more from LOVE IN THE AGE OF TRUMP

Four

Paulina

“Do you think Trump got away?” said Paulina, with a slight edge of desperation in her voice. “Do you think he’s alright?”

Willy shrugged. “If you haven’t noticed before, he always gets away.”

“Those guys looked scary this time.”

“He’s fine,” said Willy. “They got him off the stage. Looked like a couple of Resistance folks took a real beating onstage, though. They’re probably in a hell of a rough shape right now, if they even survived it. But Trump is okay.”

“Are you sure?”

She looked at him with a wide-eyed, nervous expression that made him think she might start crying if he said just the wrong thing at that moment. It always surprised him, how his wife seemed so fragile and weepy whenever she sensed her beloved President in danger. Most other times, she was about as fragile as a lead pipe.

“I’m sure,” he said. “I saw everything myself. It happened live, on television. Trump is fine.”

Paulina relaxed. That was what she wanted to hear. Still, she sought another ounce of reassurance.

“Yes. But are you sure?” she asked.

“I saw it on TV. Right there,” he said. “If you can’t trust the TV, who can you trust?”

“That damned Resistance. Those idiots deserve whatever they get,” she said, as she walked into the adjacent kitchen and took a Diet Dew from the refrigerator. “You would think that they would know when to quit by now.”

“Some folks just aren’t happy, no matter what,” he said. “They try a stunt like this, what, three or four times a year now? And what do they get out of it? Not a damn thing.”

He switched off the television.

“Turn that back on!” Paulina interjected.

Will stood up. He held up his hands for added emphasis. “Trump is gone. There’s nothing worth watch anymore.”

“He might come back.”

“He won’t be back. Not today. They’ll have a press conference some time tomorrow and show us pictures of business-as-usual, tell us everything is okay, but we all have to be vigilant, keep our eyes on each other. Pray for us all, pray for Trump. You know how it is.”

“You don’t think we all should, how you say, keep our eyes open for each other? These animals – ”

“Keep our eyes on each other. It’s different, a little different. Of course I think we should keep ours on each other.”

“Uh-huh.” She thought about it. “You want a Diet Dew?”

“Sure.”

She opened the refrigerator back up, grabbed one of the green plastic twenty ouncers. and tossed it across the room.

Willy caught it without so much as a slight juggle.

He sat back down on the couch, reclining against the soft red vinyl. Closing his eyes, he listened to the sounds of Paulina rummaging through the cabinets, looking for something to eat.

A couple of minutes later, she sat down next to him, holding her own bottle of green soda along with a paper plate overloaded with barbecue-flavored potato chips and shredded mozzarella cheese.

It was astounding, how she could eat that type of food and not gain so much as a half-inch on her trim waistline. He counted his calories, read all the ingredient labels, always aimed for the right proper carb/protein balance, and still he wore 4XL t-shirts. And barely fit into those.

“How was school?” he said.

“Fine.” She scooped up several of the chips and plunged them into her mouth. “The children wanted to watch President Trump’s speech on television but he started late. The buses loaded first. After that, everybody else left so we could get home and watch for ourselves.”

Paulina picked up the remote and turned the television back on.

Now, the news channel replayed the day’s footage of the Resistance attackers on an apparent endless loop. The announcers fired question after question at their panel of astute guests, seeking insight and explanation into terrorist actions that seemed arbitrary, senseless, unexplainable.

“We never dealt with such things like this in Russia,” she said. “Not before, not now, not ever. My great-great-grandfather, he was KGB, you know.”

Willy knew.

“He told me things about old Soviet Union. Back then, they would have gathered everyone in this Resistance and made them disappear in one night. End of story. Resistance would never exist. Even if it did exist, it would not be around for long. All you Americans, you allow this.”

“Last time I checked, you’re an American now, too,” Willy said.

“I am just saying, in Russia, a Resistance starts one day, then that night it is crushed. Good-bye. End of story. But here, all these protests, people speaking against our leader. I do not understand.”

Willy gulped some Diet Dew, then set the bottle down on the floor in front of the couch. “It’s called freedom of speech, honey. We still have that in America.”

“Freedom speech. This freedom speech, always with the freedom speech. That is what you call it.”

Paulina laughed, a sardonic snigger, coated in her icy eastern European sarcasm that hung in the room long after the words dissipated.

“This stupid resistance, do you know what they really want? They want anarchy. These are murderers,” she said. “You talk about freedom and you let these bastards always try to kill your president. What kind of country is this?”

“They’re not going to kill him,” said Willy.

“If you let them keep trying, one day they might succeed,” she said. “This is why they must be stopped. Now. You understand me, right?”

Willy shrugged his shoulders. He grabbed his soda bottle off the floor and stood up.

“Always shrugging your shoulders,” said Paulina. “I ask you serious question and you just say, ah. Whatever. You never have answer, do you?”

“What would you like me to say?”

She handed him her empty plate. “Say nothing,” she said. “Just take this to the trash, fatso. I’m finished now.”

He hesitated, waiting for her to laugh. She never did. It didn’t surprise him. Laughter would show playfulness, a softer side, a facet of his girlfriend that perhaps did not exist. She never did.

Willy took the plate and headed for the kitchen, wondering what it was about him that made her want to stick around. There must be something, He hoped.

*

That night they made sweaty, passionate love, at least what sufficed as a reasonable approximation of passion between the two of them. Paulina straddled her husband as he sat with his back resting against the bed’s headboard and wrapped her legs around his waist as best she could get them around his girth, then clasped her hands behind his neck and held on for the ride.

She stared straight ahead the entire time, grunting, rarely making eye contact, never saying a word until they were finished.

“Not too bad tonight, fatso,” she said, as she rolled off him and reached for the night stand on her side of the bed, and the pack of Marlboro Lights that lay there. “It feels good to last more than five minutes with me, no?”

“Yes. It does,” he said.

“It feels good for you, anyway. I suppose.” She laughed, more out of boredom than anything else.

Willy let out a long, slow breath, and pulled the flat bedsheet across his naked body so his full natural glory couldn’t be seen in the moonlight that cascaded through their bedroom window.

A thick silence took over between them.

After a little while, he said, “I don’t understand why you talk about me that way,”

She laughed, a frigid snicker devoid of even the slightest sliver of human empathy. “What do you mean?”

“I mean… I love you, that’s all.” He rolled onto his side, away from her, towards the window, and looked out the window towards the yard, at the bluish moon beams that skitted off their yard’s summer grass. “It just seems like, sometimes—”

“Oh, stop it.”

“What?”

She rolled her eyes. “I hate when you do this. Is it the part where I am supposed to say I love you?”

“No, I didn’t mean it that way—”

“All right then. Willy Richmond, I love you. I love you. I love you. Does that sound good, Mishka?”

“Don’t call me Mishka.”

“Why not?”

“You know I don’t like that.”

“Mishka. Mishka.” Again she laughed. “Mishka mishka mishka.”

“I told you not to call me that.”

“Do you know what it means?”

“No.”

“Then how do you know you don’t like it?”

“I just know.”

Paulina shook her head, smiling. “I have been calling you Mishka ever since we first met, and still you do not know what it means. You never even bother to look it up.”

“I don’t need to know,” said Willy. “I can tell you from the way you say it that it doesn’t mean anything good.”

“You Americans, all of you only speak one language, it is so sad. In Russia most people speak three or four or five—”

“Oh, come on.”

“They do!”

“Most people in Russia speak five languages? You expect me to believe that?”

“It’s true.”

“I doubt it.”

“You Americans, you never believe what people say if they are from outside your country.” She shook her head. “It is as if you think that the truth can only exist here. It can only exist in United States.”

He rolled back over, looked up into her face, as she stared down at him with a mix of amusement and disdain.

“You’re not in Russia anymore,” Willy snapped.

Paulina rolled her eyes.

 The two of them lay there for almost half an hour, saying nothing, listening to each other’s breathing.

Finally, he propped himself up on one arm, and said, “Your voice sounds like freezing to death.”

“Like freezing to death.”

“Yes. Pretty much. Like freezing to death.”

“Why do you say that?” she said, sounding hurt, which he found hard to believe. In his experience, Paulina had shown little patience for, or evidence of, such quaint little notions of humanity.

“It’s the best way I can describe it,” he said.

“Oh-kay.” She didn’t care.

Willy sighed. He rolled back over, away from her, and looked out the window. In the black night sky, lightning flashed a pale blue show among the distant clouds. A summer storm in mid-pop, not expected but not entirely unexpected, either.

Raindrops spattered against the window, soft taps at first that quickly transitioned into heavy gunfire on the glass, echoing across the canyon of silence between man and woman.

“I’m going to the bathroom,” Paulina said at last, standing up. “But, I have an idea that I have been thinking about. I will talk to you about it when I come out.”

“Fine,” he said.

“I’ll be right back. It’s a good idea. You will love it. Trust me.”

It rained, harder.

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