The sign outside the building says: Almost Whores.
The building is white. The windows on the building have bars. The girls who live in the building are white and black and brown and red. Some of the girls are almost mature. Some of the girls have breasts. The girls wear white dresses and cross their legs and say thank you.
The girls are managed well. The girls are told how to develop. You must not develop your breasts until you are ready for children, the Madam says. She is old and has crinkly skin and makes purring and cooing noises—but only when she is excited. If you mature too quickly you will become a whore, the Madam says. I didn’t ask to have big breasts, Julie says. You were always meant to be a prostitute, the Madam says.
I want to die, Julie thinks. Maybe I just will kill myself.
Hollis is a barber. Hollis cuts hair on Broadway and 61st St. He charges $4 for a haircut. Single men come into his shop. They wear suits and have moustaches. One of them plays baseball for the baseball team in town.
“Take a little off the top and a little off the sides.” The baseball player says. Hollis nods and cleans his scissors. “Do you want gel?” Hollis asks. “No.” The man says. The man is not in his uniform but his face looks like the face in the television commercials. I have seen the television commercials before, Hollis thinks. Why do I buy gel, Hollis thinks.
Hollis listens to the radio. His son is a garbage man and makes $18 every hour. His son smells like things that people don’t want anymore. I wonder if I smell like hair, Hollis thinks. In the afternoon, Hollis sweeps up his shop and stands in front of the liquor store and smokes cigarettes. Maybe I should commit suicide, Hollis thinks.
Julie kisses Molly. Molly kisses Sally. Molly and Sally are girls. Molly has red hair and thin teeter tott bones. Molly kissed Sally, Julie thinks. I know you kissed Molly, Tom says.
Tom is Julie’s counselor. He carries a clipboard. He makes marks on his clipboard. His shoes make sounds when he walks. You can’t kiss girls, Tom says. Ok, Julie says. Julie is upset. Why did Molly kiss Sally, Julie wonders. Why doesn’t Tom talk to Sally, Julie thinks.
I want to die, Julie thinks. Maybe I will kill myself.
Julie has a white dress on. All the girls wear white dresses. When Molly has on her white dress she looks like a nurse, Julie thinks. I don’t even like girls, Julie thinks. Tom has thick hair on his arms. He walks like he has pains in his knees. I used to play football, Tom says. And then I stopped.
Julie, we are going to have to move you to Level 5, Tom says. No, Julie says. Yes, Tom says. You have not behaved on Level 4. But on Level 3 I could kiss boys, Julie thinks. I don’t even like kissing girls, Julie thinks. I want to die, Julie mumbles. I am going to kill myself. Tom walks away. She can hear Tom’s shoes on the mopped floor.
Julie decides to escape from the white building. There are a thousand ways to kill myself in the outside world, she thinks. I can kill myself with anything at all. She looks at her breasts and breathes out. Fuck you Tom, she thinks.
On Sunday, Julie escapes from the white building. She bends back the bars on Level 5. She slides down the outside pole. When she is on the sidewalk, outside, she runs with her hands in the air. I am free, she thinks. I can finally kill myself, she thinks.
Hollis sees Julie slide down the pole. He sees Julie run. He is on the corner, in front of the liquor store. She escaped, Hollis thinks and smiles. Nobody ever gets out of that building, Hollis thinks. He walks inside and cleans his mirrors. Hmph, he thinks and smiles.