I Saw Elvis Crying In The Chapel.
By Patrick Foley Plummer
(If you think Elvis is alive you are wrong. If you think Elvis is at rest you are also wrong. --------Las Vegas Book of the Undead)
[Author's preface: There is no artificial substance that precipitated this experience. I do not do drugs. In my daily practice of meditation I do not channel Angels, Saints, Buddha, Gods, Goddesses, Satan, the spirits of ancestors or Houdini. Occasionally I hear something from the Holy Spirit but only when I am really quiet. (I do not always follow Her revelations.) I am not subject to psychotic trances but would not have the self-awareness to know if I did. With all that said I feel I must relate, with some trepidation, the following experience.]
I became aware of soundlessness. This was startling because I usually can hear the sounds of nature and mechanical-man. There were no chirping birds or trees rustling in the breeze. No whoosh and clatter of traffic. No clocks, hiss of air-conditioning or hum of a refrigerator. There was no sound to transcend.
I have never experienced such silence. It was not as peaceful as I had expected it would be. I was not asleep and I was not awake. I was simply aware of the eerie inertness.
Only one thing to do: peak. Open one eye slightly to see what was going on and then return to the meditation. Just to ground myself. What I saw was even more alarming.
I was not in my home--not in my front room facing the Eastern light. I opened booth eyes wide and found myself standing alone in an empty room with white stone walls that gradually curved around me. There was no ceiling and the walls went up for an indeterminate distance and then faded into indigo.
Was I in some guided meditation? No, I gave them up. I found them too fallacious and self-serving of the guide.
I looked down at my body dressed in a long white robe made of plain cotton with long sleeves. A simple black thread hemmed the sleeves. The garment’s bottom touched the floor. Well, at least I did not have a harp.
This was it? No, I must be having some Biblical imagery meltdown. I am in a dream. But the hands, I recognized the large hands of Patrick Foley Plummer--a life I thought I was still living. There was one test--the left arm. It remained mutated from a compound-complex fracture. The bones were bent and weak all of my life. Pulling the sleeve back I noticed the two-inch scare was gone. I touched the forearm and it was perfect. In the afterlife our bodies became perfect. Those Christian mystics were right!
I became aware of a sound. It was a soft whisper repeating phrases. I was not certain of the language but recognized the cadence of a litany.
The voice was behind me. Turning around I saw an archway in the wall. Engraved in gold above the archway was the phrase “Ignis Fatuus.” Is there delusion on the other side?
The archway led from the anteroom into a larger square room with rows of pine pews. There was a lone figure at the other end of the chapel--the source of the whispering.
The walls were bare. I searched them for icons. There were none! Not one representation of any religion. No Crucifix, Star of David or Yin Yang symbol. No empty Zen circles or statues of Buddha. Not even one white haired old man or multi-armed woman. It was a plain and simple chapel.
The figure either was not aware or did not acknowledge my approach. He (I presumed the figure to be male) continued with his vespers completely absorbed in prayer.
The person was bald. This might be one hint as to the religious origin of the chapel. A Buddhist would shave his head. Is this Nirvana? It seemed disappointing but having only just arrived I should not judge the place too quickly.
The man was dressed in a long white robe with a high collar and garish gold trim. He was kneeling but slouched resting his butt on the pew. He was reading intently from a parchment. I stole a glance at the title: “Prayer of the inconsequent vertebrata.”
“What prayer is that?”
He quickly rolled up the parchment and turned and flashed luminescent blue eyes at me. The face seemed familiar. The large ears stuck out from the baldhead. The bone structure was long and handsome. The jaw line came down to a long point at the chin. But the most striking feature, or lack of one, was the fact that he had absolutely no body hair--not even eyelashes!
Where had I seen this face before? The nose had a thick bridge and large nostrils. The upper lip was thin and bottom lip full. He stared dispassionately at me and then smirked. The teeth, lips and eyes came together in the dimness of the chapel to form the face of Elvis.
“Is it really you?”
He grunted in a deep southern way, maybe saying yes and perhaps not speaking any language at all.
“What’s left,” he said without emotion.
“Is this what happens to us?”
“Its what’s happenin’ to me. And as soon as I get rid of this,” he indicated his body with a slow gesture, “I can stay with the rest.”
“Elvis, what about your hair?”
“Every time some fool imitates me I lose a hair. There are so many I can’t grow them back fast enough.”
“Even," I hesitated for a moment but my curiosity over came the embarrassing question. "Even the pubic hair?”
“That went first.” He touched his ear and muttered, “Then the side burns.”
It was true. Not one follicle remained.
"So many people tryin' to be me. Why? Why won't they leave me alone? Right now thousands are conjuring me up--putting on shades and sequins and shakin' their hips. Leave me alone!"
I wanted to change the subject--or object--whatever! I chose unwisely.
"Elvis, have you seen your mother?"
"Ma' ma?" His sad eyes pierced me and filled with tears. He was the saddest soul I'd ever seen.
"They won't let me see her." He looked away for a moment then wiped his face and shook his head. "No, that's a lie. I'm--I'm afraid to face her 'cause. . ." After an eternal pause, "I made such a mess of things back there."
Elvis laid his hairless head on my shoulder and sobbed. His head was weightless but his remorse bore down on me like a bale of wet tobacco.
I looked around this small chapel with its cold stone floor and walls. It was so dark I could not see the ceiling, if there was a ceiling. The pews were made of unfinished pine and the kneelers were austere and unpadded.
"Is this hell?" I asked.
"This?" Even Elvis had to think about it, which raised my anxiety.
"You don't know hell until you have to look back on what you did before. Not what you could of done, but what you did."
"Then this is purgatory?"
"You got the wrong religion. This is where I chose to be 'cause. . ."
"I can go back and do it right or stay here and become one with the rest."
"Go back--as in reincarnation?" The Hindus were right!
"You get one chance but it’s all the same life."
"I don't understand."
"I can see every life from now on and I chose to stay here. But, I can't go into the rest 'cause they keep makin' fun of me. Pretendin' to be me. Eventually, in a couple more centuries all the imitators will pass and I'll be free of my false self."
Holy smokes! The Buddhist were right!
“They’re all right,” Elvis said. He could read my mind.
“And all wrong,” I added, reading his.
The hairless Elvis stared at me with a twinkle in his cool eyes. One side of his mouth drew up until a fold appeared below his cheekbone to become the famous smile, smirk and sneer. This is Elvis! He still lived!
A beam of soft orange light fell upon his face and a drone of human voices began.
“Choir practice!” he said enthusiastically and stood up abruptly with renewed spirit.
"But, Elvis! I have so many questions."
"I don’t have any answers for you."
"Why me? Why'd you meet with me?"
Elvis chuckled to himself and then put his hairless hand on my shoulder.
"Two reasons. 'cause you didn't ask and you never dressed up like me."
Guilt raced through my being. I had "imitated" him at times: the voice, the pelvic thrust and hips.
"Just don't try to sing like me. I have to hear it and you're tone deaf. It's okay to listen to my music. . .but tell them to quit with the masquerade. . .well, it doesn't matter. They'll all die off. But it would be nice if they'd just let me be."
He moved toward an opening of the chapel where a bright white light shimmered. The droning sound coming from beyond the chapel was neither Gregorian nor Zen chant--not anything the human voice could replicate but only attempt to imitate.
As he stood in the light of the doorway his silhouette was recognizable even with the bald crown. Without turning to face me he raised up a right hand, paused and then walked out of the chapel.
What was beyond that opening? As I approached the passageway the unisonant sound reverberated in the stone room. I could hear his deep vibrato joining in for a moment and then it blended with the rest.
I caught a glimpse of him walking into the valley filled with people dressed in long white robes with high collars and garish trim. So the robe was not just Elvis's heavenly threads.
I watched his bald head in the masses but his image became too tiny within the countless throng that gathered around a crystal lake.
Light either reflected off or emanated from the lake. As they surrounded it on the valley's slope the optical illusion of a tunnel began to form.
When I looked up at what should be the sky I saw more multitudes. It was an Escheresque perspective and in every direction I saw the same swirling blend of humanity in a white background with tiny dots of heads of every color integrated and indistinguishable from each other.
All of this sight and sound tugged at my guts and vibrated my diaphragm. A sweet fragrance entered my nose and pallet. I tasted its honey and felt it fill my lungs. The sound was imposing and seductive. It drew me into the vortex and I began to feel on my collarbones the tiny points of the robe’s high collar beginning to grow.
I was about to take a step through the gateway from the simple chapel, to blend into the Supreme Soul, to be one with the All.
At the last moment I turned from the light and ran back into the chapel so abruptly that I stepped on the long robe and when sprawling onto the rock hard floor.
I put out my hands to brace my fall. My left wrist smacked the concrete. It throbbed from the impact. The forearm, so perfect a moment ago, had now returned to its twisted shape.
It was dark, and the aroma went from mystic to miasmic. The dank smell of mold and raw sewage replaced the heavenly sent. I felt the chill of the concrete floor gritty against my naked body. My eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness and I made out the small oblong window. I was in my basement in St. Louis.
I found my way to the light switch and looked in amazement at the junk filled basement. I was not certain if I was glad to be back.
For the last seven years I had meditated everyday to attain Union and when I apparently got the chance I bolted.
All that is left of the adventure is the fading memory of an incorporeal American icon stripped of his plumage.
His last request was to be left alone so that his spirit could join the rest.
Copyright 2002 by Patrick Foley Plummer
Crying in the Chapel
(words & music by Artie Glenn)
You saw me crying in the chapel.
The tears I shed were tears of joy
I know the meaning of contentment
Now I am happy with the Lord
Just a plain and simple chapel
Where humble people go to pray
I pray the Lord that I'll grow stronger
As I live from day to day
I've searched and I've searched
But I couldn't find
No way on earth
To gain peace of mind
Now I'm happy in the chapel
Where people are of one accord
We gather in the chapel
Just to sing and praise the Lord
Ev'ry sinner looks for something
That will put his heart at ease
There is only one true answer
He must get down on his knees
Meet your neighbor in the chapel
Join with him in tears of joy
You'll know the meaning of contentment
Then you'll be happy with the Lord
You'll search and you'll search
But you'll never find
No way on earth
To gain peace of mind
Take your troubles to the chapel
Get down on your knees and pray
Your burdens will be lighter
And you'll surely find the way