Elephant's Graveyard
By Kelsea Basye

The door slams dramatically behind me as I leave the party and sit down on the stoop outside. Glitter floats out of my hair and into my lap as I fumble in my purse for my cigarettes. The glitter seems stupid and I find myself wishing I hadn’t dumped it all over myself before going out. Glitter, I think, is far too cheerful for this bullshit. The door opens and closes behind me and I intentionally don’t look back--I am not in the mood for conversation. I feel the presence of the person standing behind me and my back becomes prickly. Just leave, I think. The person sits down next to me.

It’s you.

You scoot in close and turn to kiss my cheek. I turn away. Inside you were talking to a lot of people and none of them were me. I stood in the corner with both hands on my beer, holding it close to my face as a sort of protective gesture. Using my beer as a shield. I felt lost. I didn’t even think you would notice that I’d gone outside.

As I turn away, you sigh. “What?” you say. Your tone is aggressive. I turn my face toward yours but don’t make eye contact.

You abandoned me, I want to say. My mouth can’t even begin to form the words. I sigh. I say nothing. I look away from you.

“I’m getting tired of this, Kelsea,” you say quietly.

Suddenly, I am standing. I am walking forward, I am turning to look at you. My body is operating on its own. Auto-pilot, my grandfather would call it. I so easily get caught up deep in my thoughts that my body acts without my control. I often walk into poles and into people. And now, I am walking away from you. I am walking away from you and not looking back, and thinking so intently about the storm in my chest and how you abandoned me and why you aren’t running after me, saying, wait! Everything is scattered, I can’t form a complete thought.

I have walked two blocks.
I have walked four blocks.

I’m not entirely sure where I am. I stop. My thoughts stop. I am sure that I feel my phone vibrating in my purse. I am certain that it is you, that you are calling to say that you are looking for me or that you love me and want me to come back or at least to say that it’s cold and you’re worried about me being out alone so late.

I fumble around in my purse for my phone. Always fumbling. More glitter, glitter on my hands, on my keys. I find my phone. I was wrong. No missed calls. No messages. I am suddenly so aware of how cold it is. My legs are unsteady, I am dizzy and want to sit down. I look around, worried that a potential collapse would be embarrassing, but the houses around me are dark. Nobody would see me crumble to the ground.

I briefly consider making a sudden, loud scene that would wake the whole neighborhood up and likely land me in the hospital again. But I dismiss the thought and keep walking. It is too cold not to keep walking.

I keep my phone in my hand as I walk, in case you call. I promise myself I won’t go back until you call. I am sure that you will call. The air bites me as I walk, even with my hood up and my hands buried in my pockets. I scrunch my shoulders up. Another defensive position. I wonder what I’m trying to protect myself from.

I find myself approaching a deserted playground. It’s just me and the swings and the starless night. I consider sitting on the swings, but decide that it would be too juvenile. A bench instead. I sit facing the play structures, perched on the edge of the bench with my knees close to my chest. I would have called this a park, I think, when I was a kid. But there are no trees, no secluded areas. This is a playground, not a park. I find myself longing to steal pulls off of half-gallons beneath lush evergreens. I feel alone. My phone reminds me that I am alone--you still haven’t called. I set my phone on my knees and stare at it until the backlight turns off. The bright screen leaves an imprint on my eyes. I pull out a cigarette--more fumbling--and light it. There are only three cigarettes left in my pack, I notice. I forgot my gloves, and a slight mist is making my bare fingers feel frozen. I continue smoking anyway, finishing my cigarette and lighting a second one with the lit end of my first. Nausea rises in my stomach, as I am not nearly drunk enough to be chain smoking. It’s a solely aesthetic decision, to sit in the dark all curled up and chain smoking. That’s stupid, I think. This is stupid. It is freezing and I am feeling increasingly stupid. And I miss you. I get up and decide to buy a pack of cigarettes and go back to the party. You were nearly out of cigarettes, too, I remember, so I decide to buy you a pack as well. I feel excited to see you, to give you the cigarettes, to kiss you and apologize. I imagine that you will kiss me and say you love me and say you’re glad I came back. My heart feels warm, I am walking fast and resolving to never be mad at you again.

I get to the party and you’re already gone. The party is almost empty--absolutely everyone I knew at the party is gone. Those that are left seem drunk and exhausted--everyone is picking through the rubble of empty beer cans and cigarette butts for misplaced sweaters and phones. A few unfortunate souls who decided to go wild a little early are passed out in various positions in the main room of the party. I go back outside, sit down on the stoop, and call you three times. You don’t pick up. I realize it is almost four in the morning--you’re probably in bed, fast asleep. My eyes feel wet and my chest feels empty. I get up, and start walking toward your house. The walk is long, but I am sobering up and want to be in the cold air to stifle the nausea bubbling up in my stomach. The walk feels like a trance. I almost call you several times, but stop myself. I don’t want to wake you and have you be angry with me. As I get to your house, I feel like crying, but my chest is so heavy I can’t seem to force the tears out.

I get to your room and you are in bed, laying on your side and facing the wall. Deep snores resonate around the room. I sit down on the edge of your bed and start undressing, hoping you’ll wake and be glad to see me. I want you to hold me tightly. Cold and nude, I crawl under the blankets and touch your back. You moan and twist your body so that you are laying on your stomach. I try to spoon you, but you have twisted yourself into a position that I can’t seem to fit my body around. Instead, I face away from you, all curled up, and force out slow, bitter tears until I fall asleep.

A chill from an open window and a headache wake me up. It is early, I have only gotten about three hours of sleep. You are on the computer.

I moan and say, “baby, come to bed?”
“In a minute,” you say.

I mumble something about my headache and you ignore me. You are facebook chatting with someone. My head is filled with white noise. I bury it in the blankets and think of all the time you said nice things to me on facebook chat. I wish that you were facebook chatting with me, instead of ignoring me talk about my headache and facebook chatting with someone else. I try to think of something witty to say so you will pay attention to me, but come up blank. My head hurts too bad to think of anything witty.

Fifteen minutes later you crawl into bed and kiss me once. Happy, but still deflated, I pull on you, causing you to lay down, and put my head on your chest. You smell surprisingly good--I wonder to myself if you showered before I woke up. Our breathing synchronizes as we lay in silence. I consider initiating sex with you, but my stomach hurts and I prefer it when you initiate our sex.

Lyrics to the song I Want You To Want Me pop into my head. I imagine singing this song to you. In my head I am singing Cheap Trick to you and then feeling embarrassed and hiding under the covers. In my head you are singing Cheap Trick back to me and giggling and kissing me. In my head we are literally the happiest we have ever been, and we kiss even more, and then the credits roll, because nothing this good could ever happen outside of a movie. Instead of singing Cheap Trick to you I hide under the covers hoping you’ll ask me what’s wrong.

Instead of asking me what’s wrong, you ask, “do you want to make breakfast?”
“Okay,” I say.

We make a big sloppy omelette with too much cheese, too many mushrooms, and not enough of anything else. We eat in the kitchen, in our underwear, with the window open. I hold my coffee in both hands for warmth as you dish up the omelette onto the only clean plate. The idea of sharing a plate with you seems romantic, and I feel love-drunk and jittery. You mention wanting a cigarette, and I remember that I bought you a pack the night before.

“Hold on,” I mutter. You don’t hear me, but I am in the other room grabbing the pack before you can ask me to repeat myself. When I return to the kitchen and give you the cigarettes, you make the kind of noise that people make when they see a wet kitten.

“This is sweet,” you say, and put your arm around me. We finish eating quickly, in silence.

You check your phone and say, “fuck.” You have to be at work in an hour. We get dressed and go outside. Holding hands, we walk a few blocks together sharing one of the cigarettes I bought, until I have to go down a different street to go to my apartment. You stop walking, turn towards me, and kiss me hard. You kiss me the way I always imagined you might kiss me before we started dating. It is cold and raining a little bit. We are in the middle of the sidewalk and people have to walk around us. We are kissing and my heart is full. I start to say, I’m sorry about last night, but you interrupt me with kisses.
“It’s okay,” you say, “I love you, I’ll see you soon, okay?”
I nod dumbly and you walk off. The grey morning feels heavy around me. I stand in the same place on the sidewalk, watching you walk away. When you are out of my field of vision I turn and stumble toward my apartment.

I get home and pour a glass of wine. Just one, for the headache. Watching the rain from my balcony, I realize I don’t remember why I was mad at you the night before.
Tears flow easily then, and I don’t know why.


kelsea basye lives in wheeling, wv