I was seven, I think. I had lined up several dolls at the end of my bed and was attempting to show them how to do long subtraction. They were an unruly class, constantly pushing each other down, never remembering to raise their hands. Usually, when my back was turned to the board the class was chatty, but that day they were quiet. When I looked back at my dolls, I couldn’t make myself believe this was real. I couldn’t see the look of over-eagerness on Angelina’s cherubic face. I couldn’t hear Samantha and Addy whispering in the background. I couldn’t feel Jacob tugging on the back of my dress, asking for a hall pass. And by the time I had written the last number on the board they were nothing but glass eyes and plastic faces, forever.
That is, of course, what they had always been.
But there’s a day we all have where we first start to see the glimmer of childhood imagination fade. The toys become inanimate and the imaginary friends begin to fade.
Sometimes, I try to see if I can “unread”—stare at signs written in English but only see shapes, not retain any meaning. It’s impossible. If I can see the shapes, I know the meaning.
One time, desperate with writer’s block, I bought some cheap wooden dolls from a craft store. I lined them up on the floor, and waited.
You have to play with them. I nodded, and grabbed a man-doll and a woman-doll. I made them hop, as I made them talk.
“How are you, sir?”
“I’m very well, thank you.”
It’s as far as I got. Because I felt silly. Because knowing how overly formal people introduce themselves isn’t helpful. Because I knew that the dolls were nothing more than a prop.
I can’t use the dolls to generate good writing. But writing keeps me in touch with the girl who talked with them.
Grace Loveland is a first-year fiction candidate at CSU | email@example.com