The Sheer Perfection of Donald Trump’s Golden Shower

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Wabi-sabi is the Japanese term for that which is perfect not in spite of its imperfections, but because of them. It’s a teacup whose cracks enhance its beauty, or an asymmetrical tableau that is nevertheless balanced. Things that are wabi-sabi are not perfect, but they feel perfect. Looking at them fills you with serenity – wabi-sabi is when everything is right, including things that are wrong, because they too are essential to the whole.

Last night I – and perhaps you too – encountered a wabi-sabi rumor. I didn’t think the rumor was true, but it was so deliciously satisfying that I could not look away. It was masterpiece of evocative specificity, a glorious symphony of sordid particulars. I couldn’t believe it, nor could I disbelieve it. More accurately: I didn’t care if I believed it. It was wabi-sabi, perfectly imperfect, wildly lopsided, and yet, somehow, balanced enough to stand. It was the tale of Donald Trump’s Russian prostitute pee party.

Wabi-sabi rumors are stories that are so unbelievable, they become perversely believable again. They feel right, even when you know they aren’t, and so they take on the force of legend. Examples include Richard Gere’s gerbil, Catherine the Great’s horse, and Taylor Swift’s immortal life as a Satanic priestess. They’re rumors so compelling that even when you realize they’re false, you stay up all night reading about parallel universes – because if Mick Jagger didn’t eat a Mars Bar out of Marianne Faithfull’s crotch in our universe, then surely there is some alternate reality out there, where he did?

Such is the case with Donald Trump’s golden shower. In retrospect, the most surprising thing about the golden-shower rumor is that we didn’t come up with it sooner. Though America spent the better part of last year cracking lewd jokes about our presidential candidates, the biggest joke of all was the product of overseas labor: a self-described “former British intelligence officer” who, in a widely discredited and error-riddled memo, claimed Russian spies may have filmed Donald J. Trump hiring prostitutes to “perform a ‘golden showers’ (urination) show in front of him” in a Moscow hotel room, as part of a psychosexual revenge plot against the ghost of President Obama, Michelle Obama, and their mutually respectful love for one another. The rumor appears on the second page of the document, which BuzzFeed published last night, where it’s highlighted in, um, yellow.

This tale of “TRUMP’s (perverted) conduct in Moscow” is so preposterous that it feels, strangely, inevitable. Donald Trump, a germaphobe who brags about never hearing his wife fart, secretly orchestrated a Russian-prostitute pee party? Donald Trump, a ” clean-hands freak” with golden hair, golden skin, and a golden home, paid a bunch of hookers for a golden shower. Donald Trump, who said Hillary Clinton ” got schlonged” after taking a bathroom break during a debate: “I know where she went,” he said, face screwed with distaste. “It’s disgusting! I don’t want to talk about it. No, it’s too disgusting. Don’t say it, it’s disgusting!” Donald Trump, a man who doth protest quite a bit about corporeal disgust. Donald Trump. Loves. Pee.

That is some powerfully lewd specificity as memorable as Bill Clinton’s cigar, Bill O’Reilly’s falafel, or Eliot Spitzer’s black socks. (That Spitzer’s socks seem to have been an invention from Trump enemy-cum-consigliere Roger Stone only makes the situation more wabi-sabi.) These images function like literary devices in the current-events cycle to which they belong. They capture both the moment and the meaning we draw from it: good-old-boy Bill Clinton, a creature of cigar-smoke-filled backrooms, manipulating his power for maximum lechery. Cluelessly horny Bill O’Reilly, whose cultural illiteracy is so severe, he thinks “loofah” is an exotic word. And poor, weak Eliot Spitzer, whose vulnerability was as stark as black socks on the naked calves of a skinny white guy who pays for affection.

Donald Trump’s truly outrageous actions never seem to stick to him. The falsehoods he promoted about Barack Obama’s birth origin, on the other hand? A stench that America still hasn’t washed off. Which is why this pee-party story is so attractive – wouldn’t it be so wabi-sabi wonderful if the rumor that followed Donald Trump forever was the one about a perverse obsession with Barack Obama, embodied by a cascading waterfall of female pee? Wouldn’t it be amazing if Donald Trump was into water sports? Wouldn’t it be funny if Trump was trying to convey his hatred for Barack and Michelle Obama – who enjoy a famously loving and supportive marriage – but all he could think to do was pay a bunch of Russian hookers to pee on a bed, a bed that he’s decided symbolizes the Obamas’ marital bed, but is actually a bed he just paid to sleep in? This rumor is so ham-fisted, it barely qualifies as a metaphor for fears about Trump’s relationship with Russia. In this story, Trump literally invites Russians into bed with the American presidency, so they can piss all over it. Oh, and he’s paying for them to do it.

As is the case with any truly infectious rumor, this one raises a spiral of questions: If Trump wanted to piss on the Obamas’ marital bed, why didn’t he do it himself? Does Donald Trump outsource pee? Does Donald Trump have a shy bladder? Does he have a shower made of gold? If King Midas peed on a building, would it turn into the Trump Tower?

I have spent a lot of time this year trying to imagine the mind of a person who finds the Pizzagate conspiracy compelling. What would it feel like to hear a ludicrously tawdry tale about a celebrity you despise, and be so taken with its fairy-tale depiction of evil that you become obsessed? You can’t get it out of your mind; you feel compelled to investigate further, to discuss it with strangers, to build websites analyzing every version of the story that you’ve heard? Today, I get it. Donald Trump’s pee party is, in a manner of speaking, my Pizzagate. Obviously I’m not going to storm the Moscow Ritz-Carlton to investigate furnishings in the bedroom of its presidential suite. That would be crazy. What I mean is that, when it comes to probable falsehoods you just can’t quit, no one – on the left or the right, Real American or New Yorker – is immune. The problem with wabi-sabi is that, whereas symmetry can be measured, and facts can be verified, wabi-sabi is in the eye of the beholder. Anything can look perfect – or balanced, or true – if you want it to.