TITLE: Our Two Consciences: Let Me Bid You Farewell
(1/1)
AUTHOR: Laurel A. (lalden99@yahoo.com) --"Feed me
back!"
SPOILERS: Everything up to, and including, Two
Cathedrals.
RATING: PG
DISCLAIMER: Not mine (thank your lucky stars); Aaron
Sorkin's (thank your lucky stars again!)
ARCHIVE: Anyplace, just let me know.
SUMMARY: Donna's feelings on the events in Two
Cathedrals and her anticipation of Bartlet's answer to
the big question of re-election.
STUFF: Geepers, the season went by so fast! Thanks to
Michelle who encouraged me to write, who has become an
amazing friend as well. Thanks to everyone who sent
us feedback encouraging us to write more. "And I'll
See You In September...."

This is the final installment for Season Two in the
Josh/Donna Post-Ep POV series, "Our Two Consciences"
by Michelle Hoffmann and myself (although you don't
have to have read any of the others to jump on in
now):

Roles by Laurel A.
Masks by Michelle H.
Donna Moss Talks About Sex and Joey Lucas by Laurel A.
Josh Lyman Talks About Strategy by Michelle H.
Late At Night In The Soft Warm Glow by Laurel A.
Perfect Clarity by Michelle H.
I Confess by Laurel A.
Static Electricity by Michelle H.
Change, Gratitude, and the Heartbreak Turtles by Laurel A.
Transformation by Michelle H.
Bast, a Bowler, and Bucking for a Promotion by Laurel A.
Filibusters, Falls, and Feline Avengers by Michelle H.
Take, Take Me Home by Laurel A.
The Very First Lie by Michelle H.
Reality Called by Laurel A.
I Dream of a Dominatrix by Michelle H.
Chicken Little by Laurel A.
Trust by Michelle H.
Discretion by Laurel A.
Deru by Michelle H.

Margaret and I are in her car, driving to the State
Department. The storm is blowing full out and the
wipers are going full speed in a futile attempt to
keep the windshield clear. We are on our way to hear
the President tell the country that he isn't going to
run for re-election. At least that is what we think
we are going to hear.

Neither Margaret nor I know for sure what Answer B is,
but that's what Josh told Toby the answer was when Leo
called the senior staff into their meeting. From the
tenor of Josh's voice, the look on Toby's face, and
the way they left the meeting looking beaten down and
defeated, we have a pretty good guess.

After the meeting you could tell that each person was
dealing with what they'd just heard in their own way,
letting its full weight and meaning privately sink in.
They retreated to their offices, gathering up files,
staring out windows, and watching CNN's clips from the
President's television interview and the accompanying
commentary.

While Josh stared out his windows at the rain, his
back to the droning television, Margaret called to let
me know that the President was ready to hear my report
on the storm that was bearing down on us.

As I walked almost methodically to Leo's office, I was
thinking about my conversation with the lead
forecaster at NOAA's National Weather Service. She
provided me with much of the information on the storm,
which I was about to relay to the President. As I
spoke to her I wondered if she'd already heard about
the President's MS, and if there was anything in my
voice that would betray my dread and sorrow about what
I feared was coming at the press conference.

I felt like a quisling when I made the call. I had
wanted no contact with the outside world. The tension
and the intensity in the West Wing tonight was a
private thing. At least until the press conference,
what this night is about and we are going through
belongs to us. I didn't want to share it with anyone.

Getting the assignment to track the storm was part of
the essence of what tonight was for me. It allowed me
to indulgently dwell on the painfully obvious
symbolism of the storm. And, it gave me a reason to
talk with the President; gave me my chance to tell him
that we were proud. I don't know if hearing that from
an assistant meant anything to him, but it was
important to me to say it anyway.

The President and I love the miniscule and obscure
facts that are behind everyday things. The minutiae
that you find allow you to get inside of things, to
see them in a way that no one else does. To _know_
things in a way that no one else cares to.

For me, having knowledge of seemingly mundane facts
doesn't make the world more impersonal, like you would
think. It's the opposite really, you become intimate
with things, and they become immensely personal. You
are allowed to see the hidden meanings, where and why
things came to be, and how things are connected. And
sometimes, you are allowed to see things about
yourself that eluded you before.

I think the President knows this, and I like to think
that he sees it in me as well, even though I haven't
yet figured out a way to share it with anyone. Where
I come off as annoying, the President uses his
detailed knowledge with ease. He can pull trivial
facts, both scientific and literary, into casual
discussions to illustrate points; and into political
discussions to win battles, to bring people together,
and to inspire.

CJ's knock on the door ended my brief time with the
President. I re-traced my steps back to my desk,
silently gathered my things, put on my raincoat, and
went to meet Margaret to make the drive to the State
Department. We barely spoke on our way out of the
White House, the weight of the day and the weight of
what was coming silencing us.

As we ride in the car now, I think how the whole day
has had a strange and surreal feel to it, switching
gears from the tobacco case, to Mrs. Landingham's
funeral, to the President's TV interview; the storm
punctuating the day's events with cliché thunder,
lightning, and gale force winds. None of it has
seemed real and all of a sudden I feel like my whole
reality is getting helplessly shifted and blown about;
everything I have come to rely on is now tenuous, at
best.

And I still keep wondering, "Is this how it works?"
Leo and the President in a room, deciding in effect,
the future of the country. The thought makes me angry
for a moment.

These are our jobs too. We all have a stake in this
and it doesn't seem fair. We have put our lives into
these jobs, into this administration, into this man.
This one man.

It must be a heavy weight for one person to carry.
Sometimes I forget that it is all on President
Bartlet's shoulders, that he _is_ that one person.
He's always been Governor Bartlet, and then President
Bartlet, to me; a man with more power, strength, and
wisdom than I had ever seen in a person. I forget
sometimes that he is not only _the_ person but also,
simply, _a_ person; I think we all forget that. But,
Mrs. Landingham knew it.

Through her memory I am reminded that he alone is the
one who must make the decision and he is the one who
has to run for re-election. He must decide to put
himself out there. Out there to be examined, exposed,
and put under a microscope. Maybe he hopes, that
similar to the way learning the minutiae helps him see
what is at the hidden heart of things, the country
will see what is in his heart as they learn the hidden
minutiae of his life.

I love working for him. I love working at the White
House, in the West Wing. I love my life in
Washington, DC. I love the people I work with and I
love the things we work for. And as much as I have
been fighting the feeling, tonight has the feel of
finality to it; that all those things I love will come
to a lost and lonely end.

The intensity with which we work and live is all
consuming. And when the day comes when it is all
over, I know how I will feel. I will be empty;
nothing will ever compare, nothing will ever be the
same. Tonight I will find out when that day will be.

The storm cracks out another bolt of lightning and an
almost immediate rumble of thunder as Margaret parks
the car and we run through the rain into the building.

We hurriedly enter the back of the auditorium in time
to hear the end of CJ's portion of the press
conference. We see Carol give CJ the nod and she
introduces the President.

He steps up to the podium painfully slowly and it
seems like time has slowed down. He looks around,
takes in the room, and calls on Sandy.

Margaret and I glance at each other before locking our
eyes back on the President. We know from Carol that
he was supposed to call on Lawrence Altman from the
Times first.

Sandy doesn't hesitate for a second. She almost leaps
out of her seat and asks point blank if the President
will be seeking a second term. There is a blinding
series of cracking flash bulbs and a thunder of
shutter clicks that echo the storm outside.

The President asks her to repeat the question. I lean
forward a bit, straining to hear. I am afraid I will
miss something. Sandy repeats her question, exactly
as before. The President takes a long pause, pulls
back and looks off to the side before leaning into the
microphone. I try to imagine what is going through
his mind as he forms his answer. It's like he is
remembering something out of the past.

Maybe this man, in his own mind and for his own
reasons, has made private decisions and he needs to
steady himself before he can share his intimate
knowledge. Maybe, the minutiae of the storm have told
him something that we weren't allowed to hear. Yet.

END

 

 

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