So I don’t think I’ve mentioned this, but in the summer of 2015, just like every summer for the past 9 years, I found myself in Wolfeboro, NH. Wolfeboro has a couple of claims to fame: it claims to be America’s first resort town, it’s located on beautiful Lake Winnepausakee, and it’s also, famously, the summer stomping grounds of Mitt Romney (also Jimmy Fallon, but nobody I know has ever successfully spotted him in the wild).
You see Mitt around town quite a bit, actually. Walking in the annual 4th of July parade. Ushering his photogenic Mormon brood around the quaint little shops. That kind of thing. My dad is an accomplished Romney-spotter and once saw him at the Redbox at the local Harvest Market, ringed by security as he ordered a movie from a vending machine like a person.
“Honey!” My dad whispered to my mother. “It’s Mitt Romney!”
“What?” she replied, while paying for groceries like an adult.
“Mitt Romney!” he hissed, slightly louder. “At the Redbox!”
“What?” she asked again, bagging her groceries like a responsible human.
“Mitt Romney!” he shouted.
Romney’s security jerked to attention like Dobermans. My mother left the Harvest Market that day with her head hung in shame.
Anyway, my point is, people who spend any amount of time in Wolfeboro are pretty used to the occasional Romney sighting. Which means that this particular incident didn’t initially strike us as odd.
Summer 2015. The entire family (minus my dad, who has never forgiven himself for missing it) went out to Bailey’s Bubble, a local ice cream stand/landmark/treasure, where we encountered a massive line. Like way more massive than we were used to. Weirder still, after we’d been in line for a few minutes, police came by and started to carefully fence us in with yellow tape. Either there’d been an adorable, ice cream based fatality, or there was a Romney afoot.
After a bit of craning and standing on tiptoe, we confirmed it was the second thing and he’d set up shop right beside the shop, doing some glad-handing, kissing some babies. You know, politician stuff.
So we relaxed and settled into waiting in line and casually snapping Romney creepshots to text to my dad, until something amazing happened. A large man, having received his ice cream order, moved over to stand beside Romney and join in with the glad-handing.
“Who is that?” I asked, squinting.
“Is that Chris Christie?” asked my mom.
Reader, it was.
At this point, we are snapping furiously and branching out to texting our Republican cousins with messages along the lines of “ha ha, we’re here and you’re not and we don’t even appreciate it ‘cause we’re liberal scum.”
And because we were so busy furiously mocking the only Republicans in our family, we didn’t even notice when a smaller man moved to stand next to them until my mom said, “Oh, that is not Marco Rubio.”
It was Marco Rubio, and my family, in addition to half of the town of Wolfeboro, had stumbled onto a three-way political ice cream date.
We relayed the news to our dad and our cousins, who were presumably weeping tears of deep red Republican blood by this point. We really, really wanted to get a picture with all three of them, but by the time we made it to the front of the line, they had gone.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the past several months as Trump has risen to power and the GOP has begun to slowly turn in on itself like an ouroboros made of racism. While watching the debates or reading whatever hideous thing Trump said this time, I’ll suddenly think back to Romney, Christie, and Rubio enjoying some delicious ice cream just over a year ago. They seemed happy, full of potential, seeding goodwill and familiarity among the wealthy vacationers in that line. Surely, these people would be their constituents in the coming year. Surely, in November 2016, these people would vote for some kind of mythical Rubio/Christie ticket while remembering that magical summer evening.
None of them could have known that their dreams would be crushed by a rapacious decaying jack-o-lantern in a red power tie in just a few short months.
Like, think about this. Could Romney have guessed that he’d be actively denouncing his party’s candidate? Did Chris Christie know he’d end up as the pathetic lapdog of a moldy tangerine fascist? Did Marco Rubio ever suspect that he’d be metaphorically disparaging the size of his opponent’s penis at a rally, because the quality of political discourse had sunk that low? How could they have known? How could any of us?
I think I witnessed the last golden days of the GOP’s happiness in that line outside of Bailey’s Bubble. The last moments when it seemed to anybody like this election would be remotely normal. And I don’t think any of them will be able to enjoy ice cream like that again for a very long time.
Which, frankly, is what they deserve for making me wait in a line that fucking long.