Sitting at the table, I clutch the napkin in my lap and stare at the plate in front of me. They are talking about me, but I want to slip away into nothingness. They think they know me. They think they can save me. They think that they already have and they are proud of themselves. They want to continue saving the less fortunate. It makes them feel better, I guess.
I tear pieces of paper off of the napkin and worry them into little balls, lining them up below the rim of the plate where no one can see them. I hear my name again and look up. The man, the father, is talking to the boy that wants to date me. He is pointing at me and his head is moving up and down.
“She’s a virgin,” he tells my suitor. ”And she’s going to stay that way. Do you understand me?”
“Yes, sir,” says the boy, holding his hand to his heart, conviction in his voice. Together, they will save me from the evils of the world.
“Gina hasn’t had a good life,” continues the father. ”She wasn’t raised in the Lord, but she’s found her home in the church. She has a shot at more now. She doesn’t have go down the path that she was headed….”
I tune out again. What path was I headed down, exactly? I graduated high school with honors. I’ve never been arrested, or have even been to detention. I’ve never done drugs. I’ve only been drunk once and even then, nothing bad happened. I’m a virgin…. Not for lack of trying, though.
“Do you intend to marry Gina?” the father asks the boy.
I look on with acute interest. I thought that we were going to a movie.
“Because you should not waste your time dating unless you would marry that person one day,” continues the older man.
“Of course, sir. Gina would make a beautiful bride,” says the younger one.
I continue to work the napkin into a tower of balls in front of my body, still hidden by the plate. No one has asked me what I think, how I feel. If I have an opinion. No one has asked me if I would marry this boy. The man and his wife have saved me and I am now their’s to give away.
I excuse myself to go to the bathroom, but no one notices. Behind closed doors, I see myself in the mirror, look searchingly into my hazel eyes and see myself slipping away.
I close my eyes and softly begin to sing…
“May the Lord bless you and keep you…”
Letting go of everything around me, I begin to warm from the light within.
“May the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious…”
There is peace in the words, in the notes.
“May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.”
There are worse places to slip away to, I think.