I’ve lived with Su Lin, a Paradise Galleries baby doll designed by artist Ping Lau, for the better part of a month. She has sat on the sofa in my office, staring vacantly into the distance, eyes open in perpetuity. When I got the doll out of the box, I was convinced that she was normal—nothing to see here, folks, just a doll dressed like a panda, wanting to be loved. One month later, I feel certain of nothing except for this: Su Lin is haunted as hell.
Visitors to my office who walked past Su Lin in passing have commented on how uncannily real she looks, though I didn’t really see it at first. She is very clearly a doll—smug, as my officemate Rich Juzwiak said—but still a doll, and decidedly not real. The first night Su Lin spent alone in the office, I was convinced that I would return to find her gone from the sofa, crawling through the vents in this office building, rattling around the ceiling tiles, causing mayhem.
For weeks, she remained on the sofa, covered in the grungy scarf I use as a guard against the satanic air conditioning; I hoped I’d get used to her presence, but she startled me every time. At varying points, I was convinced that she had moved when my back was turned. Did I cover her face with that blanket, I wondered to myself every now and again, unsure of whether I was slowly losing my mind. Su Lin’s presence in my office unsettled me so that I felt compelled to heave her onto Jezebel’s Katie McDonough and Clover Hope, both of whom were less than thrilled about their new officemate. “I feel like her facial expression is changing,” Clover told me one day as I came by to check on her. “She looks a lot like you.”
I studied Su Lin’s face after Clover, the wisest woman I know, pointed this out. Sure, there was a passing physical resemblance to me: Su Lin’s vague East Asian heritage, as indicated by her panda outfit and her name, which I did not give her but came with the order. Yet something about her eyes, which do not close, and her irises, which are flecked with every color under the rainbow for realism, frightens me. What has she seen? What does she know?
The answer to these questions, which have been haunting me since Su Lin’s arrival, have yet to present themselves. But time has a funny way of smoothing out problems. Su Lin isn’t going anywhere yet, because for the moment, she is still a doll—floppy, soft bodied, and wearing a completely unnecessary diaper. She has yet to gain the sentience I fear, though who can say what she does at night, when the office is dark and the lights of Times Square illuminate the hallways and rooms we inhabit during the day. Perhaps she stands on her feet, shaky, uncertain, her plastic limbs wobbling under the weight of her body. Her mouth, frozen in a grim rictus, but with cracks in the firmament. Su Lin has seen a lot. Soon she will speak.