He’s in his fifties now and he’s got a nice house and a wonderful wife. He managed to make enough money working as the mundanes do, toiling away forty to fifty hours a week doing manual labor and maintaining a nondescript resume. He’s raised a few children, now all grown; his primary concern now is making sure his lawn isn’t the shabbiest in the neighborhood. As he pushes that mower with his high pompadour, people passing by can’t help but point and yell, “IT’S ELVIS!”
That’s what he does on the weekends, on weeknights, whenever he can fit it in. He’s Elvis. He doesn’t bother hiding this during the week, either. After all, one can only have a hairstyle so particularly out of date if they’re going to flaunt it with gusto. So, whatever his name is, he might as well be Elvis. Slaving in the factory, edging with the weed whacker, crooning in a bar. Whatever.
Still, this definitely wasn’t how he envisioned his life. He was young once; he was in love with the idea of making it big, energized by the music of Elvis Presley and others with whom he could match tones. He wasn’t looking to impersonate back then, not by a long shot. He fit in with the pack, he had the pipes, and with all signs pointing to yes, he pursued it.
These things rarely go smoothly. And in an age where few crooners were ever remembered past a one-hit single, his inability to even etch one song to vinyl certainly wasn’t promising. Still, he wrote a bit but mostly covered popular hits; he didn’t head out beyond a small circle of the region, but he honestly thought it would get him somewhere. And in a way, even after all of these years, he still does wonder if he’s going to get noticed.
Of course now he’s being noticed as he tends to his landscaping or when he goes grocery shopping, but it’s always as Elvis. And hey, you know, at least it’s being noticed, right?
She was rich, so why couldn’t she be famous, too?
That’s precisely what she was thinking when she headed out to the photo shoot that afternoon. She has her best friend taking the shots, posing all over the local nature center, looking hot and trendy next to the rock waterfalls and carefully-tended greenery. She was already designing the album covers in her head. She posed away, dollar signs and flash bulbs streaming from her eyes.
She had a hundred ideas as to how this was all going to work. Well, first of all, she was a singer. She joined a local church choir, not because she was religious whatsoever, but because that’s where a lot of her idols got their start. She was in the school choir, too. Both of these only lasted until she became sufficiently bored with them. The next idea was to get a guitar. With a guitar, you can be a rock star, you see. She had no idea how to play but she would take lessons or something. Or better yet, she would sing, and she would ask her parents to get her best friend guitar lessons so that they could start a band together. And did you know she could dance? She would dance all over her basement. Nothing structured, but it sure did look a lot like the stuff she saw on MTV.
All she had to do now was find someone to record her. She had no idea where to start and had no connections, but her parents had the wallet and she could get them to find out these things for her. She never wrote lyrics to a song in her life, let alone composed music at all, but she was sure that if she found someone to record her that it would all come together.
Her best friend gave her one of those earrings with half of a heart and “Be Frie” on it. Or maybe she got the “st nds” half; nobody remembers because the jewelry was long since lost. She told her friend that when she got famous, she would wear the earring every night she performed and tell everyone that she was her best friend. This made her best friend feel extremely gifted to have a friend like her.
With high school came a baby. Fame would have to wait.
He sits in the back of the dimly-lit bar. There are a chorus of half-drunk college girls at the microphones, screaming “Mickey” by Toni Basil, unafraid of the audience of twenty in front of them. It’s a karaoke night, sure, so there’s no pretention to be found. In fact, they may have gone one step too far past the line of non-pretention, as they now seem to be making a mockery of anyone who has ever stepped up to the mic with intentions of creating something worthwhile. But whatever — it’s karaoke night! To care about these things is to think about them far too hard.
Eventually, the giddy females sit down and giggle with their friends as the man hobbles up to the microphone. The familiar strains of Sinatra fill the air, and the elderly man bursts out in a bittersweet ultra-low baritone. He’s singing an octave lower, but that’s quite alright.
But like everyone else in the establishment, he’s been drinking. He’s been hitting the bottle rather hard, actually. Between verses, the man interrupts his own music. “I used to tour the world! I used to sing back-up for everyone!” he begins to exclaim, then dives back into the soulful tune. During the next brief pause, it’s “I was going somewhere! Then Vietnam! Vietnam, it took everything away from me!” before seamlessly floating back into the heartfelt tones that Frankie blew up worldwide.
“And you kids! You kids have no idea what good music is,” he’ll continue. And later, “Cancer stole my voice. I’m only a shell of what I used to be, I’m sorry.” He’s babbling, mostly incoherent, but still manages to wrap up the song in a manner so gorgeous that you nearly feel yourself floating back to the 1950s and swooning over the Rat Pack. He’s trying afterward to continue his woeful tales, but he’s escorted from the microphone so the next inebriated person can obliterate “What’s Up” by 4 Non Blondes.
Did you miss that night’s show? Come on back tomorrow; he’ll be there. Second verse, same as the first.
She might not be too old to make it, but there’s sort of an unspoken age limit on that sort of thing. Of course, it would help if she could sing in front of people without shaking like a leaf. And if she was prettier. And if she wasn’t stuck in a dead-end part of the world. And if… so many ifs.
She never really tried. And while she knows there is plenty of talent to be found, she knows the odds. She knows the embarrassment that comes with trying to be a big shot and failing miserably. She was never a big dreamer and set her sights on much more realistic means of achieving happiness. She would rather have the secret diva live inside than take the risk. At this point, well, time might have made that decision for her anyway.
Instead, she pours her heart out into every possible permutation that keeps her involved with music. She collects it, she can tie any conversation into it, she writes volumes upon volumes about it, and she reaches out to others who can use her expertise to benefit their own fledgling careers. While it may be far too much of a stretch for her to crash into the business herself, at least she feels some sort of solace knowing she’s as involved as she possibly can be.
Still, when nobody is around and her work is done, she wonders what might have happened if she had taken hold of that dream. Not with any bitterness, of course; she understands that she simply could never make it because of the way the world works. She sings for herself without shaking and is amazed at what she can’t manage to perform in front of anyone else. The feeling is fleeting and momentary, however, as there is always something more useful to be done that might help someone else achieve the dreams she couldn’t bring herself to have.
Don’t wake me up, not today, all my dreams will fade away,