The first thing I do is pick up Barbie, who has fallen from the dead ficus and is lying face down and naked on the grey dirt, one arm stretched over her head. Judging by the tan and sky blue eye shadow, this one must be Malibu Barbie, or whatever they call her these days. Not much has changed: she still has pointy breasts, a freakishly small waist and heels that never touch the earth. Bald and smudged, her lipstick gone, her toes chewed off, this Barbie is a long way from Malibu.
I push her tired arm down to her side. “Is this your doll?” I ask Ginger. She shakes her head.
“Where did it come from?”
“I don’t know. It’s been here for a long time,” she nods.
“Do you like Barbie dolls?”
She makes a face, shakes her head again.
“I didn’t either,” I tell her.
It’s true. Dolls bored me; I didn’t understand them. I wanted cap guns and cowboy hats, microscopes and sea monkeys. It was my mother who, in an effort perhaps to reshape my destiny, foisted Barbie on me. I didn’t know what to do with her; she couldn’t even bend. All she could do was lean up against the vinyl wall of her livingroom, which was also her carrying case, and wait for someone to change her clothes. Her life was pointless. Hoping to nudge my homemaking instincts, my mother redoubled her efforts and bought me a Ken doll. He only made things worse. I couldn’t respect Ken: he had no skills, no life apart from Barbie. Once or twice I pressed them against each other but it didn’t work for them and it didn’t work for me. Not until my friend Sara left her Prom Barbie at my house one day did the game become interesting. My doll was the Malibu model, the most popular one at the time. She was the more daring, I decided, of the two, and not at all embarrassed when I made her kiss Prom Barbie. They both enjoyed this and so I laid them down. There they were, their eyes locked in amazement, shy Barbie in her scratchy pink dress, reaching upward, and bold Barbie, in a red bathing suit, poised on tip toes above her. Ken was completely useless after that and I forgot all about him.
Ginger doesn’t want the doll and so I slip her into my backpack where she can enjoy a few hours of hard-earned privacy. At some point I will wrap a cloth or newspaper around her and put her in the trash, and eventually she’ll end up at a dump surrounded by legions of other lost dolls whose hard plastic bodies will not let them leave this earth.