One night a couple of years ago, Jess and I were in the Rite Aid across the street from our home, buying shampoo or toilet paper. Somewhere along the way, I lost Jess. She wasn’t with me at the register, so I retraced my steps, back into the bowels of the store, where I found her, transfixed, staring at a row of giant dolls on the top shelf. Each was nearly three feet tall, and totally terrifying.
Which is how we bought Whitney Houston. She came wearing a mini-skirt and halter, though Jess, worried about the moral implications of that outfit, quickly added tights and an old children’s sweater. We tried to style Whitney’s hair, too, though it remained largely matted to her perforated scalp. Her head was oddly shaped, and her sleep eyes permanently lolled half-closed.
We took her with us, once, on a weekend trip to Jess’ parents’ house, as we didn’t want to leave her alone. On the way back home, I dropped off Jess at our apartment, and headed to return the car, before remembering that, while I’d dropped off our bags with Jess, Whitney remained seated in the back.
So I tucked Whitney sideways under my arm, and started walking home. A few blocks in, a van full of cops flagged me down from across the street. From a distance, I suspect it looked like I was kidnapping a small – though oddly stiff and imobile – child.
“What’s that under your arm?”, one of the cops asked me.
“Oh this? It’s a doll.” Then, by way of explanation, “it’s my girlfriend’s.”
“That thing is your girlfriend?”, he asked, incredulously.
“No,” I laughed. “It belongs to my girlfriend.”
He eyed Whitney suspiciously.
“Scares the fuck out of me.”
I agreed. She scared the fuck out of me too.
Whitney was doubly scary at night. Parked on our couch, I’d pass her when I headed to the bathroom. Each time, I’d jump at the sight of her – sitting, watching.
We thought about getting rid of Whitney. But Jess and I were certain she’d come back and kill us in our sleep. So we put her at the top of our hall closet, tucked behind an array of bags and boxes.
We came across her again just recently, while packing up some of our summer clothing, preparing to swap it with the winter wear we’d been keeping in storage.
And it occurred to us that a year or two of confinement might similarly have raised Whitney’s wrath. So we took her down. We laid her comfortably on a bench in our bedroom, which made a perfectly-sized bed. And we tucked her in carefully with a small spare blanket.
Fortunately, she’s mostly out of my line of sight. But every so often, I see her there, and I freeze. She’s as terrifying as ever. Which is the main reason we’re keeping her comfortable. And keeping her close by.