by Isabel Dorn
My past dwells in the dollhouse – a narrow three-story abode squatting in the alleyway between a mass grave of half-naked plastic girls and the sturdy wood of my closet door. Fifteen years ago, they called it the Dreamhouse. Now the shutters are broken, the stickers peeling, the floors covered in a mystical layer of thick gray dust. But if I press the tiny switch hidden under the faded crib sheets, I can still hear the tinkling melody that once soothed stillborn bug-eyed doll babies that lie frozen still here in their eternal youth. When I was young I thought I could subvert time too. But this closet is too small to shelter me now. Or perhaps my body is just too big, carrying the weight of womanhood upon the bones of a girl in sixth grade, the last days before first blood before the straight roads on her map learned to curve and tore the fabric of her candy-stripe world. Crushed and forgotten at the bottom of a toy chest lies Wedding Barbie and Ken, still side by side and destined for eternity as they were sold in a boxed set. I used to think this was true love – plastic bodies beautiful and motionless, unburdened by the hunger that crept into my games of dress-up. Even now I still long to play pretend. I can be anything if only I dream it. I could learn to care for a man, the way I learned the quadratic equation and parallel parking they don’t come naturally but who am I to question what is natural? I’m twenty and I’ve seen too many strange things. I long to take refuge within these bubblegum-pink walls where everything is possible and nothing is uncertain. It’s all manufactured, of course but reality hurts. Just give me five more minutes of girlhood before I must be grown again.
Isabel Dorn (she/her) is a junior at Lawrence University studying Creative Writing, Government, and Russian. She is a frequent contributor to her university’s weekly student-run newspaper The Lawrentian, where she shares pieces ranging from op-eds about intersectional activism to poetry that explores the complexities of coming of age in the 21st century. As a Vietnamese American woman, she sees writing as a powerful tool for social justice and strives to create more visibility for underrepresented groups with her work. When she’s not writing, you can usually find her participating in student government, creating niche Spotify playlists, or enjoying a good boba.