Posted on July 22, 2009


Operator: You have reached the Writers In Crisis Hot-line.

If you are a fiction writer, press one. If you are a non-fiction writer, press two.
If you write poems, press one. If you write prose, press two.
If you write short stories, press one. If you write longer works of fiction, press two. If you are a screenplay writer, press three.
If you are suffering from writer’s block, press one. If you are struggling to find the right word, press two. If you are suffering from the general ennui caused by your own fiction, press three.
Please hold while we transfer your call.

“Hello, how may I help you,” says the woman with the thick Hindi accent.
“Yes, I uh- I’m just calling about…well I’m having a writing crisis and I thought you could help,” I say.
“Of course we can sir, could you please tell me what is the problem?”
The woman’s voice is barely understandable. I contemplate hanging up, but the idea of being alone again fills me with despair. I clutch the receiver.
“Yes, well I haven’t written anything in three days.”
“Ah, so you have writer’s block then, let me transfer your call to the appropriate representative-”
“No, no, I don’t have writer’s block, it’s not that. I just can’t seem to put what I want to say down on paper.”
“I see. So you have the ideas in your head, you are just struggling to place them into a logical order.”
“Kind of. Yeah.”
“Have you tried brainstorming your ideas? Rewriting sentences over and over again until you feel they are perfect?”
“Well I just don’t have a lot of patience for that thing.”
“I suggest you find some patience then, sir.”
Though the woman called me sir, she begins to sound eerily like my own mother. I find myself flattening my hair and straightening my posture as the Hindi lady speaks. Lord knows my mother doesn’t like it when I slouch with a cowlick.
“Alright, I suppose I could try that.”
“Is there anything else I can help you with, sir?”
“Well, I guess I’m looking for a way to make my writing a bit more accessible. What I’m finding is that people aren’t really that jazzed about the depressing stuff.”
“Are you yourself depressed?” she asks.
“I…uh, I don’t know,” I say.
“Surely you know whether you are depressed or not, I mean are you suffering bouts of despair, lack of energy, a loss of motivation? Do you chronically masturbate or weep unexpectedly? Do you sit in silence for long moments recounting all of your regrets in life? Is there something you cannot get over?”
I feel as if I have been hit with a magazine of bullets. I touch my chest and though there is no blood, there is an intense pressure.
“I’m a little depressed,” I say.
“Maybe you should exercise?”
“And I imagine you prescribe to a diet with a fair amount of grease, sir?”
“I would discontinue with the grease. Buy some cucumbers. Do a few push-ups.”
“Are you a heavy, medium or light drinker?” she asks.
“I suppose medium?”
“So six drinks a week?”
“Alright, heavy.”
“May I suggest trying to become a medium?”
“You may,” I say nodding.
“When is the last time you purchased a toy sir?”
“A toy?”
“Yes, a toy. Like a plastic gun or an action figure or a yo-yo?”
“Maybe thirty years ago,” I say.
“I recommend you go out and buy yourself a nice toy. Come home and play with it, you’ll feel very nice.”
“Is there anything else I can help you with sir?” she asks.
“No…” I say and the million questions on my tongue resist a move.
“Thank you for calling the Writers In Crisis Hot-line, it was my pleasure to help you, have a nice day.”
“You-” the line clicks and goes dead, “too,” I say.

I decide to walk to the store. About halfway there a terrible rain falls and thousands of hail-stones fall on me. It is the coldest and worst rain I have ever felt. I enter the store and walk directly to the toy section. There are about half a dozen aisles loaded with hoola-hoops, plastic cars, board games and toy figurines. I wander through the sections over and over and find nothing interests me. On my fifth pass through the aisles, I realize there is one section I have been avoiding- the pink aisle. The girl aisle. I walk down it and immediately start inventing a story in my head about having a daughter who is sick, just in case anyone asks why a dirty, wet, unshaven and deoderantless man is perusing the Polly Pockets.

The Barbie dolls are all superficial. They come with cell phones and expensive purses and I imagine if I took them home I would just strip them naked and weep for an hour at their lack of nipples. The Bratz dolls have oversized heads and eerie cat-eyes that make them look demonic. I start to leave.

It is at the end of the aisle, just in the bottom corner that I find an upturned box. It isn’t pink or sparkled, it is black. I pick it up and I am confronted with a red-headed doll. She has green eyes and a small, sad little face. She is almost too skinny, but elegant in her own way. An unperturbed frown is etched onto her pale little face and she doesn’t look happy to be a doll at all. She looks as if she is trapped forever in a little helpless plastic posture. Her arms are half twisted and her left knee has a tiny red bruise on it. She is wearing a little black skirt, nothing fancy and the only accessory she comes with is a purple kite.

“I could never make this fly,” I say.

The doll’s name is Lili, and I take her and her box into my arms and head to the checkout.
“Do you like stories, Lili?”

Posted in: July 2009