Track Two: Center of the Universe

A Rose Mary Stretch of the Imagination, pt. 2

The story of Richard Nixon’s secretary, told as if Built to Spill’s seminal release Keep it like a Secret was a concept album about the Watergate Scandal.

Dick was unstoppable. His ambition was a force. If he needed funds, he got funds. If the funds were questionable, he answered the questions. If he looked bad on TV, he sounded great on the Radio. If the vote didn’t swing his way, the sympathy of the nation did.

More quietly, but no less successfully, Rose Mary was clearing the path of obstacles. Her mind raced daily, each political challenge seemed to sharpen her focus. She didn’t think about the past, her family, where she was from or what she had left behind. Her thoughts were consumed with the next diplomat, the next senator, the next rival candidate. She preferred it so.

They trusted each other more than anyone else. Rose knew it. The entire Nixon family knew it. What’s more, they seemed to understand it. Rose Mary Woods and Pat Nixon became like sisters.

Dick couched his ambitions in concern for the Nation’s welfare. Rose didn’t mind that, but neither did she find it necessary. For her, movement became morality. What mattered was change. Right was making progress; wrong was simply standing still. As long as she and Dick were making progress loyalty became Rose’s pole star. Tactics might be questionable, but her loyalty to Richard Nixon would not be questioned.

“They trusted each other more than anyone else.”

Rose saw Dick’s rough edges, but she appreciated their form. The glimpses of his paranoia were quirky; transcribing his secretly taped conversations, endearing.

The years passed in a blur. There were highs and lows but always, eventually, an upward trajectory. Occasionally, as they ascended each political peak, Rose would experience vertigo: She would look around her and try to remember a time before Nixon was the center of the universe.