“Can you put the coat on?”
M knew this was a frivolous request. They already didn’t have much time to be together, their respective masters at any moment about to say something that they would have to defend and explain in front of cameras. This was not a life that left much room for passion, at least, none directed in the ways that either of them would truly like.
It seemed counterintuitive to have her put more clothes on at this moment, but ever since he saw the ensemble at the inauguration, he knew he had to see it in person.
K just smiled and headed for her walk-in closet. She emerged a minute later, clad in red, white and blue, the dull closet light glinting off the brass buttons.
M felt himself stir. For just a second, he could imagine himself the revolutionary he thought he would be upon joining his government. It didn’t matter anymore that he had become an object of ridicule. Standing in front of him was a woman dressed in couture meant to evoke the liberty that men fought for hundreds of years ago. He could imagine her on Bunker Hill, flaxen hair blowing in the wind of revolutionary struggle, reminding the tired, hungry men of these colonies what it was exactly that they were fighting for.
“You’re beautiful,” he said.
“Don’t lie to me,” she replied with a half-smile. “Not tonight. No more lies.”
“I could never lie to you. I can lie to everyone else. But not to you.”
He strode forward clumsily, rushing to kiss her. She met his mouth without any tenderness, her thin lips eager to let something other than dishonesty past them. His clumsy, meaty fingers fumbled with the cathead buttons of her coat. He felt every contour of the brass as he struggled with it, the metal cold in his warm hands.
When the garment finally yielded, he placed a tentative hand on her hip. She placed her hand over his, prodding it towards the crevices of her body that needed his touch.
“You can be bolder,” she said. “This is not the time to be timid.”
Her words right then pierced his heavy heart. He had forgotten how to be brave. He drew his hand back, and turned away before she could the tears in the corners of his eyes.
But she saw. Her practiced smile became a flat line. She redid the buttons on her coat deliberately, letting the silence float between them.
“This never happened,” she finally said.
“They’ll ask where we were,” he managed weakly, wiping the tears from his eyes.
She turned away from him and fixed herself in the mirror. She was every bit the symbol of freedom that she needed to cling to. She was the red, white and blue. She was what they fought for.
M looked at K once more, imagining what he was missing. In his head, he tried to construct the reality where he could do what he wanted, where he could still pursue his dreams. But there, in that cold Washington room, he found the limits of his imagination.
– THE END –