The Elephant Man

Waking up one morning from unsettling dreams, I found myself changed into a republican. I raised my arms and looked at them in horror, first the left, and then the right. "What happened to me?" I whispered, "perhaps I should go back to sleep and pretend this never happened". I turned on my side and shut my eyes; perhaps I could fall asleep again and change back through whichever perverse process had altered me in the first place. But sleep eluded me: all I could do was obsess about this disturbing change. After some futile minutes I gave up. I threw the covers off me and jumped out of bed. The air smelled of coffee: Marge must have been awake for a while and had been making breakfast downstairs.

"Hey, wakey wakey up there!" she shouted, hearing my movement. I froze like a deer in headlights. I didn't dare answer her, she would hear my republican voice and would know in a second. Ashamed, I ran into the bathroom and locked the door behind me. Damn, I thought, this is stupid, she'll find out eventually. I concentrated on going through my morning bathroom routine. All the while I kept noticing how my republican brain was interpreting the world around me. I felt angry because cheap and disposable things like my toothpaste tube were so expensive from being wastefully taxed at every step of the supply chain. I stared at the sink tap, remembering those Homeland News advisories about what to do in case terrorists poisoned the water in our home town. I took some slow calming breaths and went into the shower. I might as well put this time to good use, I thought, figure out how to tell Marge about my misfortune. After all, I was still me.

As I showered my mind shuffled through the past. Things that had once seemed wrong and backward in my mind had somehow shed a skin of naiveté overnight, and I could glimpse deeper, truer meanings beneath them. I thought about my father and how much I had misunderstood him. I began to understand his side of all our old, bitter, political arguments. I began to see how wrong I had been on just about everything. I saw the world outside America for what it actually was, how religion could be a good thing, how gays needed to stop being so hung up on all that 'marriage' business, how large corporations were run by human beings who in the bottom line also cared about the state of our world, I finally understood why we were in Iraq, how premarital sex destroyed lives...

I stopped right there. I felt a terrible weight settle on my chest. The memory of Marge's abortion -four years ago to the day, I suddenly realised- came rushing back to me. I recalled how much she had wanted that baby, how she had glowed in those few weeks before we discovered her pregnancy. At the time I had convinced her that it was the right thing to do. We were too young, I had rationalised, too poor, too anything. Anything to justify the murder of an innocent child. A child that would have been just over three years old today. It would have made us happy. For so many years I had told myself that it had been just a medical procedure, necessary at the time. But it had been the end of a life. And I had never realised until today just how rare and precious the gift of life actually was.

I felt dizzy. I stumbled out of the shower, carelessly put on a bathrobe and walked down the stairs. The weight on my chest became greater and greater with every step that I took. "Wow you took your sweet time in there, come on down honey, breakfast's done" Marge called out as she heard my steps on the staircase. I could barely breathe: All I could see in my mind was the image of our breakfast table laid out for a family of three, a child's chair wedged between mine and Marge's with a tiny plate in front of it. My eyes teared up and the world swam in my vision. I felt such terrible regret. I slowly walked into the kitchen.

Marge turned around and saw me. She raised her hands to her face and gasped, frozen on the spot, her eyes wide open in terror. Her bowl of cereal fell onto the floor and smashed. I looked at her helplessly, tears pouring from my eyes. My mouth trembled, and when at last I spoke it was in a strange republican voice that I barely recognised. "Marge? Honey?" I said, but she only shook her head in bewildered horror. She backed away as I stumbled towards her until she was boxed into the kitchen corner.

"Sweetie..." I began again, reaching out for her with my trembling arm "I'm so sorry" I said, and began to sob like an overgrown baby "I'm so terribly sorry honey, please forgive me, please..."

Marge shut her eyes and shrieked at the top of her lungs.