S T R A S T
“THE PASSION OF DARIA MACCLUSKEY”
SCENE ONE (I)
“слово в слово”
Pronunciation: SLOvah v SLOvah Meaning: “exactly as written”
“WORD FOR WORD”
At a hanging garden in the Financial District, I am again in the company of extremists. In Newyorkgrad, the global capital. It gets so ruthless to get by. It is a place shaped by its wide longitude of options. Anything is possible here. Not just the weather, but amid the people as a whole. Winter comes suddenly and a white cloak falls. The sky drops out. No one knows what to do, trapped and helpless under all that white stuff. It then gets hot like a clay oven at the end of Summer. The citadel of shrill billionaires and unwashed foreign masses longing to wear designer sneakers becomes a veritable sweltering box. Most people of any means flee to their dachas in Strong Island to avoid it.
Dawn is now rising on a roof garden in the Isle of Mann. Five friends were up and out all night. They sit atop a seventeen-story print house converted to a housing cooperative. It is one of the lowest-lying structures left in the Financial District. A maze of towering blue and purple towers. Sebastian Vasilievich Adonaev over a bottle of Basque wine, tells old danger tales to those who will and can still manage to listen. It is the second to last weekend of Thermidor and soon summer will end. A fake gold watch dangles off his left wrist as he enunciates his wild tale with his hands. Covering his dark brown hair is a brown leather partisan cap.
On the roof garden of the old converted print house on Nassau Street, slim and enthusiastic Europeans Amelia Monteleone and Viktoria Christiana Lynch Contreras snap photos and clink glasses bantering heavily intoxicated. Raphael Ernesto Lynch Contreras, a consummate wild man, is baby-faced with flowing black hair. Salt and pepper streaks show he’s aging. Slightly poorly thanks to war and alcoholism. He is at least on a green card; the husband of Viktoria. Raphael sits with his dear friend Sebastian and a beautiful Russian devotchka named Daria Andreavna. Raphael attempts a boozy mediation. Sebastian and Daria evil eye each other viciously across a low wooden table. She has big blue crazy person eyes. An affectionate rendering in Russian of Daria is ‘Dasha’, and this is what Sebastian has been calling her all night. They had been introduced several months before, but both had been way too drunk to remember. They are both regulars at the ‘Mehanata Social Club’, but he more on Thursdays and she more on Saturdays. Sebastian is telling a dangerously insensitive story. Daria is appalled. Sebastian removes his scally cap and says, “The job, and operation; call it as you want, involves calling on high-end prostitutes whose numbers one acquires in the association of athletes, banker men, and or those of Post or former Soviet backgrounds, mostly at the Banya. Sebastian loves the way everything sounds in Russian. Fucking, fighting, and partisan songs. Though he knows under three dozen small phrases and can barely read Cyrillic. He’s an enthusiast of wanting things he cannot possibly have.
“So shortly after the girls arrive you present the pretext. A colorful non-threatening fictitious cover. You take their coats as they walk in and settle on a price that will involve no bit of touching at all. Make small talk, make big talk. Whichever you like. Then, you tell them that they’re being filmed and also recorded, but that you’re not a cop. Not some rich pervert or a Mossadnik. Or whoever else is weird and dangerous. The Masons? You’re not there to entrap them for absolutely anything. You can tell them you’re an abolitionist or keep it real apolitical.”
Puff, puff passes along this ill-conceived venture.
“You tell them to call down to the driver and say their John is layered out like Charlie Sheen.”
“Tiger-blooded,” notes Raphael Ernesto.
“Then you make tea. You tell them a little storah. A personal tale about why you are not a dog or a pig. No troll or ghoul. Intermixed with the story are questions you plan to help answer on a cost-effective timeline. How you came to fully hate this line of flesh work. Because you had loved someone forced into it. Because it is evil to trade in coerced human flesh. You convince them to take and perhaps disseminate to other persons a phone number. To arrest or eliminate traffickers and pimps. Also, how to get such trafficked and victimized people the resources they need to escape such work. With a VISA and a future. They get the job in cash for nothing. We’re in an era of creating digital money and printing highly convincing hundos. What’s fucking money? We can print it easily these days faster than the Federals can secure it. A number, a simple number which is a real way out of the nightlife. They get that number on a card. You also ask them to put it in their phone. Eventually, the poor unfortunate soul either will pass the number along or report it directly to their pimps. But, inevitably you force a violent hand. You spread the knowledge that there is in fact a networked way to escape such slavery, are they so inclined. It’s cheaper and more effective than lobbying or the useless political routes. All the cops and half the politicians are on the take, partake anyway. We go directly to the sex slaves and assure them there is a safe way out. The next stage then is to get our various operatives into the spas and brothels to feign emergency. We call in ambulances and firemen as reinforcements. Then we just burn them down one by one.”
Her jaw then drops.
“They will kill you for that nonsense,” Daria spits out, “Kill you and your family and people you love. For such a bullshit man! For a lot less than bull shit. A number! I spit on your American number. For insulting low-grade bullshit that changes nothing. You will die. They will kill those dear to you too. Kill people who owe you money. Nothing at all will be fixed about anything. Not one single girl will walk free. It is bourgeois liberal thinking,” retorts Daria.
All the regality of being born all Slavic, but outside the great dividing highway that loops the Moscow capital separating the have everything’s from the have nothings or have only little somethings. Being born so radiantly beautiful and tough and Russian after the alleged triumph of Capitalist Modernity has left her charming and capable of the fight. She is quite far ‘from Russia with love’, rootless and floating in glittery fairy tales that don’t expel the daily hardships of her newly adopted country. Though her card is not green yet.
“I am not afraid to die for a thing I believe in sweetness. At the cost of all my American privileges. They say anyway that I’m a hard man to make disappear,” Sebastian flatly retorts.
“But are you not afraid to endanger others,” she retorts.
“He has such dumb American beliefs blat!” she mocks, “I guess you’ve never had to work for anything. Or work to keep something you fought hard for blat. So you would give away most easily. Your life seems so very easily offered. To take, if you ask me,” she snaps at his bait.
“Hey, lady, you are insulting my dear friend and our gracious host,” sternly interjects Raphael, “This man, you have no idea what he’s been through to back up these words. This man is a people’s hero!”
Daria could care less about the Peruvian definition of so-called ‘heroism’. She is appalled by Sebastian’s cynical little story about call girls passing, itself off as incompetent activism. So she offers to kill him. He obliges her. Thinks she’s bluffing but doesn’t care if she’s not.
‘I’ll kill this overprivileged American hypocrite,’ she thinks. A civic duty to my new motherland and the old country too blat! ‘This shit head knows not whom he plays,’ she thinks. Mostly, she maintains a mighty level of not giving a single shit. Not one fuck of a fuck, of a shit. She’s an off day. She’s blacked out. She won’t remember anything. She only remembers every other night out when she drinks. The rest of them form an intractable blur. A black haze punctuated with irregular black and blue marks. “From falling down the stairs.” If she kills him, the tragedy, as far as memory, will belong to no one.
Rafael implores her to be more, “Suave, Suave!” To be calmer and “Tranquillo.” The once infamous Peruvian revolutionist, now moonlighting as a Newyorkgrad low-key digital disk jockey and designer jeans mender. He cannot even barely modulate Sebastian’s posturing ego and Dasha’s swaggerous, murderous taunting. Now they’re waving invisible pistols at each others’ faces like wild Middle Easterners.
“You think like a niggle!” she yells at him.
The job of any and all men as far as she is concerned is to please her by making sure her drink is never empty and that life is a series of taken care of attractions, to make her life easier. He has failed at both in his utter self-serving arrogance.
“So you’re gonna kill me? Or just fucking threaten on about it?” says Sebastian in her face.“Absofuckinglutely,” she replies, “your life is bullshit, thus your death is certain blat.”
Before Rafael can talk them down they’re going up a ladder. Up to the 18th level deck. It’s more of an easterly platform atop the roof garden with the massive blue glass Gehry Building towering just an alleyway’s distance away. Thousands of expensive little cubicles for the lower upper class. Sports players, fancy piedaterres to stuff a mistress, and city homes for the lower ranks of the financial class. But all the lights are out. A great setting for a hastily arranged assisted suicide.
Now, they’re bare-knuckle boxing! Daria is in a boxing school in Brighton. She strikes at him hard. But it isn’t his first rodeo.
“Die you shit! You fucking Amerikansky! You wasted one blat!” she spits at him.
Rafael is too drunk to get up the ladder to intervene. Amelia and Victoria have stopped their camera phone art-making over white wine and look up with a moderate concern, moderate care. Only Rafael knows Daria and Sebastian intimately enough to really care. As he is in love with both of them. Rafael knows a lot about Sebastian’s other life aboard as ‘Kawa Zivistan’, a wanted rebel throughout the peripheral colonies. A partisan leader in the American guerrilla. Not spooks nor the police forces had taken him so far or gotten very close to making him die. A beautiful woman might now get close enough. They are boxing pretty close to the ledge. But to be honest, Amelia fucked him twice and it was mediocre. Viktoria only uses him for hints about Rafael’s infidelity. Rafael has drunk too much. His brain is just too wet to get him up that ladder.
“You don’t want to live here forever?!” Daria taunts him.
Their boxing and taunting have them perilously near the edge of the roof. She is striking hits and he is just taking her hits and then when it comes. Thwack. She cracks his jaw hard. He grins at her with a little blood on his lip.
“Hit me to kill me! Just knock me into that fucking pit! Make a good inglorious end to it. It’s all bullshit you know. I’ll just come back,” Sebastian declares in some kind of Russian dialect.
The most beautiful woman he has ever seen is just a side story in his mind. His own much larger tragedy propels him to make questionable life choices, such as this one. “Kill me blat!” he beckons. Then, she tries to kill him. She’s moving so fucking fast like she’s trained in the ‘School of Alcoholism’. Daria cocks back and doesn’t even blink. She hits him in the throat with the right and then with the left, crack! He topples backward off the roof. As Sebastian plummets back, he grabs out instinctively. Yanks her along with him. They tumble together off the ledge. They plummet to the alleyway below. The flesh snaps apart. Two souls leave their bodies from a pile of bloody pointless death.