Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Truth About Elvis

This is a true story I wrote several years ago about my first marriage ;). I post it today in honor of my 11th wedding anniversary to my true partner and soulmate. A man who always believes in me, never asks more of me than I can give, and would NEVER trade my love for a pack of cigarettes. I love you, My Chuckles. Thank you for reminding me that true love does not come with conditions.

When I was eight, I married Elvis. No, not the singer... but he did come complete with the black leather jacket, slicked back hair and chops. He even smoked at the tender age of ten and a half. He was so very cool.

We were married in a simple ceremony on the back fire escape of the Episcopal Church on Morningside Drive in Hopkinsville, KY. It was a beautiful fall day; the leaves had just started to turn fiery red and amber gold. He wore his best leather jacket (it had zippers every where) and his good jeans, the one's without the holes in them. I wore my Easter dress and my white patent leather shoes.

I had a fourth grader help me with the marriage license. It seemed only proper to have a marriage license to make the whole thing legal; after all, this was the man of my dreams, and the one I would live with for the rest of my life....after I graduated from elementary school, of course. I was pretty sure one wasn't allowed to buy a house of one's own until you were at least in junior high. We hand wrote the marriage license in ink-the writing utensil of permanence- on Red Chief writing paper (you know, the writing tablet with the lines...I wanted everything to be straight and all.)

Once the legal document was prepared, we talked one of the altar boys from the church into officiating the ceremony and marched up the fire escape to the sounds of my friend, Elizabeth, humming the wedding march. The altar boy said some very official sounding stuff about "sickness and health, life and death, richer or poorer (I just knew we would be some of the richer though)" and then, "husband and may (insert snort and snicker here) kiss the bride." Elvis leaned over and laid a small peck on my cheek (my first kiss) and it was all official. We were married. I was thrilled. My parents, while they indulged my overactive imagination, were not nearly as happy with my chosen husband as I was. I didn't understand.

You see I had chosen the son of THE prominent figure in our town. He was a Grand Wizard! Of what I didn't know or understand until later, but at the time it seemed such a very big deal. Everybody knew who Elvis' daddy was, and were, on some level, afraid of him. I thought it was a great match. Everybody knew my daddy, too. He was the Parks and Recreation Director- a public figure of great importance in a town the size of Hopkinsville. It was perfect.

For three weeks, I lived in wedded bliss. Elvis would walk by my house on his way to school to "pick me up." He would carry my books for me, and sometimes even hold my hand when no one was around. I was simply mad about him. In return, I would buy him cigarettes at the local Jiffy Mart when Mama sent me for groceries. We would meet on the BMX track behind our houses and trade: a peck on the cheek for a pack of Marlboros.

It was a fair deal, I thought. Until I got caught. My Mama was so mad at me she made me go to my room and sit in the dark for the whole night. I thought about running away to live with my husband's family, but I couldn't get my window open, so I just sat there, miserable, dreaming of my knight in black leather.

I wasn't allowed to buy groceries at the local store after that. Mama had called the owner and told him to, under no circumstances, allow me to purchase cigarettes (I had been telling him they were for her...believable story; she did smoke at the time). Without the cigarettes to bond us together, Elvis and I could find nothing in common. Our relationship disintegrated. He stopped walking by my house in the morning, or looking at me in the halls when we passed for lunchtime, or stopping to say,"Hi" when we were out riding on the BMX track. I went back to the fourth grader to file for divorce. We drew up an official document, signed in cursive and everything, but I had to have the fourth grader "represent" me....Elvis wouldn't even come to the door when I tried to serve him with the papers. I was devastated.

I later discovered that Elvis had been forbidden to see me shortly before our divorce. You see, my daddy had built a basketball court on the “colored” side of town. Elvis' daddy, being a Grand Wizard of the KKK and all, got upset and burned a cross in our yard. I didn't understand what burning crosses had to do with basketball or marrying Elvis, but it did open my eyes to a very cruel reality: people, in general, if left to their own devices, will, eventually, break your heart (especially really cool guys in black leather). I still don't know for sure if Elvis really loved me (and we were torn apart by his parent's bigotry) or my cigarettes (and we were torn apart by my parent's discipline), but I did finally figure out why my parents had discouraged our star-crossed union.

I still have those "official" documents. Both neatly printed on Red Chief tablet paper. The marriage license in ink, supposed to be permanent, forever. The divorce decree in pencil, I didn't want that to be permanent, in case Elvis decided cigarettes were less important to him than his young wife. Both signed in the shaky cursive of a third grader. One forged with all the innocent naiveté of a girl who had not yet begun to truly understand people and ulterior motives. One written with the desperate hope that some terrible misunderstanding had taken place and would all be worked out in time.

But both taught me a very valuable lesson: If you have to trade cigarettes for kisses, don't write anything in ink.

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