The first sighting was on a flight to Beijing. She had just taken her seat when she saw a man wearing a San Diego Padres cap walking down the aisle toward her. She stared hard at him, heart racing and aching. The flat bill of the baseball cap covered his eyes but she could see a familiar clenched jaw and pursed lips. It’s him, she gasped. An instant later, he turned to place his bag in an overhead bin and the resemblance vanished. But the aching heart remained.
For the rest of the flight, she caught little glimpses of him in the man’s jaws and lips whenever he turned his head, spoke to the flight attendants, or nodded off into the aisle. By the time they landed in Beijing, she had made a game of it.
She had carried on like this for years, collecting his scattered pieces wherever she went. She caught his eyes across crowded restaurants, strolled past the bridge of his nose in Central Park, ran an imaginary hand through his hair at a concert in Istanbul. Once, she even saw his bony shoulders running shirtless on an overpass fifty feet above her morning commute.
She began recording these “Elvis” sightings in her diary. It comforted her to see him in bits and pieces, reassembled in her mind, by her own handwriting, scattered across the world and yet safely tucked away in the drawer of her bedside table.
Ten years after he left her, she was wandering the streets of London’s West End when she saw a vintage poster for Jailhouse Rock in the window of a café. She reached out to graze the image of Elvis Presley through the glass, running her fingers along his black-and-white striped shirt and his precariously buckled knees. He was almost as beautiful as her Elvis.
At that moment, she heard a voice behind her and a hazy reflection appeared in the window.
“Hello,” he said. She recognized the deep but tentative voice and spun around to meet it. It was really him this time.
“Elvis,” she whispered before covering her mouth with her hand.
“What?” His eyes narrowed. “No. It’s me.”
She looked up at him. All of the pieces were there. The jaw, the lips, the eyes, the bridge of his nose, the hair, the shoulders. There were no seams or stitches, no smudges of ink on a page, nothing holding him together. He was whole and unbroken and nothing like the Elvis she had assembled in her mind and in her diary all those years.
“I’m sorry.” She shook her head. “I don’t know you.”