The Legend of Billie Jean (Remembering 2016)
I had attempted to stay up as late as I could to watch the results of the election. My wife Samantha and I were lying in our bed waiting and worrying and disbelieving that what we were seeing was actually true. It was appearing, with each Trump state victory that he was edging toward an unlikely and unthinkable victory. The moment I knew that he really had a chance was when ABC News correspondent Matthew Dowd said, “Trump has got a clearer path to victory than Hillary. He is on course to be our next president.” It with the words, “he’s on course” that I knew that my 8 days of sobriety were over. (I had been abstaining from alcohol for this new diet, not because I’m a drug addict.)
I looked over to Samantha. Her long brunette hair tied back into a bun. Her normal rosy white complexion has seemed to lose the already minimum color that it already had. And her green eyes seemed to be watering with anxiety. Any good husband would have inquired about her condition. But at this point in the night, I was not a good husband. I was a scared husband. Scared at the potential that America was about to elect its first Ayatollah. I had watched the Apprentice. I had heard the rhetoric from Trump about Mexicans and women. I had read Mein Kampf as a high school student. I had seen the Exorcist. And at that moment, all of these images combined left me with no strength or energy to comfort my wife. I needed comfort myself.
“I can’t watch this anymore,” I replied as I turned the television off with the remote and got out of the bed. Samantha looked stoic. She hadn’t closed her mouth since Dowd had spoken the infamous words. I got out of the bed and went to the bathroom, closed the door behind me and took a deep breath. I looked in the mirror. What I saw puzzled me. There I was, Travis Rosenberg, small-time comedian, father, husband. I am a White male in the greatest country in the world. Surely, I had nothing to worry about. I mean it wasn’t like Trump was going to win. Surely, by the time I woke up the next morning the nightmare would be over. Hillary would have swept the final 13 states, the glass ceiling would be broken, and the crisis would have been averted. Right?
Yes, that’s what would happen. Everything would be fine again in the morning. I tried to smile at myself in the mirror. I went into the medicine cabinet and took out two Xanax pills from the bottle. I knew that there was no way I’d be able to sleep without it tonight. I quickly took the two pills and popped them in my mouth and swallowed. My prescription only called for one pill, but I was pretty sure that my doctor didn’t know what might occur tonight in American History. I splashed my face with water, dried my hands, and walked back into the bedroom.
Samantha turned toward me with tears in her eyes. “Honey,” she said, “He’s not going to win is he?” I went and laid back down taking her in my arms. I could feel that her body was warm and that there were beads of sweat running down her forehead.
“This will all be over in the morning baby.” I replied. “We’ll wake up and Hillary will be our President. The first woman president at that. And our girls will grow up knowing that they can do anything.” My mind immediately went to the girls. Sarah and Christine were my two jewels. Sarah was only eight years old but had the vocabulary of at least someone who was half her age. (Samantha and I had been meaning to get that checked out but just got caught up in the election.) . And Christine was getting ready to turn ten. She was smart as a whip and loved movies. She said she wanted to be a film director when she grew up. We had given her a cell phone last year and she took videos of everything. One day, without us knowing, she said she had taken a hidden video of me and mommy “wrestling” one morning in the bed. She had called the film, “Give It to Me,” based upon her mother’s repetitive verbal directions. We soon decided that her film ambitions would be better suited for a later age and decided to take the phone back.
I thought about going to check on the girls. I knew they were asleep but still the thought of an impending Trump victory probably had cosmic telepathic effects that could wake children and cats out of their sleep. But I decided against it. I knew that any show of distress would only further cause Samantha to become even more anxious than she already was. I continued to hold her wondering if we would have pre-apocalypse sex. I doubted it. I felt the Xanax taking effect and decided against making any moves on my wife. She felt clammy anyway.
“Baby,” Samantha spoke. “Would you sing us to sleep?” My sexual antenna reawakened. One thing I knew about Samantha was that she loved my singing. And anytime she was scared and asked me to sing, that usually meant another home movie if Christine had anything to do with it. I used to sing in my church choir as a child and amazingly, even though I didn’t practice much, I still maintained a nice voice. I didn’t sing often, except in parody songs during my stand-up routines. But every now again I would belt out a tune for Sam.
“What would you like to hear baby?”
Sam turned the lamp off and nestled up underneath me. She still felt clammy. “How about Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen?” I thought about the song. Sure, I had sung the song to Samantha dozens of times before. I would always ask her why she, a devoted agnostic, liked it. That’s when she would smile at me and says, “I don’t like it…but I like the way you sing it to me.”
But tonight I felt like her reason for hearing me sing that song was different. You see, if Trump was going to win the election, then it could be that all of us might need some religion in our lives. And maybe her hearing the religious references of the song with the choral hallelujahs could even bring an unbeliever some comfort in this new world. And if some religious therapy in the form of Leonard Cohen was what my baby needed, then I was obliged to provide my priestly duties in her behalf.
Now I've heard there was a secret chord That David played, and it pleased the Lord But you don't really care for music, do you? It goes like this The fourth, the fifth The minor fall, the major lift The baffled king composing Hallelujah
Hallelujah Hallelujah Hallelujah Hallelujah
By the time I finished the chorus I could sense that Samantha was relaxing. Her heart rate had slowed and I could see that the beads of sweat on her forehead had devolved from drops of blood size to a more moderate flow. I also felt that the Xanax was beginning to take a greater effect on me. I begin to sing the second line not knowing if I could finish the song. What came out of my mouth was some strange remix that obviously was influenced by the fright of a potential Donald Trump presidency.
Your hate was strong but you needed proof You saw the country bathing on the roof Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you You tied her To a kitchen chair Liberty cried, this isn’t fair And from your lips you cried, What’s-It-To-Ya…
It was then, I assume, that I went to sleep. But I begin to dream a dream that I could only compare to a sci-fi post-apocalyptic version of the film the Legend of Billie Jean. Billie Jean appeared, dressed in a dark room, draped in an American flag. And then appeared Mr. Pyatt’s character. Billie Jean said that her brother’s scooter was broken and that they couldn’t afford to get it fixed. And then Mr. Pyatt, who had a shop, said, he knew exactly what it took to fix it. He invited Billie Jean in the back and then, something happened. Instead of fixing America…he tried to take advantage of Billie Jean in the back room. The next thing I remembered was that that Billie’s long flowing blonde locks were cut off and she was forced to wear some hideous crop-top haircut. I took this to be symbolic of the beauty of Lady Liberty being cut off and made to look like something hideous – more hideous than those Jherri Curls that my black friends used to wear in High School.
It was at the thought of America being exploited and forced to wear a Jherri Curl that I screamed. The sound of my voice awoke Samantha. Realizing that I was having a nightmare, she held me.
“Travis,” she spoke. “Are you okay baby. You’re just dreaming,” she spoke before turning on the light.
“I looked at her and ran my fingers through her hair expecting to feel the moisture of a lubricated curl. When I felt nothing, I knew that the dream was over.”
“I’m sorry Sam,” I cried. “I was having the worst nightmare. America was Billie Jean and we went to Mr. Pyatt, who I believe was Donald Trump so that he could fix our broken scooter, and he tried to take advantage of us. Could my dream be a sign?”
“Travis,” Samantha replied in the attempt to stop my rambling. “You were just dreaming. It was just a dream.”
Maybe she was right, I thought to myself. “Maybe it was just a crazy dream based on my sub-conscious and spiritual connection with certain 1980’s movies. I mean, it wasn’t like this dream was a message from the Almighty God warning us of things to come for the country.”
Samantha agreed. “That’s correct. I mean, I’m an agnostic and you’re a comedian. God wouldn’t speak to us. Who would believe us?
“That’s right,” I replied. And from what I read somewhere on Google, God now only speaks through children because they’re pure.”
It was at that then that we could hear footsteps making their way toward our bedroom. Sarah walked in the room.
“Daddy, she said. “I had a bad dream.”
It was at that moment that both Sam and I knew that something was wrong. Forgetting the need of my daughter to be consoled, I immediately reached for my smartphone from the dresser desk near the bed. With trepidation, I clicked the ABC News App to see that I already had two notifications.
My wife looked at me and spoke in anguish. “What does it say Travis? What does it say?!”
I clicked the notification to see the news. The Presidential election was over. Donald Trump was President.
I looked to my baby girl Sarah and then to Samantha. I felt worse than Florida Evans on Good Times after James had died. It was then that I let out a scream that even my neighbors could hear.
“Damn, Damn, Damn!”