The Bouncy Ball Keeper

February 10, 2009
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'Stop Aria! We have to go now!' As a child, I always wanted an American Girl doll. Whenever I passed the store in the middle of Manhattan, I would press my nose tightly against the glass leaving my imprint on every window. The store owners would give me a stern glare as I would slowly be pulled away by my mother. For me conformity sprouted at an early age. All of my friends in my first grade class had an American Girl doll and I wanted to be like them. There were several American Girl dolls but I had my eye on just one, Addie. She wore her hair in two plaits and had the skin of burnt umber. She was simply beautiful, I knew I had to have her and would stop at nothing until she rested in my arms. As I strutted down the Manhattan streets in my minuscule black Mary Janes with my mom, I saw another girl just as fascinated as I was, but in her case with a bouncy ball. The store owners of Paul's grocery gave her the same glare as her mother tugged her arm. I was not alone. She hugged the vending machines that held the bouncy balls that were the colors of a brand new crayola box. I was very familiar with this feeling-- it was love. I stood frozen in time and watched my new found friend share my unknown obsession. Although we didn't know each other I felt a sense of comfort. The young girl quickly turned around and stuck her tongue out at me, not quite the reaction I expected but I still related to her.
The years went by and I never owned an American Girl doll. I worked in Manhattan as a magazine editor and occasionally looked into the stores but the thrill was gone. Life had taken its toll and the doll phase had been diminished. Until one day when I was called into work early to revise an associates piece, tired and exhausted I flipped through the pages and saw the young girl's face that I had seen in the store several years ago. Her hair still remained in copper ringlets and her eyes glittered the same way they did in Paul's grocery. Under the photos is where the once unidentified girl's name resided. Nicole Salem. I was determined to meet this girl. I type her name ferociously into the Google search and found that she became a successful writer and to this day lived in New York. It was as if I was reacquainted with my long lost sister as I continued to read the numerous articles. 'What's your fondest childhood memory?' a reporter asked in one of the articles. 'Looking at the balls in the vending machines in Paul's grocery. In fact I still go there every day she replied.' This was it, it was my clue to find her.
The next day I put on my neatest work clothes and was prepared to go undercover. I ran down the streets of the city as people watched curiously. I passed the American girl store and continued to walk frantically. When I reached my destination, I became still and solid as the awnings of the store came down like drooping eyelids. The store was closing. There Nicole stood, tears slowly dripped from the corners of her eyelids. I cautiously walked towards her and pulled a tissue out my purse. As she reluctantly grabbed the tissue, I told her that I worked for Vibe magazine and had a couple of questions to ask her. We walked down the street to the local caf' and I had cup of coffee, while she had hot chocolate. 'Well, Ms. Salem, I have heard a lot of about you and would like to know more about your fondest childhood memory.' I said as I tried to on my best corporate voice. 'Tell me, what is it like when you first bounce the bouncy balls on the floor?' 'It makes me feel like a kid again', she replied with her eyes glittering and the sound muffled by the sleeve in her mouth. 'Next question, what made you become fascinated with bouncy balls?' 'I became fascinated because I would ask my mother for a quarter to get one and once I got it I had the urge to get another.' 'Last but not least, Out of all the bouncy balls which one is your favorite and why?' 'My pink ball that resembles pool balls with the number 11 on it. I love it because I got it on my eleventh birthday. Whenever I see it I think of a time where my friend's mom was trying to kiss me on the cheek and I screamed causing the whole restaurant to stare back at me. 'She said fidgeting like a ten year old. I said my thank you's and pushed my chair in to the table quickly. The girl I had been waiting to meet for years was now a woman and still acted like the six year old child she was when I first saw her. What a waste of my time, I should've gone to work.





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