“I thought I got three wishes.”
“Boy, you think this is ‘Aladdin’? You get one wish that lasts one day, and you should be damn happy to be getting that.”
The mustachioed specter hovers before me, awaiting my response with crossed arms and a cross face. Not quite what I expected from a genie, but nothing about this encounter conforms to my expectations. Rather than awakening from a golden lamp, the genie arose from a chamber pot I had disturbed while picking through the landfill. “Give me a minute,” I say.
“Don’t think too hard. It’s only for a day. Then you can go back to sifting through other people’s trash.”
The classics flash through my head: unfathomable wealth, supermodels, more wishes. Ultimately, I decide on something to help heal this nation, to unite our people, to break down political barriers. I take a deep breath and make my wish:
“Make me invisible.”
The ensuing 24 hours are a dizzying succession of flights to New York, Los Angeles, and all the flyover places of forest and prairie we call America. I fiddle with a Broadway theatre spotlight, splash around in the Pacific Ocean, and slam countless doors across the Midwest.
When finally my head hits pillow 23.75 sleepless hours later, I have just enough energy to flip on the television. The blue-glow evening news flashes images of today’s exploits: ocean water erupting on its own, a SuperAmerica door opening for an invisible figure, and much more. As I slip into a deep sleep, I have myself convinced I’m a ghost.
What follows is an absolutely glorious week. The blue-vs-red political cesspool has been put on hold. The presidential debate ratings are dwarfed by Ghost Hunters, Most Haunted, and Paranormal State. All races and religions sit side by side on the living room sofa. For the first time in a long time, this country can say, “We believe.”
And then one morning it’s all smashed to pieces. A campaign ad crackles through my speakers:
“The Bible prophesied our messiah would one day return, when we needed Him most. With all the rioting, looting, and violence in our country, it looks like He heard us…”
Images of my invisible deeds flash on screen while the narrator spouts patriotic gibberish. Once the voiceover ends, an elderly man covered in makeup says, “My name is so-and-so, and I approve this message.”
Of course, the other candidate responds. Over the next two weeks, several explanations are offered for the mysterious phenomena, all in support of one party or another. My favorites are: the ghost of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, alien communications, and the collective unconscious of all fed-up Republicans. Little do they know it’s the creation of a non-voter living below the poverty line.
Eventually the hot takes cool, and the two sides form hypotheses to support their fundamental beliefs. One side backs scientific research concluding the so-called supernatural phenomena are an unfortunate byproduct of climate change, while the other side dismisses the happenings as a mainstream media hoax, referring to the hauntings as “fake boos.”
It all goes back to the way it was before.
As I saunter down the cracked and broken path, a conglomeration of picket signs argues over which billionaire cares most about them. With no dog in the fight, I continue on my way to the landfill, where I rifle through America’s rubbish. I hope I can find another genie. This time I’ll wish for supermodels.