After the White House — a short story about Donald Trump’s new life.
Donald and Melania Trump arrived at Mar-a-Largo in a motorcade. They were greeted by a small crowd, cheering, clapping, and shouting ‘we love you.’
Trump stopped to give the thumbs up, but he looked tired. Melania walked straight into the building, leaving her husband outside to savour his fans.
Once inside, the couple went to their separate suites. Melania kicked off her heels, put her sunglasses on the table, and poured herself a vodka. She sat down in the big chair by the window and stared into the room. She drank a sip, and slumped back into the chair, her feet up on the crystal glass coffee table. She exhaled a long, slow breath, as if she was breathing out fully for the first time in four years. She reached for a cigarette from the marble and gold box by her chair, lit it, sucked in the smoke to the very bottom of her lungs, held it there, then slowly let it drift out. Her head spun a little, but her expression did not change.
Meanwhile, down the corridor, her husband, the now former president, was escorted into his room by a Secret Service detail and the few remaining members of his team. Despite his suddenly diminished status, he required the same treatment he had enjoyed this last 4 years — those around him remained obsequious, calling him Sir with the same gravitas the title had when attached to the person of the president. He gave his coat and gloves to a valet, paused, and looked out of the window, his chin jutting out slightly in a style reminiscent of Mussolini in mid-flow, on a balcony in Rome.
Sir, his aide said nervously, the inauguration is starting soon. Trump turned and looked at him, silently, and walked into the dressing room, pulling at his tie. He slammed the door, leaving the aides standing awkwardly on the other side. Finally alone, Trump looked at himself in the mirror. He stared. He wanted to see the president, to find and keep that reflection. He wanted to check it wasn’t washing away, that the façade was not slipping to reveal the tired, sad man he had been hiding from these last weeks. This was already too long — he needed an audience to play to. He dressed for golf, and strode out into the lounge, past his guards and security detail. Get my clubs, he barked at a boy in uniform.
Downstairs he was back in his game. People rushed up to shake his hand, punch his arm, and pat his back. He was amongst adoring fans again, feeling loved. He strode out, pausing to wave, to acknowledge the claps, and into his golf buggy. He played a round with gritted teeth. He knew that every television station was covering what should have been his inauguration. At least, he thought, that man won’t have the crowds I had at my inauguration. ‘That man’ was all he could muster now, just as Putin never refers to Navalny by name, Trump had made it clear the name Biden had no place in his presence, or in his properties. He played golf, trying hard not to think about Joe Biden.
Meanwhile, Melania was now mellow. She was a tiny bit tipsy, had smoked through a few cigarettes, and was lowering herself into a bath. Everything was slow now. She moved slowly, she breathed slowly. She had been thinking about this day for years, and planning for it, but now it was here, she was unable to do or feel anything, she was so exhausted that she just drifted through it. She no longer had to play the role, either of wife or of First Lady. She could now just be, and so she just was.
She lay in the bath and tried to think about what she would do next. Most obvious to her was that she could not continue her life tied to Donald Trump. He was fast becoming a pariah and a laughing-stock. He was surrounded by crackpots and sycophants, and all the ‘real’ people had gone. She liked the people with power, with money, and sophistication. She liked being at the top table, the Queen of America. But now she was just the wife of a failure. She was angry with him. He had messed up the last weeks so badly. It didn’t have to be this way. They were no longer welcome in New York society, or abroad.
They both knew the deal would end soon. She would move on and find her own way in the world: a former First Lady, super-model, and wife of a millionaire, she would be ok. But she was not going down with his ship. As she lay in her bath, her mind floating now it was freed up by the vodka and nicotine, she planned.
Trump thrashed at the golf balls, nudged them into the hole with his toe, and swore at his caddy. Today, even more than usual, everyone wanted to keep their distance from him. As the inauguration finished, so did the golf. Trump drove his golf buggy back and walked in, still dressed for golf, to have his lunch. He ate alone, a few people looking at him through the window. He went up to his suite, lay on his bed, and stared at the ceiling. Normally he would have the television on and would be scrolling through his phone and Tweeting. Today he could not watch television, and could not post. He fidgeted. He got up again, paced around the room.