JARED needs to use the bathroom, very badly. He’s nervous because he hasn’t used the one at work yet, even though he’s been employed at the White House for a year now, longer if you count the transition, which, depending on which lawyer you talk to, definitely counts. IVANKA is reclining on her new fainting couch and scrawling notes on SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS’s press materials. She’s not speaking to her since she began referring to herself professionally as “Sarah Sanders.” GENERAL MATTIS, still dressed as Santa Claus, enters. KUSHNER DAUGHTER has joined him. She’s dressed as an elf and persuading her COLLEAGUES to buy gifts for the family the White House has adopted this holiday season.
IVANKA [calmly, to JARED]: Use my father’s. [IVANKA exits to deliver SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS her notes. She’s written, “The stench of nepotism must trail you forever,” on every single piece of paper the press secretary might rifle through.]
KUSHNER DAUGHTER [to JARED]: Use Grandpa’s what?
GENERAL MATTIS [whispering]: It appears the prospect of using a work toilet is causing your father to panic. Your mother suggests he use the President’s private bathroom. But I’m not sure if she is purposefully setting him up for failure, or if she knows the President’s palatial commode will relax him. There is a television in there, from what I understand.
[KUSHNER DAUGHTER locks eyes with her father and nods her head. She’s not convinced her mother is not not setting JARED up for failure, but she can also tell that he really has to go, and she doesn’t want him to humiliate himself further, at least until ROBERT MUELLER has wrapped up his investigation. JARED tiptoes to TRUMP’s door and is about to knock, until he hears STEVE BANNON urging the President to try something, reassuring him it’s only Velveeta and Pace Picante Sauce melted together. He recoils instinctively. KUSHNER DAUGHTER shakes her head to herself and begins reviewing the adopted family’s wish list with GENERAL MATTIS.]
GENERAL MATTIS [incorrectly]: I think a family in rural Ohio would like to read about President Ulysses S. Grant, yes.
“Are we dead and is this Hell?” —Ghost of Gary
Probably not and no. Reality isn’t changing. We’re just allowing people to make us think it’s changed. It’s as if everything that has happened before has evaporated away. Not that everything was all that great. But everything now possibly minus the stock market is decidedly not great. And what we’re left with is a tall glass of brown gunk. Which they will try to convince you is delicious lemonade. It is not. It never was and never will be. You will just have to be strong and not let them wear you down. Because boy are they trying to wear you down.
Maybe the USA was never all that great. But we talked a good game for a very long time. It has maybe always been great for rich white guys. They write most of the laws and histories and make most of the movies. We only had one big stupid civil war. And we only fought in a million stupid other wars, horribly mistreated women and minorities forever. Wrecked other people’s countries all the time. Possibly this is payback. But it’s just so insulting to everyone’s intelligence all the time that it makes intelligence a symptom of unhappiness. Smart people are more susceptible to mental illness. So, if you’re smart, you may want to make yourself more stupid. Read The New York Post and watch Fox News, that will surely help.
Weren’t we just here? Wasn’t it moments ago that we were waking up to a new week, full of dread and barely able to drag ourselves to the starting line? Didn’t we just complain about how exhausted we were and wonder how much more we could take? I guess the good news is I can copy and paste this exact block of text over and over again until it finally all comes down, because we live in a world where it’s always like this now. Here’s some music. Enjoy.
★★★ Snow had appeared, just like that, and was already finishing up. There was just enough to newly trace things; the sidewalks in view down across the avenue were bare and wet. The clouds, their work done, went away, leaving sun occasionally cut off passing clouds. The banging of construction carried through the cold air with a high, metallic ring. A strip of sun stretched down the face of the white brick apartment building, exactly as wide as the column of windows it was centered on. Some of the snow had survived the entire school day. A child scooped up a handful and threw it, sending it sprinkling drily on the heads of her classmates.
Sunday morning at 11 AM: I park my car at the corner of Bedford and Gates on a Tuesday street parking spot. I check the signs. I’m good. I go about my day.
Monday at 7:15 PM: Arrive back at the spot where my car was parked to move it for street cleaning. My car’s not there. What is there are a bunch of cones and a new sidewalk. Ok, seems like the car got towed. Who towed the car?
7:20 PM: Get home and search the NYC towed car database for my plates. No dice.
7:25 PM: Call my local precinct, the 88. The 88 tells me they can’t find my car. The 88 tells me they’re not my local precinct. Call the 79, they say, that’s your precinct.
7:30 PM: Call the 79. The 79 wants to know what color is the car? What make? What year? 2010, I think, I say. Were you parked in front of a driveway? No, I say. The 79 says a bunch of cars got towed off Franklin, but not Bedford.
Do I want to report it stolen, they ask. It’s probably not stolen, they say, but there’s a chance it is stolen.
A special kind of decorousness outside train bathrooms. All eyes to the ground humility, arms folded forbearance, untoothed smile acknowledgements. The train was five or so minutes from NYC and, stricken with the imminence of our destination, everyone wanted to pee. Now there were three of us in line, trying to maintain balance and dignity and avoid eye contact as we were barrelled back to the city—sons and daughters full of pie and family.
You, the incoming fourth in line, were a young guy with round spectacles and a nice, oblong, Where’s Waldo-ish face. You took your place behind me with the obligatory quick sheepish smile that says, thanks, and yep, here we all are, human, with our bodily functions, ha. And then you and I and the rest of us in this bathroom line watched but pretended not to watch a young boy battling through the sliding doors. Eight or nine years old, full of the willfulness and self-consciousness specific to that age, he did not look up at any of us as he went to try the bathroom door. When the locked handle failed him he glanced up at me and I confirmed it was occupied, that there was a line, with as much sympathy as I could. My memories of that age are almost exclusively embarrassment in the company of adults—smiling, indulgent adults, calling attention to one’s mistakes. And then, he positioned himself behind me, but ahead of you. I faltered—who wants to be a line tyrant to a kid? But then again, the laws of the bathroom line, the justice of the bathroom line, dictated you were next! It was a tiny yet perturbing quandary and I glanced at you in a flickering sort of way, but then the bathroom door was opening and it was my turn and everyone knows you don’t dally when the door opens. When I emerged, the boy was right there, small and determined and ready to shoot in and take my place and I glanced at you as he did.
I don’t know anything about this act and my Japanese is, uh, limited, so if she’s saying something offensive please accept my apologies in advance. I mean, I don’t think she is, but you never know these days. Anyway, learn more here and please do enjoy.
★★★ A mastiff was wearing a suspiciously human-cut Nordic sweater. The air had been harsh and frosty even inside the lobby; outside it was a little painful to breathe. Only a dry salt crust remained where the playground snow had been. There was no way to wear as many clothes inside the apartment as it was necessary to wear outdoors. The sparse and mobile early morning clouds became a lid of gray, and then that in turn blew away, leaving the afternoon completely clear. Brilliant highlights flared at the tops of buildings—far away from the deep and heavy shadows in the streets. It was hard to separate the effects of the air from the dry cough developing down in the chest.