The senator was tapping on the microphone and gesturing for someone off stage to come make the adjustment when I spun back around to the waiter, but he was already gone. And when I looked around for him I found several of the same dark shirts and yellow bow ties, all holding trays with the same champagne flutes, fizzing with pink bubbles.
I’m seeing things. Mind and body are both now rejecting my farce of a life.
“Mommy!” a little voice broke through the crowd. Sammy came crashing against my leg. I smiled and lifted him up and set him on my hip in a move that felt natural to me. Nadine, who had been chasing him around the party-goers, appeared next to me, out of breath.
“Your little one is getting fast,” she said, with her hands on her knees. “Don’t let those little legs fool ya. He can really move! Either that, or I’m out of shape. Could be both,” she huffed. Nadine had traded her usual Polo and khakis for a button down black dress shirt and black pants. Instead of her orthopedic black sneakers, she was wearing a pair of rounded-toe, shiny black ballet flats.
“You look great, Nadine,” I said. She returned the compliment with a roll of her eyes.
“I’m just glad I wore black,” she said, fanning herself. “Because I’m sweating like we’re standing in the middle of Hades with the devil himself.”
I thought King was the devil. But I was sure that I was in hell and he was nowhere to be found. I looked up at the stage. And I was pretty sure that the devil voted republican and wore Hugo Boss.
“Mommy, Nay-neene couldn’t catch me!” Sammy exclaimed. “I fast! I fast like this!” he said, holding up the red Matchbox Corvette he held in his hands and flying it around in the air.
“Oh yeah? Are you being good for Miss Nadine?” I asked him, ruffling up his perfectly combed hair, his natural curls springing to life, his little giggle exposing his bottom row of adorably super tiny teeth.
“Nope,” he said, still looking at his car. His natural curls sprang to life. “There, that’s better,” I said, smushing my nose against his. I was too busy interacting with Sammy when Nadine cleared her throat. When I looked up I noticed that a lot of the crowd had stopped doing what they were doing and were watching me interact with my son.
My father was back on the microphone, sans interference, and the crowd turned from me to him. My mother stood obediently off to his left, next to the long American flag. He started his speech by welcoming the crowd to the event and mentioning the charities that would be benefiting from the silent auction and donations they received during the evening. “What did I miss?” Tanner said, pushing through the crowd to stand next to me and Samuel. “Hey kiddo! High five!” Samuel lifted his palm up and Tanner pressed a high five to his hand. “All right buddy, you’re getting good at that.”
“Not much. He just started,” I said.
The senator paused and looked out over the crowd. He took the cards from the podium and placed them into the pocket of his dress shirt. “I had all these notes prepared. I wanted to talk with you about the agenda of the campaign and about what we hope to achieve over the next few months. But I can’t do that right now.” The crowd murmured in confusion and a few shouted the “Why not?” the senator was obviously fishing for.
“I’ve made no secret that family, and traditional American, and Christian values are one of the most important things to me to withhold during this campaign.” The crowd applauded and he held up his hand to silence them. “But as you know, family isn’t always predictable. It isn’t something you can control,” he said. “As you all know by now, either through rumor or from reading it in the paper recently, a few years ago, I became a grandfather.”
It was the first time I heard him reference Sammy as anything other than my son. Grandfather wasn’t exactly the title I would have given him either.
“My daughter, Ramie, and her boyfriend, Tanner, made a decision to enter into a relationship they weren’t ready for at the tender age of fifteen. I’m not excusing their actions nor their behavior but what some of you don’t know is that Tanner was sick….”
“Oh my God, he’s telling them everything,” I said, covering my mouth in shock. Tanner grabbed my hand and held it in his.
“I’m not surprised,” he muttered. “Did you really think he was just going to let them think we were two horny teenagers who had sex under his roof? Too much blame in that. He’s going to blame my illness now. This is an art form to him. More so than your sketches are to you. He’s creating emotion, opinions. He’s telling them what they need to think without coming right out and saying it. It’s kind of beautiful if you think about it.”