My Surprise Party

The other day I came home and all my friends had thrown me a surprise party. It was grand. Everybody had funny hats and noisemakers and it was like New Year’s Eve. The only problem was that there was an elephant in the room. Somewhere everybody picked up that we weren’t supposed to mention it. I don’t know how they knew not to mention it, but I knew that if I mentioned it I would be accused of being boring. Everybody found it boring, too boring, to mention the elephant. How I knew this I don’t know.

Now I am not in the habit of measuring just how boring something is. I don’t, you know, have a scale of one to ten upon which to measure the degree of my boredom. And I suppose that some philosopher might argue that to have a conversation with someone past an elephant’s asshole or dong is more boring than mentioning, and even moving away from, said elephant. But there we were, in funny hats, laughing our butts off, sloppy drunk, falling over one another, and all the time there was this damn elephant that we had to pretend wasn’t in the room. I think some of my friends got stepped on. Luckily it wasn’t anyone I knew.

After awhile I couldn’t ignore the elephant. Part of the problem was that when I looked around at all my friends laughing, in funny hats, blowing into the noisemakers, and drunk, they all seemed to be ignoring the elephant. Laughing was ignoring the elephant. Being drunk was ignoring the elephant. It was impossible to do anything but ignore the elephant no matter what you thought you were doing. When you just looked at something, turned around, tied your shoe, you were ignoring the elephant. I was fed up. Talk about boredom, jeez.

I wanted to mention the elephant to somebody, crazy as that sounds. It might be a relief. I believed I could handle the ensuing abuse. But what would be the point of mentioning the elephant? He would still be there. Let’s not pretend that mentioning the elephant would be the first step towards getting him out of the room. Mentioning the elephant would be the first step towards aimless banter that covered real solutions to the problem like peanut butter and then petered out in a shit storm of scorn and abuse. And that was looking on the sunny side. No one is up to actually doing something. Are you kidding? They are having too much fun. Not that there is a way to get the elephant out of the room anyway. I mean how the hell did he ever get in in the first place? He never could have fit through the door.

In the morning, there they were, in disarray, draped over the furniture, my friends, still totally crapped out. The elephant was also still there. He seemed ready to break through the walls. Had he gotten bigger? He had knocked over the fish tank and had picked up a lamp with his trunk and hurled it against the door. Of course he had pooped all over everything.

As I said, all my friends were still blotto. So it was just me and the elephant. I looked into one of his eyes. He was deep. I’m not really sure I looked into the eye rather than simply at it. Try to stare down a cat and you will see what I mean. It was like that but different. His eye was a well of nothingness. Let’s just say he was not about to reveal his secrets. I had the uncomfortable feeling that in his eyes I was yesterday’s news. As far as the elephant was concerned I wasn’t even there. I’m not sure he even understood that he was trespassing on my property. Somehow he conveyed that it was all right with him if everyone continued to ignore his existence. He didn’t think much of ours, either.

Michael Doliner studied with Hannah Arendt at the University of Chicago and has taught at Valparaiso University and Ithaca College. He can be reached at: