She wanted to leave the lights on and open a window. Bright lights, fresh air and a good view. It sounded nice enough.
Her name was Tina, and she was a candidate groupie. Her and so many other girls who had picked a party, blue or red it didn’t matter, and showed up at the rallies and speeches with buttons and hats and signs to show support. At that age they should have been following rock stars on tour. But for whatever reason they were drawn to the glitz and glamour of political conventions. It’s not as crazy as it sounds. They have their own mystique, their own razzle dazzle. And the music’s better if you’re into oldies.
They were young, still in school, still learning. Some of them had read the right book, listened to a good speech, watched a compelling podcast and come away with a cause that resonated. They were idealistic and naive enough to think they could change the world. If they followed the campaign long enough to see their candidate elected, they’d have that notion crushed out of them by the end of the first term. But while it lasted it was cute, endearing. You couldn’t help but fall in love with their enthusiasm and remember a time when you were young and stupid enough to believe the system might work.
“I could use a drink,” she said.
“I’ll see what’s in the minibar.”
“Fix me something tasty.”
I was just another campaign minion, running the call center. Nobody really, but she came back to my motel room just the same to sport-fuck our would-be congressman by proxy. She reminded me of a missed opportunity in college. How could I say no? Why would I say no?
I brought her a Scotch. Her hand slid down between my legs. Her mouth soon followed. The lights stayed on and we screwed across from the open window that let in a night breeze and the peering eye of a cameraman with a big empty memory chip and plenty of batteries.
I had a visitor come to my table over breakfast. I didn’t know him, but I recognized choice moments from my night with Tina. There were photographs by the dozen that captured every contortion and made sure our faces were featured prominently. He also showed me a scan of the girl’s driver’s licence, with a birth date that indicated she’d only qualified for one a few months ago.
He said very little, but reminded me of certain laws and statutes that sounded antiquated, even quaint, but remained on the books and were enforced vigorously. Contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Transporting a minor across state lines for immoral purposes. Supplying drugs or alcohol to a minor. Statutory rape.
“Who are you?” I asked him.
“An admirer of your work.”
“What do you want?”
There was no more for months. Years.
It’s like they knew I would run for office long before I did. Or maybe they just hedged their bets and sought leverage with every up-and-comer. How much did the girl and photographer cost that night? Very little, I expect. I was a cheap investment that paid off big. It was only once I put the incident behind me, almost dared to forget it ever happened, and was millions of dollars into the hole on my own promising campaign that I got another visit.
“Remember me?” said the man.
“Remember our last conversation?”
I nodded and he told me I would receive calls from time to time. Calls I should take. Calls I should listen to carefully.
They had me tucked in their pocket, good and deep. And the phone rang often.
“Thank you for taking my call, senator. Our mutual friend, Tina, says hello.”
“What can I do for you today?” I asked in my official capacity.
“You have a vote coming up and we wish to express an opinion.”
Somehow I knew the anonymous stranger’s argument would sway me.
The pocket was deep and dark and I couldn’t see who else was in there with me. But I knew we were packed in tight.