She arrived in a dented white SUV and parked on the weedy street leaving one door open. Her coat was slightly moth-eaten and her sallow face with its poster smile tried to look its best without going for a cigarette. We sat on the porch and near the empty pool and inside at the white tablecloth dining set and she bulked up slightly as she talked, her cheeks puffing out, her hair taking on new puffs.
She’d been a survivor, with her husband doing things in the pool halls and gentleman’s clubs and ordering sleazy burgers at all hours of the night in the long motels that lined the motorways. She’d made an escape out of smoking and spending hours doing the laundry when it didn’t need to be made and her mouth still made random smoke-sucking motions. I tried to organize my questions about liberation and the tourism industry and the incapacitating darkness that was overtaking certain areas of the state, but she deflected my questions with a series of non sequiturs and ellipse-broken phrases about the things she had done for the snack industry and the pest-removal sector.
I was embarrassed when she didn’t get the proper respect from my family. When my father looked through the hallway in his favored faded t-shirt and salmon robe, reminding me of my chores. Or my unimpressed mother who interrupted the governor with insistent questions about what she was doing to thicken newspapers and put meatier vegetables into the generic soup. My mother had a preoccupation with carrots and their proper percentages and the governor became sidetracked trying to address these issues of roots and circumferences.
We were outside for a time in the hot tub, the one that we’d bought in bulk, under the unadorned branches of the walnut tree. The governor now talking in an unstopping explanation, unprompted, defending her positions on gas station toiletries, shopping mall concrete, paragraphs separating the institutions from fat and salt, library directories of unsanitary stopping outlooks and the institutionalization of interspersed parks for reviewing trees. The security she’d brought stood outside the hot tub, sometimes shuffling and desiring a hot dog, running a hand over his thin, plastered hair and adjusting his cheap glasses.
Despite everything, she was still the governor. She’d arrived of her own volition and she was answering the questions in the style to which she was accustomed, ignoring, shellacking over my hesitant hints about her past. All of her attention was on the rig-crowded highways of the state’s condition, all of her body was devoted to the policies generated and messaged to her from roadhouses and fishing holes. She had her preferences for coating over everything with layers of pebbles and macadam until it all matched the resolutions, the drafts, the bylaws that had been negotiated.
Finally, when things were turning the color of umber and we’d run out of the glazed pastries, she walked off of the patio and, with her coat clutched around her, she found her way back to the vehicle, the security bloated in his white shirt, with a Styrofoam cup, holding the door open, his shoes speckled with mud. I hadn’t remembered all of the answers I wanted to get, but I had a photo of the governor on the porch, her hair looking thin, gazing away at a sign on the road. And I had some excerpts of quotes when she made some candid remarks about the bakery outlet and her thoughts on teachers who hadn’t been inspiring to her. I watched her drive away down the dirt road, mother in the background, with just about the exact amount of ruefulness that I’d expected.