A few months back when the desert’s fever finally broke with the shift to the autumnal equinox, I headed east in search of some real leaf-turning splendor. Turns out it was a tad early for the vibrant coppers and reds in Washington DC, my destination, but I saw another kind of display the week I was there: A real he said/she said sexual showdown that should have shocked and surprised me as it unfolded in our nation’s hallowed halls–but instead, it felt all-too familiar in this #metoo world we live in.
My trip had been planned for awhile, so it was purely by chance that my visit coincided with the Senate Judiciary hearings on the latest Supreme Court nominee. What followed was a 9-hour watch-a-thon of the Kavanaugh and Blasey Ford testimony.
Back in 1991, I also watched as Anita Hill laid out her sexual harassment claims against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas in front of an all white, all male committee. Would Blasey Ford be labeled a crackpot, too, especially since her best friend couldn’t corroborate the story of sexual assault?
My bestie from high school lives in DC, but she’s someone I’ve only seen once in the past 30 years. So while I was in town, we spent an evening laughing and swapping stories (note to her: I’m not surprised that you still have the charisma and chutzpah to date a man 20 years younger!) We were inseparable in high school, and she eventually moved in with my family when her parents divorced our senior year–a divorce I was entirely unaware of as she hadn’t shared that news before the day she moved in. I also discovered during my visit that while we have many of the same memories, there were some of which one or the other of us has absolutely no recollection.
Which prompts this question: Do you share everything with your best friends, dear readers, and can you dredge up the same long-gone memories? And a question I’ve pondered before: Can we ever really know someone entirely??
What I saw in watching the most recent hearing was the face of righteous indignation. Seemingly untouchable during those magical high school summers Kavanaugh described, his country club manners were tested. When poked and prodded with details of the accusation, his umbrage took center stage; lips tightly pursed, face reddening as his bombast spewed forth in a “How dare you!” manner. “I’m better than you, and you and you,” he seemed to say.
I’ve seen that face before. Mr. invisible wore the same untouchable sneer when I confronted him with what I’d discovered about his secret life. He would look down his nose at me, and with a sniff, left nostril flared and slightly raised, say, “How dare you accuse me–I’ve done nothing wrong!” Even though I’d seen what he’d done on a flickering computer screen…and in the report of his search history generated by a forensic computer specialist…and from the disturbing photos found on a carelessly discarded hard drive.
But on this particular trip, I wasn’t going to allow some beer-guzzling frat boy with an expression like my ex’s to spoil my sightseeing. At the Newseum, a journalist’s paradise in the form of a high-tech museum, I saw headlines from every major newspaper in the world. As their front pages crawled in a computerized conga line across the building’s facade, photos of Kavanaugh and Blasey Ford were on virtually every one, and depending on which way each publication’s editorial board tilted, some pictures flattered him in a pious pose, and some her, eyes wide with fear and resolve.
All hail for freedom of the press. No fake news found here.
I toured the White House where security was multi-layered, the most obvious reminder in the form of a beefy sharpshooter I saw standing on the roof, a long-barreled rifle grazing his thigh. Inside the White House visitors’ entrance at the final Secret Service checkpoint, there were a couple of guys whose chests, shoulders and well-scrubbed heads screamed military, the only parts of them visible from behind a slotted metal screen. As I moved forward, I heard incessant panting coming from the area below them of what turned out to be a bomb-sniffing German Shepherd, toenails clicking as he paced back and forth behind the barrier. “I haven’t heard that much heavy breathing in 20 years!” I declared to no one in particular.
Needing my daily caffeine pick-me-up, I meandered into a Starbucks a stone’s throw from the U.S Capitol, and realized after a few minutes that it was the quietest, most serene place I’d been since arriving in DC. As the line moved toward the cash register, I watched a customer write his order on an iPad, and the barista nodded and smiled. “Wow, it’s nice they’re so accommodating to someone who can’t speak,” I thought. Turns out, it’s a mutual accommodation as this Starbucks is near Gallaudet University, which was founded in the 1860s by an act of Congress, the first college for deaf students. All the workers there use sign language and communicate digitally with the hearing folks in a way that’s so gracious and uncomplicated, my eyes welled up.
By the time I made my way to a barstool in the Red Robin at the Willard Hotel after the hearings, I strained to see through the windows and the evening downpour. Blurred blue and red lights flashed atop cop cars as traffic was stopped in both directions to let the President’s motorcade pass as he left the White House to go to Capitol Hill to persuade the judiciary committee that Kavanaugh was still a good choice, the best choice.
Unfortunately, the paunchy Republican conventioneer who sat two stools away from me said something Trumpian about the time my wine arrived. My head snapped left to face him as I felt the blood rush up my neck all the way to my forehead. Before I knew it, my arm shot reflexively across the gal sitting between us, and my finger poked the air in front of the guy’s gut, encased as it were in a golf shirt as taut as a pair of Spanx, and I let loose a day’s worth of frustration in the name of women everywhere who want their stories to be heard. Startled, he said, “Calm down there, lady. I didn’t mean anything by it!”
They never do.