When the doorbell rang, I knew it was them. My wife and children all gave me that look. Nobody said anything. Dinner had just been set. I had just come from home from work, it takes me two hours to get home. They wait for me every day. I would complain but whenever I get home, but the relief I get when I’m home, as if if just come home from prison, is a relief I’ve become addicted to.
When we are together, the five of us- including our beloved pooch-, we forget the world outside. But you are never allowed to stay too long in your safe space. Eventually the outside world must pull you in back, become part of the story you never asked to be a part off.
It’s the look that bothers me the most. The look these children have, whenever the outside world invades ours. The look my children gave me when the doorbell rang, it’s not the kind of look that children should have. The world outside should leave childhood alone.
”The president wants to see you,” said his head of security who stood there, together with two other goons, ”it’s urgent.”
I nodded. I hesitated whether or not I could ask to come later but I know that would be useless. I said I’d be right there.
Telling the family that I have to leave is always difficult. Nobody dares to speak ill of the leader of the person responsible for my absence. Everyone wants to and they all think it. But none of them even dare to whisper it. Somehow he always knows.
I tell my wife I love her. I tell my children that I love them. I kiss my dog. I lie and tell them I’ll be right home, even though I know his palace is three hours from here. They tell me they’ll wait for me.
There had been rumors spreading around on Twitter. The last bastion of free press. Recording between two illustrious businessmen, close to parliament, had been leaked. There was talk about paying certain men to do certain things. These things were not meant for civilian ears. They mentioned the presidents name. I didn’t listen to it. I try to know as little as possible.
They pad me before I enter his office. He sits there behind his office. The smile of an innocent man. How do evil men always manage to smile like children? He’s smaller than I am, yet when he shakes my hand it’s like shaking a giants’ hand. He comes real close to me, pads me on the shoulder. Here come all the right words.
”I hope I didn’t ruin your family’s dinner.”
”I’m here to serve the president.”
”We need more patriots like you. If there more like you, I would have almost nothing to do.”
He tells me to sit down. He doesn’t sit down. He likes to be taller.
”You know we are building something big. We are building something that most people just don’t seem to understand. And that’s okay. You can’t expect them to understand. They don’t have vision. They like with what they know. That has been the problem of history. You had these great men with great visions struggling with lesser minds.”
He walks up to a painting of himself on the wall. It’s next to the founders of our country. He has particular respect for the painting of a former president, who is avidly known for his cruelty. In time, he will surpass him, even he hasn’t already. You never know. The amount of bodies are always known after the effect. Long after men like him die from a long, long life.
”That’s why we need men that trust these men of vision. That’s why I always had a fondness for you. You are one of the my greatest successes. You struggled, protested,” he tells me this while his hand moves like he dictating an orchestra, ”…were persuaded by lesser men. Let me change that; the opposite of men of vision. Dangerous men. Fucking terrorist! Those who just want to see things burning down!” the theatrics, the populist leader speaking at a rally coming out. ”But you eventually played ball. You know what’s good for you and for the country.”
He holds my shoulder, he looks down on me.
”This country needs you. I need you. You are my tool to spread my message, my vision on the world…” I just wish he would just go on with it. Tell me the story I should run.
”But the fight is not over. They have struck again. We’ve got a rat somewhere. The rat recorded some pertinent information and spread it around. Oh I’m not worried. It’s all bullshit.”
”Of course it is.” I do my best to have no sarcasm in my voice, but after saying this, it feels like I’m trembling. ”Just propaganda from foreign states. Countries run by terrorists. But you see…” He moves around his office, not facing me, as if he’s talking to himself, ”the people like a little theatrics. They like stories of corruption, even if they are fake. It’s a story. People like stories. The fight is always about who has the best stories. This is why you are so important.”
I want to tell him that I won’t do it. I want to tell him that it’s unethical. That it isn’t the truth. But he knows I won’t. A person who left his family meal for a three hour drive just to hear something what could easily be told on the phone, won’t defy his messenger. He just likes to do this to me because I came close to being on his dissident list. But he saw my weakness, he could control me, he knows I’m scared. He knows I have a lot to lose. You never discard a useful fool.
But he’ll never forget my dissenting words. He knows that deep down I’m not on his side. My media-company was the one that dared to run a story that wasn’t on his agenda- that even opposed his agenda. This was before he seized it. Before his staff of writers came in and filled us in on the reality of the world. He knows that I know that he won’t ever forget. One false move and it’s over. I think it turns him on, reminding me of us.
”The people who don’t fall in life must be made to do so. And if not, they must be silenced, invisible. Nonexistent. I don’t hate those who lack vision. I just don’t want them to meddle with mine,” here it comes, ”I need your rally crew on this, this needs to be fought hard. My writers will do their job but I need assurance that you will make it your mission to counter this news and tell the world whose really behind it.” I don’t even need to say which group is behind it, it has been the same for some time. ”Will you do this for me?”
Go fuck yourself. Burn in fucking hell.
”Of course sir. Anything for you.”
I cry on the way home. The security detail who drives me don’t say a word. It makes me cry even harder.
When I’m finally, I see that nobody had supper yet. I want to call them downstairs, but the kids are asleep. My wife was waiting for me downstairs, watching TV- whatever is approved by the president. ”Do you want me to warm you up something?”
She doesn’t ask me what he asked me. She never asks me about my job. That’s for the outside world. We are supposed to be safe. Sometimes the illusion works.
I say there’s no need. I lie that I had food on the way. The truth is that I never eat without my family. I rather starve.