ex libris: The Tiger’s Wife

My grandfather and I stopped at the bus station, and the elephant passed, slow, graceful, enchanted by the food in the young man’s hand. The moon threw a tangle of light into the long, soft hairs sticking up out of his trunk and under his chin. The mouth was open, and the tongue lay in it like a wet arm.

“No one will ever believe this,” I said.

My grandfather said: “What?”

“None of my friends will ever believe it.”

My grandfather looked at me like he’d never seen me before, like he couldn’t quite believe I was his. Even in our estrangement, he had never quite looked at me that way, and afterward he never did again.

“You must be joking,” he said. “Look around. Think for a moment. It’s the middle of the night, not a soul anywhere. In this city, at this time. Not a dog in the gutter. Empty. Except for this elephant – and you’re going to tell your idiot friends about it? Why? Do you think they’ll understand it? Do you think it will matter to them?”

He left me behind and walked on after the elephant. I stood with my hands in my pockets. I felt my voice had fallen through and through me, and I couldn’t summon it back to tell him or myself anything at all. The elephant was moving forward along the Boulevard. I followed it. A block down, my grandfather had stopped beside a bench, was waiting for the elephant. I caught up with him first, and the two of us stood side by side, in silence, my face burning, his breath barely audible. The young man did not look at us again.

Eventually, my grandfather said: “You must understand, this is one of those moments.”

“What moments?”

“One of those moments you keep to yourself.”
-Tea Obreht

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