WASHINGTON — And on the 132nd day, just after midnight, President Donald Trump had at last delivered the nation to something approaching unity — in bewilderment, if nothing else.
The state of our union was … covfefe.
The trouble began, as it so often does, on Twitter, in the early minutes of Wednesday morning. Trump had something to say. Kind of.
"Despite the constant negative press covfefe," the tweet began, at 12:06 a.m., from @realDonaldTrump, the irrepressible internal monologue of his presidency.
And that was that.
A minute passed. Then another. Then five.
Surely he would delete the message.
Ten. Twenty. It was nearly 12:30 a.m.
Forty minutes. An hour. The questions mounted.
Had the president's lawyers, so eager to curb his stream-of-consciousness missives, tackled the commander in chief under the cover of night?
Perhaps, some worried aloud, Trump had experienced a medical episode a quarter of the way through his 140 characters.
No one at the White House could immediately be reached for comment.
By 1 a.m., the debate had effectively consumed Twitter — or at least a certain segment of insomniac Beltway types, often journalists and political operatives — ascending the list of trending topics.
"Of course #covfefe is real word," wrote @Diane_7A, recalling an invented tragedy once invoked by the Trump White House. "It was coined during the Bowling Green Massacre."
"What if this is it," asked Emily Nussbaum, the New Yorker television critic, after just five minutes. "That is his final tweet & the rest of history stops."
Some appeared to temper their whimsy as a more sobering news story dominated the medium: a huge explosion shaking Kabul, leaving dozens dead or wounded.
But the instinct to linger was powerful, for those who had glimpsed the initial post, even if they did not seem entirely sure why they were still awake.
"Covfefe," said Tasneem Raja, a journalist, perhaps chafing at the growing communal giddiness. "There, I participated."
Eventually, the jokes lurched into delirium. Twitter users held forth on the former FBI director James Covfefe. They pledged to order a grande covfefe during their next Starbucks runs. They announced they had at last discovered what Bill Murray whispered to Scarlett Johansson at the end of "Lost in Translation."
And as the hour wore on, stragglers turned their lonely eyes to the only account that could save them.
"Help, @MerriamWebster," pleaded Jessica Taylor, a reporter at NPR, one of several to make the request.
The dictionary obliged.
"Wakes up. Checks Twitter. Uh..." it began. "Regrets checking Twitter. Goes back to bed."
The president's tweet was finally deleted after about six hours. But he was not done.
"Who can figure out the true meaning of "covfefe" ???" Trump wrote just after 6 a.m. "Enjoy!"