I met Trump in a dream recently. I had been invited to the White House for a face-to-face. He was very reserved and mild-mannered. He was also exhausted. I had no idea ahead of time the purpose of our meeting. Turned out he wanted me to create whatever story about him I chose, using video footage of his daily life taken by White House shooters.
I felt he knew that I was an adversary, that I thought he was unfit to be president, but I felt he also knew (via my essays) that I didn’t hate him, or even dislike him, and in fact felt quite compassionately toward him. That’s why he had reached out to me, it seemed.
My presence in the White House raised some questioning eyebrows, since I don’t own anything resembling a suit, or a traditional dress shirt, or really shoes of any kind, much less dress shoes. I gave away to Goodwill my snappy executive wardrobe a few years ago, except for one pair of cavalry twill slacks I bought at Louis in Boston in 1970. Them I bequeathed to my teenage grandson who leans toward a certain sartorial whoop-dee-do. So at the White House I was all Vermont gentleman farmer dress-up: best hiking boots, charcoal corduroy slacks, black velvet vest, midnight blue silk shirt, and black silk tie with hand-painted red hearts on it. It crossed my mind that to some White House insiders Trump pow-wowing with this guy might be more evidence of addled judgment.
After discussing the project and me agreeing to do it, Trump excused himself for what I presumed was a trip to the bathroom. He was gone quite a while, during which time I wandered about the Oval Office, absorbing Trump’s presence in the context of all those other presidents who had used the space. I experienced how small Trump felt in that company, how overwhelmed, how out of place.
My heart went out to him. I was glad he had asked me to tell the video story, for it would be the equivalent of the essays I’ve written about him: basically love letters to humankind based on my sense of Trump as a man profoundly oblivious to the implications of his actions, his thoughts, his feelings. Which is what makes him so dangerous, so deeply harmful. He’s like a sleepwalker racing a Ferrari through the Louvre.
And yet he is someone from whom we can learn much. Beginning with who we’re committed to being regardless of what life presents––a person of love, or a person of fear. If we blame Trump for our feelings, we have some growing to do. Grieving is part of a healthy response to heartbreak. Then there is the beautiful opportunity to realize that within us is the outrageous courage necessary to overcome the outrageous insanity Trump and the jackals who encourage him are bringing to the world from a place empty of compassion.
When he returns, Trump is carrying a bottle of million dollar champagne, which he gives to me in thanks for meeting with him. Did he know I was a recovering alcoholic, and wouldn’t be drinking his gift? Perhaps, but I doubted that idea was forward enough in his mind to override his compulsion to give extravagant bubbly as a so-called form of gratitude, but really as a reminder to the recipient that “nobody has greater taste than I do.”
So I thank him and pack up my briefcase (bright orange from Patagonia) with my laptop as well as with a laptop Trump had loaned me that was necessary for the project. Then I bowed to him and left, since it was clear that shaking hands wasn’t something he was capable of doing. Given the freedom he had just given me to tell whatever story I wished, shaking hands would have been a gesture far too intimate for him.
I exit the Oval Office into a large, lovely cafeteria used by White House staff and guests. Again, my dress, and that I had come from the Oval Office, caused eyes that didn’t have anything better to do to turn my way in curiosity––is this somebody we should know?––a common response, I felt, in that environment.
I walk through the cafeteria then outdoors to the gate on the street where I am to find the subway taking me to a hotel where my beloved is waiting. As I stepped from the cafeteria into the sunlight, I realize I had left behind the champagne.
If you, dear reader,
have a yen to interpret this dream,
I hope you’ll share your insights with me.
Merci (as they say in the Louvre).