~ a line from the opening of Elizabeth Eschbach's "In Hell She Waits for Me"
Saturday. January 21st, 2017
They say that at night a person can catch a glimpse of Antonin Scalia's specter roaming the halls of the Supreme Court. Wrapped in chains like a modern Marley, his moans echo through the halls of SCOTUS, "Wrong... wrong!" What his cries refer to no one knows, though speculation abounds. Alive he might clarify things, but being dead, the ghost is open to interpretation.
Recent events still fresh, too close to make sense of, too bizarre to comprehend, I opted for a liquor lobotomy -- relief like dynamite blowing out a fire. Sitting by the hotel pool I ordered a Wild Turkey and coke with half a rock's glass of Jäger. I needed to put some distance between me and the event in order to get a proper look at it. However, there are some things that defy detachment. I doubt anyone who lived through the last few years will ever really be able to get enough distance to avoid being touched by what happened.
It always struck me as a warning when Hamlet said, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." Cautioning not to expect the apparent limits of reality to be the absolute end of possibility. To say five years ago a reality TV star might run for president, let alone win... well, the signs were there for the discerning eye. Some will point to the California 2003 recall election where pornstar Mary Carey placed tenth out of 135 candidates, but it really began with Reagan. The acting roles obscuring the candidate, voters elect the soft spoken cowboy then the action hero for governor, and most recently the reality star. Because what the public needs to know will always be second to what it thinks it already does.
The cold air is crisp, but thanks to global warming no more brisk than a chilly Autumn evening. Staring at the empty pool I wonder how many rye shots it'll take to Swiss cheese my brain into thinking, "Why not dive in? Head first." Maybe then I might better understand what happened. They say Florida saw it first, the rising gun. We always joked about Florida being America's dick. No one ever thought to see it as a holster.
Inauguration day went much like everyone expected. From the podium President Trump opened his address by pumping his fist in the air while shouting, "USA! USA! USA!" He then made his first order of office the installation of his name in giant gold letters on the front of the White House.
President Trump said, "Things are going to be so great from now on we should probably carve my face into that Lincoln statue. I mean what's he done lately?"
The ensuing silence prompted him to quickly say, "I'm kidding. He was a good guy. He didn't stop the Civil War from happening -- which I could've, I'm just saying -- but he was a good guy."
Never in the history of a Presidential Inauguration have the proceedings been disrupted by protesters. Of course, by that same token never in the history of US inaugurations did so many come out in protest. Yet the thousands who came found themselves speedily sweep off the streets by police. Fearing riots, D.C. police under the supervision of the secret service and the newly ordained Trump Gold Squad, a team of Blackwater mercenaries hired by Trump for "personnel security operations," escorted anyone carrying anti-Trump signs into one of the numerous black vans seen parked throughout the area. Initial reports that these vans reeked of carbon monoxide cannot be confirmed at this time.
As the President's address went on many, at first, didn't notice the sky above starting to shimmer. The sky took on a quality not unlike an aurora borealis, though the shades seemed oddly patriotic as if the magneticosphere was actually a giant American flag rippling in solar winds. It didn't take long, however, before all eyes went to the sky.
President Trump, seeing no eyes upon him, said, "What? I'm talking. What are you looking at?" Glancing up he nodded, "See. It's a good thing I'm President. What more do you need?"
I was on the road to Mexico at the time. Driving a friend south in hopes I could convince him en route not to abandon the country. I thought he should stay and fight, but he said he felt too old for revolutionary ways. He wanted to sit in the desert sipping tequila, and watch the world burn from a distance. We'd stopped in a small roadhouse to glimpse the Inaugural address. When that celestial flag waved I won't deny doubts creeping into mind. It's hard to see something cosmic and not wonder if it's a sign. Even before my typical pessimism could reassert itself the truth reared its ugly head.
Shushing the murmurs of the awe struck crowd President Trump went on, "I know it's amazing folks, but I've got a lot to say. So up here -- pay attention."
After the infamous Hillary Cunton tweet, I didn't think Trump could win. Or during a national debate when he said, "I'll take care of all those people ruining America. They're going to get it." then gestured, slashing a finger across his throat -- conservative commentators quickly pointing to what appeared to be a wink -- "he's just kidding. He's not PC. Don't take it so seriously. See how he's smiling?" Oh, I saw it, and my blood ran cold. But seeing that sky lit up like a flag, I couldn't help wondering... then that titanic gun rose over the horizon, an ethereal .45 soaring through the air.
For once even Trump found himself speechless. The hammer on the weapon cocked back. The gun took aim, and fired. In D.C. ears must've bled. In a Southern Illinois roadhouse it sounded like thunder striking right outside the building. The patriotic aurora turned red. The rain started in Washington, but soon enough all across the country red rain fell. The downpour lasted two hours before letting up.
My buddy and I checked into a nearby hotel. We didn't feel like going any farther. For the next 24 hours conversation the world over focused on one thing: what the fuck just happened? It seemed pretty plain to the two of us, but people will do amazing things to avoid the truth: the United States just killed itself. Of course, since all we have now is the ghost, the spirit that can't speak for itself, what happened is open to interpretation. But I'm tempted now to join my friend in Mexico; to sit in the desert sipping tequila, and watch the world burn from a distance. I'm not sure what's left to save.