In his house, there are beautiful things. In the
Jungle Room, there are statues of monkeys and a
waterfall. In the Pool Room, there is a twist of tapestry
for a ceiling. There is red and gold everywhere. He,
himself, is a work of beauty-sideburn, lip, pelvis.
What's known as a human god. Above men, though with them.
Born among us. However different. He brings the heavens
down to earth, down to his satin sheets. And I am a bit
of the heavens to him. The King wants me, in his desire.
The King desires me in his wanting for the love that he
wants and can have. When I open my legs to him, I will
give him his have, and for myself take away the
one-in-a-hundred chance the Pill will fail (they made me
prove I was taking the Pill; I have signed forms
relinquishing rights against the King, which seems right,
for them, but as for me I recognize no right offered or
kept and saved under any but the condition of loving and
the going down of feeling where both get at it and make
with it) and I will have his child. His only beloved son.
To be in this world, through my womb, loins. Though this
is not all.
I do not open my legs for just any man. I am
twenty-one years of age and I have had my chances. Very
few women save themselves anymore. I do not blame
them-there are too many reasons. I also have my reasons.
But now when I measure out my reasons they do not touch
my yearnings: I am complete and untouched for him and to
be by him. That is all I need to know.
In the upstairs hallway we are there for him. And I
would like to know, what is the right ratio between king
and person? And what is the degree of virginity he truly
wants and needs? Because I can tell that some of these
women do not have enough. I can hear them saying,
"It doesn't count," but we know. I can almost
see the hinges in their hips in the corners of their
Still, I like to think that we, we seven, are all
virgins. He likes virgins. Seven per night, when he is
not out of town. All seven in some way, though it may
take fourteen to sixteen hours. That's what we talk
about, if we talk. How he has treated other women. But we
have no way of knowing, now do we? But all of us, and
feeling it, we do, we can still tell all of us, to
ourselves, stories of how it's been for other women with
him, even as, and I know this, we all think of ourselves
as the one for him, the one he'll remember, and maybe
"I heard he's . . . I heard it's not so
big," says one of them, blonde.
"You can say 'cock,'" says another.
"Don't say it," a second blonde says.
"You women are weird to be squeamish."
"This is dignity?"
"You're not a virgin."
"Oh yes I am."
"Your attitude . . ."
"Is why I'm here."
"If he finds out you're not a virgin . . ."
"He'll do something," says the second
"He'll send us all home," the first blonde
says, eyeing her friend and nodding, but now it seems
like a routine the blondes are doing for each other. And
suddenly I know they will go in together.
"Don't worry, girls. I'll bleed. Believe
"He won't know the difference," I put in,
They all look at me, meanly. I cannot please the King,
I worry, but in my not pleasing him I will know that he
and I are not the same and I am bringing myself to the
King as a person from the world and he cannot have me.
We seven, counting the one in there now, we seven, we
represent the continents. I am the continent of America
and I recognize no other. I have come by bus though I
have the money to fly. I have the money to fly because I
work for a living in the United States.
Billy Zip is a boy I used to love and now undate every
Saturday night when we don't go out. Billy Zip is a zero.
Is a nothing. In the city of Milwaukee on Forty-third
Street, against a Harnischfeger building, he touched what
only Elvis must touch, against the building, with beer,
always with beer, on his breath. He wrecked the zipper of
my winter coat, opened it from the bottom, and his hands
coming up my sweater touched my warm roll of belly. The
ice. My scream had a cloud to it. So cold. "Cold
bitch," he said.
You ain't no friend of mine, I said, in my mind. If
only he knew his unfriendliness. If only he knew which
side of the song to be on-the side of needing but not
getting, of being frustrated but respectful. The side
Elvis himself sings so well. I ran away from him. He
chased me down Forty-third Street. I got across National
because I wasn't afraid of the cars. I ran across
Forty-third Street-they got brakes. I was running from
all of those factories, machine shops, ball-bearing
plants. The five-story factories with big walls of
windows made of small windows, and the cement first
story, and the employees' entrance at some unexpected
I kept running down Forty-third Street and then kept
walking until I was looking into County Stadium from way
behind the centerfield bleachers. I walked down the hill.
I wandered the parking lot, crazy as a loon. And nearby
were the spirits of great men. Here all the men did their
best and the people cheered. There was my job-secretary.
If a company is a body, then the secretary is a-it was
exactly what I knew. I had seen this. I knew it was just
a matter of time before one of them got to me. And I'd
end up in a duplex on Fortieth Street, so his walk to
work would be short, and so for his bar: Pip's, Irene's,
Bindy's, Gene's, Dave's, Dale's, Dee's, The Happy Tap,
The Cellar, The Attic, The Cave, Vince and Dottie's
Christmas Tree Inn, Cookie's Tap Room, George's Unit Bar,
Mike's Overtime Tap, The Corner Pocket, The Back Door,
The Second Shift, The Starlight, The Peppermill, The
Schoolhouse. Neon beer signs between the concrete and
brick factories and the wood and aluminum flats. It was
time to devote myself, before he got me, whoever he was,
and made me open my legs and then it would be all over.
No, it will never be over. I save money religiously. I
never spend it. I never want to be without as much money
as possible. So I can be on my own if I need to. And this
is how we see how this is what it is. The money that the
King has as being what he does for us and the money I
have as being what I can be to me. If necessary. And to
be balanced. And to know. To know that this is the thing:
to be with the other women, and still yet to be by myself
in his beautiful house. Rehearsing things to say in my
head: "I believe you are a person, Mr. Presley. I
believe that entitles you to my love and so your love can
come to me, if it would, out of you. Us, as people, and
right now, giving and getting what is known as love, sung
into our one brain of need by you yourself, for us and
yourself at once-thus the need for mutual feeling,
because we have to go down and make this thing together,
as people, for the magic to be what it can be when we
just think about it, later, for then after you'll be the
The door opens. The first girl comes out, in a
jumpsuit and big hoop earrings. She tilts her head so her
blonde hair falls over her face, but then we can see the
dark roots where the hair that she will always be having
come out of herself is coming out, still. A small man
with thin black hair, in an off-white leisure suit with
large patch pockets, comes out of his post further down
the hall. He's holding a transistor radio to the side of
his head. He meets her and she takes his elbow. He winks
as they go by, whispers, "Ali, TKO, in the
fifteenth." He bluffs an uppercut with his radio
hand. I can almost smell his shiny black shoes through
the cloud of our mingled perfumes. I can almost smell the
leather case on the radio, which, to all of us, and I
know this, broadcasts some different message to each of
us, from where we come from, for just a second. And then,
in the next second, but just for a second, and I know
this, we all think of what, now, the man, Ali, needs.
I have told myself that I have thought of the needs of
men too many times in too many ways. I have seen the bra
burners and I have fingered their literature. There is
time to consider what the magazines are saying. There are
worlds opening that were never open before, just as there
are legs that must never open and that there are legs
that will open, still, I have no doubt, despite
everything, and I think, is this it, Is this the way with
Mr. Presley? Is this the way? But when a man sings a
beautiful song, and is who he is, who among us can resist
on a new principle? The strong can resist and the rest of
us go down in loving flames, in hunks of burning love, in
between what happened and what will happen.
(The man told us through the gate, He'll be home
tonight, come on in, let's have a look at you.)
By way of good-bye the redhead rises before me to her
feet, pulls in adjustment the strap over the heel of her
foot, of the spiked heel she wears and totters forward
on. And I know unprepared in her mind, something blank is
all she has, because she's not thinking of what to do
with this: she's just happening to herself, not even with
the King, though he hips between her open legs. Who can
be a redhead? Who can be a blonde and a brunette and a
So to save money religiously I took the bus from
Milwaukee to Memphis, to have a go at the King. The only
man who's worth it. The only man who would be worthy of
ruining me and dragging me down.
But don't you know, Miss Redhead, that to be prepared
in your mind is all that everything depends on if it's
part of anything you live on? So and when I kiss him it
will be to kiss that man who waits for me at a pool table
at a bar on Greenfield Avenue, in the shadow of
Allis-Chalmers, and Rexnord, and Briggs & Stratton
and the P & H Harnischfeger Corporation. At the south
side of the valley which splits the city of Milwaukee and
takes train tracks across its soft belly, south of where
the freeway goes, south of Pigsville, south of the Miller
Brewery, south of County Stadium where the teams of men
play. And when I kiss the King it will be so I can kiss
that man later with a mouth made by King kisses and by my
imagination into the mouth I had and always will have.
The legs I got and will have. The opened legs. And I know
that all of them are men, and only men, when the two are
naked and the woman opens her legs. And I choose among
men, with a man, how it makes a value, and to live by.
And I will bring the King's value with me, because I will
have made it with him with my own hands and body, my own
imaginary hands, body, when I finally lay my true husband