This is terrific. You are a great writer.
I knew a girl who sent Elvis a valentine card every year.
She would go out shopping specifically for a card to send him, taking the time and patience to pick out one that he would enjoy. Many hours would go into the deliberations before a card was finally picked. Even more time would go into the note she would write to him on the inside cover of the card. Dozens of ideas would be jotted down and sorted through until a suitable one was settled on, and several drafts would be fussed over endlessly before she painstakingly spelled out her six or eight lines of heartfelt sentiment (which she would share with no one, words known only to her and Mr. Presley) in a meticulously flowing script. Finally, a scented envelope was selected, sealed, and adorned with postage bearing the King of Rockís own likeness before she lovingly tucked Elvisí Valentine into the large metal box marked USPS.
For me, the most important part of this ritual of hers is the postage. According to guidelines set forth by the United States Postal Service, no living person can have their face represented on a postage stamp. So, Elvis on postage stamp equals dead Elvis.
I pointed this out to her when I saw it as the final straw of my credulity. Sending a valentine to a dead celebrity was odd enough by itself, I reasoned, but fixing an item to the envelope that was ultimately indicative of the celebrityís demise bordered on an insult to the concept of reality itself.
Her simple reply was that I didnít understand. I agreed wholeheartedly.
When I first became aware of her unrequited valentines in 1987, she had just mailed her fourth, which meant that her first Elvis-Be-Mine had been mailed six years after he had been effectively stricken from the Eligible Living Bachelors list. I found this even a greater hurdle for my comprehension to clear. I explained to her how I would almost understand if she had been sending Elvis the cards before he died, and had continued to do so out of respect and honor for the popular performer. But starting afterward just seemed creepy, bordering on some perverse form of hero-worship necrophilia.
She tried to explain to me that she didnít expect a reply. I pointed to this as a possible glimmer of sanity.
If she was well aware that Elvis would not be picking her card out of the mailbox from the great beyond, then what did she think happened to it? If some postal clerk didnít stamp Return to Sender on the envelope with an ironic little chuckle and send it back to her, odds were that it was either destroyed, read by someone in charge of his Estate who laughed at it and threw it away, or saved with any other posthumous fan mail until there was enough to warrant a Guinness Book of World Records entry. At the best she was generating expensively sentimental recycling refuse, at the worst she was setting herself up for being mentioned on the evening news after the waterskiing squirrel.
An enigmatic smile was the only response my logic ever got me.
I urged her to consider the slippery slope her sanity was sliding along. What would be next if she kept this up? Birthday cards for Buddy Holly? Holiday Greetings for John Lennon? How long would it be until she degenerated to sending invitations to long deceased historical figures and becoming saddened or enraged when they didnít RSVP?
Her silence at this point would always fool me into believing I had won the argument. She knew better. I didnít.
Itís been over a decade since Iíve seen her last, and she had already banked over a dozen Elvis Valentines before we finally parted ways. Iíll always remember her as the most down to earth person Iíve ever known, and yet a Valentine day does not go by without her peculiar obsession taking over my thoughts. Her actions still donít make sense to me, but Iíve grown old and wise enough to understand why.
Like most people, I still see emotions like love and desire as a two-way communication, and not mere expression. When I like or love someone, there is a part of me that will always expect that fondness to be returned, for the emotion to be validated in some way, shape, or form. Not receiving the same attention does no necessarily diminish these feelings, as they often become the proverbial heart growing fonder in the absence of mutual affection, and just the anticipation of such a delayed confirmation is often enough to keep it going beyond reason.
Sending Valentineís to Elvis appears ludicrous on the surface, but maybe this is because most people have stopped trying to look beyond it. Unrequited love is often viewed as a noble self sacrifice bordering on emotional martyrdom, but this is because weíve been tricked into believing that we deserve something in return, and that our love is wasted if it we donít gain from it. But it has to be more complicated than that, otherwise weíre nothing more than barterers of affection, traders in desire and need.
I hope Elvis is still getting his Valentines, because as long as he is, thereís still a little hope for the rest of us.
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Comments 1 to 5 of 5