Obama Goes To Sleep

Harris Sockel
Human Parts
Published in
4 min readDec 11, 2013


There was a moment, today, when the sun made triangles of light in the corners of the bathroom, and the iPad malfunctioned, and the lapel pin kind of fell down onto the patch of shirt atop his nipple, and he thought: All I want is for someone to throw tiny rocks at my window at 3 a.m. on a weeknight.

That was after the new speechwriter — the one with the nose — kind of wagged his hand back and forth to make a point about the pronunciation of the word “Filipino,” and made him feel, in the way only speechwriters can, that yep, I am getting pretty goddamn old.

So, after the meeting, he listened to Michael Jackson’s “Pretty Young Thing” and looked at a spot on the wall of the Oval — the one he used to think was a European electrical outlet until he discovered it was just decorative. He stared at the spot so hard it became two spots. He remembered the first time he was in the Oval, and how matter-of-fact he was trying to be, trying to be all, “I know, I know, we got a little excited there, but come on now folks,” until he realized he was repeating that to himself, in his head, multiple times per minute, and focusing on that spot had allowed him to be present again.

As Michael Jackson sang “Hit the lovin’ spot/ I’ll give you all that I got,” Obama felt himself holding a bubble of gas in his anus, which was the same feeling he’d felt over the Adriatic Sea last week. Obama thought “I have to poop,” and this was the first line of the same inner monologue he’d said to himself every time he’d had to poop since age five. He went to the bathroom with the purple fleur de lis.

He sat down on the cushioned toilet seat, which made the “oooofffff” sound beneath his body. He picked up the iPad, entered his password, and slid his fingers over the national security briefing. Under the iPad’s screen, the national security briefing felt like the skin on Michelle’s calves, which he thought of now, as the sun set and he stared at the pixelated serifs of the word “intelligence.”

Obama thought: Am I a poet? He’d read some Bakhtin and reflected on the idea of the “unfinalizable self,” and the idea that we, like the continually evolving shades of meaning in our words, are never finished, never able to be pinned down. That like the “intelligence” behind the glare-resistant glass, we are all untouchables, as ephemeral and electric as pixels in a grid.

Obama looked down at the space between his legs. He could see the water, and it reflected his brow. He was like Narcissus with the toilet water, he thought. Obama imagined writing a poem about this moment, and publishing it on a clandestine Tumblr under a pseudonym, and telling only Bo and perhaps his publicist’s gay assistant’s assistant.

Perhaps he would let it sit there for years, glowing like a secret on the Internet.

He thought he must call it “All I want is for someone to throw tiny rocks at my window at 3 a.m. on a weeknight.”

Before bed, Obama spent an hour picking up his phone and putting it down again. Trying to balance it on its side, and watching/hearing it fall down. Ended up running his finger over a very personal/emotional email from a woman in Memphis who lost her mother to pancreatic cancer because “Obamacare cut funding to our healthcare provider.” Laws are just words on paper, he thought. And then: That was callous.

As his eyes closed, he imagined the new speechwriter speechless, and then he did a sit-up in bed and told himself to stop. It was already midnight, and Michelle was in Botswana. He let himself fall back into bed, on his stomach, and his collarbone fell onto his knuckles. It hurt. He exhaled fully. He thought he heard a siren. He let his shoulder muscles relax, and swallowed once, and thought about what the next MacBook will look like.

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