He got into the truck. He was always getting into trucks and pretending to drive them and at first he only pretended to drive but then he thought why should I only pretend to drive, why shouldn’t I just drive, just get the hell out of this, and he twisted the key in the ignition and suddenly he was going.
The crowd in the rearview mirror got smaller and smaller until it was only about the size the media was always saying it was, not the size he knew it to be, and then it disappeared altogether. He was in his truck and he was driving down the highway. He was getting the hell out of this and going back to his good life, waiting for him somewhere at the end of the road.
At first he couldn’t believe it. But this was the thing he had discovered about America over the past four years, that actually there was nobody who would stop you. People always imagined that something bad would happen to you if you did one of the things you weren’t supposed to do but actually you could break things and your only punishment was that the thing you were playing with was broken now. It was a little sad, like learning about how Santa was not real, or that stoplights and stop signs and large swaths of the Constitution were just suggestions, really, especially if you didn’t care that people might get hurt.
The road bumped under the truck and the cab rattled. The infrastructure needed work. It was the sort of thing he wanted to complain to the president about and then he remembered with a little jump, you’re the president.
But now he was just on the road. He was a trucker among truckers and he was getting the hell out of this and getting back to his great life. He wished he had thought to wear a hat; the other truckers would see him in his hat and they would honk their horns at him, to show him they all loved the president (who was himself. It was easy to forget that, when you were a simple man in a simple truck, getting the hell out of this as fast as you could. Not because you were bad at being president. Just because your life had been so good before.). Maybe he would stop at a diner. He would sit in the corner behind the Forgotten Man and get a Blue Plate Special with extra ketchup and listen to them saying that they were still with him, after all this time.
The others had been so mean. They wanted so much. They wanted him to stop the pandemic. They wanted him to denounce white supremacy, with his own mouth. These things they wanted were so much harder than they looked and they were so mean about wanting them. It was not his fault that he was not stopping the pandemic. He was just a man in a truck.
Trucks were good. He liked it when big fleets got together to say they loved him. It was nice to be beloved of all the vehicles, trucks and boats and fire engines and unmarked police vans and maybe even a tank every so often as a treat. The trucks would not gather to demonstrate their love and honk together if he were not good. He was good. He just wanted to be on the road a little while.
It was quiet. You could think, if you wanted to think, or if you did not want to think you could honk the horn. He honked the horn.
The sun sank below the concrete ribbon of highway. The sun looked nice from far away, like it was made of high-quality brass. Things were lovely when you were moving toward them. That was the secret, maybe, to be always moving toward things. Being president had looked so fun. “Let’s do this, darling,” he said. “This will be a lot of fun.” But it wasn’t fun. Of course he was good at it, which you could tell because all the trucks agreed, but it wasn’t any fun. Not that he was bad at it or hated it. He just loved trucks more.
Maybe he would just drive. Maybe he would go to Alaska. Maybe he would keep going until he got to the ice wall that went all the way around the edge of the flat world. His followers had talked it up and it sounded like something he wanted to see.
It was good to be in this truck, moving back toward his great life. He could get into a truck any time and drive the hell away from it all, any time he wanted. It was nice to know he could.
Just not if they wanted him to go.
Read more from Alexandra Petri: