It is neither a hospice nor a cemetery. Rather a retreat halfway, a transfer station built by locals near the old square in a yard only known by local people and never visited by tourists. Every year people bring their teddies, rubber toys, Mickey Mouse dolls, Donald Ducks, teddy bears in Ukrainian national costumes, slimy toy dogs and cats, deserted dolls, melancholically droopy hedgehogs, all those deadheads of homes and unwanted decorations of offices accumulating in rooms occupied by people after anniversaries, celebrations and Nativity of the Lord holidays, all those desolate homunculi, emotional dummies, rubber monsters.
Not all toys react to their changed life situation identically. Some of them resign, do not adapt and fall into lethargy. They merge with their new home as with the place of their eternal rest and being at rest, count passing time, rest
and count time. Like the hedgehog resting for years without moving on a lilac stump, not having moved by a single millimetre since he arrived; only his eyes changed
to glaucoma from the once bewitching, roguish look that
no mother was able to resist. And so the hedgehog has been growing into his stump, not complaining, not calling for help, as all that would be too demanding, too hard, and too painful for him. Sitting and looking with his blind eyes
in the direction designated for him, via a children’s slide
to the barred window of a cabinetmaking workshop. Last year a pigeon dropped shit into one of his eyes.
There are several teddies like this one, but they do not form the majority at all. Some toys have loosened up after getting here, as if the world of children’s rooms and cushions smelling of starch had been too restricting for them, as if they had been suffocated by mushy affection, the drooling expression of schmaltzy sentiments. Here at least, getting rid of their perverse names and perverse owners, they begin to breathe, the rules of the jungle, or the yard, being more natural to them after all, despite their cruelty. Here they quickly become at home, soon beginning to search the front garden, the flowers, the windows, the gutters serving them as a shower. The wilderness of the city yard inspires them, becomes their new home and new challenge. In many cases the toy soon even finds a sexual partner here, which would have been hard to find in the children’s room or the director’s office, from a headless fox visibly falling in love with an infantile but vigorous goldilocks, with his affection visibly reciprocated, to two teddy dogs spending hours and hours in mutual communion, in their quiet and intimate coitus infinitas.
And then there are toys getting stuck half way, unable
to permanently part from their former owners,
and remaining connected to them with their eternal reproach. To give an example let me quote one
of the letters of the little doll called Dianne, to her former owner, Olga.
I am writing to you although I know you will never answer my letter, like the four previous ones. Why am I writing to you then? Because it is Christmas, which I will forever connect with you, remembering how you unwrapped the Christmas present with me inside, how you were looking forward to first seeing me, how you offered me Christmas cookies. Perhaps I should not be recalling these memories – but I will always do it, although I know I am harming myself with them.
Looking back now I can understand that I was never good enough for you. We played together a couple of times, you put me in your toy pushchair once or twice. But you never bought any toy furniture for me to make me a room for dolls. I think you never even considered doing that. You never bought me a new dress either, and the one I had you stripped off me once when you wanted to “bathe" me. Did you even notice you never again dressed me back into it? Or was it intentional? Was it my punishment? I think it was rather all the same to you; you already had other interests.
Of course you are entitled to that and I wish you all the best. You probably say to yourself that I am an adult already and should be able to take care of myself, like you do. But you have not gone through what I have. I had to watch you learning to masturbate and even that was not enough for you. Maybe then something happened inside me, something I will carry with me forever.
I should finish the letter now in order not to sound as I do not want it to sound. I hate reproaches. I only think you might want to know how I live now. OK, here are a couple of factual lines. Since I came here naked I have lost all self-esteem. I know it is all my fault. If only because I believed in you so much and did not expect anything like this to ever happen. So if you want
to know, I first paired with a Russian teddy bear, but he was too big for me and dislocated my little arm. Since then I have yielded myself to them, the dirty teddies. Whoever wants
to enjoy the remains of my former beauty, he can. Why not,
I do not deserve anything better.
I do not want anything from you, Olga. Only a short answer
to a single question: Why?
In addition to the dislocated arm my back is covered with lichen and my hair has become home to a family of bugs.
Most toys, however, take the yard as a railway station,
a place from where they should travel to their next destination. And in the nights like this one, with the moon shining over the city, and modest snowflakes flying by, God knows where they come from, with occasional sounds
of a tram passing in the distance, a dog’s bark, a baby’s cry, on one of these nights they begin to feel a strange shiver
in their soul, in their stomach where it resides, and a strange shine appears in their glass eyes, and they begin to leave the yard, some of them alone, others in pairs, heading towards the unknown, cruel, infinite world, like parachutists in the air for the first time. Their steps cut through the night, reflect from the pavement, creak on wooden stairs
of apartment buildings. And the toys walk in the night to find their new home, determined that this time it will be them who will decide about what is and what is not cute. Some of them light a cigarette on the way.