by Bella Majam
when my sister and I took her for a swim. She held Mermaid Surfer Barbie over the water, made her say I’m diving! Head-first, giggling, the splash small as dice. We stripped her with our backs to the television, marched into the bathroom with the tiles soaking our bare heels. Crouched on our knees, rivulets beading like constellations on our jean shorts, we saw her hair flush flamingo-pink, the tattoo growing on the lines of her abdomen, and I wondered, with suddenness, if Barbie was sentient. If she heard me say sister and remembered all the times I played with her, cub-young, solo on a torn yoga mat, if she heard my mother ask what would it have been like if you grew up together? We peeked at her, naked, limbs of apricot, limbs still perfect despite a decade of disuse. We rubbed sugary conditioner to soothe her synthetic scalp, my sister saying you should bring in the others, so I went to get the secretary, the lifeguard, the plain jane left on the sofa. As we slipped off their dresses and dipped them one-by-one into their pool, Barbie stared, unchanged, and I thought of when I first unboxed her, newly four, half a shelf of dolls beside the built-in closet. I imagined her, chemical-scented girl, plopped straight on the top of the shelf with the others. If, even when her heart was hardened by plastic, she felt that jump of blood I thought only existed in movies, peering at them—dust-dented clothes, mismatched eyes—but still looking at the likeness of their hands and thinking, I know you.
Bella Majam is a writer from the Philippine High School for the Arts. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Ice Lolly Review, Afterpast Review, Nebulous Magazine, and HaluHalo Journal, where she serves as a prose editor. You can find more of her work @beelaurr on Instagram.