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MAGAlomania

MAGAlomania

The Trump Supporter Who Peed on My Mattress

By Trish MacEnulty

No, she wasn’t a Russian prostitute. She was a fireplug blonde from New York state with vocal cords sandpapered by years of smoke but also with excellent references as a caregiver.

​I was desperate. I’d already gone through two caregivers for my ex-husband, whom I’d been caring for since his stroke five months earlier. (Why? you ask. Because there was no one else to do it.) I’d tried the online caregiver resources, but the price would be a minimum $500 for 24 hours of care; the vortex of despair known as Craigslist seemed my only option. Still, my hopes were high.

​The first caregiver I hired wanted to know if her boyfriend—a ne’er-do-well who didn’t have a place or a car or much of anything to his name—could spend the night, and when we said no, she began vanishing each night and then during the day, all the while wheedling to be paid but not showing up. The second one ran off on the second day to buy a bottle of gin to handle the “stress.” The third one would make the first two look like Florence Nightingale.

​She drove in from a neighboring state for the interview with us. I was determined to love her no matter what. She’d been doing caregiving for 20 years. She was older and had a place of her own to go back to on weekends. She’d worked with Alzheimer’s patients. Surely she could handle a man who’d had a stroke but still had most of his cognitive facilities. Also, she was a grandma. Who doesn’t love a grandma?

​She was an hour late getting in, but it was raining and traffic between our cities is generally a nightmare. Finally, the doorbell rang. I opened the door and was smacked in the face by a tsunami of flowery aroma. Perfume? Lotion? My smile faltered. Don’t worry, I thought. This is your perfect caregiver. I would explain to her that he had allergies to strong scents, and she would surely agree to tone it down.

​We talked to her for about 30 or 40 minutes. She was knowledgeable about Hoyer lifts and seemed to have no problem with changing a grown man’s diaper. She was an affable sort with lots of advice for handling his various issues of neuropathy, thrush, and lack of appetite. She seemed to fit that mold of tough cookie with a tender heart. At the end of the interview, she asked, apropos of nothing, “You aren’t Trump supporters, are you?”

“Oh God no,” I said, the very thought sending a shiver over my shoulders. “And he didn’t vote in the last election though before that he was a Republican,” I continued with a nod toward my ex, who was reclined in his new lift chair.

“Yeah, don’t talk to her about politics,” he said, pointing at me. “She’ll read you the riot act.”

“Actually, it’s best not to discuss politics around here,” I said. My ex’s politics were one of the things that led to the demise of our marriage. I hated his disdain of the poor, his rote recitation of the latest Fox News inanity, and his contempt for any sort of feminist ideology. Of course, all that had changed now that he was on the way to being poor himself. Fox News fell off the radar shortly after our divorce. And after dealing with an intractable healthcare system, he was suddenly an advocate for “choice.” All those years of sneering about the dependent poor, and here he was, getting a mega dose of dependency himself. His abstention from the 2016 election allowed us to maintain a friendship in the two years before his stroke.

Despite my vow not to talk politics, I couldn’t help asking, “Are you a Trump supporter?”

“No,” she said, somewhat hesitantly. “But I’m not sure about the wall.”

​Something about the expression on her face told me that she thought the wall was a pretty good idea. Then she mentioned her daughters—one of them a graduate from Berkeley Law and the other one on her way to getting a master’s in social work, not to mention the son-in-law, a Ph.D. candidate (in English, no less!) at Stanford. So, in my mind, she achieved grace by association. Whatever she felt about the wall was immaterial. The only thing that mattered was, could she and would she take care of my ex so that I could go back to work and regain a little bit of my lost life?

​I mentioned that strong odors bothered him—perfumes and such.

“Oh,” she said. “Well there’s one thing that could be a problem. I smoke.”

​It was a bump, for sure, but I’d lived with a smoker before. It didn’t seem to be an insurmountable issue. Did I mention I was desperate?

​So a few days later she arrived with a week’s worth of clothes and some toiletries. And her cigarettes. And her perfume. Within hours, the entire downstairs reeked.

​But she was pleasant enough. She said she’d get up early to help him move over to his chair because he got so tired of being in the bed all night. She even offered to do it at 3 a.m., which did not seem like a great idea, but I figured the two of them would try a few different options before finding a routine that worked best.

​It turned out she did not like getting up at 3 a.m. or being called down the next night at 1:30 because he’d dropped his remote control. Suddenly, she had an attitude—not a good one. She found the Hoyer lift difficult to maneuver. She didn’t like the hours of not having anything to do. It was soon obvious the two of them were never going to become lifelong friends.

​Caregiving is not easy work, but we were paying the price she asked. We were also providing a nice place to live and some meals. Part of the requirement for this job is that once in awhile you’re going to get wakened. It’s a job best done by those who can easily fall back to sleep. She wasn’t one of those.

​There was also the matter of the smoking. Before she would get him up out of his bed, she would have a smoke. Afterward, another smoke. A little breakfast, maybe start some laundry, another smoke. And another. And another. Great clouds of stink followed her in the house from each of these breaks. But the perfume was worse.

​I was dealing with aggravated sinuses to begin with, so I asked her please not to wear the perfume. She said she was sorry, washed it off her, and that was settled. Or so it seemed.

​The day Michael Cohen testified before Congress, she was on the back deck with her phone and her cigarettes. I was upstairs, working on my taxes. (I couldn’t wait for the big refund I was sure to get thanks to Trump’s tax cuts.)

​Her loud voice carried right up to my room.

“Rush Limbaugh says the Democrats must be so scared. America doesn’t care what Trump does. We elected him. We want him. Rush Limbaugh said the whole thing was outrageous. Let’s just see them try to impeach.”

​It was all said with a certain smug satisfaction that sounded very much like the great orator himself. I felt a little sick to my stomach, but I had no idea what to do. Go down and say, “Really? You think the Democrats are scared. Have you even seen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Nancy Pelosi? You think they’re scared?”

​But it wasn’t the politics that got her fired.

“You’ve got to get rid of her,” my ex said. “She’s incompetent. She can’t make the Hoyer work. Her hands are always shaking. She has no mechanical intelligence whatsoever. Plus I can’t stand the smell any longer. The whole house is getting permeated.” Then the kicker: “I don’t feel safe.”

​I waited till Friday morning, handed her the cash she’d asked for (that should have been a red flag) and told her she was right, the smoking was a problem for us. We were going to have to make other arrangements.

“It wasn’t a good fit for me either,” she said.

​I understood. We weren’t always the easiest people to be around. He could be demanding and unappreciative, and while it’s sometimes difficult to see one’s own faults, I’m sure I leaked a disapproving look here and there. Then there was the dynamic of ex-spouses with years of history and the bickering that passes as communication. She thought it would be easier when I started work again and wouldn’t be around as much, and that was surely true. But he’d decided that he couldn’t stand her, and so the issue of my presence was moot.

​I paid her for five days though she only worked four. I told her how much I appreciated what she had done while she was here. The laundry, cleaning, getting him out of bed in the mornings. But ultimately, she was as glad to get rid of us as we were to get rid of her.

“Good luck to you,” she said.

“Same to you,” I said, and I was sincere. I wished her well. She got in her car and drove away.

​Then I went upstairs. She’d made the bed. That was nice, I thought, though of course, I’d need to wash the sheets, and the sooner the better. I pulled the covers off and the sheets. Then I saw a cloth bed pad under the sheet. That was odd.

​I lifted the bed pad and there was big wet spot. Had she spilled coffee? It was on the upper edge of the bed, not the middle of the bed where one might normally pee. I took the sheets and the pad down to the washing machine. The odor was unmistakable. Definitely urine. How? Why? It made no sense to me.

​Eventually it became clear. She had deliberately peed on my bed (or poured pee on it) and then covered it up so I wouldn’t find it until I got around to washing the sheets. If I’d waited a week or so, the mattress would have been ruined.

​At first, it was almost funny. What a bizarre thing to do! But as time went on and I thought about how carefully she’d made up the bed, I realized how malicious and premeditated the act had been. It wasn’t funny at all. It was mean and cowardly. Her hero, Donald Trump, would be proud of her.

​Of course, I had a few revenge fantasies. I could find out where she lived. I could break in and use her bed for a toilet though I wouldn’t stop at a little urine. Or maybe her white car would look good with a spray-painted windshield.

I would never enact these fantasies. I couldn’t bring myself to dip into that cesspool of hate. Instead, I would let karma do what it does. The cigarettes weren’t the only toxic thing in her life—that kind of gleeful hatred that prompts people to laugh at the disabled, to scorn victims of sexual assault, and to cheer at the vindictive lies of an amoral leader surely is as lethal to the soul as arsenic is to the body.

​So I scrubbed the mattress and aired it out for weeks. When the smell was gone, I bought a thick mattress cover, put on clean sheets, and made the bed. I thought about my revenge fantasies once more. Payback would come another way. Eventually progress, kindness, and integrity will win in this country, and when it does the smarmy, nasty death-eaters lose.

And then we’ll all have some scrubbing and airing to do.

*** 

Trish MacEnulty is the author of a historical novel series, crime novels, memoirs, a short story collection, children’s plays, and most recently, the historical coming-of-age novel Cinnamon Girl (Livingston Press, September 2023). Trish has a Ph.D. in English from the Florida State University. She currently writes book reviews and features for the Historical Novel Review and teaches magazine writing at Florida A&M University. This essay originally appeared in Gargoyle Magazine, issue 71.