Some of the events of earlier Tamika Wood stories are relevant to Something About Elephants. Maybe you didn’t notice them at the time, or maybe you forgot.
Tamika Wood’s Birthday Party
But Michelle’s Cello eludes me. It felt like an offering when she gave me the tape. “I wrote this,” she told me. But it doesn’t sound any different to me from her warm-up scales. It sounds the same to me as when she first began the violin so long ago. But I listen to it anyway. And I think if I could hear what she can hear perhaps I’ll understand her. But I can’t. And I don’t. It’s just one more thing in an endless list of things I don’t understand about my daughter. Her choices baffle me. Even more so when they mirror mine.
When Mani went to preschool the teachers had some concerns. They thought I should get him assessed. For ADHD. For Aspergers Syndrome. But I remembered how I had felt every time I had to leave school to go to the doctor. Like there was something wrong with me. And I don’t want Mani to ever have to feel like that. At one point I did mean to make the appointment but I lost the referral and then I forgot. Mum used to say that if something was really important to me that I’d remember to do it. I must not have really wanted it, if I forgot.
But I guess she sought me, because she came back to the cemetery the next day.
“What are you doing here?” I asked.
“Wishing people were dead. What are you doing here?”
“Wishing people were alive,” I replied.
“Also I like to look at the names. Alan’s a nice one,” she said, gesturing to my father’s headstone.
I know that Dad and Pa have not always been together. I know that Pa and Cello had sex and made me. But it’s always seemed an abstract thing. I exist because my parents love each other. And now Cello is here and I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel about her when I didn’t have to think about her at all for such a long time. She was just a photo and a name and now she’s a person in my house with a body and a smell and blue hair caught in my shower drain.
“And then what, Shell? And then what? Would you have stepped up and tried your hardest to be a husband and a father?”
“HOW LONG would you have been able to keep that up, Shell? For how many years day in and day out pretending and forcing yourself to be someone you are not before you shattered into pieces. That was the risk I wasn’t willing to take. I couldn’t. I couldn’t let it be my child who had to find their dead father on the fucking floor.”