Suppose you have to take a poop. You think it's going to be a quick trip, so you don't bring your phone or a magazine or anything, then stuff happens—I don't need to get into it—and you realize you're going to be in there for a while. With nothing to read, you resign yourself to not consuming media for the next whatever number of minutes. You stare at the tile the way a cow stares at the sky. Your mind wanders, maybe to the fate of the country, maybe to those videos about how Donald Trump is going to save America.
Then, you see it: Trump's face in the tile. Is it really him? You look again.
It's the man himself! No doubt about it!
That's what happened to Virginian Clayton Litten (well, he told the local news station he was "sitting on his toilet, admiring his newly tiled bathroom floor," but whatever). Litten asked the guys who did the tiling if they saw it, and they said they did. So did his wife. He then hit up the Trump campaign and asked the flesh version of Trump to stop by (he hasn't heard back yet). After that, he contacted the local news, and the story spread from there, as those sorts of stories do.
A study last year suggested that neurotic people were more likely to imagine that objects have faces. One theory is that those who are predisposed to sense danger where there isn't any will also conjure up anthropomorphic figures in wall sockets, windows, and tiles. It's tempting to make the next logical step—Trump fans are nothing if not predisposed to sense danger, and their candidate's whole shtick is to invoke threats to their way of life. That's reductive, but this is an election cycle based on simple, sweeping statements: Mexicans are rapists, Trump's a racist, Bernie Sander is a sexist, Hillary Clinton is corrupt.
Just as you can see Trump's face in the tile if you squint, you can similarly turn the tile into a metaphor for the mogul's appeal. Either you see the face or you don't; either you understand what Trump is talking about when he says "make America great again" or you don't. Your love or hatred of the man is likely not a result of carefully weighing opposing policy positions; it's based on whether your stomach clenches or your heart sings when you hear him promise to put "America first."
All that's to say, I can't see what Litten sees, but I don't think he's wrong. To quote the 1998 children's film Small Soldiers, "Just because you can't see something doesn't mean it's not there."
Don't think about that quote too much. The point is, reality is what you make of it. We tend to stake out our own little corners of the universe and mostly stick to them—in mine, Trump may be a hustler who put on a hat, talked about a wall, and is now in way over his head. In yours, he may be the only thing that can save America, and a man whose personality is so great it's seeping into places like Clayton Litten's bathroom floor.
Thankfully for us, we never need to merge these realities. They can happily coexist like a pair of roommates who never see each other. Liberals love "disproving" conservative opinions, citing charts and graphs to explain that the seas really are rising, that racism is real and horrible, that tax cuts don't actually help the economy. But generally, these exercises are about as useful and meaningful as staring at the floor. No one is ever persuaded out of their convictions; the most precise, Vulcan-esque logic is not going to exorcise someone of his or her love for Trump. No one will ever be able to tell Litten that that tile doesn't look like Trump.
A long time ago, a guy who would go on to be president said that there was only one United States of America. He was wrong. There are at least two Americas, and possibly as many Americas as there are Americans, and about that many faces on bathroom tiles.
Follow Harry Cheadle on Twitter.