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The Elephant on the Roof

Longing can be a bad habit.  


And longing for someone who doesn’t return our feelings is like being a butterfly that seeks refuge in a net. It’s not a good idea. 


After we met, I soared and floated, lifting aloft by my longing for you. I took flight embraced by your warm, whispering words and the sweet honeysuckle scent of your body. A butterfly does have a heart and its blood flows freely. With you, I may have been safe from other predators, but you were new and dangerous territory. 


You operated like a man riding an elephant and teetering on the edge of a tall building while holding a butterfly net. You took risks but you weren’t afraid of heights and never lost your balance.  Admittedly, sometimes you would fumble in a comic, endearing way but mainly, you spent your time applauding yourself and capturing hearts like someone collecting butterflies. 


Capture was swift for me. The net knifed through the air and I was imprisoned. I fluttered and fought. I could see the sky beyond but I was still prevented from escaping the net. In truth, I was so enthralled by you that I didn’t know I had the choice to leave.


It was only later that I discovered that I was one of many conquests preserved and displayed in your collection like framed portraits in a gallery. I am the wide-eyed pensive girl with brown shoulder length hair, wearing a coral colored headband, with her wings pinned to the wall. 


Where there is longing, there is a story. And sometimes fate takes pity on us and our longings. My escape ultimately became a need for retribution when I gently pushed you over the side of the building while you were trying to trap more unsuspecting butterflies.  


As you fell, I felt a twinge of regret that you didn’t have wings.

About the author

Joyce began her career as a photojournalist in England with works published in the New Statesman, The Guardian, Time Out, the British Journal of Photography and other publications. After moving to Sydney, she worked as a photographer for the Australian Centre for Photography, the Festival of Sydney, ABC Television and the Sydney Biennale. She has curated successful multimedia and photography exhibitions: Women’s Images of Men (England), Stills Alive (Sydney), and The Thousand Mile Stare (Melbourne and Victoria).


Most recently, she worked as the Senior Curator for the Museum of Chinese Australian History  curating visual art and museum-style exhibitions including an award-winning exhibition project about grandmothers in different cultures. She published her first book in 2022 called The Newcomer’s Dictionary through Springtime Press.

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