I Stop Somewhere
Later, I remember how my dad would stand in my doorway, watching me. Trying to reach me across so little space, yet so much. He stared at me like you look at a museum display or a creature in the zoo. I was the coelacanth and he was awed by my strangeness.
“I brought you something,” he said, holding a bag out across the threshold to my bedroom.
My room was an experiment. Posters and magazine pages and images covered the walls and the vanity and my dresser. All the people I wanted to be, wanted to look like. They were the people who mattered. I stared at myself in the mirror, hating how I looked. I hated how the curves made the boys poke me through the back of my chair in class, and how they made the girls call me fat. I hated how far the people in the magazines were from me. I thought I would never count, because I wasn’t them.
“What is it?” I asked my dad, gesturing toward the bag he was holding.
“I thought you might like it.”
It happened every few nights. He’d show up, presenting an offering in a plastic bag. Makeup. Clothes. Hair bands. He tried. He tried and so I tried, but the discount stickers said it all.
They were marked down, because the lipstick was too orange. The tank top wasn’t cut right. The hair pins would have been perfect for a girl my age – ten years ago. But I wore them for him and he smiled, because he didn’t know the difference.
“Thanks, Dad. I love it,” I lied.
“You’re beautiful, Ellie.”
I was a markdown girl.
I did know the difference.