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All stereotypes aside, I doubt HE remembers ME.

I keep thinking of this elephant I met, once.

I was standing on a curb in Bangkok, just minding my own business, waiting to cross the street, as one does every day without encountering any elephants. But when I turned my head, there he was, inches from my face—either a baby or some sort of mini-elephant, I have no idea, but if you have ever met an elephant unexpectedly, you know that there’s really no mistaking it for anything else. I was too delighted to be very startled; besides, I was so jetlagged that I had probably left any hard-wired startle reflexes back on the other side of the international date line.

He was waiting too, stretching his stubby little elephant toes against the pavement idly. I offered a dollar and asked his owner if I could touch him. (I could, of course; it was Bangkok, where you could probably offer someone a dollar and ask them for a piggyback ride and find yourself jostling along and shouting “giddyup!” merrily only a moment later.)

I reached out and patted him between his long-lashed eyes while he investigated me (to see whether I had any treats in any of my pockets, I’m assuming). He was bristly; for some reason I had anticipated something soft and buttery, akin to a worn-out leather jacket, but the bristles pushed back against my hand, surprising me. Meanwhile, his trunk patted me hello. He was benign, but not bored; I don’t pretend to be an expert, but I think he was probably a pretty good elephant.

I still think of that, all the time—the texture of him under my palm while I stood there in wonder, in the middle of a city, under the streetlamp, amid the crazy Bangkok traffic rushing by around me, with my hand on an elephant.

I’m unpacking right now, unspooling after folding everything away, making myself small, and battening down for several major life changes. I’m realizing that there is no hook in the kitchen for my apron, but that I like waking up to the sound of traffic in the morning. I can’t find a good place for my bathroom organizer, but I actually have room for a real dining table again. I don’t know what it all will look like, yet; right now, it’s not a big picture, just a collection of jubilant realizations and subdued disappointments, with the occasional dash of panic.

It consoles me to know that, just as I did then and have done many times since, I will find the good things. Good things may not be sent to me by some benevolent spirit, and I may not know how to look for them or even what they’re supposed to be. But I can find them anyway, despite myself, while I’m waiting, simply by looking around.

And even through my anxious brain will probably always insist on straining to spontaneously develop psychic abilities, I know for sure that sometimes, life is even better when you never saw it coming.

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