When the elephant enters the room, Gracie knows things have progressed out of her control. Not that she had been in control; she only imagined she had. Gracie lived with the belief that if she imagines how she wants reality to be, it will be that way. She got the idea from a novel she read long ago, Imagining Argentina, in which women whose sons and husbands had been taken away by a repressive regime were instructed to imagine Argentina the way they wanted it to be. The dictators, they were told, imagined it their autocratic way. The women should imagine it their way and that could force the dictators out.
Gracie had no idea if that actually worked in a political plight like Argentina, but she adopted that as a credo for her life.
This is why the elephant is a problem.
Ladd, her boyfriend and business partner, is yelling at the men who walked the elephant in the loading bay doors. Stop, he is saying. The elephant doesn’t belong here. A weather-beaten white man who seems to be very important to himself waves a paper at Ladd and answers that yes, indeed, this was the address and here is the elephant. The other men bring in elephant supplies – food and a trough for water. They leave while Ladd shouts himself hoarse.
Gracie feels oddly happy. The arrival of the elephant interrupted Ladd yelling at her. She was lazy, she was disinterested in their business, she clearly wanted something else than to be in business or in a relationship with him. All the while she had been waiting for him to pause, take a breath, and let her point out that his continued affair with the woman on the third floor was probably a bigger problem. He did not pause and she wonders if she will ever speak again when the elephant showed up. This is not what she imagined when she imagined telling Ladd she knew of his affair. She imagined shock, then humiliation, then contrition, then declarations of love and trust. She had not imagined beyond that, however, and did not know if she would or could continue on with him, if she could imagine the trust that would take.
But now there is an elephant.
Gracie puts her hand to her mouth. Before she entered the building, she knew Ladd was going to berate her. She imagined an elephant in the room – the fact that he was cheating on her. She did not imagine that imagining would work. Not this well. Not literally.
Gracie walks to the elephant who dips his head to look at her. She pats his side and says soothing words to him. The elephant leans toward her so his mouth is near her head. Gracie wonders if elephants bite. She heard ‘no’ in her head. Or in her ear. She takes a small step back. The elephant curls his trunk around her waist and pulls her against the side of his head. In a deep and hushed whisper, the elephant says that getting lost in love is a mistake.
Gracie looks around for Ladd, to see if he hears this voice or if she is hallucinating. He is off in a corner, on his phone, yelling at someone. She has a moment of relief that someone else is getting yelled at. Again, the voice, the elephant’s voice says that she should imagine a healthy relationship. Are you talking to me, she asks. The trunk gives her a light squeeze and the voice says, who else? Am I imagining this, she asks. To answer, the elephant lifts his tail and deposits a big mound of dung on the pristine slate floor. Ladd unleashes a high-octave screech and then yells into the phone even louder.
Patting the elephant, Gracie thanks him although she is still perturbed. Her imagination brought a real elephant but what was causing the elephant to offer advice? A psychic therapist elephant or her too-vivid imagination? I’m not a therapist, says the elephant. It is just obvious that you should not be with this man.
Obvious, Gracie repeats. You are right. It is obvious.
With that, the elephant delivery men return and the self-important one states that they got the street wrong, that it was Haford Court they were looking for, not Haford Circle. The men collect the food and trough and the weather-beaten white man turns the elephant around and begins to lead him to the truck. Gracie runs to the man. Has he spoken to you, she asks. The man looks at her and snorts, no honey, elephants don’t talk.
Gracie pats the elephant one more time and looks up to see him wink at her. She smiles at the elephant and says, Thanks.
A Cabrera's poetry, fiction and essays have appeared in The New Guard, Brain,Child Magazine, Colere, Acentos Review, The Berkeley Fiction Review, Best Travelers' Tales 2021 Anthology, Mer, Deronda, and other journals. Her short fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Award and adapted for stage by the Bay Area Word for Word Theater Company. She writes, teaches, dances and ride bikes in San Francisco, but not always in that order.
Amy Jones Sedivy grew up in Los Angeles and lives in NELA with her artist-husband and their princess-dog. She finds L.A. to have locations just waiting for stories. Amy’s most recent publications include: "The Rhinos of Josephine" in (mac)ro(mic), July 2021; “(Just) A Girl in the World” in May 2022 “Made in L.A. Beyond the Precipice” anthology.