Copyright is held by the author.
BEFORE I spent two years living just barely above the poverty line, before my family dissolved, before I memorized the states and their capitals, my dad played golf with President William J. Clinton at the Vail golf course in Colorado.
Among the crowd was the seven-year-old version of me, convinced that presidents are blessed with unerring intelligence and capable of solving all the problems of the world, including my own. I thought that the presidents of the United States of America could flip a switch and solve world hunger. I imagined a room of switches, each neatly labelled, and the president had to choose which switches he could flip and when. In this scenario my first grade mind determined that he could only have so many switches on at a time, and this limitation was the cause of the world’s problems.
Looking between the crowd, at Clinton signing autographs, waving, talking to people before teeing off, I wondered where his wife was. My still developing mind felt that parents were always in the same place, even if they weren’t physically. The President seemed to inhabit his own world. No one could reach, not even his wife, and certainly not a seven year old who wanted to shake his hand and ask all the questions that adults usually reserve for God.
I wanted to be president when I grew up, I wanted to be a writer, I wanted to be an astronaut, and I took to saying that I was going to be the first rock star president. He didn’t look like a rock star to me, in that dew soaked morning with beams of light blinding me slightly as they refracted through my glasses. He didn’t look like anything human. He moved so precisely, with such thought, and spoke in a cadence and vocabulary that was still beyond me. I thought he certainly was a robot; he must not have parents.
The crowd grew thick, and I climbed the short stone fence to see him, this fascinating non-man. I tried to step down from the fence preparing to not breath and offer my hand, but before my foot fully left the river rock fence, a very serious man in a crisp black suit scooped me up. His movements were deft, and quick, he was wearing dark sunglasses, he placed me softly to earth behind the crowd.
“We’re gonna need you to stay down here, son.”
I looked into this man’s impenetrable sunglasses. Okay. I guess. Okay. I looked back through the crowd at the President; he was preparing to tee off. My dad was there beside him, looking fragile. The President looked pristine. I saw other men in black suits, all around, and one only a few steps away from the tee.
In my mind I see the black-suited man diving between the President and a lone bedraggled man with a gun. The black-suited man takes a bullet full in the chest, like a movie. He receives an award, and goes home to his family, to his friends. He tells the story at dinner, people gasp and laugh and clap him on the back, asking to see the wound. Someone says superhero.
In real life, Clinton prepared to tee off, and there was a sudden rush of held breath. My idyllic dreams dissolved when I discovered why he didn’t look human. Clinton isn’t like adults in my life, he reflected light in a strange way, and moved the way a still lake does. The President, I decided, is made of glass.