SOTU: January 31, 2018

Dear Mr. VP,

I don’t know. Why even try today, when this gem already exists.

Where was Mike Pence during the State of the Union?

by Alexandra Petri 

(appeared in today’s Washington Post)

Where does Mike Pence go during these speeches? He is always somewhere, just barely making it back in time to rise and clap. But where, specifically, does he go?

Mike Pence stands on top of a wedding cake under a plastic trellis covered in fondant roses. Acres of white frosting spread as far as the eye can see. He is safe on top of this cake, safe from anyone whose hand might reach out and try to slice off a piece for an undeserving couple. Nothing can touch him here on this layered sponge. Somewhere a distant organ is playing Pachelbel’s Canon.

In the distance there is a vague rumbling. Perhaps the bride and groom are approaching on horseback. No. The sound is too loud. The cake begins to collapse. He falls all the way through the cake, and then he is in the House of Representatives and they are clapping all around him. He is standing behind President Trump again and clapping, and President Trump has just suggested the nuclear arsenal needs to be bigger. Sure.

Mike Pence is in a quiet mountain glade. A unicorn with Ronald Reagan’s voice stands beside a slow-moving stream whispering softly to him about deregulation. He smiles. A stream trickles slowly down, as prosperity is sure to do. There is a faint sound in the distance, and the unicorn turns its head. He follows the sound. The stream has become a waterfall. He is trapped in the waterfall. The sound, he realizes, is his own hands clapping. He is standing behind President Trump and clapping ferociously. President Trump has just said something about protecting nuclear families by ending “chain migration.” Everyone is applauding. Mike Pence applauds.

Mike Pence is in a Thomas Kinkade painting. It is a snowy winter scene, but he is tucked snug and warm into a brick house. He feels illuminated, like a fancy H on an old manuscript. He looks at his hand, and his hand is made of light. He presses his face to a glass windowpane. Across the street, the lamps in the houses flicker out. Then the streetlamps go out one by one. Darkness envelops him. He rises to his feet and claps, but none of the lights come back on. President Trump is there in front of him. President Trump has just said he is keeping Guantanamo Bay open. Mike Pence claps and claps.

All the women in the world have disappeared but one, and there need be no further concern about whom Mike Pence is eating supper with. He is at a long table, and a Renaissance Jesus is there as well. Renaissance Jesus will finally explain everything, about the martyrs, about everyone. It is going to be so good. Mike Pence is clapping. He is on his feet clapping, and he doesn’t know what for. Probably Paul Ryan does. It doesn’t matter. Clap, clap.

It is snowy and silent, and his beloved is coming home through the fog. Mike Pence has built a snowman and given it an American flag to hold, and when the snowman grasps the flag, it comes to life. They dance around together, faster and faster. Snowflakes whirl around them. A penguin is with them. It is dying. He is not sure how he knows this. Words penetrate the fog. America is exporting energy again, President Trump says. Finally. Mike Pence starts to clap. The snowman vanishes.

Mike Pence is in the reverse sunken place. He hears the phrase “MS-13” and starts to clap again.

Mike Pence is in a field surrounded by rabbits. Marlon Bundo is there. Don’t be afraid, Marlon says. You understand. You’ve always understood. Mike Pence claps and claps.

Mike Pence stands on his tiptoes. He is in a Norman Rockwell painting, and a pie has just come out of the oven and been placed on a windowsill to cool. Pat Boone is singing a nonsecular song in the background. No one is different. For Christmas this year (Christmas is back; Christmas has never left) perhaps he will get a Red Ryder air rifle, and they will watch a black-and-white Disney animated feature, and nobody will find fault with it.

Americans are dreamers, too. This phrase floats unproblematically down like a flower petal landing on the untroubled pond of his mind. The vision starts to fade, and Mike Pence claps and claps and claps. If he claps and wishes hard enough, maybe he can go back into this beautiful world that does not exist.


I can’t even. Thank you, Alexandra.


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