June 27, 2018
A girl in a grey Calvin Klein suit was in front of me on the escalator, bopping to the tune blasting through her earphones; an intern, probably, because who else would wear Adidas Superstars into the Senate Hart Building? Sneakers and backpacks, Sunday dresses and spelling bee competition suits. On the sidewalk, a man hawking the Washington Times on the sidewalk shouted, “Y’all have a great day now!” to no one in particular.
At the security check-point I ran into a friend. “You’re just starting this week? You have to ask for work,” she said eagerly. “Start emailing people in the office and tell them you’re interested in their policy issues.” Later I realized that she works for a California senator, a state fifteen times the size of my own. I didn’t tell her I’d been getting plenty of work.
A diplomatic motorcade hummed by so we couldn’t get through this entrance, and were rerouted through Dirksen. The metal detectors blared—because of my belt! I had to take it off to get through.
“That was the King of Jordan,” my friend whispered. “I wonder who he’s meeting with.”
His Majesty King Abdullah II was visiting the U.S. Capitol to meet with government officials; this, in addition to his meetings with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The novelty of proximity to power hadn’t yet worn off.
A boy on Tinder once asked me, “Are you tryna level up and get a position on the Hill or are you about that law school life?” Neither, I answered. But I guess leveling up if my life fell apart wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
We assembled before a senior staffer, who told the interns, “Now, whether you want to work in the House or in the Senate—that’s the real question.” Everyone nodded, and I realized I had not given this matter any thought at all.
I answered phone calls, which meant sitting through endless “history” lessons from American citizens anxious to explain to me that the slaves were held by Democrats and that John F. Kennedy was the biggest offender of the MeToo movement, and that our constitution did not give us the right to irresponsible sex—have you ever killed your own children? So you abort your babies as well? They displayed an unshakeable confidence in Donald Trump and were not afraid to make sure I understood: You’re a fucking terrorist. You witless dumbass.
Thank you for calling, I replied, over and over. I will be sure to relay your message. To whom, I wondered. The senators, unceremoniously referred to as “The Boss” in most offices, might or might not receive the message.
Michael Barbaro’s coverage on The Daily, 25th of June, was titled “What Migrants Are Fleeing.” About two minutes into the episode, gun shots and revolutionary chants echoed through the audio—but was that really the sound of El Salvador? The Supreme Court ruled against the State of Hawaii, confirming President Trump’s authority to ban travelers from seven countries. Children were being detained, infants, even. Then, breaking news from the Supreme Court. CNN tweeted, “Anthony Kennedy’s decision to step down from the Supreme Court gives President Trump a second opportunity to nominate a justice.”
A woman from California called in to say that the Democrats must remain strong. “You cannot reason with the tiger when your head is in its mouth,” she quoted, from Winston Churchill in the movie Darkest Hour. I looked the quote up afterwards, but couldn’t pin the source to Winston Churchill.
Everyone agreed that this was one of the worst weeks of their burgeoning careers on the Hill, and I watched the world go by through C-SPAN coverage of the senate floor and breaking news on MSNBC and phone calls filling the line every time an official statement was made. Suddenly the chant, Abolish ICE floated up the marble walls, softly at first, but soon enough a crowd was chanting loud enough to pull the staffers from their desks to the balcony to watch the protest. I began to cry, but I couldn’t really put a finger on why. A middle-aged staffer, a man with greying hair and a ruddiness on his cheeks, said, “I love young people,” before straightening his back and returning to his desk.
My commute is an hour, if I miss the carpool with the family who is hosting me, a government-adjacent couple with public service jobs. Another two cars driving in and out of the nice part of Virginia. So I sat on the silver line watching the stops go by, looked up the bus times and decided to walk the last mile.