Morning. Birds chirping before the theatre lights come on and reveal a public square represented in miniature. There is a small stand of trees slightly off-center toward the back and, front right, a fountain with a bronze statue of a DJ and turntables alongside a saxophone player in the pool area, which is now dry. At the front left of the square, a single larger tree. A fresh-looking wedding dress has been discarded on the fountain’s stone perimeter ledge. The square is girded by a low rail. At the far left of the scene is a large building with a couple restaurants and a convenience store (a.k.a. bodega, depanneur, Späti) on the ground floor and apartment balconies above. There are picnic tables for public use set up between the square and the building. The building extends up into the fly-loft to an invisible height. To the right of the rail surrounding the square is a sidewalk and a road which is only partially visible. The shopkeeper is out in front of his store sweeping the sidewalk. A police van with its siren on speeds up the road in the direction of the audience and stops by the square, the side door on its only visible side opening. The blare of the siren stops but the lights keep flashing. A cop hurries out the open door toward the stand of trees, where he stops to urinate. Meanwhile, the shopkeeper has stopped sweeping and looks on the scene with his hands pressed over the knob-end of his broom.
Cop 1: [from inside the van, not visible] Bravo! First class, Stevens.
Cop 2: You know, I’ve heard that in a lot of countries this would be totally legal. You can take a piss pretty much anywhere. And they have many public toilets, anyway, if for whatever reason you don’t like going in the open.
Cop 1: [sarcastic] Wow, some freedom . . . some opportunity . . .
Cop 2: Yeahhh. Someday I’ll get out of this stinking country. I mean, I just have to. For a while now, I’ve been unable to take things on my own terms here, the terms allotted to me in combination with the circumstances of my birth and—
Cop 1: Yeah, yeah. Could you pinch it off now? We’ve gotta take this call.
Cop 2: Right! Fucking subcultures. They just won’t sleep. When they do, you know they’re dead.
The cop finishes urinating and hurries back to the van while doing up his pants, the sirens blaring on again as the van speeds away. The shopkeeper shakes his head and continues sweeping.
The same square, a bit later the same day. There is a family eating lunch from one of the restaurants at one end of the picnic tables outside the square. At the other end, the wedding dress is draped over the table. A kitten is sitting on the dress with a dead pigeon it’s caught for supper. The blood from the pigeon soils the dress on which it has prepared its meal. An adolescent boy and an adolescent girl are playing around the fountain. The girl is wearing the veil from the wedding dress. She makes scratching noises while pretending to DJ. The boy has wrapped the saxophone player in a piece of cellophane, which he arranges with cigarette butts, condoms, and needles collected from the bottom of the empty pool. The girl picks up a cigar stub and throws it at him. He begins chasing her and they run off, laughing and screaming. There is now an unoperated backhoe shut off beside where the stand of trees was formerly located. The trees have been dug up by the roots, and now lie with a heap of earth beside a large hole. There is a worker in the hole and a worker around its edge, the former digging with a spade and throwing bits of root up out of the hole while the latter chips away at its sides. The area within which they are to work has been measured out on the ground above with string and spray paint. A woman enters the stage pulling the two kids by their ears.
Worker 1: [outside the hole] Wow, I told you to take it easy, Herc! I swear you’re within a pube’s breadth of the main.
Woman: What a way to talk in public, around kids, and so early in the morning. You damn construction workers are all alike!
Worker 1: Please don’t pigeon-hole me, mam. That was really quite a bit tamer than the language I was brought up around.
Woman: [sarcastic] Then I guess I should congratulate you for breaking the mold?
Worker 1: Well, what really is at the basis of change? I guess a bit of criticism doesn’t hurt, properly contextualized, as in a public space like this here future public toilet.
Woman: This is not one of those public spaces in which you work out your fancy systemic issues. For decades, this has been a popular meeting ground for the local population. Wedding parties, for instance—things of essential, time-tested beauty—have spilled out here from the hall over there for as long as I can remember. I hope this public toilet doesn’t change any of that, and I would have been sure to protest this development had I known about it beforehand. Nothing interrupts the placidity of a nice public square like one of these newfangled toilets that, rather than simply carrying away the filth, tend to attract it in the most public and unsightly way.
Worker 1: I’m sorry to hear about your concerns, mam. It is only my job, you know, and I try to carry it out with as much consideration as possible for the life-giving energy it affords the community. I’m essentially a craftsperson. Now, I don’t spend much time around these toilet-laden squares myself. But I’ve witnessed a few fine speeches and even a not-at-all-uninteresting literary event, quite recently, in fact. Perhaps there are other ways of looking at the matter.
Woman: Other ways are exactly the kind of interruption we don’t need!
Worker 1: Well, I don’t know who the “we” is exactly, but I do know it’s changing all the time. Take your kids there, for instance. This place seems to be a pretty good outlet, a resource even, for their interests and energies. The toilet is an essential aspect, a basic principle even, both in the metabolic processes of the body with its needs and in the spirit and its culture of ideas. Believe me, I know, since I’ve studied the history of toilets and their construction.
Woman: May I ask how old you are, sir?
Worker 1: I’m 35, mam.
Woman: Hmm. You look much closer to 50.
Worker: Maybe it’s my eyes. Plenty of wisdom accumulates through the sockets of those who use them [the woman is a little shocked by this remark]—I’m kidding, of course—it’s from spending so much time in the sun, too often without sunscreen. It’s another bit of the old construction worker culture that’s slow to change. But I’ve met some of similar age in my line of work who look closer to their grandfathers in age than to me. I’m more than keeping pace with the improvements.
Woman: You know, I have often considered the social implications of trash and refuse from your point of view. Just please keep in mind the child’s right to ask these questions of themselves in their own good time, not have them thrown in their faces in the public square before their cousin’s wedding. [Off, with the kids, still held by their ears.]
[The punctilious, stilted, perhaps a little bit old-fashioned tone of the foregoing conversation gives way to something much more casual now, in the conversation between the workers.]
Worker 2: [from the hole] Rude old bitch. Is it lunchtime yet?
Worker 1: After we finish this job. She’s alright. A bit uptight, maybe, but you can’t blame her for caring.
Worker 2: Not bad looking, either, from what I could tell down in this hole. Come on, man, I’m hungry as shit.
Worker 1: Work will be so much worse when the sun comes over those buildings. Yeah, not bad. I don’t know, really. I’m gay.
Worker 2: Haha. I just remembered something—you ever heard this one: “I’d dig naked to the bottom of a pile of rusty scrap metal just to suck the dick of the last guy she fucked”?
Worker 1: For me, that all depends on the guy. [Pause]
Worker 2: All I know is that sometimes hunger’s all you get for this kind of work.
Worker 1: You’re looking ripped, though.
A wedding party is now seen entering the square from the side of the buildings, laughing and talking.
Worker 2: Really? Well, I guess that’s something. [Louder noises from the more vigorous exercise of his spade can be heard coming out of the hole.]
Worker 1: Boris! I told you to take it easy!
Right after the blackout, there is a sudden piercing “Kkchunk!” sound of metal on metal, followed by a brief sound of spraying water. A woman screams. A child laughs. A cat meows loudly.
The same scene the next day. The fountain is now turned on. The kitten is dead on the dress beside the pigeon, a falcon now lording over the dining table, picking at the remains. The backhoe is gone. The same workers are back on the spot. Around them are heaps of refuse materials: cardboard boxes, empty bottles, plastic food containers, stacks of newspapers, bags full of trash, etc. These are the materials with which they are to erect a public toilet on the square.
Worker 1: Yeah, back when I started, the site would be just covered in discarded Horton’s cups and we used to smoke a pack or two a day.
Worker 2: I can’t imagine.
Worker 1: And it used to be so easy to get fired. Now it’s more or less impossible. You’d think we were the only public toilet contractors in the whole city.
Worker 2: Maybe we are. Do you know any others?
Worker 1: I did know one, once. A good man. Told the dirtiest jokes I’ve ever heard.
Worker 2: Where is he now?
Worker 1: I wish I knew. If it happened to be dead in some scrap pile somewhere, full of piercing sharp and foul fetid things, I’d rummage through it, wearing nothing but a T-shirt, just to piss on his corpse.
Worker 2: Hey—my joke!
Worker 1: Know your history. You know what they say about the truth concealed in the joke.
Worker 2: Sounds like some pretty mediocre unimaginative construction worker level shit to me. But wait—I thought you said he was a good man?
Worker 1: Exactly. He was! And those were the dying wishes he expressed to me.
Worker 2: You mean—
Worker 1: We were lovers. But he disappeared under mysterious circumstances I’m afraid I’ll never get to the bottom of.
Worker 1: Oh . . . well . . .
Worker 2: Yeah . . . yeah . . . perhaps this tale may someday have an end. But it’s beyond my power to fix that now. I spent a long time denying it, but now I have to resolve myself on the likelier eventuality that he won’t be returning to our common dinner table. There’s been a hole in my head ever since his disappearance. I used to let it bleed into the night. Now I must pursue the aim of filling it up . . . [short pause]
Worker 1: Filling it up with—
Worker 2: This job will be a temporary thing. I’m slowly stacking the chips, playing the long game.
Worker 1: You are a weird guy, for a construction worker.
Worker 2: Craftsman! Historically, I’d say I’m not all that much weirder than the average. Nowadays, maybe . . .
[A wedding song is heard coming from off stage but close by, followed by a procession approaching the square.]
Worker 1: Another wedding today.
Worker 2: I guess it helps explain in part why we’re building here. Well, may they go forth and multiply. I think I recognize one of them . . .
Worker 1: You’re right! It’s the woman from yesterday, over at the picnic table.
Worker 2: With the little kids! Greasing themselves up with kebabs before the big day. Must be an aunt or something.
Worker 1: Well, this square seems to invite all kinds.
Worker 2: What do you mean by that, “all kinds”?
Worker 1: I mean just what I said. It’s a microcosm. There are many little surprises here. It could use a little bit of music, though.
Worker 1 starts humming/mumbling/DNB-style emceeing the song “Top of the mountain” first introduced in the prologue: “Top of the mountain / Air is thin but who’s counting / The atoms. Friends / The mountain balds below your chins . . .” Worker 2 starts singing Stan Rogers’ song “The Idiot”: “I often take these nightshift walks when the foreman’s not around . . .” The wedding procession enters in a conga line whistling Frankie Knuckles’ “The Whistle Song.” Other disparate combinations are also perfectly acceptable. Probably, Worker 2 will take the longest to finish: “But you’ll be free and, just like me, an idiot I suppose.” The wedding procession continues whistling, filing off stage just before the end of Worker 2’s song. Worker 1 stops at the natural end of his song. All throughout, Worker 1 and Worker 2 do not stop in their task of taping garbage together in forms with which they can build something at least roughly resembling a public toilet. They continue working silently for a minute or two after Worker 2 has finished singing.
Worker 2: Would you pass me that roll of tinfoil there, Italo? [Worker 1 hands him a roll of tinfoil. Worker 2 begins unrolling strips of foil and placing them side by side in order to cover the whole with strips of tape and create a flat sheet. He pauses and looks around for a moment.] You know, once the toilet is up and running, this is going to be a real fine square.
Worker 1: Can you pass me that bag of bottles, Boris? Thanks. [He starts taping bottles together end-to-end in order to create support structures.] Yeah, you start to get a little itch after spending a bit of time in the place like this.
Worker 2: What exactly do you mean by that?
Worker 1: I mean, I know that in plain terms we’re working to cleanly dispose of the spent remains of life with this construction, yet I feel as though we’re actually doing the reverse. Since talking to that woman yesterday, in fact, I’ve come to the conclusion that her position was crucially wrongfooted. In building this toilet we’re simply adding the necessary phase which is currently lacking to convert this square from a negligible repository of filth to a full-blown circulatory, digestive, or metabolic system. You have to dispose of the spent life efficiently in order for the life still being lived to exercise its full potential. Before, this was a minor cesspit, except it was hardly being used. A wedding now and then, sure, but I doubt there aren’t really as many weddings here as the last two days would make it seem. Now, in adding the essential functions, we’re opening up its worldly presence more in the way that me and you do to each other when we work and talk together like this.
Worker 2: Ah, I think I see what you mean. An elaboration of life rather than something more like a concession to its mere existence.
Worker 1: Something like that.
The two workers now attempt to put their two different structures together. If they fail to do so, then the following bit occurs:
Worker 2: That’s alright, I’ll just work these together according to their natural forms. [He crushes the materials flat with his foot then crudely wraps them together with tape, effectively producing a larger trash composition.]
Worker 1: That’s the way. You have to work with the trash, not against it. Sooner or later it finds the form that is natural to it, or rather we discover it in a form that’s useful to our limited purposes, like oil or coal once were.
A homeless-looking person slowly and laboriously enters the scene, pisses himself, and starts rummaging through the trash pile.
Worker 2: Many hands make light work, or too many cooks spoil the broth?
Worker 1: [to the man] Excuse me, but are you aware of the costs of building supplies these days?
Homeless-looking person: Me? I’m not homeless, okay? Or, not exactly. I know how to make money, just never learned how to spend it, I guess. Damnit! That’s like the fourth time this week. A real pattern is emerging. Oh well. [Suddenly there’s a ringing in his pants pocket. He pulls out his phone, takes a call, hurries away with a bag full of bottles held in his other hand.]
Worker 2: Wait! Man . . . shit.
Worker 1: It’s alright, Boris. It’s not important, in the long run. Build and let build. Easy come, easy go. Once the bear market ends and our investments start to pay out—
The falcon is heard flying away with a loud squawk and a raucous flapping of the wings.