Clay never seriously considered the possibility that Donald Trump would win the election, and around nine P.M. central time, when it seems likely he will, Clay texts his daughter, Abby, who is fourteen and at her mother’s house. He writes, I hope you are not too disappointed. Progress sometimes happens in fits and starts. I love you, Abs. Abby texts back, He’s gross, followed by the poop emoji.
That night, Clay dreams of Sylvia McLellan. He dreams with some regularity of boarding school—the classic dream that he’s unprepared for an exam, plus a more idiosyncratic one that involves a girl named Jenny Pacanowski waiting in her dorm room to have sex with him, while, agitatingly, he’s delayed by the task of putting away equipment for the entire lacrosse team—but he’s never before dreamed about Sylvia. And the dream Clay has of Sylvia isn’t sexual; in fact, within a minute or two of waking, he can’t remember what it was about except that it leaves him uneasy. Yet he’s not surprised when, four months later, he receives an email from her. They haven’t had contact since their graduation in 1991.
Hope you’ve been well, she writes. Super-random after all this time, but I’m coming to Chicago for work in April and I was thinking it would be fun to have dinner if you’re around.
After a few volleys, they have settled on a day, a time, and a restaurant near the downtown hotel where she’ll stay. She lives in Denver, she tells him, she’s an architect, her husband is also an architect but not at her firm, and they’re the parents of twin boys who are nine and a girl who’s five.
You didn’t go into politics, either? Clay types, then he adds the phrase the dirty business of between into and politics to convey that he’s kidding, then he deletes the entire question. Her trip to Chicago is three weeks away.