6:30 AM: THE OFFICIAL AWAKENING
The morning it happened was like any on the livestream. The maids in their red dresses and white aprons entered the inner chamber of the château at seven o’clock sharp. They performed their duties with the ticking movements of a cuckoo clock, and their heels clacked against the floor like the changing of the guard. They dusted the furniture and polished its handles. They fluffed the pillows and swept the floors. They reduced the tint of the skylight and removed the red crepe from the chandeliers and candelabras. Then, with all the solemn air expected of their duty, they stepped forward and opened the drapes on the four-poster bed.
The president’s penis sat up against the pillows and stretched its head side to side, filled with the morning pulse of the nation.
ATTACHED AND DETACHED, ITS MEMORY LIVES ON
We all have memories of the president’s penis. It is a matter of public record, archived in the Library of Congress and the histories of browsers. Four decades of the commander-in-chief’s unit in civilian times, pre-election and en media erectio. Eight years of night vision clips from his time in office, its owner’s eyes green-glowing. Six years of old-young videos from the American Porn Network that the president founded after leaving office. The behind-the-scenes footage wherein the former president’s penis and scrotum separated clean from his body mid-scene and the president collapsed beside his costar, as if his potence had transmigrated into his genitals at the moment of their liberation. And fifteen years during which the livestream of the penis’s day was a source of constancy in uncertain, inconstant times.
It was a penis of the people, tireless, ever-alert, and dogged in pursuit of its goals. A hardworking penis with an elite upbringing and an outsider’s attitude. A penis of considerable girth and length, well above the national average in size and esteem. A penis steadfast in its beliefs and egalitarian in its interests, hung right but aimed straight at the center of the populace. A penis that, during its attached days, starred in swinging scenes for the red counties and bondage scenes for the blue, that performed in ebony porn for the south and stepfamily porn for the family values states and lesbian porn (in dildonic form) for the voyeuristic and sapphic-curious heart of the country. An inspiring penis that rallied the spirit. A wholesome penis that you’d let pose with your baby at the state fair.
8:00 AM: MORNING MASS
After its morning ablutions, the president’s penis was escorted to mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. It rode for all to see in its armored toy golf cart encased in bulletproof glass and perched atop its limousine. With its head held high and its shaft swelled with pride, it smiled its sideways smile at pedestrians and nodded toward the members of the military who saluted its passing visage.
At its reserved pew, it hopped up the stairs to its elevated pillow. Not one to appear limpid or lazy, it sat upright and performed as many of the rituals as it could. It moved its head up for the father, down for the son, and left and right for the holy ghost, amen. It stood tall on its scrotum when others stood and relaxed against the seat when others sat. Its personal assistant performed the actions it could not. She responded to the priest’s calls, deposited the penis’s cash donation in the basket, took the holy body into her body, and sang the doxological Gloria and the holy, holy, holy Sanctus.
The interviewed attendees described the president’s penis as being especially beatific that morning, with a ray of polychromatic light from a stained-glass window haloing it in a corona that made one meditate on the holy spirit and how it moves through us all. They described the Secret Service agents who stood stationed at the doors as being as vigilant as ever.
A COMPLICATED LEGACY
The president’s penis was not without controversy. No rally during its independent lifetime was considered a success without foam penises held high, no protest complete without the castration of a penile effigy. Democrats called the erecting of the château a debasement of traditional American values and a herpetic sore on the National Mall, a Louis-XIV-style tumor among the classic Greek architecture and staid concrete of the capital. Republicans railed against the politically correct policing of America’s body politic and praised the penis’s commitment to service.
There were allegations, a litany of them, but no documented proof, and this was the remnant of a man whose thighs we’d seen clench in the throes of countless finishes, a man who’d said the things that could not be said, whose reputation was founded on exactly the sort of virility that might overspill at any moment and was, to the president’s base, blameless in its potency. Were his supporters to set aside the president’s legacy because of a few uncredited accusations? Did the Greeks stop believing in Zeus because of what he did when he transformed into an animal?
9:30 AM: THE DAILY PHOTOSHOOT
Next came the daily photo ops, for the chronicles of history and the whims of the base. First was the official press photo from across the National Mall, with the penis posed next to the Washington Monument like a son beside his father. Second was the official social media photo taken from the floor of the Lincoln Memorial, in which the penis stood on its head so that, from the iconic angle, it appeared as if the president’s penis was hanging from under Lincoln’s overcoat. Last came the selfies in front of the château, where screened members of the public posed before the penis protruding from the stand-in of the president carved into the château’s façade. One by one the fans posed with their eyes Ahegao-crossed, their tongues poised inches from its tip, their heads tilted back in supplication.
A NATIONAL ICON STILL TODAY
Despite the controversy and despite the decade that has passed since its last day, the president’s penis continues to hold our imaginations. It has rooted itself in our collective unconscious as surely as any holy or national artifact. It is the Liberty Bell of our time, the Shroud of Turin of our moment, as sacred and as emblematic as Washington’s powdered wig, Lincoln’s top hat, and the handwriting on the Bill of Rights.
Its château remains a destination of pilgrimage, the obligatory backdrop of at least family portrait per trip. Visitors leave with souvenirs, whether sincerely or ironically, like travelers to the Vatican bringing home a rosary. Dildos modeled on the penis and commemorative merkins sit on shelves next to deluxe copies of the president’s pornographic library. Tintinnabulum windchimes, with ithyphallic figures of the president laden with bells, hang on porches to ward off the evil liberal eye. Amulets with fists connected by a half-arm, half-shaft to a phallus, like the fascinum of Rome hung under chariots as protection, are worn by militias to boost their fertility and fortify their resolve.
10:30 AM: THE FINAL STROLL
After the public engagements, the president’s penis wanted what the president had most treasured after he left office. A walk, a stroll, a slow tour about the mall among its people. Outside of guest star appearances on the American Porn Network, the president had lived a simple life of retirement after his second term, and his penis followed his octogenarian routine with all the diligence of a good and stalwart stunt cock.
Around the reflecting pool, four erect presidential penises deep. Past the Washington Monument, nine hundred and fifty-one presidential penises tall. It walked with a slow shuffle, like a man hobbled with a rod. After the allotted daily duration of sunlight had fallen on its testicles, its personal assistant held a black umbrella over it. And when the penis grew tired, she cradled it in the crook of her arm like a football or an infant.
THEORIES ON THE PENIS’S ENDURANCE
The theories about why the president’s penis is so imprinted upon the American psyche vary widely. American historians point to the confluence of trends, the lifting of the puritanical taboo of sex, the proliferation of affordable internet and free pornography, and the centralization of power in the executive branch. Art historians describe it as the common lifted to the iconographic, Warhol’s soup can or Marilyn Monroe, a post-postmodern, post-meaning symbol of capitalism. Classicists call up the historical import of the phallus around the world from antiquity to today. Feminists paint it as yet another example of penis-worship and the patriarchy at large. And psychologists, of course, only gesture toward the nearest copy of Freud, as if to say that while Freudian theory is dated, he may have had some points.
For every specialist, though, the argument usually ends at that same shrugging conclusion: it was, after all, a penis. Even if you tried not to think about it, it left a negative image in the mind, an ineradicable outline in the dreamscapes of every man, woman, and child in America.
11:03 AM: THE BROOCH SEEN ROUND THE WORLD
Each conspiracy theory has its own angle, but the official narrative is that the woman was a lone actor, radicalized by news and social media. The iconoclast in question was a black woman and thus long practiced at controlling her face to meet the expectations of men in uniforms. She wore a red dress with a white and blue floral print, a navy-blue cardigan, tennis shoes with fluorescent cerise piping and laces, and a golden sun brooch. She left no manifesto, no self-aggrandizing fiction, no breadcrumb trail of message board comments. It was as if she did not prepare for the moment at all, except that she had been preparing for it her whole life.
The video captured by a nearby couple on vacation is even more analyzed and obsessed over than the president’s pornography. It happened on the north side of the pool, while the penis rested on its favorite bench, the one to the west of the path to the public restroom. The semi-erect shaft was sitting on its pillowed testicles, leaned forward like a man lost in thought. Tanned, long-lived, and sun-and-shade-dappled, like an abandoned piece of Americana in a vintage shop window. So small for that which looms so large in our history. So exposed and so vulnerable.
It was not like Moses and the golden calf. She did not burn the president’s penis. She did not grind it up and cast it down upon the water. She merely covered a cough with her hand and while lowering it made a movement as if she were unbuttoning a button. Then, with the slightest flick of her wrist, the brooch was spinning toward the bench.
REMEMBRANCE AND REBIRTH
An entire era’s memory is marked by that day. We all remember where we were, who we were with, and what we were doing when someone said to turn on the TV or shared an article or interrupted the lesson or meeting to share the news that the president’s penis was decapitated. It is a series of images seared into our souls: the brooch spinning, the shaft slamming against the bench then slumping sideways next to the testicles, the glans rolling to a stop on the ground with its mouth open in an O, as if wailing a lament. The mix of shock and remorse we shared as we watched one agent kneel beside the penis and another tackle the woman.
And the brooch in the grass, the sunlight glinting off its sunrays, a portent of some rebirth. It was the end of something collective and the start of something new. The question, as always after a national tragedy, was what the country would grow into next, and whether it would change at all.