I pretended to kiss Elvis in my basement. I’d put Love Me Tender on the record player and wrap my arms around the gray concrete pole in the middle of our rec room. I can still feel the pole’s cool smooth feel on my lips. It never went any further than that one long kiss; the song only lasted a few minutes, 2 minutes and 41 seconds to be exact, I just looked it up. I worried my mother would come down the stairs carrying a laundry basket and, there I’d be, carrying on. I could imagine her baffled look. Are you really kissing that pole?
I loved Elvis. I wavered a little when he got married; that seemed to make so much of life hopeless, but loved him still, even when he got fat and spangled, sweaty and thick, a man who became his own impersonator. It was gauche to love the derelict, bloated Elvis so it stayed a secret. I moved my public lust to other targets but Elvis still would have done alright, had he shown up at my door.
Yesterday, at the discount lighting store, I happened on an Elvis mannequin wearing a gladiator’s hat and sunglasses. A wooden sign rested on his arms: Elvis Presley 1935-1977. Yes, I do remember where I was. I was on a weekend road trip with a lover who thought Elvis was a joke because he ate peanut butter and banana sandwiches and popped pills like candy. Don’t they all? It didn’t help that Elvis died on the toilet. Well, he didn’t actually. He fell off.
I thought my lover’s attitude toward Elvis revealed his feelings of insecurity and that at once felt appropriate and small. He didn’t think he could, as a real, breathing person, hold a candle to a dead, jewel-encrusted very messed up man. And he was right in a weird way even though we didn’t discuss it; I wouldn’t deign to open up my feelings about Elvis in a casual conversation in a Volkswagen bus. A quiet room with velvet chairs and an open casket, maybe, depending on who was there.
People like me who felt the rumble of Elvis’ voice so strong that they kissed cement poles in their basements, well, we’re a dying breed. Soon, everyone will think this guy sitting next to a jukebox in a discount lighting store is just a joke from a long time ago. There’s no other way it can be.
You had to be there.