chaotic and busy. I
am puzzled by side conversations