Q: How do you hide an elephant in a strawberry patch?
A: Paint his toenails red.
It’s simple, elephant logic. It’s all true, mostly. To make an elephant joke work you have to take what you know about an elephant and discount those facts. An elephant is no longer large. An elephant in the room, hidden with a sleight of hand. This is not an elephant that would cause shock and awe during electrocution. This is not a behemoth to balance on top of a circus ball. This is a joke. It’s hidden in the paint.
All this because of a book. The Electric Radish and Other Riddles. What’s red, has a tail, and hums? An electric radish, of course. Of course. Radish opens to elephant and I’m caught in logic I didn’t realize I wanted. I’m suddenly a comedian, rattling off chains of elephants. I am a ringleader, whip-smart. Listen, listen. I have another, tucked in my sleeve. Come closer and I will whisper it in your ear and lean back, beaming. The absurdity.
The timing? Impeccable. My boxes are unpacked, the rain is coming. My best friend promises to visit and flies off. The men I kiss do not understand the word fortuitous or else argue the virtues of meter and slant rhyme. I am spinning slow circles like a child aiming toward delirium. Elephant elephant elephant.
If you discount the most obvious thing about yourself, what’s left behind? I’m not sure you can do this for yourself. (Then again, I’ve been told I don’t step back and look at myself honestly. Grow up.) Take away the you-ness of you. Even the scent under the covers of a bed that smells of you sleeping, that’s too you. The sweatshirt you wear too often, that sometimes you catch the reflection of in a mirror and only then remember how tattered it actually is—take it off. Leave the ordinary and then cover it in red paint. Hide in the strawberry patch.
Maybe I crave erasure, an undoing of me-ness. What’s grey, has four legs and a trunk? I’ll give you a hint, it isn’t an elephant.