He stands backstage, adjusting his red tie, his mind empty. He’s backstage, and backstage is nothing. All you do backstage is wait. He looks down the stale, gray hallway, beyond which lies the stage. The crowd is down that hallway. The enemy is down that hallway. She’s Hillary Clinton, and she’s going to be president, and he’s Donald Trump, and his friends have all deserted him, but — oh! — what a force he is on a stage. How strong. How powerful. Strength. The only virtue.
It’s time. He walks.
What is this? he thinks, squinting into the hard stage light. This isn’t it. I’m not in the right place. I’m lost. This isn’t the place.
A hand throws itself around his shoulder, a cold hand.
“Donald! The Donald! He’s going for the big one! Come on, let’s do it!”
The hand guides him to a chair. He remembers now. It’s Regis Philbin. It’s Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. Donald doesn’t need the money, of course not, so it must be sweeps week. This will be very easy. Just smile and give that camera what it needs.
“Donald! What a life! Took you long enough to get here!”
“Well, I’ve been pretty busy, Regis! I’m running for president! Great run, very successful run, so many people at my rallies. But hey, you’ve got such a wonderful studio, it’s so beautiful, I love your show so much. Doesn’t everybody love this show? Greatest show on television.”
He waits for applause. It doesn’t come.
“Where is everybody?”
“Oh, Donald, everybody’s gone. They didn’t need to be here.”
“OK. Huh. Uh, I think, well, it’s great to be back in New York.”
“New York! The greatest city in the world!”
“My city has no name,” thunders Regis Philbin.
“All right, hey, let’s have fun here. No weird stuff. This is definitely New York. I have a tower with my name on it. We used to go to Jean-Georges in the lobby. Luxurious meals, Regis. So many people see my tower.”
“All these things have fallen away. Surely you know this. There is no city here. No one lives here. There are only travelers here. I see so many, all of them alike. You are the same as the others. You build monuments to yourself, monuments that fall. You seek power over man and so you seek followers, though they also fall. You pretend any man is separate from any other man, though this is foolish. You thirst in desperation for money, though it follows no one to the grave. You attack and you yell and you lash out with your tongue and you lie. You tell so many lies.”
"Wrong! I’m an honest man! I’m so honest!” retorts Donald Trump.
“And in your vanity, which has total dominion over you, you deceive yourself,” replies Regis Philbin. “It gets so cold in here. I should wear gloves. My hands get so cold.”
“I was just about to say I’m getting hot,” says Donald Trump, wiping his brow.
“You’re sweating! The Donald is sweating! Weak! Unacceptable! Man is such a weak creature, so flimsy, so temporary, so lost, searching for a fortress and never finding it! No man is strong. Not Caesar, not Napoleon, not Nebuchadnezzar! They are weak, they are chaff, they burn, all of them. No men are great!”
The auditorium is suddenly populated by Donald Trump’s enemies, and they all stare at him, and he feels their eyes on him.
“Come on, Regis, let’s play.”
“All right, the last question, the only question that matters. You have no lifelines remaining.”
The question flashes on Donald Trump’s screen:
“HAVE YOU DONE GOOD, OR EVIL?”
Donald Trump tries to answer, but he cannot move. He sees himself as a small child, standing at the kitchen table, unable to reach the top. The clock ticks away, second by second, until the buzzer sounds.
“I know the answer. Regis. Help me. Regis Philbin. I know the answer. Is it too late?”
“Yes. It’s too late.”