Elvis has left the building. There it went again, that phrase, one of many, the origin of which she couldn't quite fathom. Elvis had died when she was sixteen. She hadn't even been particularly fond of Elvis other than in a kind of evolutionary way, the primeval stirrings of a future, more sophisticated taste in music. Up until then, he had been there somewhere in her unconscious, a pelvis gyrating in the amniotic fluid, a precursor to Cliff Richard, Dr No and the assassination of JFK. So she wondered why she couldn't shake off these five words niggling at her day and night, especially at night when she sank into her pillow and went to the place where she let go of her daytime worries.
The Elvis of her unconscious was untouchable and multitudinous. At night time, he danced and sang, wowing audiences across several continents simultaneously. The Elvis in her dreams had lunch with her dead grandmother, organised tropical parties and built vast castles for his own occupation in every state. He could fold napkins into swans, swim up Niagara Falls and if ghosts threatened to engulf him with their angry, rotten mouths and bulging, green eyes, he could fly at them and make dissolve into a heap of nothing-dust on the floor. This Elvis was someone to be admired and feared but most importantly, someone to inhabit. At least for the duration of her dreams.
Now, if you thought that Elvis' life sounded complicated, then I must tell you that her life - the one that other people saw - was a complete shambles. She lurched from one man to another, one job to another and one town to another; the only notable change in her would have been the lines on her brow and the sagging of her stomach together with her willpower not to sink underground and completely give up. Elvis probably kept her going even if she didn't notice. Perhaps he was even relieved that she never actually asked him to sing, that he could just do his thing, whatever that was. And so they were a fine pair in ignorance of each others' needs. They would have carried on that way too if hadn't been for the writing course.
What happened next was as unplanned and unexpected as the manifestation of Elvis serving at the Meat & Fish counter in the local supermarket. Running out of new directions to take, she'd signed up at the local college, hoping to find her perfect man. She didn't even believe in taking courses but it made a change from the singles nights at the wine bar or smiling at sweaty men on rowing machines. What happened was that she stopped running and Elvis caught up with her.
What happened was that she learned to write and Elvis started speaking onto the page, uninvited. Before she knew what was happening, Elvis was popping out all over the place. Sometimes, he distracted her and she forgot where she was going. But this was good. She learned to follow Elvis without thinking about anything at all and discovered that what he had to say or do was often far more interesting than any of her grand schemes. She learned that each time Elvis was about to leave the building, she should follow because you just never knew what would happen next. The niggling feeling became more of a tingling and she felt a certain smugness that she knew where Elvis was hiding, that she could uncover him bit by bit in her writing.