Melania in the Mo(u)rning
Think back on winter. When she opened those luscious eyes and blinked into her day (her husband already up for hours, tweeting 140-character missives on national policy into the dark night of social media), did the realization crest over her once again, like warm saltwater, lifting her up, floating her into a brave new world? Maybe this, the world to come on January 20, is the world she has been creating since she was seventeen, and began applying three different moisturizing serums to her face on a daily basis.
Or, perhaps (and this seems more likely to me, personally), as she remembered once again, fluttering up into consciousness, the knowledge was more like a cold splash from the sink.
Standing in the en suite bathroom, she pushed up her silk sleeves, cupped water in her palms as it fell from the gold-plated faucet, and looked in the mirror as the drops slid beguilingly down her high cheekbones. This was not why she stopped consuming sugar at age twenty-two — not even a few bites of potica at Christmastime, although the Slovenian walnut roll was always Melanija Knavs’s favorite. (Who? Sorry, she doesn’t live here anymore.)
Tiniest of wrinkles beginning to snake from the corners of her eyes. No. She dabbed an expensive elixir into the skin. It would work, because it was expensive. The world might be sliding out from beneath her feet (from beneath all of our feet), but she still trusted money to keep her safe and whole.
Yes, she was the fairest of them all. Every mirror had always told her that. But what next? She looked out the window onto a city that, from that height, was all gleam and aspiration.
She turned away from the window, her mind turned toward her son. Her Barron. But not much longer. After a decade of life, he was on the threshold. He resided on the floor beneath hers (what if he has a bad dream, what if he needs me at night? she had protested, but Donald had insisted, C’mon Melania, stop babying that kid. He’s ready for his own floor, away from his mom. We have the space, so much space — a tremendous amount of space! — in this beautiful beautiful home. Time to be a big guy, right Barron? It’ll be terrific! The child just shrugged nodded, his eyes already moving past them, looking elsewhere).
The princess in a Trump Tower. She would clutch her baby to her breast, raise her eyes to heaven, but her baby was ten years old, and she needed to take an elevator to reach him, and anyway she was already so high, among the clouds. Nothing above her. And there is no-one here to photograph what would surely be a gorgeous tableau.
Was she trapped in a glittering prison, or was she ensconced on a tawdry throne?
I’m not sure she knew the answer. I’m not sure this is the right question.
She buzzed the kitchen from the intercom next to the bathroom sink. “Good morning, Darius.” When he responded, she continued, “I’d like potica for dessert tonight, please. It’s Slovenian. Something special for Barron and Donald. We deserve a treat.”
For a moment, just a moment, it all flashed before her: fill Donald with the heavy, sweet dessert, wear that gold negligee he loves, purr appropriately, move beneath him just enough, and whisper, her accent thickened just a touch, just enough, “Perhaps it’s time to forget all this now, don’t you think? You’ve won, you’ve shown them. But they don’t deserve you, they never will. Come back to Barron and me, and we can be a happy, beautiful family of winners together. Come back to us.”
Perhaps she could be the hero, not the damsel. She could speak sense to power, flutter those lashes, bring him to his knees, let him believe it was his idea to walk away.
No. That’s just another fairy tale. A fable, a longing.
She patted her face gently with a Trump Home luxury hand towel in latte. She thought about four years of smiling and waving, and she wanted to get back into bed. Instead, she raised her hand, palm facing out, waggled it back and forth. Smiled at herself, lips stretched taut over teeth.
She would cry, but her eye cream hadn’t had enough time to deeply penetrate her skin.
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Six months later, and the husband is still tweeting an endless torrent of lowercased outrage and misspelled rage. All night long, Twittering in his slippers through the dark White House halls, past empty bedrooms. And Melania continues to mute herself in her gilded tower in New York. She still stands behind those thick glass windows and looks outward, but nobody can see her, so far above us all. She posts photos of her view: spindly skyscrapers, rainclouds high over Manhattan. No people visible from up here, the air too thin to breathe.
But then it’s time to board Air Force One and deign to walk on foreign ground: a presidential tour through Saudi Arabia, Israel, Italy, and Belgium beckons. Melania has to go; does she have to go? Perhaps she resisted, begged to be left on Fifth Avenue, in her lush, gaudy prison. Perhaps she never wanted to leave her island, and perhaps this reluctance explains her wardrobe abroad: so many large, shiny, imposing belts, tight around her tiny middle. A beige shirtdress, military-severe with its row of buttons at attention from neck to knee. At the Vatican, she dons a black veil and stands, serenely glum, next to her husband in yet another gilded, gold-plated tower.
Also, a white dress; a black dress; a white-and-black suit: clothes that suggest certainty, all-or-nothing, the absence of ambiguity. No room for questioning; no space for possibility. The suffocating starkness of black and white. She is the embodiment of the Trumpian worldview: her female body displays and reflects her husband’s masculine absolutism.
But it’s not that simple, of course. After all, to be fair, in Saudi Arabia she wore a floor-length magenta gown with cape sleeves. The fabric draped to the ground from her shoulders; perhaps the cape made her feel strong. Or, at least, offered the comforting illusion that she could fly away if she wanted.
Leaving Israel, again in white, she walks behind her husband, an afterthought in heels; when he does finally remember to reach his hand back for hers, she comes alive: she swats him away with her manicured, moisturized hand. A deft flick, her wrist bends across a microsecond. He acknowledges nothing, keeps walking forward, determined to move only toward the future.
You can see this moment of deflection enacted forever online if you want. It’s been analyzed, dissected, rewatched. And still, she says nothing.
When she does finally move into the White House, supposedly this summer, what will she do? I like to imagine that she will revive her predecessor’s vegetable garden. True, the only image more ridiculous than Melania airborne in a magenta cape is Melania with her knees pressed into the soil, overalled and sunhatted, gloved hands digging up carrots.
Even so, let’s give her this. Not because she deserves it; she’s no victim. After all, not many of us get to choose our prisons, and even fewer have the opportunity to choose such lavish ones.
So this is not a gift for her. It’s a gift to us all. Perhaps she removes those gloves, shoves her smooth gorgeous hands deep into earth. Let’s leave her there. Couldn’t we all use a little sun, a little dirt under our fingernails, and a little silence in a place where something grows?