You can read this series from the beginning here.
"I just want to know who all is going to be there," Emma said.
We were on the Northeast Regional, which was super-annoying because I’d wanted to take the Acela and the Acela, for some incomprehensible reason, does not stop in Newport, Rhode Island. It was a long trip, and I was trying to make it more tolerable by listening to the new Ta-Nehisi Coates book on my headphones. I had to take them off when Emma started asking me about the Fairchild International board meeting we were both going to.
"It’s a family corporation," I said, "so it’s a family meeting. Me, and my dad, and my Uncle Pembroke, and my younger brothers."
"And your mom doesn’t go to board meetings," Emma said.
"No. She ended her boycott, so that’s good, but she still won’t come to actual meetings. So she usually sends a proxy. I think the last one was a Paiute Indian. She self-identified as a lesbian, but every time she was in the room with Dad, she was licking her lips, so I don’t know what her actual orientation was."
"So it’s going to be me, your family, your uncle, and some random member of some oppressed minority group."
"Well, not necessarily," I said. "One year it was Caroline Kennedy, but I think that was just a mix-up. She was very nice until Dad told her she wasn’t getting an award."
"So your mom isn’t even going to be in Newport?" she asked.
"No," I said, very quietly.
"Wait, don’t tell me," Emma said. "Let me guess. She’s in Cuba, doing a photo essay on social-realist murals before Starbucks gets there."
"Mother only goes to Cuba in the winter," I explained. "The humidity does bad things to her dreadlocks."
"She’s in Palestine, throwing rocks at the IDF."
"Don’t be ridiculous," I said. "She renounced violence after Kent State. She did go to Gaza to lead an interpretive dance troupe that was honoring the second intifada, but she accidentally fell into a tunnel and they had to airlift her home."
"I give up," she said. "You’re so much better at this game than I am."
"What game?" I said.
"That’s what I mean," she said. "You even pretend that it’s real."
"Of course it’s real."
"Then where is she, then?" Emma asked.
"I don’t like to say. It’s too embarrassing."
"You’re going to laugh at me."
"Justin, I would never laugh at you. For long, anyway."
I looked around, in case anyone was listening–you never can be too sure, anymore. "She’s in Ottumwa," I said.
"Is that, like, in Belize or something?" Emma asked.
"It’s in Iowa," I said.
"Oh, so she’s volunteering for the campaign? That’s great."
"Yes, she is, and no, it isn’t. She’s working for Senator Sanders."
"She is not," Emma said. "You are making that up. Your mom knows Hillary from way back."
"She knows Bernie from way back, too," I said. "She was the co-chairman of Leninists for Sanders from the first time that he ran for Senate."
"Leninists for Sanders?"
"Well, there were only six of them. But they were very vocal."
"I give up," she said. "You are so much better at this game than I am that it isn’t funny."
"What game?" I asked again.
"I like your friend," Dad said.
We were on the deck of the Fairchild Conqueror, which the crew had brought up from the Bahamas to replace one of the propellers. It turns out that the propellers for a large motor yacht are on the back of the boat, and are underwater, which may be helpful for you to know the next time you’re on a large motor yacht and there’s a conversation about propellers and you make a comment about airplane propellers that was meant to be a joke. It also turns out that if you have a stockholder’s conference on a large motor yacht, that means you can go to the IRS and deduct the cost of towing a large motor yacht from the Bahamas to Rhode Island as a business expense. Capitalism may be a dying social structure, but you can count on Dad to make the most out of its perverse incentives.
"I like her, too," I said. "A lot."
"I think your mother would like her, too," he said. "You okay if I smoke?"
I would normally complain about this, but I know Dad only smokes organically-grown Cuban cigars, so at least he’s striking a little blow for income inequality between capitalist and socialist economies. "Go right ahead," I said.
"I’ve been thinking about your future," he said.
Not this again, I thought. "I’m happy doing what I’m doing," I said. "I have no interest in grad school."
"Wouldn’t recommend it," he said. "It would have been a worthwhile investment at one point, but your income needs are going to change."
"We haven’t made any decisions along those lines," I said. I was not about to tell him that Emma was pregnant, because she still hadn’t made a decision about that, and there was also the horrible possibility that he knew already.
"You have Emma on our payroll," he said. "That indicates to me you might start having issues."
"That’s just temporary," I explained. "There’s a little lull in financing, that’s all. Once donations start pouring in again, we’ll both be earning money and can support ourselves."
Dad flicked some cigar ash into Narrangasett Bay. "I’m not really worried about whether you can support yourself," he said. "I’m worried about your legal status."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"You’re very deeply involved with someone who could be very dangerous for you. Someone who is involved in massive international corruption. Someone who has no capacity for telling the truth. And someone who has no compunction about ruining other people’s lives to save herself."
"That’s not true!" I said. And it wasn’t. Emma isn’t like that.
"There’s only one place this is heading," he continued. "You know it as well as I do. I don’t know how deeply you’re involved, but the net is tightening. I just don’t want to see you caught up in it."
"I’m not caught up in anything," I said. "I entered into this relationship for a reason."
"I know how strongly you feel," he said. "But you need to think about what this relationship, as you’re calling it, is doing to your future career options. It could prove to be totally destructive."
"I can’t believe you’re saying this, Dad."
"Son, think about it. Do you really think that Hillary Clinton cares whether or not you go to jail?"
I opened my mouth a little, and then closed it, which turned out to really be a smart thing to do because it took my brain a minute to process that Dad was talking about the former Secretary and not Emma.
"You’ve done something," he said. "I don’t know what it is, and please don’t tell me, but I can see it in your face. You’ve done something wrong working for this campaign, something that could get you in a lot of trouble."
I kept my mouth shut. How did he know? I hadn’t talked to anyone about the night that Emma and I had shredded all those papers and hard drives, and I didn’t think that she had, either.
"My advice is simple. Walk away. Nobody will say anything about it; people leave political campaigns all the time. I can get you on with Biden if you want, assuming he ever decides to get started, and of course your mom could get you on with Bernie if you’re that serious about destroying capitalism."
"I don’t think the former Secretary did anything wrong," I said. "She’s going to be the nominee. If I back out now, when things are going bad, I don’t see how I get back in once she gets elected."
"I’m worried about you," Dad said. "And your girlfriend, especially if you’re serious about her."
"There’s not anything to worry about," I said, although I was getting less sure of that by the minute.
"I hope so," Dad said. "Okay. Enough talking. Let’s go downstairs and see if Pedro’s wrapped up the leftovers yet. I could use another bite of that key lime pie."
"How’d it go with your dad?" Emma said.
"Fine," I said. "He said he likes you."
"I like him, too," he said. "Your Uncle Winthrop tried to pinch my butt, though."
"That just means you’ve been properly introduced to the family," I said. "Except for my mom, of course."
"I know you miss her," she said. "But it’s okay. Come on. Let’s get ready for bed."
I thought about my mom, and how she had spent her life fighting for social justice and equality and mandatory leaf composting. I thought about my dad, and how he cared about me and didn’t want me to get arrested for shredding classified materials. I thought about Emma, and what she had growing inside her. I thought, and thought, and then couldn’t sleep for a long time, so I went back to the galley to see if there was any strawberry cheesecake left. It turned out that the Syrian refugee that my mom had assigned as her proxy had snuck into the galley ahead of me and had eaten it all, so I finished the last of the coconut shrimp. And then I had a bite or two of the mahi mahi, and then I found the bacon-wrapped scallops, and then I went to bed and then I threw up at four in the morning and clogged the toilet in our cabin, which on a large motor yacht is called a "head," as I learned the next morning.
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