Meeting Her Dad (OTUS)
The young man approached the front door of a tony house in the Kalorama neighborhood. He wore a nearly stylish navy suit and a light blue button up shirt. His striped tie was crooked and poorly tied. His discomfort was palpable; he wore the outfit like a burlap sack. He wore the same thing for his college interview, but that was nothing compared to this. He would rather redo that interview twelve more times than do this.
Jeremiah stared up at the house and swallowed, checking his watch. He’s twenty minutes early. The right behavior for a job interview or for class, but not for a ‘social’ occasion. What was it his mother always said when he was a kid and dad was rushing her to get ready for a night out, “don’t worry, Isaiah, we’ll be fashionably late.” He decided to take a walk around the block but he couldn’t shake the feeling that the whole block was watching him. Mainly because it was.
As he walked up the street earlier, he was stopped by secret service agents. They ran his ID, frisked him, checked a guest list, radioed some other agents to confirm. He suspected they gave him a little more grief than they give most guests, given the nature of his visit. They seemed to be enjoying his jangling nerves. It seemed silly to even try to walk around the block pretending his every move wasn’t being followed. He started imagining the agents in that SUV laughing at him as he paced the block so he planted his feet, took a deep breath and turned back toward the house.
There were two flights of stone steps leading up to the house. He made it up the first flight, stopped short and turned to go back down. How could he have been so stupid. When he started dating his girlfriend, he thought “no big deal, who cares who her dad is?” Most of her life, her last name alone had impacted ever aspect of her life. She couldn’t meet strangers, everyone already knew her. She never got to be just herself and get to know people as her own person and not her father’s daughter. She deserved some normalcy. She was an amazing girl. He couldn’t believe she’d ever paid him any mind, and not because of her father, just because she was just so gorgeous and so smart and so cool and — “cool it, Jeremiah,” he thought to himself.
But now that he was here a year and change later, meeting her parents, and he just couldn’t believe he’d been such an idiot to think this wasn’t a stupid idea. Not because he wasn’t in love with Mal, but because of who he was about to meet. This was the man his mother had pointed to since he was nine years old. “Study hard so you can grow up to be like him” and “You must behave if you want to be like him someday” or when he misbehaved “Our people have worked for centuries all the way up today, to him, when you do such stupid things, you disrespect the labors and the suffering of all of them.” What would they even talk about? He had nothing to say that would be interesting to this man. Jeremiah was a 19 year old college freshman from Silver Springs. His mom was a high school history teacher and his dad was in sales. His most entertaining stories were about stupid things he did when he was drinking with his buddies and that one time his big sister managed to knock his baby teeth back up into his gums — long, gross story, don’t ask.
He sighed and looked at his watch again. Now he was only ten minutes early. He felt his phone buzz and checked the notifications. Three messages from Mal. She was saved in his phone as “[heart eyes emoji] [heart emoji] Boo [heart emoji] [heart eyes emoji]”.
“Jer, what are you doing?”
“You know they can see you through the windows”
“This is embarassing, Jer. Just come in. It’s going to be fine, babe. I promise”
He found himself grateful in the moment for how dark his skin was, it hid any blushing. He used to hate his dark skin. Especially growing up in such a white school. He ruined every group selfie; everyone else would either be washed out or he would just look like someone had covered up his face with sharpie after a bad breakup or something. Dating Mal, he’d started to love his body more, he started to see himself the way she saw him. But in this moment especially, he had never been so grateful for his complexion as his face grew hot with embarrassment.
He took a few more deep breaths and walked up the second flight of steps. He reached the door, straightened his tie, smoothed his shirt anxiously and then reached for the doorbell. The instant he pressed the button, the door swung open. There he was, the most accomplished black man in the world, his mom’s icon of black male excellence, beaming — maybe a little cruelly in the moment. Jeremiah felt his face flush again. He’d been standing there watching the whole time, just waiting and enjoying his discomfort.
“Can I help you?” he asked
“Yes, Sir — Mister Obama — Mister President Obama Sir.”
“Let’s go with Mister President for now. And you are?”
“Yes your majes — Mr. President, sir. I mean.” He cleared his throat anxiously, “It’s an honor to meet you, Mr. President. My name is Jeremiah Foster, sir” Jeremiah extended his hand to shake the President’s, but then panicked and instead spread his arms out as if he were spreading the folds of a skirt to display the fabric. Putting his right foot behind his left, he bowed his head and bent his knees.
“Did you just curtsy, son?”
“No, I mean, I maybe. Yes, Mr. President.”
“You don’t need to curtsy.”
The President smiled warmly. “Relax, Jeremiah. It’s okay. I’m just messing with you. It’s nice to finally meet you, Malia’s told us so much about you.”
Jeremiah visibly relaxed and started to embody his normal, confident space. “Thank you, sir”
“Plus, I had the Secret Service look into you months ago, so I know everything anyway” he says with a chuckle. “You can just call me Mr. Obama for now, okay? But call my wife Ms. Obama. She’s nobody’s Missus.”
“Yes, Mr. Obama. Thank you, sir.”
“Alright, enough torture, Jeremiah. Why don’t you come in? We’ve got dinner ready.”