Ted Cruz Goes to Homecoming

Ted Cruz’s campaign bus ground to a halt by the curb, spewing steam and water out the radiator. The door opened, and down the steps, in mirror-shine black shoes and silk suit, to tread for the first time in years upon the land he had long ago forsaken, came Texas Senator and Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz ‘92, by a snapped fan belt forced to once more roam Princeton University, and on Homecoming no less.

Not that Ted Cruz would have known it was Homecoming if not for the “WELCOME BACK TIGERS!” signs across Washington. Ted Cruz avoided contact with his alma mater where he could. Ted Cruz had never seen a reason to come back, for he had aspired for, and reached, things far greater. Ted Cruz sighed. He knew when the bus started smoking on Route 1 that he should’ve insisted they push on to find a service station by the highway. He knew he should have told the driver to turn onto Faculty instead of trying to climb the hill on Washington.

Still, Ted Cruz was here, on a little side street the name of which he had long since forgotten, stranded until the Ted Cruz for President Courageous Conservatives Reigniting the Power of America bus was up and running again. He had to kill the time somehow, and even now the sight of Firestone Library and the chapel tugged at long-idle strings in his heart without even warming them up first, overstretching them somewhat painfully and leaving Ted Cruz standing there, on the curb, a strange and incomprehensible tapestry of emotions splashed across the broad canvas of his face like a lesser Picasso painting. He did this for like thirty seconds until one of his aides was all, “Um, Mr. Cruz?” and he snapped out of it.

“How many times have I told you? Call me Ted,” said Senator and presidential candidate Ted Cruz, who had indeed told him many times but had never once really meant it, though that “never” was perhaps a little more quiet, a little more reluctant, now than at any point before in this campaign. Being back at Princeton had awakened something in Ted Cruz, and quieted something else, in a way the abstracts he had constructed of the place could never do. He was back, and for the moment, he wanted to be back, to see his old stomping grounds.

Ted Cruz ‘92 walked down Washington and soon saw things he had never seen before. Frick was unrecognizable: hollowed out, covered in scaffolding. Not that he’d ever spent more than five minutes in there. Strange bronze animal heads lined the pool by Richardson. Ted Cruz walked up to take a closer look, taking care not to get too close to the pool, where it might splash his expensively assembled attire—not that replacing that attire would be a problem financially, to be clear, but it would certainly be unpleasant—when from behind him he heard:

“Hey, are you Ted Cruz?”

Ted Cruz ‘92, junior United States Senator from Texas, 2016 Republican presidential candidate, turned around to spot a couple of student-age fellows, who in turn were now able to definitely recognize that, yes, he was in fact Ted Cruz ‘92, junior United States Senator from Texas, 2016 Republican presidential candidate.

“I knew it! Mind taking a selfie with us?”

Ted Cruz, who also had a J.D. from no less than Harvard Law School, agreed, as good, personable Republican presidential candidates do. He tried to smile extra wide for these friendly young fans, but tried to hard, causing some of his facial muscles to flex uncomfortably, and instead he found himself devoting all his energy to maintaining his normal sort of half-smile of his, lest he give in to the pain and his face collapse into some hideous grimace.

“Thanks! Never thought you’d be the kind to come to Homecoming!” said the students about Ted Cruz, a man once described by the National Review as “a great Reaganite hope”. “Can’t say I wish you good luck, honestly, but it’s really neat that you’re back at Princeton.” Then they left with a spring in their step, leaving Ted Cruz, who was as of the most recent polls fourth in the Republican primary race with almost ten per cent of the vote, standing there, unsure what to say. After a moment, he gathered himself and walked on, down to Prospect Avenue, a place he knew all too well.

It was a madhouse. Drunk students, drunk alums, swirling in every direction, arm and arm, carving great vortexes of indignity and moral decay across the road. Ted Cruz recoiled slightly. The memories of the dark days of his youth came bubbling back to the surface.

“¡Oh, es Ted Cruz!” came a cry from across the way. “¡No, no, no, en español es mejor llamarlo Rafael!” “¡Jaja, si, si! ¿Entonces, cómo estás, Rafael?” Ted Cruz knew no Spanish. All he could make out of their conversation was the laughter that followed. Somehow, he knew they weren’t interested in him as an eminent conservative voice and a rising star in the Republican Party—they seemed even to be mocking him. But he was almost at his old eating club. He ducked inside.

“Oh my God, is that Ted Cruz?” someone said as the door shut behind him. “I never thought you’d ever be the sort to come back for Homecoming.”

“Ted Cruuuuuz!” said a drunk person coming down the stairs, flashing that little hand-gun gesture that’s popular these days but always made Ted Cruz uncomfortable for reasons even he couldn’t properly vocalize.

“Ted Cruz, my man!” said someone else—but this someone, too, was not interested in substantive criticism of the Obama administration. “High five!” they continued. Ted Cruz raised his hand, trying to affably half-smile and trying not to cringe at the pain. He must have sprained a masseter muscle in that earlier smile attempt.

“Down low!” they went on, and suddenly their hand was gone. Ted Cruz stared blankly at the space where it had been. What sort of improper chicanery was this? “Too slow!” they finished, and laughed, leaving Ted Cruz to slowly lower his hand to his side.

“Yo, Ted Cruz!” said yet another drunk reveler, in the eating club that he once attended. “You interested in Ring of Fire? We got it all set up in the tap room!”

That was the last straw. He, Ted Cruz, a man who had not only his own Wikipedia page but also one devoted to his presidential run, play Ring of Fire?

“I…I…er, can’t get these wet,” said Ted Cruz, gesturing at his suit and shoes, and, stone-faced, turned heel and walked out, staring at nothing in particular as he walked back up Prospect. There was nothing here for him. “A prophet is not without honor, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house,” Ted Cruz recalled to himself. Mark 6:4.

Ted Cruz looked down at the steps of Frist. There was one person he knew was still around, one old friend, one old mentor. Ted Cruz pulled out his phone and walked slowly in circles. He typed a name into the searchbar of the Princeton website. He found what he wanted. Ted Cruz typed it into his phone, the tapping of keys audible in the silence, since he hadn’t left his phone on vibrate.

Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap.

609-258-3270.

Tap. Silence. Then a ring. And another. And another. And another. And another. Then finally:

“You have reached the office of Robert George. Please leave a message after the beep.”

Tap. Ted Cruz hung up. He started walking, slowly, towards 1879 Arch and the bus, eyes on his phone.

Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap…

Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring—

“You have reached the office of Robert George. Please leave a message after the beep.”

Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap…

Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring—

“You have reached the office of Robert George. Please leave a message after the beep.”

Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap…

Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring—

“You have reached the office of Robert George. Please leave a message after the beep.”

Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap….

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