Runner-up in the 2nd Annual Geist Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest.
There will be no elephants in this relationship,” my lover declared. I laughed and kissed him on his misguided lips. Decided not to tell him about the small herd I keep in my garage. He was thirty and falling in love for the first time, the way a traveller lost in a blizzard stumbles thankfully across the threshold of a lonely homestead into a blaze of heat and light. I was older and falling in love one more time, the way Alice fell, accidentally, down the rabbit hole into a world of tunnels, white rabbits, nasty surprises and, for all she knew, elephants (or maybe just their smiles).
But I know more about pachyderms than Alice ever could and was far from surprised to meet one on our first vacation. A west coast beach. The creature was difficult to deny, though my lover made a good show of seeming oblivious. Blinded by love, I suppose. He ignored the elephant. Rubbing sunblock on his ears and neck. Refusing to remove so much as a sock. “Sun makes your skin age faster,” he lectured as I stripped to my bathing suit to luxuriate in heat. “Wrinkles!” he hissed as I dug my toes into the sand and winked at the enormous beast splashing in the shallows.
The elephant was battle-scarred and wise with one broken tusk and ancient brown eyes. I liked his skin, wide and dark, the flat grey of a summer sky when a storm is approaching, holding the promise of change. His hide spoke of permanence. It was criss-crossed by deep crevices and comforting folds. He was an ancient rock, scoured by brutal glaciers, standing, immutable, in the landscape. This elephant had lived many lives already. He would be hard to dismiss. I longed to stretch out my hand and run my fingertips over the myriad grooves and furrows: a whole new country waiting to be explored. But, no elephants. I acknowledged him with a brief flutter of my fingers and slid my palm into my lover’s smooth hand. The elephant waded along beside us, his deep footsteps making the sand ebb from beneath our feet. “Tide’s going out,” noted Alex.
“One thing I do know about elephants,” my grandmother offered, her voice crackling with a lifetime’s tobacco, “is that you ignore them at your peril.” She stirred her tea and blew smoke from the side of her mouth. It was the night before my first wedding. She threw open the kitchen door onto a garden stacked high with elephant bones. My mother nodded her head. “They make good fertilizer,” she said.
Now that I am approaching the age my grandmother was then, I find that I like dancing with elephants. They may stamp on your toes but the pain is a reminder to keep on living.