Donald Trump, Eric and Don Jr. sit around the dinner table. “So,” Trump says. “How are things?”
Eric glances nervously at his brother. “Things?”
“Not business things, obviously,” Trump corrects, glancing down the table at the ethics adviser who has been following them around since this began. “You things.”
“Good,” Eric says. “They’re good.”
A long silence ensues.
“Just good?” Trump asks.
“Great,” Eric corrects. His lower lip quivers. “Always great, Pop.”
“That’s good,” Trump says. “I like to hear that.”
“What did you do today?” Trump asks.
“Well, Pop, I did a lot of things,” Eric says.
“You know we can’t talk about them,” Don Jr. says.
“I ate a healthy breakfast,” Eric adds, quickly. “Fruit.”
“Huh,” Donald says. “Fruit.”
Don Jr.’s fork clicks on his plate. “I had a waffle.”
“Good for you, Don,” Trump says. “I like waffles.”
“I’m just trying to watch my health,” Eric says, a little defensively.
“Well,” Donald says, “that’s important, too.”
Silence falls again. Don Jr.’s fork clinks.
“So things are good?” Donald asks.
“Yes,” Eric says.
“Good.” Donald eats a mouthful of mashed potatoes. “You do anything else? Read a book?”
Don shakes his head.
“No,” Trump says. “I didn’t figure you would have. Probably don’t have time, what with all the –”
Eric touches his arm and shakes his head gently.
“I can’t believe they won’t let me talk to my sons!” Trump says. “Unbelievable!”
The ethics adviser shakes his head. “No,” he says. “You can talk to them as much as you want. Just not about business.”
“What else is there to talk about?”
“Well,” the adviser suggests, “your feelings — or — your thoughts, or memories you had together, or — things like that.”
A long silence ensues.
“I never felt my father loved me,” Donald Trump says, suddenly. “I never felt my father knew me. He seemed to see me as an extension of himself that he could mold and do with as he pleased. I never felt he saw me there at all.”
“But, Pop,” Eric says. His voice cracks.
“I’m almost afraid to ask whether the two of you felt the same way.”
“I didn’t,” Don Jr. says.
“A memory –” Trump says. “I remember when I held you for the first time, at the hospital, before I gave you back to the people who changed you and fed you and cleaned you and loved you until you were old enough to talk to like a reasonable man — and I always wished I’d held on longer. When I saw you again, you were a little stranger in a little suit.” Trump sighs. “But it’s no good, regretting things. It makes you soft.”
“I never thought you were soft, Pop,” Eric says.
“I wish I’d changed your diapers,” Donald Trump says. “Even once. Is that too weird to say?”
“Yes,” Don Jr. says.
“Pop,” Eric asks earnestly, “what do you do when you get lonely? When you worry that nobody who is around you actually wants to be around you for you? Are you ever afraid that there might not be a real person who is you, deep beneath all the layers, that you’re just a set of expensive things that people like to be around because it is comfortable for them?”
“There isn’t an answer,” Trump says. “I try to see the answer in myself, but — I find nothing. Only a sort of clammy void. Do you think I’ve failed you as a father?”
“Good potatoes,” Don Jr. says. “Really good.”
“Sometimes I wonder if I will be saved,” Trump says. “I have such dreams — I could not begin to tell you. I wake up and I cry out for my mother and then for your mother and then I remember that the woman who would answer is a stranger, and I have nothing to say to her. What can I say to her?”
Eric nervously reaches out to touch his shoulder. They sit there a moment.
“I don’t like you seeing me with her,” Trump says. “I don’t like the way I’ve made you think about women or about life or about anything. There are so many things about myself — so many things, and in me they look strong, and good, but when I see them in you — my heart breaks a little.”
“Pop –” Eric says. His voice cracks. “Do you love me?”
“Of course,” Trump says. “Do you doubt it?”
“Never once, ever in my life, have I felt truly secure that I was loved,” Eric says. “Not since you sent my nanny back to London.”
“I didn’t know we’d sent her,” Donald says.
“I know,” Eric says. “That was what hurt the most.”
“Group hug?” Trump asks.
He glances down the table at the ethics adviser.
“Pop, I wrote a poem this week.”
“Yeah,” Eric says shyly. “I think maybe that should have been my dream, but I’ve been so busy all my life living other people’s dreams that I didn’t have any of my own.”
“Do you have the poem with you, son?” Trump asks. “Let’s hear it.”
Eric reaches into his pocket and pulls out a folded sheet of lined paper with “Daddy” written on the top in uneven large block letters.
Don Jr. hits his head against the table. “Dad,” he says, “Dad, please, you have to divest.”
“What?” Trump looks wildly at him.
“If you divest, you can end this, and we’ll never have to do this, ever again.”
“Oh,” Trump says. “Thank God.”
Eric slowly folds the poem and puts it back into his pocket.