[Image Credit: Tyler Scully]
Where were you the day he resigned?
We were in Cleveland.
With so many allegations unfurling, some days felt precarious, as if hitting refresh one more time might tip the entire janky house into collapse. But we’d been travelling. Instead of gluing myself to a laptop screen I’d tune the car radio to an NPR station around five for a recap, and check the news on my phone, maybe get caught up once our hosts had gone to bed and the two of us were in the spare bedroom or on the fold-out couch.
The preceding few days were quiet, almost eerie. And everyone was focused on the Finals, on LeBron. Even addressing the possibility that a player could be as good as Jordan felt sacrilegious for so long. But evidence kept piling up and conversations kept happening. My line changed over time, to “he’s in the conversation,” which felt like a backhanded admission. Lines were generational: people my age or older were adamant that Jordan was the best, refusing to concede their reverent pasts.
We started the day in Detroit, at one of my old restaurant coworkers’ houses. After lunch, we hit the road. Traffic wasn’t bad.
My phone’s news screen reported allegations of another staff reshuffling, more reservations from past allies.
And hyped game seven. Which we’d be in town for.
We listened to podcasts in the car on the way to see our grad school friends, watched the scenery blur by our windows.
It’s funny, in retrospect, to think of how unaware we were, how normal everything seemed. Like the highway – was there jubilation as radios announced the prime time press conference? Was it just another in a string of things? Or had everyone tuned out, exhausted or just plain uninterested? I want to think we might have heard some victorious honks, but probably not. It’s my mind shading memory, adding crosshatching to events so brightly illuminated by history that no one thought to look down for shadows.
We followed the GPS, texted our arrival, pulled into our friends’ driveway. They’d bought a house since our last visit. They had a yard, got a dog.
She and he were waiting on their porch, drinking cocktails.
We all hugged.
I can’t wait for the finals tomorrow, I said. Game seven.
And the final tonight, she said.
What do you mean? The game’s tomorrow.
You haven’t heard, he said? Holy shit.
And they told us: the press conference, the speculation about it.
Evidence mounted over weeks and months only to be sloughed off, explained away, time after time. No time to form opinions, only to react. New players rotated in for a few weeks or months to replace the weary front liners. There was outrage, of course, and protests, tons of protests, but nothing changed. The news cycled through, the hysteria howled unabated on social media, cresting and breaking in waves of scandal and denial.
But there wasn’t enough. Not enough evidence, not enough consensus.
No damning leak was issued, nothing denied.
No one knew what to expect.
It could have been anything.
A declaration of war on North Korea. Sally Yates. A declaration of war on Iran. Michael Flynn. A declaration of war on Canada. Roger Stone. Deportation of undocumented immigrants. Jared Kushner. A break from NATO. Sergey Kislyak. Deportation of muslims. Steve Bannon. The start date for the Wall. James Comey. Presidential servers hacked. Julian Assange. Ivanka’s clothing line. Kim Jong-Un. Passwords. ICBMs. Alternative facts. Saudi Arabian arms deals. Bitcoins. The Dark Web. Intercepted transmissions. Missing emails. Angela Merkel. Deleted files. Russian oil. Destroyed documents. Rodrigo Duterte. Intelligence. Fake news. Conflicts of interest. Kellyanne Conway. The emoluments clause. Info dumps. Counterintelligence. Her emails. Covfefe.
Nothing would have been surprising after so much absurdity piled up over so many months. Friends half-joked that we were living in a computer simulation, because such an improbable chain of events could not possibly be real. This explanation began to seem feasible.
We debated going to a bar for the 8 pm presser and decided against it.
Instead, we sat in the living room, watching on TV.
You remember how quick it was. How wooden, how emotionless. You must’ve watched some of the commentary afterwards. That slow-motion video where you can see a single eyebrow tic. None of us registered it at the time because of the fireworks.
I thought they were gunshots. But our hosts didn’t seem alarmed. She and he got up and walked to the window.
Look, they said, pointing.
Red, white and blue blossoms were clearly visible against the sunset.
That was the beginning.
Your city had celebrations, too. They all did, big or small.
And then the Cavs won it the next day.
My wife and I travel a little bit. We want to see everything for ourselves.
So many of our favorite cities are unfairly judged, punchlines because of conventional wisdom neither conventional nor wise.
Now, when we talk about jubilation, about winning, a party in the streets, we think Cleveland.
The party started, and Cleveland kept it going longest.
We think about reversal of fortune. About despair’s depths. About curses and legacies.
We were there.
Michael T. Fournier is the author of two novels (Hidden Wheel, 2011, and Swing State, 2014, both on Three Rooms Press) and a book-length discussion of the Minutemen album Double Nickels On The Dime for the 33 1/3 series. He’s the publisher/co-editor of Cabildo Quarterly, a broadsheet literary journal, and has written for Razorcake, Oxford American, Pitchfork, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Maudlin House and the RS 500. More at michaeltfournier.org.