The night visitor

He slinks down Pennsylvania Avenue, head down in a knit cap, at 3:00 A.M. disguised as a homeless man escaping the watchful eye of the Secret Service, his administration, and the cameras, on his way to a dilapidated tenament in the poorest part of the city.

The tenement dweller who owns nothing has been waiting for him. For a long time. The door is ajar, as it always is, in anticipatory welcome of his and others’ coming.

“Welcome, Donald,” he says. “It’s been years. I wondered whether we’d ever have a visit.” He lifts the visitor’s heavy coat from his burdened shoulders. The tenement dweller points to two chairs he’s rescued from a dumpster in the wealthier part of the city, and, without words, invites his guest to choose between the small wood folding chair and the high red-leather wingback that face each other in the small room. The guest pauses …and then, reluctantly, chooses the small folding chair.

The room is dimly lit by a small table lamp, the kind of late-night or early morning ambiance that engenders a kind of intimate calm. They sit in silence.

“I’ve been concerned, Donald. I see you’ve been tweeting a lot – more than normal. What’s that about?”

“It’s all I have. My mind won’t stop. I don’t sleep. I don’t rest. I watch television to distract me but it’s only making things worse. I’m a mess. I feel very alone.”

But you’re not. You’re surrounded by people in the White House. Why did you come here?”

“I remembered you from childhood. My mother taught me the song I used to sing about you. I used to end my bedtime prayers on my knees in your name.

Jesus is silent.

“And now? What brings you here at this hour of the morning?

“I don’t know.”

The table lamp next to the chairs flickers.

“It feels pretty dark, doesn’t it?”

“Very dark. Very dark!”

“Why is that?”

“I have all the power in the world but I’m helpless to help myself. I can’t stop tweeting. It’s like it’s not real. I could destroy the world with the push of a button. The power scares me. So do my advisors. My mind never stops.”

Silence. The silence of truth.

The tenement dweller’s eyes  look through him, but are soft and compassionate, as well as penetrating. His posture is relaxed but completely attentive to the man-child in the smaller, folding chair. Finally he speaks quietly.

“Maybe it’s time to get down on your knees again? Time to recognize that your homeless disguise is not just a disguise? You’ve been homeless in that gilded tomb of a tower. Time to sing the song you loved to sing in Sunday School, submit yourself to a power greater than your self, and get a good breakfast in the morning instead of tweeting. And, do something about Steve Bannon. He got it all wrong. He’s thrives on anxiety. I’ve been waiting for him, too.”

They sit together in silence. The tenement dweller reaches out his hands; the president extends his hands in response. They sit in silence – a wordless kind of prayer of the Deeper Silence – by the flickering light until they rise from their respective chairs. The host lifts Donald’s heavy coat up to his lightened shoulders and watches the homeless president leave for another day on Pennsylvania Avenue, humming in the silence, “Jesus loves me, this I know… Little ones to him belong. He is great but I am small” in anticipation of a return visit, and a word at the White House with his lesser advisors.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 12, 2017.