I am standing in front of the stone walls of Graceland. They’re covered with names from all over the world. I wasn’t going to take a picture but there’s a Weeping Willow. I love Weeping Willows; I don’t even know if there’s one in Jackson. When I was little I liked to run through them, and feel the gentle fronds brush against my face. I thought of them as a character in a book: capital W, capital W. They weren’t necessarily sad, just ancient, majestic, filled with knowledge: like Aslan. Weeping Willow. Even the name is beautiful, like something I would name a plantation or a mansion if I ever made the money, bought up an old place outside of Minter City. I mash the big red button, but there’s just a dry click, and no whirr.
I am sitting in the stands of Bryant-Denny. I’m laughing because my Pop won’t use the crimson and white shakers they put on all the seats. Men of a certain age won’t; it’s unspoken but well understood. I have decided that I will give in a jump around to all the dumb songs that I was sick of even back in 1992. When “Thunderstruck” comes on, Pop starts to cheer, and I say “don’t you feel bad for grounding me from this concert now?!” He throws his head back and laughs, and the tall guy next to me who looks like Vince Vaughn starts cracking up, he can’t help it. He really did ground me, but Amy Leath brought me a fake dollar bill with Angus’ face on it, one of thousands they dropped from the ceiling during “Money Talks.” I’m just as happy 20 years later with being able to say I got grounded from seeing AC/DC as to remember the show. I wish I knew where that Angus dollar was.
The Vince guy is wearing one of the rented radio earphones, which lets me know that he is both hardcore and also probably a guy I like. He wants to hear what Eli Gold is saying about the game. He is not afraid to use the shaker. He also flips it around and uses it to stir bourbon into his co-cola. He’s got the same flask I have: heavy pewter, with his initials stamped into it. Every groomsman in America probably has one. I jacked the top of mine up at a Drivin’N’Cryin’ concert one time, couldn’t get it open. Mine has sat empty and cold for the better part of four years now. Maybe I should give it to somebody who could use it, but it feels like giving somebody an obligation, or a bomb.
There is an older couple in front of us. The man stands, gingerly; he’s wearing a khaki coat. We’re in section N, high up, just under the overhang, so the driving but gentle rain rarely reaches us. The wife doesn’t stand so well. She has the close cut white-gray crewcut of a cancer survivor. Maybe she just likes it short. It looks good; like an Emmylou Harris color, silvery shot through with dark gray. After Bama scores in the 4th on another run by T.J., the man leans in, and they kiss very softly, very sweetly.
The picture from Graceland didn’t turn out, but I kept it just the same. I’m going to smear an inky red thumbprint on the blank lemon-colored front, scrawl an apology on it, and mail it across the ocean. I don’t even know where yet. A bottle in the ocean with the same message on bloody parchment, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, it was all my fault.