by Eleonora Balsano
The foreign minister is short and unremarkable but when he starts speaking, people flock to him like hungry sparrows. Some say he will run for president next term. Everyone thinks he’ll win. He thinks it, too.
I’ve been following politicians for a while, long enough that half of those I wrote portraits of are now in retired, exiled, or in prison. They are often vain, although in different ways. Some nervous before they meet the press, others excited as if they were about to bed the most beautiful person on earth.
This one, the foreign minister, is different from those I’ve seen in the past. He makes eye contact with all present, journalists and aides, staff and bystanders. He says what we all think, although until a few minutes ago we all voted for different parties. He acts like he reads us, like he can read everything in the whole world. He thinks he’s God and I believe him.
When his chief of cabinet hands me a card, with a mobile number scribbled in haste, I have no idea what he’s talking about. A private interview, he says. But I’m not supposed to write his profile today, I protest in my head. I doubt my own memory, wonder whether he’s right, something has been scheduled and I’ve simply forgotten about it. He says they know my editor, and it’s all set. I can join them tonight, after the press conference.
We shook hands, I slipped his card into my pocket. It’s still there, although I have never worn that coat again.
A day later I can’t leave my bed.
A day later I hate myself for not telling anyone where I was going.
A day later, when I call the paper to say I’ve been attacked by the foreign minister, my boss says I’d better grow and learn to deal with men.
Eleonora Balsano’s short fiction has won or has been placed in several international competitions and is featured in Portland Review, JMWW Journal, Janus Literary, Fictive Dream and elsewhere. She lives in Brussels.