Dear Mister President,
When I was in kindergarten, I spoke out of turn and was made to wait five minutes before I could join the rest of the class in outside recess. The clock on the wall made no sense to me. In frustration, I had to invent a method of telling time by counting exponentially by fives. When I had reached infinity, a black hole opened before my feet and I looked down into eternity. I heard a voice echo up from the hole and say to me with complete authority: “You will die one day.” Well, shit, I thought. How could I face my classmates now, having seen what I’d seen and learned what I’d heard? The children, my teacher, the school, my family, the whole town, the country, the entire world all seemed totally dumb. I’m thirty-six now, not dead yet. Since I was five, all of life has been like a farce, an absurd performance of a reality based on meaningless drivel, or a devastating experience of trauma and fatigue, deep with meaning, which has led me into such self-seriousness that I often wonder if I am completely insane.
Can you relate at all?
Because you seem to know, too, that reality is flexible, that you can bend it with your mind and words, at least sometimes.
And also, do you feel you’ve been chosen by God for a special task to accomplish here on earth? I do. I believe in fate. I think we give too much credit to the will and human intelligence. We arrive in this realm with a destiny we can’t control. Sometimes we can convince ourselves that we have chosen our fate. When we are unconvinced, we take psych meds or seek therapists. We think we have Lyme disease. We get paranoid. Life ain’t easy sometimes, people say. But when desire and destiny coincide, that is nice. And that is why I feel lucky to be who I am: I do what I want, and the universe seems to be conspiring to get me to keep doing it. And you, Mister President? Do you feel so blessed? Despite your professional and personal shortcomings, it seems the world has reserved a very special spot for you, a spot only you could fill. Do you sometimes wonder if you are God Himself? You might be. How would I know? God has a sense of humor, people say.
Or is life a game? Have you made a bet with the devil, or your father, or some childhood buddy to see who can amass the most wealth and notoriety? Are you winning on a dare to be the most hated man on earth? Are you competing with dead heroes? Who are your heroes? I like almost nobody. If I had to pray to anyone, I’d choose Whoopi Goldberg’s character from Jumpin’ Jack Flash. I keep a framed picture of Whoopi in my mind, and when I’m feeling dark, as though the world might explode, I look at it. She makes me laugh. She has a sense of humor. Have you ever seen The Color Purple? It’s a great movie. It makes me cry every time.
Mister President, what, in your opinion, is the usefulness of art? What of entertainment? What of dreams, and beauty, and how about food? Do you enjoy a delicious meal? I’ve heard you say you consume no alcohol. Is this because you’re a recovering alcoholic, like me? Have you ever been addicted to anything? I know you’re big on internet use. You should be careful: a lot of the stuff you read on there is totally fictitious. I’ve been addicted to almost everything I’ve ever enjoyed. Right now I am addicted to work. Here, again, is the happy coincidence. I’m addicted to the thing I’m best at doing. Maybe you don’t think I’m any good at it. I’m an author. Have you ever heard of me? My name is Ottessa Moshfegh. My middle name is Charlotte, but I only use it when I’m asked to give a name at Starbucks. Can you guess what I look like? I have brown hair and brown eyes, and a big mole next to my nose. I wonder if you’d find me pretty, or interesting. I wonder if you’d think I have a singular charisma, or if I’m just like all other women of the olive-skinned variety. A woman of vaguely Middle Eastern heritage. The truth is that I’m sometimes pretty, sometimes not, but always beautiful, haha. Can I confess to you that I’m glad I’m only half Iranian? That I’m glad I’m also half Croatian, i.e., white European? That my green-eyed mother has saved me from feeling like the infidel? Sometimes when I travel to places like Kansas or Texas, I get scared. The convenience stands at the airports sell only Christian literature. People eye me funny, maybe. I wonder if they think I’m a potential terrorist threat even though I don’t wear a chador or a hijab. I don’t cover my hair because, ding dong, I am not a Muslim. My Iranian family were Jews who converted to Bahá’ís. I don’t know anything about Islam except that I like their fussiness with prayer, that they have to keep track of which way the sun sets. These days, we roam around using GPS; most of us have no idea where we are. Am I right?
Do you believe in any god? I believe in “the intelligence of the universe.” But I have no religion personally. Occasionally I wish I could belong to a religious institution, have a community for worship and counsel, but I don’t trust anyone to know better than me how I should live. Maybe a few people, only sometimes. I could never have a guru. I’m too irreverent for ceremony. If humans are doing it, I don’t believe it is sacred. I think nature is sacred. It hurts to see it being destroyed: I think we, as animals, are experiencing constant sorrow over it. It’s our essential malaise: we are destined to destroy the planet, to kill our own god. Other times, I don’t even notice nature. I just drive around throwing cigarettes out the window and putting quarters in parking meters and shopping in supermarkets and buying coffee and seltzer and paying 25 bucks for a salad at some terrible hotel, calling the concierge to complain about the AC and asking for help using the Wi-Fi and texting my fiancé that I’m annoyed with something he did: I’m too hard on him. He puts up with a lot of my shit.
It must be hard to live such a public life. Do you see a shrink? Are you on any psych meds? Do you have any friends? You must feel like the walls are watching you. I’d get so constipated if I were you. I can’t shit with anyone else in the house. I need total solitude. I’ll tell you a secret: I use laxative suppositories on days I can’t shit. Or else I’ll get backed up. And that’s just toxic. That will make anybody crazy. Am I right?
Do you brush your teeth before or after breakfast? I do both. I haven’t been to a dentist in seven years.
I’ve made a decent sum of money this year. Should I invest it? What are your plans for the stock market? Any pro tips? Any inside scoops on the next derailment of civilization for profit? I’m not an idiot.
Do you make your bed first thing in the morning? Or does your wife make it? Or the maid? Sorry: housekeeper? You must have an assistant to tie your shoes for you. Do you have someone there to hand you the towel when you’re finished in the tub? Guy or girl? Do you tweeze your eyebrows? I pay an Indian woman to pluck them into shape using an ancient method called “threading.” Sometimes I have them “thread” my mustache, too, haha. Have you ever wanted to grow a mustache? You should. You’d look like a truck driver. You’d look good.
I travel a lot these days, and when I’m alone in hotel rooms, I watch television in bed. I watch you on the news sometimes. I think about you. I think of your skin and your hair, the careful way you style it. What color are your eyes? Once I held a pillow in my arms and thought of you. I kissed the pillow. I petted it, soothingly, like I’d like to pet your strange yellow hair. On television, you seem like a man whose mission lines up with his duty. You’re obviously a very strong person, but I see your vulnerability, I do. I know you must feel unloved. It must be heartbreaking, everyone always criticizing you. Do you know how much I hated that kindergarten teacher for punishing me for speaking out of turn? I tried to kill her with my mind every day after that. I prayed to God she would fall down into a black hole. The weird thing about her was that we had the same birthday: May 20. Isn’t that a terrible coincidence?
Do you think your wife really loves you? She’s hard to read. I think maybe she should stop getting Botox injections: they make her face look frozen and cruel. She looks so unhappy. Or is she actually frozen and cruel? Do you love her? What do you see in her, may I ask? Do you share a bed at night? How often do you make love? Has anyone ever made love to you so beautifully that you’ve cried afterward? I’ve done so but never had it done to me. Do you remember your first kiss? Mine was memorable: An Italian boy stuck his tongue in my mouth and swiveled it around for about half an hour. I kept thinking, “Is this supposed to feel good? Could I grow to enjoy this?” Kissing is all about sensitivity. My fiancé is an excellent kisser. I’m an excellent kisser, too. Do you think sometimes we accept what life has to offer because we are afraid something better won’t come along? Do you think we have any power, really, over the decisions we make in life? Or are we all dumbly playing out what has been doled out by God? Does it matter?
I think I might like to have your job for a day. I don’t think I’d be good at it, but I enjoy speaking in front of a crowd. I like it when people listen to what I have to say. I like power. I like having lunch with interesting people who want things from me. Most of the time, though, I prefer to be home alone. Maybe someday you could come over. My fiancé wouldn’t mind. We have a deal, an arrangement of sorts. He can sleep with Jennifer Lawrence, and I can sleep with you, no harm, no foul. We made this deal because the prospects seem so unlikely. But I figure it’s worth a try. So? What do you think? Consider it and get back to me.
Until then, I would like to be your friend. We all need friends. Good ones, who don’t punish us for being ourselves.