Writing Prompt #10: Guilt

For this writing prompt, you don’t have to make a pretty poem or story, at least not a first. For me, this writing prompt was about confession. Try to write about something you’ve never shared with anyone before, whether it’s an actual dark secret, or even a small, seemingly insignificant thing which has stuck in your mind. My piece is something I’ve never shared with anyone simply because it sounds so silly, but it’s a childhood memory that I’ve carried around for years.

I once begged my mother to buy me an old porcelain doll from Goodwill.

porcelain doll

The years had not been kind to her. Her pale skin was greening, and her poorly painted eyes and mouth were faded and smudged into a kind of cross sadness. Her dress was missing, and she wore only her white cotton bloomers, trimmed with cheap polyester lace. She would never have been special, or even pretty, to begin with. But her straight blonde hair was thick and long and soft, and she looked so sad in that place of fluorescent lighting and dirty metal shelves full of broken things that I wondered how she had gotten there, what her life had been like, if anyone had loved her, and almost started crying.

I begged Mom to let me take her home, even though I had already spent my allowance, carrying her around the store cradled in my arms like a baby.

“It’s going to be alright,” I told her, and to Mom, “She needs me!”

I can’t remember what I named her. I do remember that I took her home and brushed out her long hair and cleaned her face and hands, so gently, so tenderly, with a damp washcloth. I made her a soft cotton dress, white with a print of tiny lavender flowers, because the colors looked so nice with her blonde hair and pale skin and faded blue eyes that she almost looked pretty again.

She was a quiet doll. Quiet and sad. I never learned her stories. Maybe I never asked. She never talked to me, and she never made friends with the others – fancy porcelain dolls with curls who had been bought new, valuable Madam Alexanders who had belonged to my grandmother, with sparkling eyes that opened and closed and stiff wigs that smelled spicy with age. They were not interested in her, caught up as they were with their own lush, gorgeous drams and a mother who adored them. They were an insular group.

The only doll she might have been close to was the first porcelain doll I had ever owned, bought cheap at the beach when I was four, with brilliant blue eyes and faded pursed lips and a brown wig that had gone to fuzz. But they were both so quiet I was never sure.

I loved her, for a little while. I took her outside once, on the first really warm day of the spring. We were barefoot, and a carpet of dandelions had grown up on our property, seemingly overnight. We sat outside in the grass and the mud and the warm breeze, and I braided dandelions like sunshine into out hair.

But in my room, with the other dolls, she faded into the background. She was old and quiet and plain, and once she seemed happy again, once he sunlight and the mud and the new dresses had smudged all of the crossness from her sad face, I forgot about her. When it came time again to clean out my toys, she was the doll I gave away.

I still feel guilty about it now, even logically knowing that she wasn’t alive. That she didn’t feel it. That she didn’t know. I rescued her, giving her one small moment of flowers and sunshine, of love and stories and breath, and then I sent her back. Because she wan’t pretty. Because she was too quiet. Because she was broken. I would like to write a story about her, as if by writing her life, maybe even writing in a little girl who would love her better than I did, I could make things right.


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