After We Fell





As I stare into the familiar face of this stranger, memories flood me.

    I used to sit there, brushing the hair on my blond Barbie doll. Often, I’d wish that I was the doll: she had it made. She was beautiful, she was always groomed, always exactly who she was supposed to be. Her parents must be proud, I used to think. Her father, wherever he was, was probably a big CEO, traveling the world to make a life for his family while her mother stayed back and took care of the house.

    Barbie’s father would never come home stumbling and yelling. He wouldn’t scream at her mother so loudly that Barbie would hide in the greenhouse to get away from all the noise and the breaking dishes. And if, by chance, some small, easily explainable misunderstanding had caused an argument between her parents, Barbie always had Ken, her perfect blond boyfriend, to keep her company . . . even in the greenhouse.

    Barbie was perfect, so she would have the perfect life, with perfect parents.

    My father, who left me nine years ago, is standing in front of me, dirty and haggard. Nothing like he should be, nothing like I remember. A smile covers his face as he stares at me, and another memory surfaces.

    My father, the night he left . . . my mother’s face set in stone. She didn’t cry. She just stood there, waiting for him to walk out the door. That night she changed; she wasn’t the same loving mother anymore after that. She became something unkind, and distant, and unhappy.

    But she was there after he decided not to be.