Helsinki — The Play — Chapters 12 & 13
Moscow — Putin’s Dacha — Afternoon
Putin is outside with his dog, standing on a little hill by the lake.
Putin — Why do I do it? For the pleasure of it. The pleasure of seeing the dominant nation in the world being tossed about by our actions. The pleasure of seeing them go at each other…. doubting, hating, reviling each other.
The supposedly dominant nation in the world… electing whom they elected… hating immigrants when they are a nation of immigrants… questioning their values… what is there not to like about that?
(He smiles, picks up a stone and throws it far off and into the lake. His dog gives a start but Putin calms him down)
The more confusion I stir in that land, the weaker their resolve to block any move I make to extend my influence or my territory. I, on this side, Xi Jinping on the other, both enlarging our spheres of influence… squeezing the Americans. And the more divided they are, the more China will continue to insert itself in Latin America… right in their backyard… and in Africa, too. Meanwhile, I strengthen my support for Far Right movements in Italy, Hungary, Poland, even Germany. Let the Americans bicker with the Europeans… the more distracted the better.
I have time. Oh, the virtues of autocracy. One nation, one man.
(He pets his dog)
Do I need to do it? Out of a sense of self preservation? Yes. But there’s also the satisfaction of having control over the lives of other men and women. Men and women who live under the delusion that they are free.
(He kneels down to speak to his dog)
(The dog licks Putin’s hand)
Because he made money in his hotels he thinks he can be a leader… ha!
(The dog makes an affectionate sound. Putin stands again)
But we’ll see… for sure, once I get his tax returns. Still, there’s that virus that could spread here… or anywhere… the virus of wanting an open dialogue… the virus of freedom… freedom to criticize… to question authority… to make money… to be all you can be… to dare climb the ladder… but no, I will not have that here in Russia. But I’m not really worried. After all, we’re the land of the Czars… of Stalin… of institutionalized cruelty… the mass killing of dissidents… Russians killing Russians… by the millions… we have a long way to go to heal those wounds… if ever… America has never experienced such abuse as Russians endured… except for Black Americans… but nothing… nothing like we have.
(He turns to his dog)
Our cyberwarriors will take care of things, won’t they, Washington? So we can even out the playing field.
(The dog makes a wimpy sound)
I need to get you something to eat.
(The two start walking down the little hill towards the dacha. In the distance, guards in black garb are posted at various locations)
A very dark, rectangular room, barely lit, and Trump sitting at one end.
The same shadowy figure with no discernible features, a black suit and a hood over his head, appears at the other end. As before, at the wave of the Man’s hand a chair materializes and he sits facing Trump.
Trump — You again?
(The Man nods slowly)
Man — You’re running out of time. The mid terms are coming up… and the democrats are gaining… so unless Mueller clears you… they will likely move to impeach you.
Trump — On what grounds?
Man — Mueller is scaring some folks.
Trump — Their word against mine. Can you be more specific?
Man — Cannot. But you’re the big fish…
Trump — And a good incentive for someone to flip. But I know that. I’m not worried, though. We’ll keep the House and the Senate, I’m sure about that.
The Man leans forward, arms on his legs.
Trump — Say, how come I can’t see your face?
Man — I don’t have one.
Man — What mistake did you make?
Trump — Mistake?
(Trump looks down at the ground, searchingly)
Man — If you know, you may still have a chance.
(A moment passes. Trump looks up at the Man, still unable to come up with an answer)
Man — Don’t know?
Trump — Melania… she’s talked about the need for dialogue…
(The Man nods slowly)
Trump — … building bridges…
(The Man nods again)
Trump — Finding my higher… self…
Man — And?
Trump — I don’t think it’s in me.
Man — I see.
Trump — What do you see?
Man — Really want my opinion?
Trump — I don’t know… I suppose…
Man — There may not be enough time but here it goes…
Trump sits back, bracing himself, wary of the Man’s answer.
Man — You played the one note… and that’s all.
Trump — The one note?
Man — Same note, again and again… you got lucky that the one note attracted a lot of customers at the start… but you got stuck on it… and here you are, well into your second year and you’re still on the same note.
Trump (puzzled) — One note?
Man — You need more than one note to find your depth as a leader.
(Trump hangs his head for a moment)
Trump (anxiously, quickly) — One note… two notes… three notes… what difference does it make? I keep my promises.
Man (calmly) — The thing is, leading is about much more than that.
Trump — More than keeping your promises?
(The Man slowly reaches forward with his long right arm, and keeping it extended then turns the palm of his hand upwards. Trump draws back)
Man — Touch the soul…
(Trump is tempted to reach out and touch the Man’s hand but is afraid of it)
Trump — Touch the soul? The soul? Ha! Look, I’ve made a lot of decisions in my year and a half…
Man — But have you led?
Trump is disconcerted.
Trump (timidly) — No?
(The Man shakes his head very slowly)
Trump (rousing himself) — What about the stock market, it’s going up and up, and the GDP, the tax cut, the low unemployment… I’m giving people what they want… money…money! Isn’t that what we’re all about, the rest just empty pieties?
(Trump lets out a loud laugh but the Man doesn’t stir, all the while keeping his arm extended, the palm facing up. A somber expression then settles on Trump… fearful that he’s missing out on something but unable to overcome his fear)
Trump (not giving up, rousing himself again) — Remember Liza and Joel in Cabaret… the movie? Money Money Money! Makes the world go round!
The Man lowers his head and pulls back his arm.
Trump — What’s the matter with you, you don’t watch the movies… you too good for them?
(Trump stands up abruptly and is surprised he’s able to do it)
Trump (looking at his wrists) — Hunh…. I thought I’d be held back… like the first time… how come I can move now?
(The Man stands up)
(Trump takes a few determined steps toward the Man but then stops. They look at each other in silence)
Trump (softly, tentatively) — You think I have it in me?
(The Man pauses, then turns and starts to walk away)
Trump — Hey, wait a minute. I asked you a question!
(Trump lunges for the Man but the figure disappears and Trump ends up falling to the ground. Slowly, he sits up and looks around at the dark and empty room. The Man’s chair is still there. Trump gets up and approaches it carefully. He sits on it. Now he hears the disembodied voice of the Man)
Man (voice over) — One note.
(Trump covers his ears, frightened. All is still. He lowers his hands slowly, then, seized by a fit of rage, jumps to his feet)
Trump (shouting full blast) — God dammit! I said goddammit! Do you hear me? God dammit! The hell with everybody! God dammit! Yes, you, god… damn you!
Man (voice over) — One note.
(Trump drops to his knees, head bowed, and starts to cry softly,
A moment passes, then he begins to raise his head… as tears stream down his face… and while extending his arms upwards…)
Trump (pleadingly, anguished) — Can’t I have depth? Can’t I? Please God… give me depth!
White House — Bedroom — 2 AM
(Trump wakes up with a startle. Melania is asleep at his side. He rubs his face, then gets up and crosses to the window. He opens the drapes and pulls up a chair. He sits and looks out into the night.
Melania awakens. She looks at him)
Melania — What happened?
Melania — Another dream?
Melania — Want to talk about it?
(He says nothing. She rises and goes to his side, stands beside him and begins to rub his shoulders)
Trump — I have to make some decisions.
(She kisses the crown of his head)
Melania — Just know that I love you.
Oscar Valdes oscarvaldes.net. also on anchor.fm, apple and google podcasts and buzzsprout.