Dear Senator

Senator Lang, you cared about your image.  I know how much you cared, so much you would do anything.

You’d made a good name for yourself, Senator.  Nice house, good reputation, beautiful wife.  I was almost proud of you, seeing you there on the TV, stuffed to the gills with bleeding hearts causes.  You didn’t remember me then, but I remembered you.  

I wasn’t jealous of your success.  I was doing all right myself, in fact.  It did my heart good to see that one of us had made it into the limelight, like we’d once dreamed about.  We used to be friends, after all. 

You didn’t remember me.  I could tell when you answered the phone.  You didn’t know my voice, but I knew yours.  Everyone knew yours. 

My memory was always better, even when we were younger.  That’s why I called you, of course.  Because I remembered everything, and you had forgotten.  Even the things you shouldn’t have. 

“And why should I believe you?” you asked me.  You sounded odd over the phone, so disconnected and far away.  But I knew you were nervous.  I could always tell.  “How could you possibly have any proof? It was fifteen years ago.” 

“You weren’t the only one with a camera that day, Senator.”  I surprised myself with my own voice.  It was calmer than I had expected it would be.  You weren’t the only one nervous—but you had more to lose. 

“We were hardly more than kids.”

“So was she.  She never got any older, either.”  I had written myself a brief script on a scrap of paper, in case my wits abandoned me, but I shouldn’t have worried.  I didn’t need it.  “If that’s all you’ve got to say, Senator, in that case I’ll just—”  

“Wait—” You scrambled then, struggling to come up with anything that would stop me.  You came up empty.  “How much do you want?”

“I don’t want anything,” I answered.  It was the truth, wasn’t it? “I just wanted you to know before I ruined your life.  I figured you deserved that.”

“You can’t,” you told me, as if you were the best judge of right and wrong.  “If my wife finds out, it’ll kill her.”  

“Sorry, Senator.”  The clock was sweeping through its minutes, oblivious of my plans.  I didn’t need to waste time chitchatting.  “There are much worse ways to die.”

“Please.”  That, if nothing else, gave me pause.  I hadn’t heard that word spoken in your voice for a long time.  Senator Lang didn’t beg, after all.  He was a big man on the TV, in politics, signing autographs and campaigning to his smiling voters as he reassured the faceless hordes that they mattered to him, each and every one.  So I didn’t hang up.  You remember, Senator? I stopped and I listened, and I let you talk. 

“Please.  Give me an hour.  Just an hour.”        

I don’t know why I agreed.  Maybe it was because I didn’t have the guts to say no to an old friend.  Maybe you knew that.  But it didn’t matter; the end result was the same.  “All right.  One hour.”

Then I waited, Senator.  I waited that full hour, wondering the whole time what it was you were up to.  Had you traced my call, I wondered, and sent the police speeding to my hiding place? Could you have been trying desperately to cover up the last traces of your long-ago sin, fitting together some saccharine apology to your public to sway them back over to your side once the truth came out? I thought all this, thinking I knew you well enough to guess what you were doing.  But I realize now I didn’t know you at all. 

I waited, and an hour later you did call back.  For once I was the one hesitant to pick up the phone.  “Do it,” you said.  You sounded so flat and hollow, like the echo of one man’s footsteps in an empty alleyway.  “I don’t care any longer, it’s all right.  Do it.” 

I hung up then.  I didn’t understand at first, but I wasn’t going to change my mind.  Whatever you had done in your hour, it didn’t matter to me.  It didn’t take long for me to realize, though, just what it was you had done.  I don’t know what made me look at the TV.  I hadn’t turned it off since your last speech, but with the volume turned down all I had to rely on was the rolling announcement at the bottom of the screen. 


Senator Lang, you cared about your image.  But there was one thing you cared about more.  

You cared about your wife. 


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