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Unterberg Poetry Center

Scene 1.
FRED TRUMP is standing alone in a spotlight on a dark stage. He is an elderly man, wearing golf clothes.

FRED TRUMP
I have this dream sometimes I buy up all the real estate in Andromeda. I have hotels, resorts, casinos, racecourses, golf, and tennis and polo clubs on every planet, on every star, on every piece of cold dust spiraling around that galaxy. In the dream, I’m here, on earth, walking down the beach. It’s a moonless night. We can see through the universe. We know about events that will happen, that could happen, that have happened… light-years away. We watch our name light up the dark. You’re always the same age: six or seven. In my head, you never grow up. You’re wearing jelly sandals too small for your toes. I’m holding your hand at Dead Horse Bay. We’re standing in the water, our pants rolled to our knees. You were afraid of the ocean sucking you in. You were always afraid of outer space, being left to float around infinity. “Why are you afraid of the water?” I ask you. It’s ours, it belongs to us. Everything we don’t know is ours. There isn’t a star above us that isn’t watching, waiting for you. I help you write your name in the sand. I tell you we’ll race from the water to the street, from the gaslights to the satellites. I start to run, lose my breath, turn around, watch the tide wash you away.

Spotlight fades.

Scene 2
1982. The champagne room of a midtown topless “gentleman’s club.” The STRIPPER (who will grow up to be DR. ALBRIGHT in the later scenes) is dressed as a sexy librarian. She smokes. DONALD TRUMP looks like he did in the 80’s: Vidal Sassoon hair, on the ugly side of not-quite-handsome. He wears business attire. THE STRIPPER should be flirting with him, but only because she’s working.

STRIPPER
One free champagne and one free dance. The rest you’ve got to buy.

DONALD TRUMP
I don’t drink. And I don’t really want a dance.

STRIPPER
I don’t use my hands. Club rules, not mine. (whispers) There are cameras. 
You want anything special, you’ve got to see me later.

DONALD TRUMP
Would it be okay if I just sat here and looked at you?

STRIPPER
Whatever floats your boat. Buy me a drink. (lighting a cigarette) You look like you could use one too.

DONALD TRUMP
Don’t touch the stuff.

STRIPPER
Figures. You’ve got the aura of a dry drunk. Unquenched thirst, that’s all anger is.

DONALD TRUMP
Had a drunk brother. Died about a year ago. Pickled himself. I don’t respect drinkers. Don’t respect smokers, either, to tell you the truth.

STRIPPER
Would you respect me if I put this out in your eye?

DONALD TRUMP
Maybe.

STRIPPER
I’ve got a dead brother too. Little Stevie. He was so cute when he was little. My friends were all in love with him. When he was eight years old, they’d sit him up on the kitchen counter and practice frenching him.

DONALD TRUMP
Disgusting. Some kids get all the luck. How’d he die?

STRIPPER
He grew up not so cute. People stopped wanting to kiss him. Went insane. Overdosed. He was a good person, Stevie. It’s always the good ones who think they’re no good.

DONALD TRUMP
My brother was a dickhead. Laziest man on the planet. He had everything: looks, brains, all the money in the world, my father’s love. Everything he touched turned to shit. (pause) So what do you do when you’re not fleecing men back here?

STRIPPER
Beating them up?

DONALD TRUMP
I’m sure you eat testicle soup for lunch. Balls on a stick.

STRIPPER
This is me.
(She pulls a business card out of her bra, slaps it on the table. DONALD reads but doesn’t touch the card)

DONALD TRUMP
Very professional.

STRIPPER
I do okay. More than okay. I’m saving up.

DONALD TRUMP
For what? Some kind of torture machine?

STRIPPER
I don’t need a machine to torture people. I work from the inside out.

DONALD TRUMP
What’s that supposed to mean?

STRIPPER
I find out who they are, what their inner strengths are. And I slowly, slowly pluck out those fibers until there’s nothing left, until their identity has been reduced to a quivering pile of goo. That’s when I dig my heels in.

DONALD TRUMP
Your boyfriend doesn’t mind this?

STRIPPER
My boyfriend cleans up after them.

DONALD TRUMP
So he’s a real winner too.

STRIPPER
He’s… (Pause) Actually, he’s sick. Some kind of rare cancer. They don’t know what it is. I’m taking care of him. We were saving up for school, but this threw us for a loop. You know how much it costs to go to a doctor who can’t do shit for you?

DONALD TRUMP
What are you in, fashion? I know people in fashion. Lots of people. I could get you in to wherever you want to go. All it would take is a phone call.

STRIPPER
Right.

DONALD TRUMP
I’m serious. I could write you a check right now…

STRIPPER
Can I dance for you or what?

DONALD TRUMP
You don’t even know what you want. Probably don’t even know who you are or what you’re doing on this planet. If I believed you weren’t anything but a bottom feeding slut, I could teach you how to invest whatever you’re making here so that you don’t snort it up or puke it out tomorrow morning or spend it on your invertebrate lover. You go out with drug addicts, they get sick. Didn’t you learn that on the streets?  I could make you richer than what a brain like yours could calculate. But your probably aren’t interested. Deep down you probably get some kind of kick out of men shitting their pants for you. Are you crying? Why are you crying? You think men want to see you sniveling? You know what you look like right now? Do you even know what you’re vaguely interested in?

STRIPPER
Yes.

DONALD TRUMP
What could possibly take up all that space in your head? What do you want to study?

STRIPPER
Hegelian philosophy.

Lights Out
Scene 3
 2016. A small room in a messy college dormitory. JASON, 20, is in his underwear. OMNIA, 18, is also half-dressed. They are in a “complicated” dating situation.

JASON
It’s not that complicated.

OMNIA
Yes, when you explain it to me, it’s not that complicated.

JASON
It’s Intro to Western Philosophy, first semester.

OMNIA
But when I have to write about it, I get confused. I think it’s because this woman is crazy. I mean, she’s a fucking monster.

JASON
Wait, has she made you cry yet?

OMNIA
On day one! She makes everyone cry! She’s horrible.

JASON
But she’s brilliant!

OMNIA
Worst professor ever.

JASON
No no no, she’s the best.

OMNIA
Her comments make no sense. Her comments are like…

JASON
Poetry.

OMNIA
Illegible! Her comments have footnotes. Her footnotes have footnotes. She’s the epitome of everything I hate about school. Of everything I hate about this country. She’s so full of herself, so hypocritical… and racist. Sooooo racist. But racist because she’s trying so hard to not be racist. She didn’t talk to me on the first day.  She thought I was white. Then the next week, I’m wearing the hijab. Suddenly she’s my best friend. Suddenly everything I say is brilliant… until I ask a question, then she looks at me like I’ve betrayed her…

JASON
That’s the thing, you want to hate her, right? You really want to hate her because she makes you feel…

OMNIA
Like a retard?

JASON
Like a total retard. But in the best possible way. I mean, I remember first semester freshman year. You didn’t know me then. I was like a little Reaganite.

OMNIA
People say that. That you used to be a major douche.

JASON
I carried a fucking briefcase around, okay? I was a douche. I’m recovered though. I’m a recovering douchebag. I’m fully recovered… And it was because of Dr. Albright.
I take her class, and suddenly I could start to see the holes in everything I thought was solid. Like the structure around me wasn’t what I thought it was. The more I read, the more I realized… She made me want to read everything. I was premed when I came here. By week three, I’d changed majors… I wanted to read everything she’d ever written. Have you read “In Bondage…”

OMNIA
I couldn’t get through…

JASON
Okay, the first chapter, but the intro… 

OMNIA
I was going to say the title. Couldn’t make sense of the title. There were like seven words I didn’t know. Look, I might as well let you know now that I’m an idiot.

JASON
You’re the smartest person I’ve ever met. Okay, the second smartest.

OMNIA
You totally want to fuck her, don’t you?

JASON
What?

OMNIA
Everyone wants to fuck her. It’s disgusting. Everyone hates her, everyone wants to fuck her.

JASON
Yeah, okay. They want to fuck her because she’s a bitch. She has that going for her. Also, let’s face it. She’s smart. It’s really because she’s so smart. I don’t mean like your average smart academic. Her brains could be preserved for science. Because if you look at her face, she isn’t that hot. Her body isn’t hot. Her body is okay, for an old person.

OMNIA
You’re a dick.

JASON
You’re the smartest woman I know.

(OMNIA starts to dress, in silence.)

Person. I meant person. Where are you going? Listen, I don’t hang out with stupid people. I just don’t. I only hang out with people I can spar with. I love talking to you. Meeting you has been the best thing that’s happened to me in my whole college career. I feel stimulated. Challenged. You turn me on. Your brain turns me on.

OMNIA
Why did she give me a C?

JASON
It’s the Rousseau part.

OMNIA
But that’s basic.

JASON
It is, but you’re missing it. Or you just don’t agree with it. But that doesn’t mean you get to invent.

OMNIA
Explain him to me like you’re talking to a very, very stupid person.

JASON
What he’s saying is that we can only be free when we’re participants in society, when we’re active members. The only way we can truly look out for ourselves is if we look out for others. By looking out for others, we’re looking out for ourselves. And by definition, the converse must also be true: by looking out for ourselves, we’re looking out for others. But looking out for others and ourselves doesn’t mean handing our minds over to the government. That’s how the communists and fascists misread the Social Contract. Being an active member of society means going up against the state constantly, engaging with it, wrestling with it.

OMNIA
But then why did you say that thing…

JASON
Omnia, I love Muslims. Obviously. I mean, I don’t love you because you’re Muslim.  But these aren’t even Muslims. They’re not even people.

OMNIA
That’s where we disagree. They are people.

JASON
Okay, then they’re the worst examples of humans.

OMNIA
Here we go again. What if your parents were killed… I’m sorry.

JASON
It’s okay.

OMNIA
It’s not okay.

JASON
People forget.

OMNIA
I didn’t forget.

JASON
It’s abstract for most people.

OMNIA
I’m not most people.

JASON
I’m not trying to put you down, but you ARE most people. And that’s totally fine. Why should you be different from anyone else?

OMNIA
I was trying to make a point.

JASON
Go ahead.

OMNIA
I said killed, I meant raped. What if your parents were raped by an American soldier, in some village where there’s nothing? Everything was promised to you, but there’s nothing. No education. No opportunities. All you have is this story of yourself.

JASON
Exactly, this narrative.

OMNIA
Your whole family, your whole identity is wrapped around this series of events that shaped you, that’s seared into your brain… and why shouldn’t it be? Your mother’s dead, your father’s dead, your brothers and sisters: all dead. That’s who you are. You are what they accidentally forgot to kill. You close your eyes to write your life story: all you see is a pile of limbs… and an American flag where your house used to be. Maybe some dogs gnawing on the leftovers. Ten years pass and suddenly your life hasn’t even begun. Suddenly, your life is over. Suddenly, you’re eighteen years old, a man, all grown up, big strong muscles with nothing to hold… in the middle of the desert. Beyond you, there’s nothing but dust. All you’ve got is the Diving Being. All you’ve got is Allah.

JASON
But you don’t, right? You don’t have Him. There is no Him. No he. No It or whatever. There’s just a hole full of shit and your face is in it.

OMNIA
What difference does it make? You think it’s Him, so it’s Him.

JASON
And he’s telling you to what? Kill everything you see, so you do what you’re told because… what? You’re bored? You’re scared? You’re out of your fucking mind?

OMNIA
You’re hopeful. These people have hope. Just like all the radicals and revolutionaries…

JASON
Murderers who kill innocent people with bombs. Who kill women and children and old people with bombs. Who kills Jews and Christians and Buddhists and Sufis Atheists and Muslims. Who chop off heads and rape girls… You think that’s hopeful? That is the opposite of hope.

OMNIA
Look at our military!

JASON
Imagine sitting on the PATH, texting me, eating your apple. Thinking about all the dumb things we think about. Wishing you’d bought Sun Chips instead of fruit, worried about your bio lab, or what Albright gave you on your philosophy paper. Or maybe you’re just looking out the window at Harrison, New Jersey and you’re noticing its sexy-ugliness, the lyricism in the industrial aesthetic of the Passaic or whatever it is you’re learning about in literature class, and how you’re going to get the hell out of this state for good. You’re thinking about who would have a better chance at winning the general election, Clinton or Sanders. Or you’re talking to the woman sitting next to you. She’s pregnant. Or fuck it, she’s not pregnant, she just got her heart broken. Some asshole cheated on her. She’s talking to you because she’s lonely and you’ve got that smile that makes everyone okay. Or you’re wearing your bitch face and she wants to see if she can thaw you out. And the guy across from you is on his way home from the night shift at the hospital or whatever. He’s excited to go home and have a cup of tea with his wife. And if five seconds boom boom boom all of you are dead, gone… This is what God wants?

OMNIA
This is so typically American: all the pathos of these individual lives. What about all the people…

JASON
I’m saying these stories, these individuals are who matter.

OMNIA
So if you’re a poor disenfranchised Muslim Syrian or Iraqi you don’t matter?

JASON
Not if you don’t give a shit about life.

OMNIA
Give a shit about whose life?

JASON
How can you call yourself a Muslim, call yourself religious and behave this way? You don’t have thoughts of your own? You don’t have your own imagination to entertain you? You’re all destroyed inside so you have to destroy the world? There are two types of civilizations, Omnia: those driven by Eros: love, and those driven by Thanatos: death. These people are driven by death. The aim is to destroy, that’s the only aim.

OMNIA
These people have been shat on their whole lives.

JASON
This is the excuse of serial killers. John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer. They all had terrible childhoods. They all suffered from head injuries.

OMNIA
Here comes this group of people. Here come all these young strong men who have been through exactly what you’ve been through and they know you and they get you. They speak your language. They were there too. Their parents are dead. They saw their mothers get raped. They saw their city in ashes too. They say, “Here’s what you should focus on…” (JASON laughs) This is funny?

(OMNIA starts to dress, determinedly now)

JASON
It sounds like an after-school program. “ISIS. Something to focus on.”

OMNIA
They give you a sense of purpose.

JASON
For the price of your soul, your humanity. As long as you’re willing to kill and rape. This is okay with you? This is forgivable?

OMNIA
Who’s talking about forgiveness?

JASON
I’ve had a lot of bad things happen to me in my life.

OMNIA
So you’ve mentioned.

JASON
I don’t just mean 9/11 or losing my parents to terrorists. You don’t know me that well. You have no idea what my childhood was like. All you know is what people say about me. But there are a lot of pockets that you’ll never know about and whatever happened to me… Have I killed? (Pause) Have I raped? Have I chopped off anyone’s head?

OMNIA
How would I know? I don’t know you at all.            

(OMNIA Puts on her coat, pulls on her hijab. Exits, slamming door. JASON is left in his underwear, picks up the “C” paper that is on the floor. Reads.)

Lights Out

Anne-E. Wood is primarily a fiction writer. She lives in Brooklyn and teaches writing at Rutgers University and Northeast Normal University in Changchun, China.