The Flimsy Vessel

On a three-tiered shelf at Toys R Us is where I found her. Staring, thinking, with my chocolate brown bob and straight across bangs, I looked at my mom, then to her.
“This one.” And so, I grasped her plush, perfect fur and hugged the chestnut body to my face. She was mine now. I would call her Sparkle.

Ever since that day, this little plush pony from a corporate toy store in Bellevue, Washington would become my 5th appendage. I would sleep with her, take her to school, make her legs do things they probably were not meant to do, and love her effortlessly. My obsession with horses started in the womb. Yes, I was “that horse-girl”, the one that would wear shirts with realistic horse heads on them adorned with non-realistic sparkling swirls, who had a lunch box with all the breeds on it, the one person who would get looks in class if even just the word “horse” was said, even protruding calves from prancing around like a horse so often. Horses were everything to me, and Sparkle was just one minor representation of this. She was much more than a relic of my hobbies and a simple comfort creature. That little thing…boy…folks, she’s seen everything. Sparkle probably knows more about me than I do, and has seen and experienced most of my intensely emotional, intimate, and creative experiences, flopped haphazardly on my bed someplace, her little unblinking plastic eyes the same wideness as they would always be.

I guess I have always been an emotional and sensitive person, and I am still learning to accept this, even as an 18-year-old. As a young one, I was often sent to my room for many things. Talking back, making a rude comment, being a “smart aleck,” not listening…all of which resulted in time in my bedroom. Perhaps Sparkle never knew what the causes were, but she witnessed me “sort it all out” in the four walls of my shared bedroom. Seething, crying, slobbering, ripping blankets, lying face-down, a hand squeezing Sparkle’s neck where I would normally hold her (a bit morbid, I know…but it’s the only place that really makes sense). Later, in high school, I would fall asleep crying about how I had treated my parents, the stress of school, or things in life I simply did not understand, each tear flowing and dripping onto Sparkle’s plastic furry skin and soaking in. Soon, I learned to channel these emotions onto paper, and what a great day that was.

I started journaling when I was 13, due to none other than an intense anger I was feeling one night, at the cost of being sent to my room once again. It actually started with poetry…very disparate, dark-penciled, short poetry. And then I started writing about my daily experiences, the good and the not so good. It became my therapy for dealing with my emotions and I found solace in being able to look back at my reactions and my writing. In high school, I joined poetry club and started writing spoken word. My daily entries changed with my poetry, and I changed with my writing. I began to write about deep emotional struggles, feminism, racism, addiction, and relationships, and actually won the first poetry slam I ever participated in. As I scribbled in my journal, clacked at a keyboard, even recited my spoken word before it reached a real audience, I would look beside me and there sat my chestnut little pony, listening to it all, present through the entire creative process. Soon enough, though, high school would be a thing of the past.

As I was packing all my knick knacks and, as I now realize, excessive amounts of clothes and shoes, I did not fail to place Sparkle carefully and separately in a backpack, her body only slightly smushed. My first night in college. In my somewhat prison cell dorm room. She was there in my lofted bed, nestled perfectly between the bend of my two elbows, allowing me to fall asleep blissfully. Throughout my first year of college, Sparkle got quite the show. And if she thought my childhood was a whirlwind? Oh, was she in for a treat. Sparkle absorbed my first few months of school giddiness, the clutter and oddness that my first roommate brought to our space, and Trader Joes cracker crumbs in the sheets during Netflix relaxation. She watched as I would take naps every few days, sometimes multiple days in a row, which was definitely an increase from my younger years (college is tiring, peeps!). Sparkle would be stuffed between the wall and the mattress in my, er, steamy moments, sometimes sharing the bed and my warmth with a male who curled beside me, a male who is no longer really a part of my life. This little chestnut lived through sharing a room with a dog that my second roommate had, practically being thrown up on one late night after my body had decided that excessive alcohol intake was just fine, homework with the lights on at 1am, and perched beside me during angry and confused journal entries that were wet with tears. She was there the first time I hurt myself and the first time I ever used a vibrator. Sparkle was there for it all. For moments when I thought I was completely alone, she was there.

We have both changed, for certain. Sparkle’s neck is unable to stay upright on its own and now flops to either side from many years of grabbing. Her body is not soft or glossy anymore, but rather pilled and wrinkled and rough, clumped in little tufts like she would be abandoned in a pasture somewhere if she were alive. Her former cloud-white mane and tail are now the color of dirty dishwater, flattened down and knotted to the point of no return. Both of her eyes, round and black with an impossibly unrealistic red-orange iris, are cracked at the pupils, but she still looks at me sweetly and without judgement. She sticks with me, even if I really am crazy, which I’ve contemplated on occasion. I, on the other hand…I suppose my hair is not in that god-awful bob and bang look the day that I got Sparkle (though it has been both blue and pink), I don’t scream at my parents as much when I’m home, I wear a lot of deodorant cause I have to, and I finally figured out how to wear a tampon (praise the divine presence!!). My emotions are still intense, but they are channeled. They are meaningful and they are analyzed. The brain in my head is full of stuff now, after all the learning I have acquired. It’s amazing all the things that can fit in there, and I seldom appreciate that. I have realized the importance of music and its ability to drown out nagging sounds, tattoos, ice cream at 10pm, and most vitally: self-preservation. I’m different than I was as a four-year-old in Toys R Us, but I’m still Clara.

I am not totally sure why I have kept Sparkle all these years. She isn’t necessary; I can fall asleep without her and I can travel to other beds and leave her behind. I guess there is just something about her presence that brings normalcy, consistency. Yes, I do not require her attendance for me to sleep, but there is a certain emptiness when she is not beside my arms or within them. It’s different, really. Maybe it is because, in symbolism, she is an extension of my own self: a scraggly and flimsy vessel overflowing with one girl’s entire life; her dreams and frustrations. Her female experiences, memories, rehearsed lines, and secret fantasies. Her blood, spit, and tears (probably literally). Sparkle is like some sort of scrapbook of her own kind. It seems insane to rid of her; it would be a complete disservice to the transformation she has witnessed of me. To throw her away into nothingness would disintegrate some part of me that has been there since the beginning, like a twin that I never had. Sparkle was so much of my childhood, but I believe she is obligatory for my elder years, as well. I have experienced so little, and I think I owe to her being held onto for those new experiences, even if it is by the neck.

By Clara A., 18, Bothell, WA