Its sometime in January 2016 and it was snowing heavily. My boots squeak in the tightly packed snow as I ascend the staircase to the studious brownstone. I knock once and stuff my hands back into my pocket for warmth, tucking my chin into the scarf and exhaling hot air to warm my neck.
I feel some mounting sense of anxiety, I've been working so hard for this moment that it almost seems impossible that its happening. A moment stretches on eternally and I fear for a moment that she's changed her mind and that I've missed my opportunity to make a difference. The snap of the lock shatters my self-deprecating thoughts and the door swings inward revealing an unfamiliar face.
"Come in, its freezing." The tall woman guides me in, her auburn hair is shoulder length and she has large, kind eyes. "I'm Maggie."
"Nice to meet you, Maggie," I respond, committing the name to memory, something I've been working on because I'm terrible with names. "I'm Evan."
"Pleased to meet you. I've heard just enough to be very intrigued."
She nods kindly, guiding me through the entryway into the warm, spacious dwelling. As I enter I take stock of the space. The fireplace is alive, filling the room with a warmth that pulls at me with a near magnetic force and I'm suddenly filled with the desire to have a cup of hot cocoa warming my numbed hands. The decoration is largely what I would expect, an assortment of neutral toned postmodern pieces spread about the room, with the exception of one piece of art on the wall which catches my attention. It's so colorful and so bright that I'm nearly transfixed by it, so baffled by its placement in this mature setting that I completely missed that she'd arrived.
Maggie clears her throat, drawing my attention.
"Madame Secretary, this is E. S. Smyth, Mister Smyth, Secretary Hillary Clinton." Maggie performs the cursory introductions.
When I'm able to finally shed my state of frozen shock, I smile and quickly cross the room to shake her hand.
"Call me Evan," I say, always better to keep these things informal.
"Call me Hillary," she responds with a playful glint in her eye, directing me to a set of wooden lounge chairs sat across from each other certainly for such occasions. As I settle into the pliant leather, I reach into my bag and pull out a small notebook and fountain pen for notes.
"You made quite the impression on my assistant Shannon," Hillary comments. "I'm ashamed to say I hadn't heard of you before you reached out for this interview. Don't take it personally, I'm not a huge reader of fiction."
I shake my head, maintaining a pleasant smile. "No, I wouldn't have expected you to. You'll have to thank Shannon for me, she was very kind to arrange this meeting."
Hillary nods and I can see the cogs turning in her head, a burning flame of curiosity flashing behind her eyes. She wants to know why I'm here, just what it is about me that got me in this room.
"I'm sure you have your question before I begin with mine, so..." I offer.
"Well, as Shannon put it, you say I'm going to lose this election but you think you can help change that." She regards me with an inclined head. "My team has been crafting this strategy since 2008, what is it that you think you know that we wouldn't?"
I take my time considering her question. To respond 'intuition' would be abysmally insufficient, but answering that I'm kept up at night by the inevitability of what's coming for America.
"Donald Trump is running against you," I respond.
"I know, he announced last summer," She responds coolly and there's a familiar confidence in her response, a frightening nonchalance to it.
"I have a sneaking suspicion he's going to win," I respond cautiously and watch her process the information, a furrow deepening between her brows.
"Just what would make you think that?" She inquires.
"Well, first off, the fact that he's still in the running. He accomplished something that's never been done before in American politics. His campaign launched on hatred and I have a strong suspicion that it'll run on on that fuel all the way to the end."
"There's more to America than hate," Hillary responds confidently, her smile almost pitying. "And there's more for us to love about each other than there is to hate. He's a blip on the radar and he will burn himself out at some point."
"Are you sure?" I respond, realizing I'm losing her interest. "Can you be absolutely certain of that? Because I'm pretty sure that if we pull up the carpet of America we'll find more hatred than nearly anything else. And that exists on both sides. Our country doesn't do very well in terms of resolving the sins of our past."
"So we'll counteract that with positivity." She responds.
"It won't be enough." I shake my head.
She regards me in confusion and I prepare for the inevitable question.
"So what would you propose?" She inquires.
I mull over the question in my mind for some time before responding, holding her gaze.
"You have to run a campaign in direct opposition but it must be done without him knowing it." I respond. "It'll be tricky and largely it'll require starving him of all of the attention he needs. That'll be one of the hardest parts because the media will be desperate to give him every spare second of their time in case he says something else that sounds insane. Mostly, however, it'll require an absolute and honestly uncomfortable amount of honesty from you."
"I wasn't aware I'd been dishonest." She responds, already on the defense.
With this, I take my time, as I know its at once the heart of what I'm proposing and the part that's most likely to get me ejected from the room.
"The people of this nation are insatiable, they desire exposure in increasing amounts until a public figure has no more to give and, more often than not, then they're cast aside. Its been the story behind most public figures. Consider the Kardashians, who have managed to bottle the recipe on capitalizing on their own exposure.
"Then there's the Clinton's. A former President and his exceptionally ambitious Senator, then Cabinet Secretary wife who have spent more time not only in the public spotlight but in politics. Yet we know almost nothing about you. And in that vacuum every rumor gains credence, each accusation is given consideration.
"Donald Trump is a thickheaded schoolyard bully, and he knows this game better than we've given him credit for. His campaign will be entirely about discrediting you and lobbing accusation after accusation your way. America will love the spectacle. You'll try to stay on topic, you'll talk about the issues and he will call you a liar and he will win the court of public opinion.
"We're in an age in which opinion is all that matters, not research, certainly not facts. With a few well-chosen words one can airbrush reality and before you know it you'll be staring down the barrel of election night and watch yourself lose an election to Donald J. Trump because America decided an admitted sexual assaulter, slum lord, reality television bully, was a better bet than an actual politician He will ask if you can really be trusted and his allies will sell it to the people, they will dig through your record and every misstep, each stumble will be brought out and paraded before the nation as proof of your failure."
"But you'd have me do the very same thing." She interrupts me.
"I would, on your terms, in your voice, with your narrative," I respond. "You'd own the conversation and it wouldn't be his to spin in any way he wants. The only way you'll win is by counteracting his strategies with naked, absolute truth. You'd have the chance to introduce yourself to America for the first time. Is it fair that you have to when every man to hold that office has kept his secrets with the consent of the nation? Absolutely not. But if we're going to keep the ship on course and keep our country from committing the worst mistake imaginable, we'll all have to step outside our comfort zones."
She's silenced, surely deciding whether I'm mad or right. I wait with baited breath while she decides.
"What exactly would this entail?"
This was, of course a dream. No one warned her. No one took him seriously enough until it was far too late. I think it'll be part of the american tapestry forever that we all dropped the ball.