My wife bought me an elephant yesterday. We stopped by an Oxfam shop in town during a last minute excursion to finish up our Christmas shopping.
It's a small carved elephant, one with an even smaller elephant inside it's body, which you can see through the intricately carved lattice work on its flanks. It has its trunk turned upwards, a sign for good luck, according to Hindu culture. It's hand carved, courtesy of some sort of co-operative in India that provides these and other trinkets to the Western market, with proceeds from each sale going back to the individual artisans who make them.
I've long been fascinated by elephants. Their intelligence, their gentleness, their strength. I've even had the privilege of riding an elephant. It was a few years ago now, during a trip in Thailand. It was one of those experiences that seemed a lot more special than it probably was. I had a moment with this animal. It wrapped its trunk around me and wasn't going to let me go in a hurry. I had thought we'd bonded. It was probably trying to squeeze the shit out of me.
Where am I going with this...
I've packed that elephant into my suitcase for tomorrow. I don't even know if I'm superstitious but, I figure, it's worth a shot...the whole good luck thing and all.
I've packed my pyjamas. A couple of pairs in fact, along with some loose clothing that won't be too hard to get into. I've put in my tablet and my Bluetooth keyboard. I might get some writing done while I'm recovering...I probably won't. I've put in my copy of Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov and Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago - another gift from my wife. My sponge bag. Some L'Occitane products. I have standards.
I'm scared. More than I've ever been. This is real. This is real? Surely there's been a mistake. The scans are wrong. They got the wrong patient. The tumour belongs to somebody else.
There's no mistake.
This is real.
My kids are fighting over some Christmas paper. They're screaming at each other. Meanwhile, the dog is whimpering and whining, wanting to be fed. The TV is too loud. Builders working on the house next door are using an electric saw, a nail gun. My son is trying to follow the cricket, demanding quiet.
Inside my head...silent chaos. A thunder storm of fear that seems more suited to a 15 year old boy than a forty...something...year old man. I'm standing on the edge of a volcano, looking down into the maelstrom.
I've take the alabaster elephant out my suitcase. I'm holding it in my hand.
The elephant seems calming. They are a calming animal.