I’m wondering lately about how I can best live with the elephant in the living room. I want to ignore the elephant, but he’s large, weighing on average six tons. He never changes in volume, though he changes content and shape.
Sometimes he’s a ball of twisted plastic riding in a whale’s belly.
Sometimes he’s granular heat—red pepper, ghost chili pepper powder, gun powder, nitroglycerin soaked in sawdust, paprika—waiting to be ignited by hate.
Sometimes he’s a funny balloon-looking guy made of tufted coronavirus cells that shed beneath the ceiling fan like dandelion spores.
Sometimes he’s all knives. Sometimes he’s just a concrete square, gray as an elephant can be. Sometimes he’s a massive coil of barbed wire. Sometimes he’s dead fish and frogs with three legs, as slimy as crooked politicians.
Sometimes he’s much more personal, my own crystal ball, and I see the faces of my troubled sons. The older son, Shane, has been incarcerated for six months in a crowded regional jail in West Virginia. His bed in a rehab facility disappeared due to new pandemic restrictions. He awaits further sentencing. My younger son went to jail two weeks ago on yet another theft charge in Texas, and though he is currently free, his probation has been revoked, and his future is uncertain. When the elephant is my personal crystal ball, my heart beats harder and faster.
Whatever form the elephant in the living room takes, he’s hard to look at and impossible to ignore, explain, solve, banish, escape from, whitewash, control, pray away, work away—as my dearly parted husband used to say, “Why don’t you go dig potatoes?”—fix, resolve, eliminate, or erase.
If I could, I would transform the elephant into flowers and butterflies, but he’s not subject to my power. It feels like I’m Rabbit, and Winnie the Pooh has come to visit, eaten all my honey, and then gotten stuck trying to exit my rabbit hole.
Pooh’s big, old rear end stares right into my face.
I use branches and paint to disguise it. I make Pooh’s big, old rear look like a trophy deer head on the wall. But then the bear sneezes violently and blows my illusion to pieces; and it’s hello elephant again.
There is always raging at the elephant and crying at the elephant. Anger and sadness, sadness and anger.
All I can think do is write about the elephant, to accept it and try to describe it. Maybe everyone lives with an elephant unless they’re crazy, which makes me think of Catch-22, and how I’ve never really understood Joseph Heller’s masterpiece before. No wonder Heller used so many words. I sit on the couch with the elephant in the living room and observe its transmutations. Knowing the elephant is there is to exist with reality, which has to be its own reward.