“. . . and Mike Pence’s office?”

An excerpt from Marginal Eyes, Chapter Eight:

One of the male staffers, who quickly nicknamed me “AK” (as in AK-47), was the picture of a hardworking and socially adept political aide. He kept all hours to establish his place as a valuable asset in the world of politics, and as a senior member of the Pence crew, he was well-positioned enough to loosen his top button from time to time. The rest of the bunch were polished and reserved in appearance, donning smart-looking suits and dresses, and they were clearly much more at home than I was with conservative, formal attire. My wardrobe consisted of a few mix-and-match dress shirts and pants, and my one suit and another separate blazer, both of which were too big for me, were my only formal duds. I was out of my element, but that didn’t stop me. I was only a Republican imposter, in any case.

I had met the representative at his Muncie fundraiser, but that occasion only allowed a quick handshake in the midst of a bustling affair. The introduction I had with Mike Pence the first day he returned to his DC office was more intense. The office manager lined us up, and the congressman moved around the circle, greeting and visiting with each of us new staff members. He bantered a bit at times but mostly acknowledged everyone’s words with a slight smile and stiff nod, maintaining eye contact and a firm handshake while asking standard personal questions.

The congressman had a way of listening and responding that hid any sense of what he was actually feeling. My first impression was that his demeanor was either exceptionally insulated or disturbingly disconnected from his emotions. Either one was a bit frightening to me. After growing up with a father who didn’t communicate feelings constructively, and after years of being sized up racially and otherwise in introductions, I often tended to center a person’s emotional state and reaction to me more than what they were saying. This level of awareness seemed to give me a safer understanding of where a person was coming from than their words and overall behavior did.

As a result, I have no recollection of the words Mike Pence used or what I said to him in return when he came up to me, but I do distinctly remember catching certain things: he didn’t start off by asking me a question right away. Based on the subtle shift in his demeanor when he turned toward me, I sensed he could see I was somehow out of place and paused to take me in for a bit longer than he did the others. Although he hid it well, I guessed he might be wondering how in the world I was the person recommended as his intern.

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An article on Mike Pence’s denial of racism: