The Elephant In The Room
Another faceless name, droned on, emphatic hands proving his point. Repeating again and again the string of words that would keep them both trapped here. The King of Tautologists was holding court. She sat in the upright chair watching the words. They ricocheted off the walls, hitting and missing as they flew. His royal monologue continued, backtracked and meandered. Until the Jester spoke. The Jester damned the words. All but one.
She leaned forward, hand pushing her hair out of her eyes as she watched the jester. Relief filled her, hope brimmed and tears overflowed. Her hands relaxed as the elephant in the room floated upwards. She stared at him as he moved, willing him higher, faster. She watched him hit the ceiling, distorting slightly, and smiled. She glanced at the others, all still dumbstruck and gaping. Only she was able to see the relief in the elephant’s eyes. He liked having a name. He’d been nameless for so long.
The elephant looked longingly out the window. The leaves had turned, Autumn was in the air. She followed his gaze. Beyond the white walls and stonework, she could see the children, far below, collecting acorns on the common. She smiled at the memory of the fairy cups and boats made in her childhood. Fleeting moments of belonging, knowing who she was.
As they continued to be discussed, she stood slowly, so as not to alert anyone. She crept to the window. Grasped the latch. Opened it. The words were acting as a distraction, a decoy. She stepped up, the wind playfully welcomed her. Outside the window a red car drove by, whisking someone somewhere. The laughing children waved at her, high above them. They marvelled at her bravery, begging her to come play. To let them see the elephant. The elephant trumpeted in delight. He darted closer, sensing freedom. His sudden movement alerted the others. They jumped, startled and panicked. They ran, white slippered feet slapping the sterile floor.
Rough, gloved hands grabbed her, pulling her back, as she stepped into the bright space. She screamed in anger. Grabbing at the masonry, she tried to get out onto the ledge. She was trying to help it. She needed to help it. No one else would! Harder hands shut the window, locking it and taking the key with them. The king barked orders. She kept her eyes on the window.
She was forced to sit. Restrained by their thoughts, held captive. She laughed. Ever the obedient dog. The chorus of alarm grew louder. Words were flung around like confetti. She laughed as they fell. Non-biodegradable. They’d be there forever now. Never unsaid. Never unheard. Never forgotten. A celebration of his naming day. The day he should have been free. The elephant hung, subdued for now, tied to the nylon straps. Grounded, flightless, for now.
Her head hanging, she watched them from behind her hair. Squinting to make the Jester dance, haloed by dust motes and sunbeams. Catching her breath. She smelt a sour eggy smell, similar to Hollandaise sauce. Rooms like this always smelt like it to her, welcoming from the outside, repugnant once inside. Cloying, sticking in her throat. A more effective gag than any they had tried to use. She had to get out. Just to breathe the clean air.
She watched the oak leaves falling. She’d watched them grow from leaf bud. Two seasons of her life. Of his. She wanted him to be free. Elephants should be free. But no amount of effort on her part had succeeded. Although, there had been more notice paid to the poor thing. He’d been discussed, prodded, dissected and poked. Yet, ignored, as if he weren’t there. No one spoke to the elephant in the room.
He’d grown tired of that. So had she. The poor elephant had a right to be heard. He had a right to be free. As they discussed his continued captivity, she felt him shrink, smaller than a mouse. Shuddering, denied, he nestled on her breast. Absentmindedly, she stroked him and whispered to him. Promising that next time they would fly free.
The others looked over and she saw the pity and disbelief in their eyes. They were still in shock, still blind to her. To him. To their mistake. One reached over, stroked her hair back, whispering words of sympathy and reassurance. The tiny elephant trembled on her heart. She listened to the faceless name, trying to remember what he had looked like before. Before she had tried to set the elephant in the room free. She remembered the voice, filled with love. She remembered the gestures and tones. The idiosyncrasies of a life, captured in a voice. But she couldn’t see enough to remember what he looked like. His face was masked, hidden behind her hair.
She stroked the elephant, as other hands adjusted the strap on her left wrist, a touchstone of sorts in the room of white and light. He was testing his name. Trying it on for size. Growing into it. As he moved, she was reminded that he had to be free, there was no space for her left in her own mind or body. He was her friend, her only form of solace and filter of reality. But he was eclipsing the sun, hiding her from it. His needs were subordinating hers. Once, she had been in control. Once, she had been stronger, able to hide him better. Once, they had co-existed. Supporting each other, a refuge from the fears and falsehoods.
The others hadn’t heard her promises to him. They hadn’t heard his relief and his eager agreement. She would find the way to the roof. They helped her up, and lead her to the room on the sunny side of the building. Another floor closer to the roof. She lay on the bed and willed them to leave the straps off. To allow her the freedom to move. Her breath calmed as the crisp sheet covered her arms. No-one said anything as the elephant curled up on the pillow, biding his time. The faceless name stroked her cheek, whispered “I love you” and sighed as the door shut behind him, locks clicking into place.
She lifted her wrists, bent her knees, testing for restraints unseen. She sighed with relief. He nodded, floating to the middle of the room, growing to his full size. He urged her out of bed.
Her breath came quicker, now, that there was another chance to free him. The windows were locked and barred. She ran her hands along the panes. Feeling the coolness of the glass run through her body, invigorating her. Interrupting the expanse of glass, metal bars punctuated the fluidity of the coolness. The flow broke as her fingers wrapped around each bar, testing its strength and malleability. Willing one to bend, to help her free him. Nails tested the bolts, attempting to pry them loose. She watched the children for a minute. Drawing strength from their freedom.
She moved into the bathroom. A small window above the toilet beckoned. She stood on the seat. Leaned over the sill. Pushed on the glass. No bars. She pushed. He floated behind her. Whispering encouragement. She pushed again. The glass shifted slightly. Hope flared. She focused her efforts on the slight movement. Spiderweb cracks formed around a screw. They grew longer, the glass shifted again. She felt it give, slicing into her right hand. The pain of opportunity.
She held him close, pushed him through the window. She felt him grip her wrist, helping her through too. She leaned out, looking over the common. He pulled again. She opened her hand, letting him go. The nylon ribbon snaked through her fingers. The elephant in the room was now free, floating up to the sky. She leaned further, following his flight. She waved at the children below. And fell into the welcoming breeze.
Raised voices. Flashing lights. Pain. Pain. PAIN. No, her name. ‘Raine.’ The voices were calling her name. Royal hands moved her arms and legs. Others cradled her head. Slowly the images became clearer. Less hazy, less monochrome. As they burst into colour, the pain dulled. She gazed past the hands towards the oak trees. Her left hand moved over the rough black of the asphalt, reaching for the grass verge. Her right curled loosely on her chest.
They moved her onto a gurney. The vibration of the wheels on asphalt lulled her. A hand held hers protectively. Another stroked her face.
She looked beyond Jonathan to the falling leaves of the oak trees. She smiled and held his hand tighter.