So, we're going out walking again tonight. And I'm
excited. Sort of. Because I like this whole personal
life thing and I like taking some time to, whatever.
Do what people do when they're taking some time. Take
a walk with somebody.
Although, technically it's just me. And my thoughts. And I'm leaving my hair down, because every time I wear it up I have a bad night. I've decided that's it. It's my hair. It's my hair and the fact that I haven't slept since 1997. And I'm going out walking tonight on the one night when I could actually get to bed before dawn, as basically every person in this wing has ordered me to go home tonight and sleep. I think it's because I pointed out in the middle of the communications bullpen that the word 'Bartlet' brings to mind somebody named Bart, only little. They said we probably won't put that on the campaign flyer.
I'm not really dressed for a date, either. I'm wearing, to put it delicately, sweats. To put it un-delicately would be to say I'm wearing scraps of worn fabric that used to be sweats. They're what Josh calls my "Donna Moss on the Importance of Conserving Fabric" sweats. They're still warm, and it's not like I'm dancing around in a bathrobe like some people I know, but I'm also definitely not in business attire. Then again, who is, when they're walking around with their thoughts on their night off?
Of course, I'm in D.C., and you're not going to catch me walking alone at night in D.C. Not with my hair down. So I'm wandering around the only place available to me that isn't my home.
I am wandering around the White House in my pajamas.
Okay, that's how you would put it if you were going to be totally blunt. They're my pajamas, and they have been since college. I was wearing them when I took my 19th Century English Literature Midterm. Which, by the way, I aced, but if I took it tomorrow I don't think I could ace it. I'm not entirely certain I could put my name on it right. I'm messing up little things. Like, I just tripped on my slipper.
Yeah, I'm wearing slippers.
I tripped on my slipper and almost fell, and that was just walking. I messed up walking. Everybody's right. I need to go to sleep. Except that I can't sleep. I tried. I even put on my pajamas.
Well, yeah, I do have a pair of pajamas at the White House, but they're not real pajamas, just sweats, or anyway scraps of sweats. But I just can't sleep. Not when there's so much to be done. Not when there are these boxes.
I'm technically not so much walking around the White House as I am walking around what I like to call The Box Room. It's full of, well, boxes, with, you know, presidential stuff in them. And somewhere in one of these boxes is a list that tells me what's in the rest of these boxes, so until I find it I'm going to have some work to do.
Plus now I'm sitting. So technically I'm not taking a walk, but you know, my mind is wandering, and that's sort of the same thing. I'm thinking about Cliff, and how he was funny for a Republican, and how I'm not sure why I'm thinking about him in the past tense. And then I'm thinking about Ainsley Hayes and since when does she think of *me* when she knows a single guy? And then I'm thinking about the guy who sat next to me in literature class, and I swear I didn't even know his politics, because back then it wasn't, like, the first thing you needed to know about someone, and then I'm thinking about Josh. And then these boxes and how there are a million of them and they're all three-quarters full.
I left my hair down, but my night isn't getting any better.
Cliff was a Republican. Is. A Republican. And that's a definite problem for me, because I've got this whole Democratic life. I've got my politics and my, well, job. And what is Ainsley doing thinking I could successfully date across party lines, anyway? Working for Josh, who goes out of his way to screw up even dates that aren't bipartisan. And who picked me out of nowhere.
Or, well, out of his office. Which I had infiltrated, possibly illegally, and while a guy's office isn't exactly out of nowhere, I guess he earns some credit back for not having me thrown out of the building.
There's a way to look at this night where it's CJ's fault. She's in the game this week. She's kicking ass. She's playing the press like a two-dollar banjo, and as a result, the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee is being gaveled into session. And CJ's out getting drunk with the gang and I'm sitting here trying to figure out how this administration still has some life in it when we keep tripping over our slippers.
The door opens, scaring the hell out of me.
I cannot believe it. "Hi, Ainsley."
"Do you need any help?"
I'm torn between the irrational need to get rid of her and the common sense fact that I do indeed need help.
She closes the door behind her, sits down in a chair opposite me, and watches me calmly while I stand up and start climbing one of the shelves.
"So, are you going out with him again?" she asks as though I'm just sitting in a chair.
"I need one of those three boxes. If you would scoot that -- the thing -- that chair over to the left, I could step onto it from here."
She does as she's told and then watches skeptically as I take a dangerous step. "Are you and Cliff going to go out again?" she repeats.
"We're going out for a stroll tonight," I say. "Well. Technically it's just me. I'm going out for a stroll."
"You're not going anywhere with Cliff?" She sounds disappointed.
"Saying you're going for a stroll makes it sound like you're taking along a bassinet -- No. A bayonet? Well, that's certainly not right. Help me out. You're taking along a .. something full of babies."
"The two of you aren't going to see each other again?"
"What's the thing you take when you're strolling with babies?"
She gazes up at me serenely. "A stroller?"
"There's another word for it."
"You and Cliff aren't --"
"I think the word I'm looking for is 'pram'," I interrupt her.
"You're not going out again with Cliff?" she persists.
I turn to meet her gaze and nearly fall off my chair in so doing. "He's on House Oversight," I say.
Ainsley's face falls. "When did that happen?"
"Right around the time these boxes and I started getting intimate." I'm wrestling a carton, trying to keep it on the shelf.
"So you're going out for a stroll alone."
"And I'm leaving my hair down."
Ainsley perches on the edge of the desk. "You should go home."
"You should go home and sleep."
"Because you have to stroll."
"Mm hmm." I pass her the hateful carton and climb down to sit crosslegged backward on the chair.
"In your pajamas," Ainsley adds.
"I am not in my pajamas."
"Or at least they used to be," Ainsley observes. I briefly consider smacking her.
"They're what Josh calls my 'Donna Moss on the Importance of Conserving Fabric' --"
"When has Josh seen your pajamas?" she interrupts.
I hand her some receipts and stand up again on the chair. Then I wonder briefly where this chair came from. It's one of those stiff metal things you have to sit on in church basements. It even has rust spots all along the edge. "They're not my pajamas," I tell her.
"They're sweats," she repeats.
"Well, they don't lobby for smaller government or anything."
"And how long have you --"
"I've been wearing this particular outfit since my freshman year of college." Which amuses me. "Not constantly. If I'd worn it constantly I probably wouldn't have made it to the White House. Although I was wearing it when I aced my 19th Century English Literature midterm, and that's got to mean something."
"Was your hair down?"
She's stopped me for a second. "I don't remember."
"But I'm leaving it down tonight."
"And you're going out strolling. Without a pram."
"Well --" I brush my hair impatiently out of my eyes. It really is a hassle, down. "I'm not exactly going out -- not, you know, alone in the city at night. I read. But I'm just gonna take a little time."
She shakes her head. "You're going to sort these cartons all night for the second night in a row."
I fix her with my most cat-like glare, but when my eyelids get that close together they just go ahead and shut. I pry them open. "Shouldn't you be working?"
"I'm sorting," she lies.
"You've been holding that one piece of paper for half an hour," I challenge.
"It's an index."
This floors me. Literally. I attempt to hop gracefully off the chair, and instead manage to trip mid-air and bring the chair down behind me with an almighty clang. "Give me that," I demand as I scramble to my feet.
Ainsley hands it over. "It tells you where everything is," she pointlessly explains.
"And you couldn't have brought this to my attention half an --"
She looks innocent. "I thought you knew."
"And that I decided to forgo using it and pick through all these cartons just by women's intuition?"
"What's this about your boss wanting to be a ballerina?" she changes the subject.
"He liked the word." I snicker. This is territory on which we can agree. Sometimes when I'm not feeling so hot I make fun of Josh and it cheers me up. Although usually he's got to be in the room for this to work.
"Somehow that's even more pathetic than if he had just liked dancing," she says.
"He likes the word 'Telluride.' And 'kumquat.'"
"These are words that have come up in conversation?"
I right the chair and climb up again, this time consulting the list. "When you engage in conversation in this building, you've got to be resigned to a verbose fate."
"No kidding." Ainsley rolls her eyes.
I glance down and sideways at her. "You think we talk too much?"
"You think we talk too much?"
"I never said I wasn't the pot calling the kettle. I'm just saying Toby Ziegler can launch himself into a twenty-minute spiel about, like, fish, and that Sam Seaborn puts things into as many words as possible -- he could fill 'good morning' to take up half an hour -- and then there's Baryshnikov up there --"
"Danseuse." I am gleeful.
"-- who apparently likes to talk about his favorite words and career ambitions and, I don't know, your pajamas."
"They are not pajamas. And CJ's succinct."
"Sure, until she opens her mouth. And all of this before you get to the President, with the historical trivia and the overriding need to editorialize."
I shrug. "It's part of his quirky presidential charm."
"And then there's you," Ainsley says sweetly.
I try not to look at her. "Me."
"I talk too much?"
"Tell me more about the pram," she says. I pause a beat, and Ainsley shrugs. "Not that I'm not --"
"No," I interrupt quickly, "Not that you're not!"
"I'm to the point," she says, which is true, and I agree.
"You're blunt, and scary!"
"Those are too pajamas," she answers.
For some reason now we fall silent, but for the soft shuffling of papers being sorted, filed, tucked away in boxes. My slippers on the chair are making this muted clanging noise, and Ainsley keeps tapping her finger against the edge of the table as she works. Eventually she speaks again.
"I think I'll go home, anyway," she announces. "It's after midnight."
"You're going to leave, too, right?"
Why does she care? "I just want to find this one thing."
"You need to go to sleep."
"You're defending the honor of your conservative pajamas."
She has a point. "Who put this stuff in here in the first place? Can't they be the one buried under six feet of --" I examine the file in my hand -- "early drafts of speeches made at campaign fundraising events?"
"Probably more than one person dealt with them," she corrects me.
"Shouldn't you be off somewhere finding a Republican to date Cliff?"
"You like him, don't you?"
I sit down suddenly on the chair. "It's not like I know him," I announce a little bit fiercely. "It's not like I wouldn't rather be out strolling with .. you know, a good Democrat or somebody."
"I didn't say that."
Ainsley smiles dreamily, which I didn't know she could do. "What about Sam? He's kind of cute."
"I don't care. I just wouldn't mind being out there," I say, and I'm not really talking to Ainsley.
She shifts uncomfortably -- I know this isn't the sort of conversation she normally has with Democrats in the White House while sorting mountains of potentially damning documents -- and she stays quiet.
"Weren't you leaving?" I offer her escape.
"You meant Josh," she says again.
"They are too pajamas."
"Suit yourself." Ainsley stands up and stretches. It's almost one o'clock. "I'm going home to sleep. You should do the same."
Ainsley leaves. I sort of like her. She's got this kind of arrogance about her that's being wasted on a Republican. I slide down into the chair and balance a carton on my knees. She's right. I should get out of here, but there are still all these boxes, and I have more than five hours till dawn and nothing else to be doing.