The house is quiet, like a needle, but sharper, and with all the tension of midnight in a bar with the windows shot out and one guy in the corner just watching the others fight and saying to himself, "Get 'em, son, you got 'em."
The house is quiet, for once.
Inside, a girl is eating ice cream from a Starbucks cup, her long legs crossed and propped up on the top of her table. The television sits a few feet away. No one's watching it. No one could watch it, even if they did feel like catching some one scene rerun. It's broken. Broken along with several pots and pans and one high heeled shoe and a whole bag of government cheese that wouldn't melt in the microwave if it was the hottest one in the world. It's hard to break government cheese, but there it sticks, flung to the ceiling. Discarded. The girl feels discarded too, but for different reasons. She's alone, and that's why it's so quiet. Of course it's quiet.
She was never a loud person, not until she was made to be one, shaped into a dinosaur of a wordsmith, always throwing out things in ALL CAPS and sometimes, when she was too tired to yell but still needed to get a point across, italics. The girl puts her bowl down and stands up, stretching her back. It's the first sound she's made in hours. She should call her friends- if she can still call them friends- and make sure they're okay. They were roommates for over eight months. Fighting and scratching and clawing like nobody's business, yes, but together through it all. They were family.
The girl decides it's too quiet in the house and she reaches for the radio, to listen to some overly cheery song about broken hearts. Ha. What did they know about broken hearts? It's easier to get your heart broken by a lover, but it's harder to earn back love from a broken friendship. She should know. She kicked them out, they didn't leave.
She flicks the knob on the radio and her nails cling to it; someone didn't put away their honey and now the radio is sticky with the stuff. The girl knocks the radio off the table. She hears it crack, but what's another broken thing? She doesn't care.
She kicks the television. Maybe she does care. After all, it was Caro who trashed the house after one of her wild Saturday parties and expected- always!- for her to clean it up. It was Tina who called her lazy after she'd stayed in the pool for a few hours, staring up at the sky so long the stars seemed to peel.
Lazy! Tina of all people should know the meaning of that word.
Then again, Tina wasn't the one who brought home a stealing little biscuit eater of a man over one weekend. That was Philomena. Dratted Philomena of the bright, starched teeth and bright, blue eyes and bright, blond hair and a bright, bright future. That's what the guy said. He told her she'd be a star if she did what he said, and somehow wormed his way into her head and into the guest bed of their house. They'd all put up with it for a while, hadn't they? Let him rummage through the cereal boxes and use too much toilet paper and make jokes like, "How many men does it take to open a beer can? None, it should be open when she brings it to you!" They hated those jokes, but they loved their friend. So they stayed quiet. Tina and Caro and the girl who was alone now, Morri.
They all bit their tongues and sucked in their stomachs when they walked by the weasel man because he would make any excuse to touch their waists as he moved around the kitchen. He left a few weeks later, leaving more than their cereal boxes empty. It wasn't fair to be mad at Philomena, not when she'd had no idea he would take off with her money, but Morri couldn't help it. She told Philomena more than once that he was bad news and... nothing. That's what Morri has now. A night meant to rejoin the group was ruined, and it was all because Morri couldn’t take it anymore. She’s thinking about the things she said and wondering if she meant them.
In her head, she apologizes to Tina for calling her a queenless worker bee. She apologizes to Philomena for not being clearer about the red flags she saw in the wormy man. Morri apologizes to Caro, maybe, most of all, because didn’t girls just wanna have fun? Morri had her way, but she has nothing to show for it. Nothing but a broken tv, broken radio, broken high heels, and broken promises. All plastic, all cracked in pieces by her brittle hands.
Morri walks to her bedroom at the end of the hallway and turns, facing outwards towards the world outside her home. It's a long drop down, but she wonders, just once, if someone would catch her if she reverted to the idea that she could fly. Morri had flown once, on an airplane that was pink and had wheels that moved about seven miles an hour. It was a while ago, and anyway, that's not what she wants now. She holds her head to her hands and if it wouldn't ruin her makeup, she would cry. Morri doesn't cry, though. Morri hasn't cried since... well, she can't say for sure. There are parts of Morri's life that are so unclear. It's frustrating.
In Morri's room, there's a big, white bed and it's so hard that if she lays perfectly still, she can pretend she's sleeping on the ground in a park somewhere. She never has, she doesn't think, slept on the ground in a park somewhere, but she wishes she could be anywhere but here. Wherever her friends are, that's where she wants to be. She misses them. She hates them but she misses them. She wants them back but she wonders, all the same, if having them back would be worth it. She picks at the side of her big, white bed and asks herself how long it would be before they were at each other’s throats again.
The house is so quiet. Morri would crawl under the covers, but all the blankets are too thin and they never cover her whole body. That was another thing, she notices, that she is still too aware of. Tina and Caro and Philomena are so much like her that it was almost eerie to fight with them. It was like waking up every morning and having a screaming match with the mirror, like smashing your own plates when someone made you mad. The high heels, though, those were Morri’s. They’re in the trash can, and if she wasn’t so lonely already, she would pick them out and do her best to fix them. Ha, serves Morri right. Fixing things was never her forte. She was a model for a life most little girls dreamed of having, so why did it feel like such an awful nightmare?
At this point Morri is considering leaving the house, but where would she go? They took the car. Well, Tina and Caro took the car and Philomena took the bike. Morri had watched them all roll down the road and under a bridge of sorts, disappearing but always there. Morri’s jeans cut into her waist and she pulls at them, wanting for once to wear something cozy, like the cotton night gowns she wore, once. It’s funny, but Morri can’t picture herself as someone younger than she is now. She knows, of course, that she wasn’t always this age, but she can’t seem to see herself looking any different. She stands up and walks around the edge of her bedroom. There are pictures on the walls and they stretch back, way back. Pictures of Morri and Caro, in swimsuits, smiling. Pictures of Philomena and Caro and Tina posing for a camera and Morri, in the background, lying very still. Morri would do a lot of things to get her friends back, to get back in those swimsuits and go float in their pool until Tina called her lazy again. She takes a picture, the one of her and Caro, in her hands.
“Where did the time go?” Morri asks an empty room, and the lights only flicker. There’s no one there. Morri puts the picture down on her bed and sighs. It feels like only yesterday she was grabbing chunks of Tina’s hair- Tina’s sticky with chlorine but still intact hair- in her fists and yanking as hard as she could. She promises herself she won’t resort to violence again. She promises herself that if (when) her friends come back home she will tell them all she loves them and keep her pink lips shut tight at the slightest hint of an argument.
Morri hears someone knocking at the door and she jumps up from her bed to go get it. She hops in the elevator and rides it all the way down to the first floor. The door opens directly into the dining room, and Morri's almost embarrassed to let a guest in because of the clutter, but then, with her heart skipping, she realizes who it must be. Her friends are back. They forgive her. She forgives them. All is well and not for sell, she won't be living alone after all. Morri fluffs her hair and smooths the crinkled fabric of her shirt. She opens the door.
"Hi! I'm so glad you guys are-"
But it's not Tina at the door.
It's not Caro, either.
Philomena isn't there.
These are girls she’s seen approximately zero times in her life. They have thick lips and long hair that goes straight to their calves. Their heads are large in comparison to the rest of their bodies, and they have waists so narrow a Barbie doll would be envious.
Morri, a Barbie doll, is envious. Who are these dolls and why are their outfits so drastically different from her own? Where Morri’s mouth is fixed in a smile, these dolls have full pouts, matching the demeanor of their dusky eyes and huge boots. Morri takes a step back into the dollhouse. Have her friends been replaced? Did she do this? No one will answer her questions. She runs to the phone and the strange dolls follow her. They’re so different, and yet it’s clear they belong to each other. Their makeup is vibrant where Morri’s is subtle, their skin tones varying from 50 oz cream paper white to smooth, clean brown. They’re beautiful. They’re family. They’re in Morri’s house, and she doesn’t know what to do.
“Who are you?” A taller doll with wavy dark hair and lime green eyeshadow asks.
“I’m a Barbie girl, in a Barbie world,” Morri answers, the best she can do under short notice.
“Is life plastic?” The other dolls close in around Morri. “Is it fantastic?”
Morri backs into the dining room table. “Imagination! Life is your creation!”
A doll with eyes so green they’d make the vomit collectors of New Hampshire jealous takes hold of Morri’s slight chin. “We aren’t here to hurt you.”
Morri looks up at her, “You aren’t?”
The doll shakes her head. “No.” She holds out a half-gloved hand to her. “Come on, Barbie, let’s go party.”
Marisol is in the kitchen. Caro, Tina, and Philomena, her favorite Barbie dolls, lie on the floor next to her. She got so tired of the same old story line. Marisol wants to add a bit of spice to the dollhouse, which was why, when her mother brought home the new dolls, she was so excited. Now Morri can have real friends. Now Morri won’t have to be sad. Until, Marisol thinks, she gets bored again. Then she’ll throw poor Morri right in the middle of a better drama. What will happen? Marisol isn’t sure yet. She’s been watching a show on television with her mother, though, and surely it could give her some excellent ideas. Marisol swirls her pinky in the murky toilet water of her teacup. “Imagination,” she sings, “Life is my creation.”