Inspired by the 2019 Trumpian nightmare of not being able to unsee human cruelty.
The basement stairwell walls were half finished, meaning the bottom half was exposed studs while the top, was covered in Sheetrock. This was to accommodate all of the exposed electrical work . Eight black switches were ganged together on the left, and another four on the right. But the right side of the stair wall was host to much more exposed electrical work, boxes and conduit.
I knew these two poison bombs were overkill, but the party started to get pleasure out of the overall effort and festivities of filling Tupperware with rat poison, even though someone had only seen one small mouse emerge from under the door.
The poison itself looked at lot like cat food, so someone decided a lid with only a small hole would protect any other animals present.
I placed the boxes on the small ledge beside the stair treads, were I found two half eaten party cakes. Looking up out of the stairwell, into the living room, questioning the odd addition, One man, clearly a gluten himself, still eating an apple tart licking his fingers said he did it, but warned, while laughing that he sprinkled the rest with poison.
After turning the lights out and sealing the door we all waited in silence.
For what felt like less than ten minutes, one of us, not sure who, opened the door and flicked on a few random switches, proceeded to scream and slammed the door shut, lights on.
The light however was now accompanied by a dull sound of a remote fan, one that couldn't be seen, just heard. But after trying unsuccessfully to rectify the breach, switching all sorts of permutations on and off, one light and the fan noise remained on.
By accident, I looked down to see the carnage beside me.
One frosted Tupperware top was already missing. Then I saw the poison scattered across the ledge. But the scene itself was more gruesome, with the lights on I saw there was a new layer inside the small bucket. A living landscape of mice moving frantically over, around and through already dead mice, in order to continue to consume the poison below.
In my minds eye, the scene was instantly recorded. Unseeing it seemed impossible, but forgetting it was even more futile.
In disgust and frustration about not being able to return the carnage back to its previous darkened noiseless state, I shut the door, fan and light still on.
Red Wright Return, a novel - an excerpt
To the parents of (family name here),
It has come to our attention that your son / daughter (circle the correct sex):
Is in need of special services / qualifies for advanced placement (circle which applies)
We’ll need to administer the right dosage to keep them all afloat and on the right track.
Separate but equal, all drowning on pills.
Please sign and date on the dotted line
(Subject #26)(ADHD-LEGAL) “. . . I drew outside the lines in coloring books, and was told I was having problems with my fine motor skills. Doctors said they could help my mom fix it with medicine. I was four . . .”
(Subject # 24)(ADHD-LEGAL) “. . . My principal in fifth grade told my parents that all of his kids benefited from the pills and that I would, too. He explained that the personality of only one of his kids was destroyed. ‘We’re still adjusting the meds for that one,’ he said. That same year my social studies teacher said the same thing about his kid, who started the pills at seven years old. He said they worked so well that he expected to take him off soon. My parents asked how old his kid was. He said nineteen . . .”
(Subject #82)(ADHD-LEGAL) “. . . I couldn’t sleep because of my ‘calm’ pill so they gave me another pill, a sleeping pill. I had anxiety when they took me off of my ‘calm’ pill on summer vacations and weekends so they gave me an antidepressant, which they said would help me with my anxiety. When I didn’t gain enough weight they put me on a thyroid pill. I was twelve . . .”
(Subject #1)(A-ILLEGAL)“I only take them when I have a research paper or midterm to study for . . . Each time I was glued to my chair for six straight hours. I didn’t like how they made me feel, I was shaking the whole time, but they really did work. I got 96 and a 93 . . .”
(Subject #1)(A-ILLEGAL) “. . . I do them mainly because of the hypocrisy, written in letters, spoken in words, scribbled on notes home, and documented on printed forms. A system that figured out how to eat us for breakfast, never gave us enough time to eat our lunch, then spat us out eighteen years later overcooked and yet raw. And all of it, in the name of our well-being, our future success . . . But for a general education kid like you and me, stuck on the bottom tier of the academic system, put here because of economics and race, there’s only one way to climb out; a rocket ship.”
(Subject #13) (A-ILLEGAL) I hid the pressure success put on me even though it grew like a tumor inside, threatening suffocation. Once you learn to hide that, you can hide anything.
(Subject # 1)(A-ILLEGAL) “. . .If I knew how to stop taking them, I would. But if I stop then everyone else will do better than me and I’ll fail in comparison. I think stopping isn’t an option . . .”
(Subject #11)(A-ILLEGAL) “I led a life, broken down into digestible sound bites and morsels of misinformation. Driven here, driven there, somewhere close to nowhere; 60 mph was the medium in which I floated. All in the name of the career and college of my choice, but without parents who knew how to model freedom or choice for me. The extra-curriculars nibbled and gnawed away at our family structure, because no other structure existed. I was so tired. I looked for something to wake me up. Do you do that too?”
(Subject #54)(A-ILLEGAL) “. . . catapulted into a world of success before the age of ten, breaking the sound waves of all their standardized tests. I was marked as a success-in-the-making. Not knowing how to stimulate me, or with what, they chose overstimulation. Applause, encouragement from test scores, teachers and systems were put into place to spot early success no matter the cost to those left behind. But I started using because couldn’t keep up with their expectations . . .”
(Subject #118)(A-ILLEGAL) “. . . because I was told to never stop [by his parents]. ‘Stopping is for less successful children,’ my dad said when I was seven. ‘Idleness is bad for the mind,’ my mom reprimanded when I was nine. ‘A well-rounded resume,’ my mom said, when I was twelve, ‘would be reviewed at some time in the future’. ‘Hanging around and wasting time,’ my dad said, when I was sixteen, ‘is something only other kids need to do.’ ‘Altruism,’ my mom told me, ‘could be clearly marked down on a piece of paper for future reference’. I collected future references like baseball cards and never stopping became a goal of mine. My ‘future’ was an insurmountable pressure cooker they placed me in, a future that seemed far-off but impending.”
There was an introduction to Putin, who was sitting with his entourage at a restaurant table. I sat beside him with my entourage, flanking my left, nervous not sure if he spoke English. Joking, I made up a very Russian sounding name to see if he would smile. He answered me in English, but with the straight face he's known for, his smile hovering somewhere two inches underneath all his facial muscles, barely imperceptible, but there.
With our group of five, and Putin's security detail we sat within a restaurant but I decided that each group needed to retrieve something before dinner. Putin and co. were enlisted to go get beer.
As they left, our group, uncomfortable with the reality of Putin's presence decided to just leave, leave for good. We wandered into the shopping complex that the restaurant sat within, and regrouped, assuming Putin and co. would forget about our dinner plans, or at least be baffled enough to give up when they returned and we were missing. I secretly wished Putin would have found the beer run beneath him and not come back at all. But after a while, still hungry, we went to a nearby restaurant. In hindsight, too nearby, because it was only next door to the first "Putin meet up". A moment needs to be taken to describe both restaurants and their orientation to one another. Both, sat along an interior corridor of a mall, both had no facade, or rather, missing an entire fourth wall which would normally enclose the restaurant's activity.
So, there we sat, in a booth designed for six, ordered food, received it and ate happily, hoping the strange ordeal was over, until one of us saw Putin, case of Coors in hand, standing in the mall looking around, visibly upset. Then we all heard him bellow loudly at our disappearance.
Nervous, one of us stood up, not sure who anymore, but he signaled to Putin. I say one of us, because I know it wasn't me.
Our guy approached Putin, then made like the restaurant we were in was our original plan/meet up location, while two of us desperately pulled an empty table toward ours, disrupting the flow of service in the busy restaurant to tack onto the end of the booth. Unfortunately, the table was the wrong height and tucked strangely a few inches underneath the booth's table.
As the Putin crew approached, and noticed we already had half eaten the food on the table, we nervously joked that hunger had gotten the better of us, but that we ordered it for all to share. One of Putin’s silent henchmen put his fingers into an already cold plate of mini meatballs and popped one, then two, into his mouth.
An hour later, in an automobile that wasn't driven us, but rather a Putin crony, Putin, sat beside John in the back seat. I sat half turned around in the front passenger seat of the car when Putin finally cracked opened a can of beer and handed it to my colleague, John. Then he opened one for himself. Giddy, just like an uncool, over excited teenager on his first date, he looked at me curiously.
At this it would be helpful to note, that I was the only woman in this entire meet up and Putin's discomfort, since the moment I jokingly told him my name was Tatiana Ver-skin-off-ski was apparent. It was then that my male cohort, passed me his open can to share, but just as he did the driver hit a bump in the road, and as it spilled on my hand I made small talk about police, open container laws, and as quickly as I had received the can, I returned it.
Putin sat on a wooden bench, outside the discussed building, along a busy street with the noise of traffic around us, surrounded by his men, who nervously paced beside and behind him. Two from our group had disappeared into the nearby building, accompanied by two of Putin's men tasked with retrieving what Putin wanted, the book that he thought belonged to him.
It didn't I assure you.
Not sure what to make of it, visibly distraught, by their sudden reappearance, Putin’s potential for anger surfaced as both of our men, dressed unexpectedly as women now, one more garish than the other, reappeared.
All of us watched, confused as my two men tried to explain to Putin that in order to shed ones discomfort it's sometimes easiest to become someone entirely new. Their forced humor and outrageous costumes, one in a red blouse and a mini skirt made entirely of black fringe, teetering uncomfortably on high heels and in fishnets, while the other, less memorable, but equally outrageous, put Putin at ease, and for the first time all evening he cracked a real smile on his otherwise steely expression.
We knew what they wanted. They knew exactly what they were after. And so far, we hadn't provided them with what they came for. Putin's frustration, after having played nice all evening at our outrageous distractions and games, was now visibly angry. He wanted the book he came for. We feigned ignorance, knowing it was tucked in the front of John's pants under his shirt the whole time. And this is where it fell apart quickly. Putin's anger, turned to violence within minutes and our jovial inaction turned to running within seconds. Still all standing on the sidewalk in front of the building where Luke and Pete Emerged in full drag, minus one book, is exactly the building we all ran back into, desperate to escape our imminent death.
Running up the internal, yet exterior stair, by that I mean exposed to the elements, or rather, open to the sky, metal fire escape, Pete, still in a mini skirt screamed about the chaffing on his knees. Not sure why he chose to mention that when running for our lives seemed more relevant, but he pressed on about it. I cried out, that chaffing on your knees only happens while being fucked from behind. And that's when we all realized that Putin’s sadistic crew, were not beneath taking advantage of any of us, as they had Pete and Luke.
Finally, inside a closed room, one cluttered with the stalled act of manufacturing toy dolls, atop high tables but surrounded by walls exposed from the waist up by glazing we scrambled to hide under the tables only to realize the only logical place to hide would be beside and directly underneath those very transparent walls.
It was at that moment, weight in the room itself shifted, literally, the room began to tilt, as if precariously balancing on an invisible large ball beneath the floor boards. Desperate not to fall through the glass or be exposed we all clamored toward the center, like rats desperate not to fall in to the ocean on the deck of a sailboat.
Our exposure had us caught. And the book, Putin's 'book', was still a major point of contention.
Now with arms up in the air, guns pointed at us, a large black gun burrowed into my chest cavity, the book peeking precariously out of the top of John's pants, John gave it up.
In a dark room, across town, another uncomfortable car ride away Putin and I sat against a wall in an ornate upholstered carved wooden chairs and he held the precious book in his hands, finally.
Forced to sit vigil, the room was silent despite now filled with Putin's and my men. A man, unknown to me, but obviously a priest apparently lay dying on a large even more ornate bed.
I looked at Putin, trying to understand.
"I need to ask him something", Putin said uncharacteristically aloud.
And despite my agnostic background, I finally understood.
Putin was a bad guy, and even bad guys know they are going to hell.
Woman be Cool, a novel by Tanya Van Cott
I fell to the floor in pieces. Made of so many fragments that stopped making any sense individually. They needed to be put back together. Seen once again as a whole. I crumbled in front of a helpful appliance, surrounded by all the dirty laundry I never seemed able to stop washing, and prayed for God to help me but believed only when I was glued to the floor somewhere. No longer good for anyone, especially myself, I remembered that he reminded in the darkness earlier that evening that my children needed me, needed me to be whole again.
"Are you crying?" the motorcyclist asked.
"No," I said, but I was lying.
I was split right down the middle; insecurity and confidence, hysteria and stoicism, crisis and calm, hot and cool all over, collected yet scattered all opposing each other, desperate to unite physically. I was in the middle of a moment that could not have been more poetic, a true fantasy in which I had finally met my other half after years of searching for it. I had seen it for all its strengths and weaknesses and yet couldn’t figure out how to consummate the marriage of the parts. There seemed to be no other answer that day but to run, so I did. I ran toward myself, which I believed to be “that way,” pointing south; but I know now, bleeding and broken that it didn’t matter in what direction I ran, because I would be there in the end anyway, still alone and still myself. I knew that no fantasy, escape, or ideal held the answer for me but running away, was a desperate act to unite with the madness that had existed within me for a long time.
As I methodically moved through the rooms of my mind, making piles of only the most necessary items for survival I thought one last conversation with my alter ego appropriate. There we sat face-to-face, mirror image, developer-built, architect-designed suburban homes. Foundations poured, almost completely framed, waiting for our finishing touches. A few more weeks work was needed before completion. As we sat there among the other similar structures, along that linear patch of dirt that connected us all, striking up a conversation before our nakedness would be covered forever seemed only natural.
"Pushing herself to move forward in pointless misdirection, she found herself confronted by her surreal commute and the reality of her most recent memory, an unwanted sexual experience."
an excerpt adaptation from WOMAN BE COOL, a novel by Tanya H. Van Cott
“Why didn’t I fight? What the hell is wrong with me?” she said, trying to remember the sequence of events from the night before. “I was never interested in him. I couldn't have given him the wrong idea?”
Hot platforms, refrigerated cars, gusts of air, odors made more intense by the heat and fragments of conversations from hundreds of bodies always standing in close proximity. All trying not to ever touch or look at one another. Left alone with only her thoughts to accompany her, surrounded by others, all alone in their thoughts, she pushed herself to move forward in pointless misdirection, confronted by her surreal subway commute. Struck by the reality of her most recent memory she replayed the events, eyes closed while the subway rattled, shook and sped forward.
“A night of freedom and fun in a summer that lacked either, didn’t I deserve that? I did drink more than I should have or was used to, but doesn’t everyone do that now and then?”
She justify accepting rides home from different coworkers, mostly men, ones she hoped, she prayed, she could trust because as a cocktail waitress she frequently had to spend more than half of her tips on a taxi ride home, to a less than safe, outer Borough of New York City. And up until the previous night they were all without incident.
"I enjoyed laughing and finally feeling light. I didn’t mean to let my guard down, but I trusted them, I trusted him. I thought I was safe. Fuck!"
Her smile never divulged the heartbreak and loneliness she struggled with daily. Loneliness caused by a different young man one who purposefully kept her a bay. Men did show interest in her and tried to break through her veneer. Some showering her with miscellaneous kindnesses; like a dessert sent up from the kitchen nightly from a boy who had a crush on her; a drive home in a limousine when no other fare could be gotten; a carefree ride home, top down, in a convertible from a waiter who made ten times what she made and one bartender, who promised her a safe journey home after a night of freedom and fun.
"I’m the only one to blame for what happened,” she said convinced, clutching onto the cold chrome structure of her commute.
That journey was not in the direction of her choice though. A drive through a tunnel, was the first indication the night took a wrong turn. Underneath a river, into the darkness of streets that were unfamiliar. She tried to overcome her sense of confusion and intoxication. Blaming herself, for not being clear with him about which way to go she quickly realized she was in danger when his hand started caressing her inner thigh. She pulled away politely, trying not to tip the fragile balance of mood in the car. She tried to engage in more direct chatter about bridges, tunnels and wrong turns. But he pulled the car over in a dark spot just off of the highway, simultaneously pulled up her skirt up and her panties down. Miles away from where she wanted to be, even then, she blamed herself.
Still trying to understand the course of events she thought, “Why did I let him do it? I just wanted to get back to the apartment. That was my main goal. That’s why I didn’t fight? Because I was fucking scared, that’s why! Scared to be left on the street somewhere, scared to be hurt by male rage, eve now scared to say something." Something dark controlled her destiny, something that seemed out of her control.
Still in deep thought, as the subway hurled through space, she opened her eyes and looked more deeply into the faces she shared her daily journey with.
“Are they all as alone as I am? If I could just see everyone else’s struggles, my own might seem trivial.”
Was there an escape from her own ridiculous loneliness?
“Maybe getting off this ride at another stop would do it,” she said. But the doors just opened and then closed, opened again and closed again.
What is the likelihood that New York City spawned two separate real estate heirs, between 1943 and 1946? Both media crazed, and crazy?
"Could the asbestos Robert Durst and Donald Trump's fathers ingested in the 1930’s on various large scale construction sites have given rise to their son’s insanity?"
Both men with distinctive facial tics, a penchant for lying with a straight face, and for talking to themselves, on and off camera. Shouldn’t we be scratching our heads? Is Donald Trump, Robert Durst in disguise? And most importantly, will we let Donald get away with Murder too?
Bill Maher said it best in 2016, when he said there’s “a slow moving right-wing coup” happening in America and faults the media for the election of 2016 reaching “peak insanity. Less than one year later America has its first dictator, President Donald J. Trump. A leader who called a rally participant, not aligned with his views and only armed with a sign that stated “Republicans not for Trump”, an assassin; a woman not interested in his advances, a pig; and journalists, exerting their first amendment right, liars. A man who, despite his age acts and is treated like, a child by those nearest to him. His twitter account taken away from him close to the 2016 election for fear he couldn’t be trusted not to undermine his own campaign efforts to get him elected.
It only took our judicial system thirty-four years to catch up to Durst and get him in jail charging him with a federal weapons charge, not for the three murders he's directly connected to; his missing wife, his longtime female best friend and a neighbor he cut into tiny pieces. And in April 2016 we only sentenced him to seven years in a federal prison, despite the highly acclaimed HBO documentary “The Jinx”, where Robert Durst incriminated himself for murder while being tape recorded.
"Our thirst for insane, white, old men, and real reality TV is coming to a head during our two hundred and forty first year as a nation."
We capped off our anniversary by electing the craziest leader in our history. And watch the unraveling of our constitution daily. Will it take thirty plus years to catch up with Donald Trump? And finally charge him with something? None of us may be here at the rate the unravelling is happening especially with WWIII being flaunted by Trump like a new toy gun he wants to make sure we all understand he has.
Why don’t his followers see? Why can’t they see the truth, that he’s a used car salesman and will say anything to get them to buy the piece of shit he’s pushing. That’s a question I ask myself everyday as I bump into supporters, shocked by their blindness. One day it was a woman in her 70’s, obviously a hippie holdover, gleefully admitting she was a Trump supporter. Really? Was she that eager to shed her younger self and finally embrace her parent’s ideologies? Why was she willing to discard all the freedoms that she and her sisters fought for as women? How did our nation lose her?
And what’s in it for the young black man I saw standing behind Trump at one of his rally’s? Was he paid to stand there? How much do you think to be worth the humiliation? What’s in it for my daughter’s classmates, all eleven-year-old girls, who have no idea what a Trump presidency will take away from their futures as women yet still eager to support him on the playground?
As I make the beds this morning I think, does a Trump or a Durst even know what it's like to make a bed? Clean a toilet? Care for a sick child or parent? Do these billionaires have a clue what real life is like without their assistants, housecleaners drivers and accountants and lawyers, protecting them? What would their lives be like if they hadn’t been born with a silver spoon in their mouths?
I bet both would have been locked up long ago.
From the oped files:
Is Donald Trump Robert Durst in Disguise © 2017 Tanya H. Van Cott
Tanya H. Van Cott is currently finishing up a novel trilogy that captures a snapshot of our current social, political, and personal challenges as a nation and especially as women and men, within the Global community.