President Donald Trump disappeared from Twitter in the autumn. The night was warm, the internet almost deserted. The mercury rose in the mouth of the dying year. All the instruments we have agreed that the eve of his was vanishing pleasant and mild.
He was gone for 11 minutes, a little before 7 p.m. on a Thursday.
The first minute, people could scarcely believe that it had happened. Suddenly, the news seemed realer. Everyone ran to the newspapers and marveled at all the actual facts that they contained.
Everywhere on Capitol Hill, people who had been turned into abject, writhing puddles felt their spines grow back. The enchantment at last was broken. A sad antique clock that had been presiding over the Senate resumed its human shape. People who for months had only gone by “Crazy Bernie” or “Liddle’ Bob” remembered their true names. The last petal that had been about to fall from the rose of democracy halted, mid-air.
By the second minute, people had begun to plan new lives. Mouths that had not smiled since sometime in 2015 experienced strange twitches at their corners. Leaves sprouted. The birds began to sing again - not to tweet, but really to sing. (I apologize about that last sentence; it could not be helped.)
By the fifth minute it was spring, everywhere spring.
Bells began ringing. Angels who had not even finished helping people learn that their lives had purpose unexpectedly got their wings. The State Department grew three sizes. Lions and lambs lay down together. Donkeys and elephants lay down together. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton embraced. Lindsey Graham was released from the bunker beneath the eighth hole of some golf course where he has been dwelling for the past several months and allowed to see the sunshine again.
It was like Christmas, but not the kind that is waging a slow and brutal war on Thanksgiving. The kind where you get, for a second, everything you ever wanted.
By the eighth minute, some people had started to return to a semblance of normal life.
Several people who had been doing nothing for the past 11 months but stare into the internet in a state of perpetual panic finally, finally blinked and crawled towards their beds.
The guy whose job it is to let the Defense Department know if there is a sudden change in policy because of something the president has felt the need to express in 140 characters in the middle of the night was able to go home and see a family who had almost forgotten he existed. His old dog, who had been waiting all this time, lay down at his feet and died, contented.
Donald Trump Jr. flew away in a TIE Fighter in case there was going to be a sequel.
For once, it seemed that nothing could go wrong. Well, not nothing. Everything else in life was still just as bad as ever, but at least people knew that the president of the United States would not say something surprising and irresponsible, or, worse, HALF of something that could maybe throw the entire world into conflict, but then again might not, and then wait 10 minutes before tweeting the second half of that thing.
By the 11th minute, chests expanded and life expectancies increased by decades. Everyone discovered that they were several inches taller than they had assumed after spending months in a defensive hunch. The air felt cleaner, even though that didn’t make any sense. People rushed out into the street dressed as sailors and began to kiss passersby after respectfully asking their permission. Light and life and color came back into the world. People turned to the people next to them and discovered that they were beautiful and had been beautiful all this time. All the statues came down, instantly, without fuss. Men apologized, sincerely.
And then it came back.
It was the work of a disgruntled employee on the way out. (If there is one thing I know employers ought to do, it is this: Only hire gruntled people.) Twitter fixed it and apologized. Some people, I regret to say, were relieved.
Of course, other people were not on the internet at all when this strange thing occurred, and they only knew that for 11 minutes on a Thursday they felt inexplicably better. But then it passed. It always does.