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Welcome To ENN - One Last Night...

One Last Night

What if?

By Patricia Garber



        The evening of August fifteenth, nineteen seventy-seven, was like most summer nights, in the south, moist and hot. The kind of night when a single inhaled breath possessed a soft, damp feeling, both pleasant and uncomfortable. I imagine it to have been a night of opposition. While excitement brewed in the heavens, grief lingered, mixing in the breeze. Come morning, a storm of tears would blow across the earth.

        Elvis Presley spent his last night, unaware of his destiny. Instead, he played a late-night game of racquetball, enjoying some private time with family. A lot has been reported about the events of that fateful night. Some would say, Elvis was light-hearted, excited. Not only about his up-and-coming tour but his recent engagement to Ginger Alden as well. While others say, he was ready for a change, both in management and his life, planning a much needed rest after this tour. Still some, unbelievably, try to convince us that on his last night on earth, with his adored daughter sleeping just a few doors down, a man, who both loved and feared God, took his own life. No matter what you believe, I ask you to forget about the controversy that follows this night. Forget about the rumours and often heartless words that try to chip away at his memory. Instead, let’s take a journey together. Let’s spend this last night with him, the man we love, no matter the circumstances above. Will you join me?


      Graceland is especially peaceful at night. Not even the hum of civilization can be heard from up on this hill. Standing in Meditation Gardens, we watch as streams of water burst into the air, lifting our hearts, before cascading back into a fountain before us. The garden is not a cemetery, on this night, friend. Rather it’s a place of prayer and the statue of Jesus reminds us he is there. We look up to the wonder of a clear southern sky. Like a black canvas, painted in bursts of light. We are moved by what only The Almighty could create. Smiling to each other, we understand the peace we both feel in this special place.

      Suddenly, hilarity captures our attention from just around the bend. Can you hear it? We have heard this heartfelt laughter before. It calls to us and we follow its beckoning. Together we stroll, careful not to stay onto the freshly cut grass, towards the source of this joyous resonance. A soft light illuminates our way as we approach the large white building, just around the bend. Rising Sun, Elvis’ palomino, enjoys a late-night snack from the lush pastures of Graceland. He briefly pauses and seems to consider us. We stop to admire his long white mane, shining against the night, before continuing to the racquetball centre. We feel welcomed here and Elvis is expecting us.

     Upon entering, the sound of rubber soled shoes, gripping the floor, greets us. The smell of musk and leather prickles our noses. Elvis is here and this is where we want to be.  Stalled at the top of the stairs, we are momentarily awed as we take in our new surroundings.

     Running about, inside a playing court, separated by glass, are two grown men acting as if they were merely children. They pause in their play. Panting heavily; they turn to consider the new arrivals. Elvis, dressed in a dark jogging suite, encourages us to sit down with a simple wave of his hand.  An easy smile spreads across his Angelic face.

    Come on in, watch your step.

      We descend into the room, soaking it all in. A stand up piano, against the wall, captures our attention. Like kids in a candy store, our eyes begin to glow. A song is imminent. For now, however, a heated game of racquetball ball is taking place between two family members, with a history of cousin-rivalry. Keeping our eyes on the game, we slide on to the brown, seventies style, leather couches, set up for visitors to watch the show. Shifting eagerly, we glance at each other and give out a light chuckle. Not as comfortable as we imagined? Do we care? Not a bit. 

      Watching the movement inside the court, we soon realise the game has taken a turn. A game with rules and boundaries has quickly become a game of war. Each man appears eager to slam a tinny rubber ball against the other. Elvis makes every effort to ricochet this blue object off his cousin’s small frame. Laughing and cursing flow freely from inside the playroom. We join in, both amused and entertained. Soon, we see hands raised high in the air, a white flag of surrender. 

       Elvis exits the game room a champion. With his chest out and a broad smile across his face, he approaches us. We hold our breath and savour the sight, as he leans over to make our acquaintance. Small beads of sweat appear on a face that is perfect, even for Heavens standards. Can he offer us a drink, he asks, and turns, hoisting his pants like the King of the castle. Neither of us speaks as he fetches himself a bottle of water.  

      Did we have a look around his beautiful Graceland?

      It’s lovelier then we could ever have imagined, we admit openly.

     Seemingly happy with our response, his smile beams. We can’t help but study him. Heavier than normal, he carries himself as gracefully as he ever did. This added weight does not dishearten us. He is as beautiful as ever.

       Drink in hand and a towel now draped around his neck, Elvis crosses the room. Our collective hearts skip a beat as the piano becomes his desired resting-place. Pulling out the stool, he takes a seat. Placing his drink within reach, he gives his attention to the ivory keys before him. The room goes silent as he familiarizes himself with the instrument. He finesses the keys in a moment of reintroduction. A shy smile conveys his amusement and or bashfulness over this fumbling. He plays the piano wonderfully but he’s too humble to ever admit it. We adore his modesty.

       Do we have a request?

       A million songs pass through our thoughts; “How Great Thou Art”, “Unchained Melody”, just to name a few. However on this night, a song has already been predestined.

      Anything he wishes to play, we will love.

      Smirking, he begins to plunk out chopsticks, clanking, for our amusement. He laughs, wholeheartedly, at his own joke and admits he’s only foolin’ around.  Dear Lord above, we love him.   

      Turning, he begins to play a song of his choice. The music is rich and it fills up the room, overwhelming our ears with its greatness. He plays with ease and his slim fingers float over the keys, as if of their own will. Our hearts sore and just when we think it can’t be any more wonderful, he opens his mouth to sing.  Like a voice from paradise, “Blue Eye’s Crying In The Rain”, lifts our soul to new heights. His rich tenor speaks of a love, lost on earth, only to be reunited in heaven.  We feel his words, more than he can ever know. Glancing our way, he smiles; pleased we are happy with his tune of choice.

      We love it. You have the voice of an angel, we exclaim.

     This is to be the last song Elvis will ever sing. I’m glad we were there.

        The night is getting late and he starts a big tour tomorrow. He needs his sleep. Sadly, we know sleep won’t come for him on this night, of all nights. He will struggle with slumber tonight, as he does most nights, lying awake, wishing rest would finally come.

        Though aware our time is ending, we reluctantly follow him out.  Trailing behind him now, a profound sadness lingers. How we missed it before, we cannot say. He turns to say his goodbyes and his eyes, once bright and playful, appear uneasy. Only the sound of a cricket can be heard over our combined heartbeats. Unspoken words seem to hang in the air, pleading for us to speak them.

      We love you, you know? We whisper into the night.

      A shy smile spreads across his face.

      I love you to.  He says, his voice cracking with emotion and his eyes averting to the ground.

     I fear, you may soon change your mind.

      No, we tell him, nobody can change how we feel. No person, no cruel media and no written words to paper can ever change our devotion. A momentary look of surprise flickers across his face. He must wonder how we know what troubles him but we did not speak of it.  

      We understand the difference between the image and the man, we tell him.

   Smiling, his eyes soften and his arms open wide.  We rush to hug our final goodbyes.

      Come back and see me, I will be here, he tells us.

   A tear runs down our cheek, but it is not of our own.  Elvis is crying.

      We will be back and we will bring many more with us.

   Thousands to be exact but that is another story, meant for another day.

      A big ole love-in? We’ll give the Beatles a run for their money, he jokes.

     Our laughter spills out into the night, softening this moment of sadness.  We hold back the need to tell him, he will soon surpass all artists, becoming the “Artist of the Century”.   

     Someone should walk y’all to your car, he suddenly mentions, concerned for our safety. We will be careful, we assure him and we pull away from his side.

     There will be no late-night vigil at his bedside tonight. No insistent, admission to the nearest hospital. It is simply time to go.

      Heading down Graceland’s drive, we hold each other’s hand, keeping the other from racing back. We cannot change destiny. Only now, away from his presence, can we shed our grief.  The tears flow freely and sorrowfully.  Glancing back to Elvis, now only a shadowy figure in the night, we watch as he keeps an eye on our departure. He gives us an easy wave and our bodies begin to shake with the emotion we have been holding at bay. Wrapping our arms around each other, we know it will take the strength of both of us, every fan, to help us leave. We cannot go back my friend. Remember, this was only for one night.

      Exiting the gates of Graceland, we turn, praying for one last look. As the big iron gates close, we grip the bars, eagerly looking for Elvis but he is gone. The house is dark and fate still beckons. Our bodies, weak with grief, crumble to the ground. I hold you and you hold me. We are all we have now friend. Together we scream out into the night.

      No, no... We cry! 


      Please God... We beg!


      Don’t take a man who has touched so many, when I have touched so few!


      Take me!


      Take us all!


      Just don’t take this earthly King!

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