Like I Say

by NE Skinner

This is what I say, real low and dignified, to my dolls, right where they are sitting with their little backs up so straight against the wall, and their little feet sticking off the end of the shelf, like it’s so cute, and their eyes just staring like they’ve already noticed everything before.

“Until you have seen the summer moon gleam on the water-slick back of the boy you love, you can’t possibly understand what it is to be alive.”

Very quick then, they all act like they are having important other thoughts and what I say doesn’t matter not one slight bit to them. Well, I know them well enough to know they are thinking very hard about how to somehow turn around what I said, you see: they have been trying to be the bosses of me for a long time, my whole life, practically, so I know they aren’t going to swallow my words quietly. Xavier, especially (my only man doll) acts so high and mighty and all that I know he has to be burning like a red-hot coal inside, because of course no doll has ever seen the moonlight at a lake at night, least of all him –- he is so stodgy.

“You all can just sit there and suck on that,” I say because I have to get out of here before they can come back at me, “while I go get me some supper.”

And that is the final straw because if you know them like I do, you just know they cannot absolutely tolerate me stepping out without so much as looking back at them, let alone leaving them behind when I go down to the dining hall.

Back before all the folderol, it had been completely different; the dolls were my most intimate confidantes. Childhood romances, you see, seem trivial to many people, but I say it is a fact that some people just know their very own soulmate from an early age, and the dolls understood that Reggie and I were that exact variety. Daddy and Mother, on the other hand, thought I was a silly thing for thinking Reggie would go with me, him being a Bechtel and me just the grocer’s daughter; but I, in my heart of hearts, knew better, and the dolls saw it my way.

Every year, Reggie and I were in the same class, our school being so small; his blonde head always up with the “B’s” near the front of the classroom, me with the “W’s,” at the back, but there was a shining golden thread that bound us –- invisible. For many years, it’s true, Reggie went about with his friends and all, sailboats and parties and what not and also went with a foolish girl –- Marguerite Bledsoe, a “B” and also blonde -– but I let him, since we (the dolls were in total agreement) counted it all as no more than a matter of youthful frivolity. Girls may come and go, I always say, but only true love weathers the sands of time.

High school finally came to an end, which we had agreed was the fitting time for Reggie to settle down. It was on the exact night of our high school commencement, in fact, when some of the boys said, “Let’s us all go out to Limestone Lake for a swimming party,” and of course I had no choice but to go along. Jalopies of all types creaked and rattled their way down the quarry road, and in the dark I lost track of Reggie’s car what with pushing away the flask of smelling rot-gut the boys kept pressing on us girls. Kids went bad that night, very bad, on that clear, precious night at the quarry lake. Laughter and whistles echoed off those sheer rock walls as boys and girls went right down past their delicates to step off the ledge into that bottomless lake. Marguerite Bledsoe shall be forever burned in my memory -– those white arms flashing, and that mouth just laughing and calling out to Reggie whose shoulders shone blue under the moon. Naturally I didn’t so much as step a toe in that black water in mixed company, so it was me the others appointed to tend the rope ladder, to keep it safe while they splashed and carried on; it being the only way out of the water.

Only I am left to know how completely simple it was –- just the tiniest movement of my foot –- to slip that ladder from the pipe where it hung, as if it’d been wanting to go; and what with the water so dark, you couldn’t even see it sink away, neither hear it amid all that laughter.

Parents and everyone got so worked up in those days afterward, when the children’s empty clothes and their silent jalopies were discovered at the edge of the quarry. Quick as you can say Jack Robinson, then, everyone in this whole entire town turned against me, including the dolls, which I say shows lack of depth, so I agreed I would just come stay at this place a while.

Rooming here with the dolls is a bit cramped and tedious what with them always harping at me, as they do now, but all the same, it is a blessing to be where people look out for my every need; and so I have all the time in the world to decide what I will do next. Someday, you watch, I will up and leave these dolls completely; like I say, they have no earthly idea what it is like to be alive.

NE SKINNER lives with her family in a green and leafy part of New Jersey, and spends healthy doses of time in NYC. Her work has appeared in Grey Sparrow Journal, wtf pwm and Larks Fiction Magazine.

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