Ordinary Phenomena: The Elephant's Call

The invitation comes as a surprise; somehow it always does.

A digital illustration of a young femme person sitting alone in the carriage of a train, riding thro Illustration by Meadow Nguyen

The invitation comes as a surprise; somehow it always does. You wear the new jacket you got but couldn’t find an occasion for. The weather is bright and cold and raining and green, a glimpse into Melbourne’s four seasons in one day. You haven’t felt the rain for so long. You relish the feeling of it on your skin. It is something ethereal, brandished with the warm relief that comes with breathing in the cool spring breeze. The train brakes to an abrupt stop and you grit your teeth at the rush of wind coloured an industrial rust, making the sound of an elephant braying. It reminds you of the circus, of something wild becoming tamed and one of you, something clumsy and lumbering taught to walk a tightrope so thin. You’re lulled by the utter peace that comes with riding the metro, hand poised on chin as eyes move between buildings, trees, and telephone wire caught in an endless panoramic circle out the window. You are an elephant lumbering down the tracks. In your ears plays the music of early adolescence, the bands you promised to never stop loving and somehow never did. A young woman sits adjacent to you reading a hardcover book, a man in a wheelchair closes his eyes for a kip, and your mother texts you to check in. The gentle swaying of the carriage almost puts you to sleep, eyes resting midway through the first chapter of a new audiobook you’ve started listening to. The reader speaks: I ease the train to a stop and turn on the radio. The tourists pile out and stretch their legs like it’s the end of a road trip. The eerie familiarity of the writing is a reminder of the universality of it all—you are all bound together by a single experience, told a hundred ways yet remaining consistent through that common life thread, an elephant’s trunk. When you arrive at your friend’s house you meet her friends, all people like you, fumbling and awkward and wanting so hard to be liked. You sit around on mismatched chairs, picking at sushi with your fingers, and offering sweets made from home and made to share. You ask questions, get to know everyone, find out where they came from and how they all came to be here today. It’s nice, the ice breaking so easily with the tender steps forward, cracking under your elephant feet, finding people with common interests, common morals, so diverse in who they are but ultimately just like you. You play cards, losing every round, grabbing spoons and calling bullshit. The rain outside comes and goes, a background soundtrack to laughter and chewing, oohing and ahhing, the joy of new and renewed connections; something nostalgic from a time before. Everyone wants to remember you when the day is over, swapping social media handles and pausing to ride the tram back to the station together. There is intimacy in the one-on-one, people willing to give you more time to learn and build upon a new foundation. You ride the train home contented, the feeling of calm washing over you like that which arrives after eating a full meal. From home you can hear the elephants braying in the distance. You know it is only the train, but you imagine it is the elephants anyway.


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