Alex Toy



Each doll is clothed in ceramic. Each doll plays a sound on an instrument. Each doll is named Christine. They all stand at a height of about two feet, in a line, on the shelf of a brightly-lit carnival marquee. None are treated roughly. Christine says to Christine, I'll hit my bell if you hit yours. Christine says, I'll certainly hit my drum.
     Well is this a conversation or are we playing a song, Christine asks. Her white thighs reflect the light of the chandelier. Her shorts are sculpted and painted small and tight on her. Someone has pushed at them on the sides and they remain this way, forever hiked up, pulling tight between the legs.
     I'll start, says Christine, putting a small trumpet to her shining porcelain lips, and blowing. Her breasts have forced open the drawstring bodice; all of theirs have. She plays two notes, back and forth like a swinging door.
     Better than the radio, says the human man, collapsing his hands to the hollow of this throat, gazing with his black-lined eyes in his talcumed face, up at the flashing white wrists of Christine.
     Each doll sleeps with her eyes painted open. Each doll holds her instrument. Each doll jerks her head when she hears someone say, 'Christine.' They are unable to pivot at the waist. All their movements occur in their arms and neck. Their knees are pertly risen like dough. Their heads turn sideways, uncannily far. They feel a human finger sliding on their thighs and hips but cannot look down.
     When everyone drags up to bed, and somewhere out of sight the switch is shut off, and the marquee lights die, and Christine's numb limbs go still, the dolls look unblinking into the dark ballroom and foyer, trying to blur the passage of time that is human-less night, in which the dolls are nothing, and nothing occurs. They suspend themselves in the only respite they can achieve on their own, which is silence, the unmarked repetition of it a state as close to sleep as possible.
     Christine calls out in the night, I'll die if no one ever touches me again, I don't care who it is.
     Christine says, I was almost there, damn you. Christine says quietly, I just can't stand it. Christine calls from the end of the row, Oh shut up, you can't feel anything really, you just know they're touching you.
     No, you can, Christine says. When you see him wet his mouth, and a line of sweat runs through the talcum powder, and you can hear his breathing, you know exactly what his touching you feels like.
     When will the day begin? Christine is still wailing. When will all the lights come on?
     I just can't stand it, Christine says again, Not being able to sleep at night, and knowing that I'll never sleep. More than that, I am afraid that I am never going to die.
     In the morning, Christine tries to console Christine. She says in lieu of sleep she tries to make herself dream, and that this often helps to pass the time.
     In one dream I like to have, Christine tells Christine, I can see myself, and I can look down and see my body, and the instrument I am holding has strings, and when my hands touch the strings, the instrument makes a sound.
     Both dolls are designed to play the bell, one arm extended, frozen, the other arm able only to swing up and hit.
     I think if I dream I wouldn't like to have an instrument, Christine says. I think I'd just like to put my arms down, at my sides. I think I would like not holding anything at all, so I would never need to make a sound. But even if I could do that forever, I don't think I can make myself think about it forever, just the one thing.
     Well, Christine replies, You have to have a set rotation of things you like to dream, but you have to also make them become something else. You have to train yourself to study any new thing you see, anything that might happen, and not let it overwhelm you, so you can easily recall any detail of it you want.
     How will I know what to remember, Christine asks, and Christine replies, Well whatever you like, you like.
     She says, Each detail is a part. When it gets very bad, and the things you like to dream about aren't working anymore, you can recombine all the old parts and make new dreams, make things happen you've never seen before.
     For example when I feel like I'll lose my mind if I have to be awake one more minute I make myself a dream about the sound of distant gunshots, and their yelling out there, and their laughter, and I can sit awhile in the sounds, and then dream that I go out the door, or the window, and what I see outside might be different every time.
     Sometimes in winter, when the dawn is very dark, and there aren't any birds that make a sound, I dream I walk out and find them all laying there, having flown from a bush, then fallen heavy from the sky. I dream I touch them with my hands.
     Who do you see? asks Christine. Just birds?
     Anyone, Christine says, turning her head. Anyone I feel like touching.





The progenitor of this piece is a brief scene from Renoir's The Rules of the Game: [link]