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The Elephant Gang
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The Elephant Gang

. . . a night when kings in golden suits
ride elephants over the mountains.

—John Cheever

        The green Mustang I picked up at the Honolulu airport three days ago darts through the dense traffic of lower Manoa Valley like a slippery mongoose. I'd never driven a convertible before this trip, but that's hardly the source of my unease.
        “We look like a cliché in this car,” I say, raising my voice above the rush of open air around us.
        “Do you really care?” the young woman beside me replies.
        The wind lifts her strawberry-blond hair like wings, her bare arms and shoulders honey brown above the pastel-flowered summer dress I bought her in Topeka, Kansas, four thousand miles behind us.
        Do I care?
        Her name is Sheyene, pronounced like the town in Wyoming. Sheyene is twenty-two, and I am fifty. For her, and for reasons that precede her, I have left one life and begun another, irreparably transforming the lives of those closest to me. The painful rebuilding has been underway for more than a year.
        But that is not the story this tale will tell. This is the story of a different story, an echo from the past that informs the unfathomable future.
        “Not at this point,” I finally reply.
        Sheyene squeezes my elbow and gives me a revivifying smile. Sheyene is hope, optimism, and, what is most surprising for her age, strength—a strength that will be tested again and again in the days and years ahead. But that is the unfathomable future. In the present, the two of us are on our way to see Phil Damon, an old friend of mine from my graduate school days at UH. Phil is the most flexible person I know. Synchronicity is the term he most often uses to locate himself and others in time and space. His simultaneous lives—writer, teacher, runner, spiritualist, husband, father, and friend—have taught me the meaning of the word. The center of Phil's universe moves with him. He is always home.