Some of us were born with a sense of destiny, I believe, an innate knowing that we were meant for more than this, that something out there in the wild yonder awaits us and knows our names. I also perceive that there are a few jagged stones placed in our paths by the monsters out there. And yes, they are real, too.
I am remembering the baby dolls now, the ones dressed in frilly little flowered dresses with those ominous eyes that close and open when you put them to bed. You know the ones I recollect, and their dead eyes and long black lashes, the perfect silent mouths, the rosy cheeks and the stiff flaxen hair. And the soft empty heads that cave in if you put them under enough pressure. Soft headed, big eyed monsters. That’s what they were to me.
Myself, I tend to be hard headed, or so I’ve been told. I’ve questioned everything for as long as I can remember. And I remember everything. And I don’t reckon there’s one frilly dress in my closet. And my mouth is not perfect or silent, God knows. And it never was. But I’d get a doll every year at Christmastime because I was a girl, you see, and girls get dolls and pretend tea sets and play pretties that usher them into womanly woes. I hated those baby dolls. I wouldn’t keep any of them in my room for fear that when I’d close my eyes at night, they would open theirs. So I’d hide them beneath a quilt in the closet, and make sure the door was completely shut so they couldn’t peek at me as I slept.
It was all an omen, and I know this now. I always attributed life to everything—the trees in the yard, Mama’s old ugly jalopy, and those dolls that I forced to live under a blanket in the closet. And I never felt sorry for them.
As time crept on, I happened to meet some folks that escaped the confines of their closets. Oh, yes. Real, honest to God, living and breathing baby dolls with stiff flaxen hair and pretty, empty heads.
Oh, you know the ones I’m talking about. That girl with the perfect cut and highlights and designer clothes and perfect life. The woman with the big ivory castle on the hill with the new car and flawless figure and pristine manicure that shows off her platinum wedding band with the vulgar diamonds that cost more than anything you’ll ever own. Or her handsome husband, the fella’ with the successful business and their passel of beautiful Dresden-headed children and the bank account his few friends envy. The people we think we wish we were, those fortunate ones with all the loveliness and perfection we wish we had, and not a struggle or stretch mark to show for it all.
But don’t let them fool you none. That same perfect woman never finishes a meal even if she’s hungry and spends more money than that fella’ can make on beauty creams promising youth and the erasure of the lines from the nights she was up late wondering where he was when her calls went to voice mail or weren’t answered at all. And she already knows where he usually is, and that other woman’s name, too. But she can’t pay for that fine house and new car or feed that passel of children by herself, so she just downs her pride with her pills and goes to bed.
And yet she lets everyone believe she’s just fine and puts on her lipstick same as always and trades her dignity for a Cadillac and groceries and frilly dresses. But she is no baby doll, no matter how she’d like to be, despite her rosy cheeks and stiff flaxen hair. But her pretty head is soft… And that’s her downfall. She thinks in squares, always worried about what folks will say. She’d rather choke on her pride and pills than let her crazy out and drive down to that other woman’s house in the night and drag her old man out by his expensive tie.
It occurred to me after fighting my own dolls that the perfect people are often the most flawed, and go to greater lengths to hide it. And they’re good at it, most of them.
And some, not so much.
I recollect when I was twelve, on the verge of burgeoning womanhood and wild notions, an uncle attempted to get me alone and bribe me into touching him with promises of cassette tapes and pizza. I assured him that my father would kill him for sure, and dispose of his sorry bones up in the holler. And he knew it wasn’t a far fetched threat; Daddy had been to prison for murder already, and wouldn’t have a second thought about shooting a monster with a box of cassettes and intentions of stealing innocence from his only daughter. I never spoke to that uncle again until I was an adult, and he never apologized. I suspect he thought I’d forgotten. But I did not and have not, and never will.
That assuming uncle is now dead, and I don’t miss him. And while I don’t think it’s fine to be glad somebody is dead, I think it’s perfectly fine to be glad that they’re gone.
The fabled boogeymen don’t all live under beds or in closets or between the pages of books or movies we shy away from looking at. Some of them walk right by us in places we’d never expect to see or even look for them, like the grocery store, or the church house, or our own living rooms. Some monsters sleep in regular beds like regular people and disguise their horrible faces with charming smiles and big round doll eyes.
Some of them know your name and where you live. You may even know their names, too.
Be ready for them. Be hard headed. Know and understand that some folks aren’t smiling; they’re just showing their teeth. Everybody who’s supposed to love you won’t. Step out of that cold limelight and ride that dark horse. This ol’ world has enough victims already. Drag that fella’ out by his expensive tie. Don’t worry about what folks will think or what they’ll say. You’ll sleep better at night. Don’t conform to such square thinking. They can put you in a box when you’re dead.
Cassettes or Cadillacs, the stories end the same. Mama and the Good Book tells us to forgive those monsters for our good. And I might, in my own time. But I’ll not hide what’s been done to me beneath a quilt in the closet. I’ll recognize the monsters and tell them that I was made for more than this. I was born with a sense of destiny. And I’ll make my own music, and sing it like nobody and everybody is listening.
If there’s anything those awful dolls taught me, it’s not to hide beneath the quilts. And some folks can bathe all day long and still not be clean.
And just as all witches aren’t ugly, some monsters don’t only come out at night.