Some girls are like paper dolls. You make them wear pretty clothes, have them stand around and that’s all they ever did. They’d stare at you with hollow eyes as you rip their clothes off and fold them something new. Some girls are marionettes, their husbands holding their strings like master puppeteers. They tell their wives what they could do, who they could see, when they could breathe. Mama was a doll made of little scraps sewn together. She had button eyes that always drooped and her seams weren’t always in the best shape. She wasn’t as graceful or eloquent or even smart as the other girls. And perhaps that’s what my father liked about her. She wore her poor childhood like a cross. He could always count on her to shut up and take whatever he gave because that would be always better than the shit life she grew up in.
And there were nights when he’d come home, reeking of gin and perfume. Mama would open the door and have his slippers ready for him. She tried to treat him nice and all but there was always some little thing she did or said that would rile him up. He’d start shouting then he’d hit her and she’d just take it. She was a rag doll and she took all that in because he was the only one who thought her beautiful, even though it’d been years since he last said it. I spent my whole life saying I would be nothing like her. That I’d be smarter than her or something; like a Barbie doll with a cool job and a car and all the frilly accessories only rich kids could afford. But life has a strange way of turning us into the monsters we hide from. When my lover first hit me, he did it so hard that my lip split open and one of my teeth flew out. My bruises burned for days. I should’ve called the police. I should’ve packed my things and left but his love held me in invisible chains. I stayed.
When I was a little girl, I saw this Russian doll at my rich aunt’s house. When she wasn’t looking, I slid that big old thing into my coat. When I got home, I cracked it open and a smaller doll came out. I cracked that one open and an ever smaller doll came out. I kept cracking and twisting and all these smaller dolls came out until I got to the very last one. It was so small, the paint was all smudged up and you could barely make out a face. Mama was a rag doll and I swore I’d never be like her. I couldn’t be Barbie. I was never pretty enough for that. But I could always be a Matryoshka. Every time he hits me, every time his fists fly towards me, I feel like a smaller, purer version of me comes out. And when he gets to my core, to that littlest piece at the center of my heart, I just know he’d finally throw his hands up and surrender. When I am small enough to be crushed by his right boot, he’d find it in his heart to love me just as I am.
♫: Goo Goo Dolls | Acoustic #3 (1998)
Photo: Matryoshka Dolls