You can read this series from the beginning here.
"I just want to make sure I have this straight," Emma said. She was using her cranky voice, which I had heard quite a bit lately because I’d been helping her move into my apartment, and she had demonstrated an opinion regarding my furniture-moving skills that was not that far removed from contempt. I had pointed out that Fairchild International was part-owner of a moving firm, and that we could hire people to move her giant chrome-and-glass entertainment center at a 20% discount and strike a blow for income equality. This did not do much to change her opinion.
"What do you not understand?" I said.
"Your Aunt Joan is asking us to meet with these representatives of the Elizabeth Warren political action committee tomorrow, right?"
"Correct," I said. I tried hard not to use the word "right" outside of the progressive context (civil rights, reproductive rights, etc.) if I could avoid it. I had even tried to convince Salon to run a piece that said that we should start calling progressives "right-wing" because we were right on the issues, and that we should start calling conservatives "left-wing" because they wanted people to be left out and left behind, but they didn’t decide to run it and I don’t understand why.
"And she told you who we were supposed to meet with, right?"
"Well, sure," I said.
"And you never once told me that one of these people was your ex-girlfriend?"
"Um. Well. I broke up with her before the campaign, a couple of weeks before I met you. So it’s not as though there’s really any overlap."
"Overlap. This is what you’re telling me. You’re telling me that the reason you didn’t tell me that you used to sleep with someone in the Warren organization was that there wasn’t any overlap."
"She wasn’t working for the Warren organization then!" I explained. "She was working for us. She had your cubicle before you did."
"You have got to be kidding me, Justin. You’re telling me you were sleeping with the girl who left that half-bottle of Xanax tabs in my desk? I could have gotten fired if anyone had found those."
"When you put it that way, perhaps I should have informed you earlier. But it’s not really vital to what we’re doing."
"Not really vital? Justin, let me tell you what’s really vital for you right now, and it involves being honest with me about things like this. You didn’t once think that I might want to know that you slept with Samantha Whoever-this-is?"
"She’s a very nice person," I said. "And totally committed to the progressive cause. I’m sure she will be professional about this, just like we’re going to be."
"Let’s just go," Emma said. "But I reserve the right to wring your neck about this later."
Samantha was wearing a big turquoise necklace and a hair clip with an eagle feather, and she acted like we’d never met, which was fine with me. The other Warren representative in the room was a Harvard dude. What I mean by that is that he had a Harvard tie with a Harvard tie tack and Harvard cufflinks, the effect of which was to broadcast to the world that he went to Harvard. I was prepared to bet good money that he had adopted a phony Boston accent, and I was not wrong.
"Lowell Widener," he said, sounding for all the world like he’d just eaten a bowl of clam chowder. "Pleased to make your acquaintance."
"Justin Trudeau-Fairchild," I said. "Also pleased to make your acquaintance."
Widener scanned my tie for hidden meanings, but since it was just a plain Brooks Brothers navy and red stripe, he didn’t find any. "Where’d you prep?" he asked.
"Hopkins," I said.
"Oh, you’re a Yalie, then," he said, dismissively. "Should have guessed."
"Not exactly," I said. Just like a Harvard dude to make that particular assumption.
"I went to Amherst," I said.
"Oh. Safety school. Too bad. Well, shall we get down to business?"
"You asked for this meeting," I said. "I’m happy to discuss whatever it is you want to discuss. Ideally, I would like to come out of here with some sort of arrangement that guarantees that we don’t step on each other’s toes."
"You understand that Senator Warren is not yet prepared to make an endorsement," Widener said.
"I expect that Senator Warren will endorse the former Secretary at some point," I said. "Whether that happens before the primaries start or after the former Secretary clinches the nomination is entirely up to the Senator."
"It’s also entirely up to Senator Warren who she will endorse. I wouldn’t assume that she’s going to endorse Hillary, if I were you."
"You can’t seriously expect us to think Senator Warren is going to endorse Bernie," I said. "Ideology aside, she knows that it’s a bad idea to cross the former Secretary."
"Who also happens to be the front-runner," Emma chimed in.
"But how long will she stay the front-runner?" Widener asked. "Senator Sanders is polling well. The Vice-President may very well get into the race. Senator Warren needs to keep her options open, don’t you know."
"We’re not here to negotiate the endorsement," I said. "That’s going to happen at a level far above our heads."
"If you say so," Widener said, looking very chuffed with himself in that particular way that Harvard dudes look very chuffed with themselves.
"All we’re looking for is a temporary truce," I said. "You don’t attack us, we don’t attack you. Coexistence."
"Senator Warren is all about pushing the progressive agenda," Widener said. "The first item on that particular agenda is stopping the Pacific trade deal. If that’s on the table, we can have a meaningful discussion."
"This isn’t really a negotiation," I said. "You know I don’t have the authority to decide what the former Secretary’s policy positions are."
"Does anyone over there?" Widener asked. "Because we were kind of wondering ourselves."
"Boys," Samantha said. "Maybe we could take, like, a five-minute break and think about what our goals are for this meeting, and if there is, like, a more progressive way that we could reach them, okay?"
"Yes, let’s," Emma said. She got up from the table where we were sitting and headed towards the nearest bathroom. Samantha followed her, a half-step behind. I pulled out my phone and checked my e-mail.
"You guys had a good football season last year," Widener said. "Eight and oh."
"We did what?" I asked.
"Amherst," he said. "Football. We were almost undefeated my senior year at Harvard. I played linebacker and free safety, mostly. Lost to Princeton in three overtimes. Their quarterback got six touchdowns. Ridiculous."
"Ridiculous," I said.
"Did you play?" he asked. "Football, I mean."
I couldn’t think of a macho way to say my mommy wouldn’t let me, so I gave it up as a bad idea. "I was focused on my studies," I said.
"Not focused enough," Widener said, "or you could have gotten into Yale."
I wanted to wipe that smug Harvard smile off his smug Harvard face, but I am committed to nonviolence and progressive solidarity, so I didn’t, and he probably would have wiped the floor with me if I had. He pulled out his phone, complete with crimson VERITAS case, and opened up Facebook to commune with his Harvard friends about how great it was to have gone to Harvard. And then, to top things off, Emma and Samantha came back from the restroom, whispering and giggling together.
"Should I be worried?" I asked Emma.
"Definitely," she said.
I signed and sat back down at the negotiating table, although I had nothing to really negotiate with. It was getting harder and harder to make a difference.
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