The White House lawn looked like cake.
KUSH! KUSH! KUSH! Jared felt long-gone claps of well-intentioned mitts on his shoulder and past reflexes of beer down his throat as the lights of the Capitol winked at him. Funny how the mind can run two thoughts concurrently, he thought to himself. He had a headache. KUSH! KUSH!
What happened in there?
Paying close attention to his thoughts made Jared feel smart. He rarely had the chance to exercise such lucidity except in a bathroom, on an airplane, or in his own airplane bathroom.
It was nipping cold. Fists balled up in his pockets, Jared walked along the manicured green lapping Pennsylvania Avenue. Ivanka hadn’t called, despite a casual mention earlier that she would. She was busy in San Francisco with the release of her new fashion line “The Elastic Clause,” a fall collection for plus-sized Americans with nods to the family’s newfound political lifestyle.
He remembered nights holding conversational court; a slalom down bright curves of thought and logic, speaking melodiously in wood-paneled rooms, agreeable faces gripping his commas, all a cozy shelter of admiration. Still, his gleaming confidence sheltered traces of doubt, as one or two gnats sneak into a tub of ointment.
And tonight had been different. What exactly happened in there?
Goddamn it’s cold, Jared thought to himself. I should have left with a coat.
The Eagle Act. He turned the name of the bill over his tongue like a lozenge. Jared thought deeply about the raw cruelty nestled within the legalese, the gristle of the bill outlining a national Muslim registration coupled with a ban on entry. Despite his vague understanding of international politics, Jared felt a twinge in his heart and brain (rarely aligned, as even he himself would admit) that The Eagle Act would spray gasoline on a healthy global bonfire.
And then there’s the name: The Eagle Act, senile in its patriotism, ringing of a conservation effort at best, nodding toward Aryan sympathy at worst. Jared considered the Holocaust that nearly swallowed his grandparents, engineered by uniformed men whose proud chests hoisted weight of their own gleaming metal birds.
Back there in the oval office, Jared could feel his voice eke out in crumbs, solemn faces of presidents past peering down at him from their frames, names he could never remember. He thought his argument was a corner pocket shot: “The economic consequences of The Eagle Act would be devastating. If-”
With a laugh and a wave, the orange man told his senior advisor to “go take a walk.”
So he did.
Jared didn’t tell the SS where he was going. A stroll on his own damn terms. He didn’t have a destination in mind but acted like he did, as he always had, though it was cold and he felt ridiculous.
Didn’t we both come from real estate?
Doesn’t he know who I am?
Doesn’t he know what I could do to him?
Jared’s mind clicked until his feet stopped at the tide of a large puddle. Staring down at his oily reflection, he thought himself more handsome, more in line with the nameless presidents that had panicked him earlier in their blurry smear of weight and dignity.
A vibration. The pleasant contours of his phone glowed: Ivanka. He let it go to voicemail and continued his walk, making small decisions about his calendar. I should take more walks like this, he thought. Ask important people to join me. Make new friends in town.
Feeling light rain, he thought back to an early tropical vacation he took with her family, watching the orange man blow his nose over the balcony without a tissue.
KUSH! KUSH! KUSH! Jared realized why his mind was cast back to this specific university moment, a period in his life where admiration wasn’t (completely) purchased or endowed through largesse; where, in the swill of foam and time, Jared felt respected. Felt (dare he admit it, though he never would out loud) loved.
He indulged himself in one more collegial memory before heading inside: only 20 years old, waiting for a date outside one of his brick Somerville buildings, first candlepin bowling to humor her and then a helicopter ride over Harvard to accommodate him. He thought about the sweet, shy meagerness of his date’s suggestion that they go candlepin bowling and reflected that he would give a great deal to go back to that simpler time, that foreign country, that distant gornisht.
Jared walked back to the White House. His teeth felt sharp.
Written by Alex Vlahov with Artwork by Nicole Monk. Voiced by Matt Soson.