Dinner with Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton & Gary Johnson
I was sat in my apartment, dreaming aloud of better times when my phone rang.
Reading the caller ID, I did not recognize the number. “(666) 666–6666”. Reluctantly, I picked up the phone and answered the call.
“Hello, who is this?”
“Gerald, this is Donald Trump.”
Naturally, I assumed this was a prank call. Never in my wildest dreams (of better times or otherwise) did I believe or expect I would receive a call from perhaps the most polarizing figure since Kris Kringle (citizens of the southern hemisphere have often vehemently renounced the old, bearded gift-giver for his decision to settle in the North Pole, rather than the South and thus began, so far, an almost 2000 year controversy and what some consider the primary reason for the North-South divide).
Rendered near speechless, I pushed out the first words I could.
“Oh, fuck you. Who really is this?”
With a seemingly endless inhalation, audibly similar to starting a Hoover vacuum with a pull-chain, the voice said, “Listen, I don’t bullshit. This is Donald J Trump.”
I decided to humor the voice.
“Alright, Mr. Trump. What can I do for you?”
“Listen, I’m having dinner with Hillary Clinton and… some other guy…”
“Yea, that’s right. I want you to record the thing.”
I thought this a rather odd request considering I have no experience in journalism or record-taking of any kind. Not to mention Mr. Trump’s typically adverse relationship with records. So I said as much.
“I am flattered, eh, Mr. Trump, but I feel I am unqualified for this kind of job.”
“Gerald,” he said, “If there is one thing I have learned — it’s that a lack of qualifications is one’s greatest asset in life… especially, when you are responsible for other people.”
At this moment I realized I could quite possibly be on the phone with the real Donald Trump.
I paused. I needed to gather myself.
‘If I have learned one thing…’ doubts once more filled my mind — surely the real Mr. Trump would not admit that he’s learned one thing.
“You still there?” he said.
“Yes, yes, I’m here.”
“You know the restaurant with the big M near Grand Central Station?”
Assessing my internal map from years as a New York City native, I could not pinpoint which palatial purveyor of provisions he was proposing.
“Sorry,” I said, “I’m familiar with the area, but I don’t know any restaurants with a big…”
Then I had an odd thought, almost ridiculous in fact, but I felt compelled to speak up, with the worst case that he’d think I was joking.
“… M, besides McDonald’s.”
“Ah, that’s the one,” he said.
What? This was a supposed billionaire. He planned to dine with the first female president only months before her inauguration.
Becoming more ponderous, however, it struck me that McDonald’s would be a viable option given the esteem with which Mr. Trump held her — and it seemed he’d already forgotten about Mr. Johnson.
“We’re meeting at 7. Be there with whatever it is you people use to make words.”
Silence on the other end. He’d hung up.
I set down my phone and laughed to myself. Surely that wasn’t Donald Trump. Was it?
Perhaps the call had shaken me or I remembered the benefits of fresh air due to the voice’s labored breathing, but I thought it best to put the call from my mind.
I grabbed my jacket, went out the door and took to the street.
Arriving at a literal and figurative crossroads, I look around and took in the scenery of the day.
“How odd…” I whispered.
The sky was blood red and the clouds were made of locusts. Upon brief reflection it appeared this might be a day where I would receive a call from Donald J. Trump and conversely, a day that augured for the 3 presidential candidates to have an evening dinner at McDonald’s.
I decided I might as well go to the McDonald’s to confirm it was a prank call. I rationalized that it’d been a long time since I’d had a Big Mac and the heart disease it would likely bode for wasn’t an altogether terrible fate considering certain alternatives.
With that, I looked at my watch and reasoned I could make it to the McDonald’s in question on time if I left right away. Admittedly, I was wrapped in the moment and as a result, forgot to bring any writing materials whatsoever.
The account here, of my evening with three presidential candidates, is strictly from my memory (which apparently is something between a steel trap and a milk crate balanced on a stick).
Arriving at the Dinner
The fluorescent lights of the McDonald’s were nearly blinding — no doubt a brightness setting carefully selected as a means to counteract the profound depression that swept through and saturated the place like a mix of tear gas and corn syrup — both, matter of factly, major ingredients on the dollar menu selection, which the author will note, is devoid of any item at a price less than $1.37.
Notwithstanding, I ordered the Big Mac I came for, fries, and a vanilla milkshake. I looked around the room and saw no sign of Donald Trump or any other presidential wannabes.
Given my previous incredulity, I found my immediate disappointment odd. I decided to take my order out and started toward the exit when a gargantuan woman with swinging hips reminiscent of a perilous carnival ride emerged from the open kitchen, speaking to a co-worker, “It’s the third time this week he’s here… I don’t understand it, what with all his braggadocio about those Trump steaks!”
Hearing this, I almost forgot what I’d come for, as I was wrapped in the realization that this was the first time I had ever heard an employee of McDonald’s use the word braggadocio, respectively.
I came to attention. Shook my head.
“Goodness,” I said. “There’s a second floor!”
Sure enough, he was seated in one of the metal chairs at a four top. He was gazing down at the food and wrappers in front of him. If it wasn’t peculiar enough that he’d chosen McDonald’s for what I thought should be a rather formal dinner (as I can’t imagine he would allow anyone else to choose the location) his order was, it seemed to me, somewhat out of character.
Two happy meals.
So too were his clothes uncharacteristic.
From seeing the man on television for the past 2 decades or so, I surmised he wore a suit on most occasions; intercourse, sleeping and showering to name a few. But the Donald Trump before me was wearing a pair of zip-off cargo shorts, knees bared, a t-shirt that said, “Life is good.”
Somehow, this made sense.
More or less peculiar was his footwear selection of closed-toe, pink crocs with a fuzzy interior.
(The author denies any first-hand knowledge of how comfortable or practical these shoes may or may not be.)
I moved toward him, cautiously.
“Um, Mr. Trump.”
He took a bite of his chicken nugget and slowly lifted his head to address me with pursed lips, furrowed brows, a scowl that one would assume indicated his displeasure with the food and the location.
A moment of silence transpired; he seemed to be in deep contemplation.
Finally, with equal parts anger and self loathing he said,
“I love chicken nuggets.”
I sat down across him.
“Mr. Trump, you called me earlier and asked me to meet you here.”
“I never said that,” he said.
“I… I was hoping to join you and the other candidates for dinner this evening.”
He looked at his watch. I glanced at a backpack hanging off the side of his chair, marked with large T’s on both straps and an open pouch subtly revealing a copy of Mein Kampf with a curious amount of notes taken.
Equally disconcerting was the adjacent copy of a coloring book with swirls of crayon markings in and outside the lines.
“Hillary should be here soon,” he said.
He took down his watch and relaxed his hands on the table. It was then I saw its face read 2:37 and the second hand stuttered in one position.
“What’s that a big mac?”
“French fries… milk shake…”
“Bricks… Windows… Chairs… People have faces. We’re at McDonald’s.”
“Hillary Clinton walks.”
Future President Clinton Arrives
She approached carrying a tray supporting a single can of WD-40 lubricant and a jar of industrial grade adhesive; I could not understand why, but I would soon find out.
“That’s what you order at McDonald’s, Hillary?” Mr. Trump said.
“I got these at Auto-Zone.” She responded.
She sat down beside Trump and adjusted her dress. As always, she was an image of ice-cold professionalism.
Excited as I was to meet the future President in person, I slid across the chairs on my side of the table so that I could address her directly.
“Nice to see you, Donald.” She said.
He reached out his hand, to which she smiled and nodded. When he realized she would not return his gesture, he used his left hand to give himself a high five, clapped his hands together for a second and said, “Ayo!”
“Hello how are you?” She said, smiling at me.
“Future President Clinton, it’s such a pleasure to meet you. I have so many questions.”
“I look very much forward to answering them.”
If I remember correctly, Mr. Trump’s face grew red and shriveled with envy.
“Oh, so you don’t have any questions for me?” he said.
“No, it’s not that… it’s just…”
My answer was interrupted by Mrs. Clinton.
“Excuse me, is it safe to assume we’ll be here awhile?”
“The other guy, what’s his name is coming,” he said.
Hillary then removed the cap from her glue, poured a dollop into her hand and began to rub it into her cheeks in a circular motion. Moments later her face was fixed, teeth exposed, in a permanent, unmovable smile, which I found simultaneously reassuring and haunting.
“So this is what you wear to dinner Donald?” She said.
“Hey, do you see these pants? You can cut ’em off when it’s hot and make shorts!”
Even through the thick layer of glue that held her face in position, you could see she was pleased; she looked the way a hunter does after game has been caught in his traps.
“Well, we all know how much you love short cuts!” This joke went over with no one but her. She slapped the table and kicked her head back with glee. I had to look down at the ground to hide my cringe. She smiled and looked for a reaction from us until the awkwardness was thick enough to wear as a sweater.
“I don’t need to tell you how much darkness is in this woman’s heart, you see.” Trump said.
“Oh Donald!” Hillary said. “There he goes again with that darkness bit.”
“Well,” I said, “If you two don’t mind starting without Mr. Johnson, I’d love to ask you a question or two.”
“She goes first,” he said.
“Of course, what would you like to ask?”
“What’s your presidential vision?”
“My vision?” She asked.
“Yes, how do you see things.” I said.
“Oh, of course, yes. Well, the best way I can describe it is… What’s that movie by James Cameron? With Arnold Schwarzenegger as the hero?”
“Yes, like that red screen they show in that movie. That’s how I see the world.”
I was certain she confused the sense of my question.
“And you, Mr. Trump?”
He breathed his deep breath, lifted his right hand to gesticulate and pressed together his index finger and thumb. His movements began with his words.
“I agree with everything she just said. I do. I really do…”
“But, I want to add this. The way I see it, America is in a bad, bad, bad place… for a lot of people. Let’s say, just about everybody. Everybody but her and her husband. And everyone sees it… everybody who has eyes.”
Whether running dry, simply bored or triggered by Mr. Trumps statement, Mrs. Clinton popped off the cap of her WD-40, tilted her head back and gave herself a strong spray in the centers of her left and right eyes.
Lowering her head, she smiled in the same fashion as before and if my memory serves me, she looked quite refreshed.
“So much darkness,” repeated Trump.
It’d only been five minutes or so into our meal before I wished I had ordered my meal with extra arterial damage, but alas, it seemed I’d received an extra leaf of lettuce instead.
I turned my attention to the french fries in front of me and decided to save them. It seemed logical as McDonalds french fries rank a close second to Twinkies in terms of their resilience in the face of a Nuclear Holocaust, which at the present moment seemed inevitable. Examining their salty exterior, I recounted the well-known ingredients of these crunchy treats. Salt, potatoes, corn syrup, tear gas.
The last ingredient, conveniently doubled as both a means of crowd control and, as I would find out, a medicinal aid to help Mrs. Clinton exhibit emotion — when administered orally in time release capsules or on the forearms as a topical cream.
“Excellent, this hamburger is delicious. The most delicious hamburger I’ve ever tasted.” Trump said, despite these laudations, his expression indicated nothing but disdain for everything by which he was surrounded.
“You should ask her about the emails,” he said.
Immediately, Mrs. Clinton’s head cocked to the side, she sat up straighter and smiled with greater intensity. She did not yet respond verbally when through the spaces between her exposed teeth, came a sound similar to that of a mid 90’s dial up internet connection — beeps, boops, static and electronic twangs muffled through.
She continued smiling until the sounds ceased and said, “That was a mistake, and I am very sorry…”
“…But I’d like to take this opportunity to say that we need to focus on the important issues our country faces rather than petty events like these. As my dear friend Michelle Obama says, “when they go low, we go high” so if Donald wants to talk about these things, that’s fine but I will not be dragged to a point where I engage him with the well-known aspects of his checkered past. For instance I would never mention how he called his daughter a nice piece of ass, nor would I say anything about the haircut he’s earnestly refused to change, despite how much time he spends in front of mirrors. And while I do believe it’s essential we talk about his history of sexual assaults, unconscionable behavior and general moral turpitude… I’m sorry, what was the question?”
“About the emails.”
“Oh yes. Did I mention this fucker won’t release his tax returns?”
Trump beat his fist to the table and screamed.
“I’m under audit!” he said.
Someone from the table next to ours startled at Trump’s loud reaction and looked up at him. I paid him no attention as my eyes were fixed on Mrs. Clinton, mesmerized by the subversive pleasantry with which she uttered the word fucker.
“That always gets him going,” she laughed, again slapping the table in satisfaction.
“Let me tell you something,” he said, “a woman like you wouldn’t know the first thing about how to get me going.”
“That’s not what I meant, Donald.”
“Didn’t know much about how to get Bill going, did you?” he retorted.
The accusations firing from left to right did not surprise me. I sat their consumed with perturbation. The dinner did not once alleviate my concerns for the future of America or the world, in fact, it only made them worse.
“Can you believe what he’s wearing?” Mrs. Clinton said.
I expected the conversation would start at the beginning and we would wind up in the same spot we were just moments ago. Like in most fast food restaurants, time seemed to stand still even with all the people coming in and going out.
Eventually the candidates sat in silence for longer than was comfortable. Mrs. Clinton staring directly into my eyes and Mr. Trump playing with the toy that came with his Happy Meal, a cat I recognized from The Secret Life of Pets. I can’t be certain but I believe I heard him whispering to himself ad nauseam, “Grab that pussy… walk that pussy…” as he pushed the toy across the table and watched it walk with his imagination.
Looking for an exit, I checked my watch and saw it was 8pm. I realized that since arriving one hour ago, neither of the candidates had said much of anything.
“I need to go” I said.
Mrs. Clinton continued smiling and said, “I hope I’ve earned your vote.”
I smiled back at her.
“You vote for her I’ll sue you” Trump said.
As I started from my seat, Gary Johnson walked in. He came in sheepishly, unsure of himself, trying to blend in with the white walls. When he arrived at the table, the other candidates didn’t seem to care or, for that matter, even acknowledge him.
I only asked Mr. Johnson one general question on my way out.
I inquired as to his thoughts on the election, on America’s role in the world, and the future.
To my surprise, he started to sniffle and cry.
When I asked him what was the reason behind his tears, he said,
“Well, no one else seems to care about what I think…”
Not sure if he’d finished speaking, I agreed and bade him farewell in his next career.
I can’t imagine what the three presidential candidates talked about after I left. In hindsight, I should have brought a recorder as some of the finer details were lost. These and many more musings meandered across my mind as I made my way through the exit doors of the McDonald’s.
A friendly old man who resembled — if he was not actually — Bernie Sanders held open the glass door for me. At first I thought this was out of sheer kindness, but then I saw he was holding a styrofoam cup filled with change that jangled when he shook it and he was telling everyone else, as he told me, “God Bless.”
As someone who takes blessings quite seriously, I said, “and also with you” but I gave him no change.
Outside the sky seemed no clearer than it did earlier that day. In the midst of the crowds outside of grand central, and thinking of the millions of people in New York City and the rest of the world — all the billions across the earth under the same sky, I realized that we were all looking to it, wondering what might happen next.