By Joy Curci
I have worked as a cleaning lady for 14 years. One of my favorite customers of all time was old Mrs. Avadesian. She was wiry, like a spring, and seemed to bounce constantly, her white bun flying this way and that. I'm not sure how old she was, but I do know she buried the last of her six children a few years ago, all of whom had been on Social Security for some time. I knew something else about Mrs. Avadesian that no one in her family, not even her six children or any of her friends, ever knew. It was our little secret. Mrs. Avadesian was crazy about Elvis.
That discovery came quite by surprise one morning when I caught her hiding something behind her back as I walked into the living room. "Oh, my!" she stammered, backing away. We stood facing each other for what seemed like a long time. Her eyes looked this way and that, then tentatively into mine, testing my loyalty and searching for camaraderie. She found it and her face lit up. She decided to share her special secret with me. Out came the secret in living color - that is, in faded living color: Elvis himself, smiling up at us both from a 1956 Teen Magazine with that "I am the King and I am one smokin' dude" grin. I looked up at Mrs. Avadesian. Her face was flushed.
Every Wednesday after that, the King came to Mrs. Avadesian's house for a personal visit. At exactly 9 A.M., I'd haul my cleaning stuff over to her tottering Victorian home and there'd she be, pacing nervously back and forth near the front window. She'd be dressed to the nines in her white appliquéd organza wedding dress, a single strand of tinted pearls and pink satin slippers. It was also the morning her hair came down. Pin by pin she would loosen her bun, until silky silver tendrils drifted down, framing her face. Her face was an explosion of color against old bleached canvas: pearly pink, iridescent lips, magenta eye shadow placed in the general vicinity of her lids and tomato-red cheeks. She'd wait in the parlor and then, my cleaning done, I'd march right over to the old Victrola, reach into my cleaning bag and pull out our new treasure - a somewhat scratchy but perfectly usable copy
of "Elvis' Greatest Hits" that I fought for and won at a yard sale.
I'd walk over to Mrs. Avadesian, take her tiny hand, bow and lead her onto the dance floor. After a measure or two, Elvis would join us from the Victrola in the corner, and there on the beat of three, we would all get crazy.There was Elvis beboppin' about his "burnin' love," and Mrs. Avadesian and her white organza wedding dress, flapping and flipping and tripping everywhere but loose, her pink satin slippers burning up the rug.
We were "all shook up," yelling and yelping and jumping up and down. When we thought we couldn't take it for one more minute, Elvis turned up the pace with "Jailhouse Rock." He was relentless. He exhausted us. We begged him, "Please, Elvis, 'don't be cruel.'" For the grand finale, Elvis serenaded us and swore to us his undying love and devotion. That's when I'd swoop Mrs. Avadesian up in my arms and waltz her across the floor. We took turns leading as our man crooned "Love Me Tender."
And he did. Every Wednesday morning, for all the Wednesdays Mrs. Avadesian had left.