There is a tiny, yellow elephant in my room.
This elephant, it doesn’t have tusks, and I do believe its tail is wrapped in ribbon. It doesn’t move like an elephant should; it’s more like a rabbit. It hops into the air with each step, and then floats back to the ground with ballerina grace.
I have been watching this elephant for some time. It had crawled out from under the desk in the corner about two hours ago. It felt around the hardwood with its delicate trunk; I felt around the couch for the bottle. I am feeling sorry for myself (again). This morning you walked out (again). I scowl as I remember the way you insulted my play-in-progress. You said a drunk, unemployed idiot like me would never get to Broadway.
The tiny pack animal has yet to acknowledge me. It prefers to skip across the desk, sniffing and feeling bits of crumpled paper and broken pencil leads. It did not pause at my half-eaten sandwich. I think to myself, “I thought elephants are supposed to like peanuts.”
It briefly looks at me. The thing is actually squinting! Its tiny eyes are trying to read the giant mountain of me. I remain still. Finally, the elephant turns back to hopscotching my desk calendar. I sip whiskey and stare. You hate whiskey. Suddenly, you hate whiskey. You used to drink Manhattans, but your new friend Erich says whiskey is a “dirty cowboy drink.” Now you drink Merlot. You hate it and we both know it.
The elephant reaches the edge of the manufactured wood and gazes at the abyss. Finally, unexpectedly, it jumps into certain oblivion. I lunge, but my reaction is unwarranted. The tiny pachyderm floats, limbs out, to the edge of my twill couch. My eyes grow wide. It lands deftly and pokes the pillow with its left foot. Satisfied at the plush, it bounds across the pillow, onto the cushion, and—much to my horror—onto my left leg. It stops, rotates and sits, dog-style, on my denim. We hold each other’s gaze for what must be several minutes.
For some reason, I think of you as I stare into the beady little eyes arms-length from me. The problem is, I think I stopped loving you a long time ago. The problem is, you stopped loving me a long time before that. Neither of us will admit it. We’ve both been in too many failed relationships; come from broken homes. It can’t happen to us. We are supposed to be different.
But we aren’t. We used to talk all night and laugh all day. Now we treat each other like ghosts. I don’t remember the last time we said “I love you.”
Finally, I raise a finger, move to poke my mammalian friend’s chubby, yellow stomach. It does not resist but watches the tip of my index finger squish its rotund belly. It is soft, much too soft for a real elephant. I drop my hand and raise the bottle to my lips with the other. My companion watches me.
I watch a memory of you across the room, sitting at your easel. It has been collecting dust for months. The tiny pots of acrylic paint have gone dry from neglect; the liquids have cracked, much like our lips without each other’s. Erich says painting makes you look like a child. I think you used to look beautiful. But I don’t remember, exactly.
Our love is used-up, worn, like your cotton duck canvases just waiting to be thrown in the dumpster.
I break the silence. “So…” My voice is hoarse. At my words, the elephant flaps two, oversized ears. I don’t finish. I don’t even know if elephants understand English.
I understand that you and I are cowards. I want out; I know you want out. But we don’t want to be the one to say it. My gaze falls to the sluggishly moving ceiling fan blades. Funny how fast we change.
The elephant flops its trunk to the side and opens its tiny mouth. A bubble grows from the back of its pink throat—and keeps growing. I don’t know what I should do. I watch the bubble grow as large as my head. My tiny friend snaps its mouth shut; the transparent orb floats in the air. My face is reflected in iridescent rainbows. I glance at my companion. The elephant does not move; does not look away from its bubble.
Suddenly, another face—your face—appears on the bubble. I slowly move to touch it. POP. In a rush the sphere and the elephant explode into a thousand, tiny bubbles. I blink surprise. They rise to the ceiling, then they, too, explode. I am splattered with colorful water. It smells like a box of 64 crayons. I wipe the color spectrum from my face and pull whiskey to my lips. I wish you still drank Manhattans.
I force myself to stand. I glance back at the side table, to the photo of you. In it, you’re smiling. There is a yellow elephant on your shirt. I glance toward the window; a little girl drawing chalk monsters on the sidewalk waves to me. I grip the bottle. Hard.
J.C.D. Kerwin writes poetry and fiction, and has had work published in Zouch, Crack the Spine and Red Fez. Visit http://jcdkerwin.com for more.