Nothing…even a near head-on car crash as a child…had frightened Lilly more. And almost as soon as it happened, and an apology was given, she shut down and began reliving the horror in her mind. The start of it, the petty petting, the kissing and the touching as Don mindlessly explored her body with his hands and his mouth. He would try to gage her reaction each time he tried something before moving on, and each try became more intense for him. Her feeling separateness, the distancing of the mind from the body, gave him few clues. She had no actually experience in this beyond a certain point, though affection in her family had been expressed openly and physically (a time or two she and her siblings had explored each other’s private parts). Lessons taught to her by nuns about the importance of celibacy before marriage didn’t help her or stop him when the juices of passion and desire kicked in. It made it very difficult for her when she found herself enjoying it. It led to a major misunderstanding and the rejection of not only his hands and mouth, but also his penis, an object she clearly wasn’t ready for.
She wouldn’t talk afterwards. It was like being shut out; he expected her to say something. Don had expected her to like it. He hadn’t expected her, at the last moment, to reject him. That week he had to take a boat-trip the length of the Sulus, to Sitangkia and back, stopping at each port in between. Lilly’s “no” hadn’t been forceful enough to stop him. He was like a man ready to jump overboard and could easily had, as he became more and more despondent over having raped her. Outward bound, at Jolo, he got off the ship. He went in for a drink not far from the pier and knew immediately he shouldn’t have been in there. For the first time, with the Peace Corps, in a town where he had business that depended on diplomacy, he didn’t care what kind of an impression he made. It was why he didn’t care when a Filipino soldier accosted him and he didn’t try to back out; and then, right then and there, he felt like ratting on himself.
He normally loved the experience of traveling by boat, the sea breeze and the fresh air, and the motion of the ship and the smell of salt everywhere. This trip had been planned far in advance. It was the business he couldn’t talk about; and he and the governor (or was it a sultan) were scheduled to sit down and talk about security matters. He had his script down. So he could’ve used his connection with the governor to calm the soldier, and he should’ve. Instead Don allowed the soldier to become loud and belligerent. Don’t get into those situations, try to anticipate trouble; don’t let your mind wander. Luckily, a stranger stepped in and got in between them.
At Siasi he was asked if he wanted to go ashore. The captain, a big man and friendly host, suggested it. Don wasn’t in the mood, but he couldn’t very well turn him down. Later he would be able to vouch for the captain and say that a carton of cigarettes that the captain was accused of smuggling actually came from Siasi. He said when he went ashore with the captain he saw the purchase, and the purchase was made in the market. He walked with the captain around the small seaport, still with a heavy burden, and was in a position to tell just how much the captain paid for the carton of cigarettes.
On their way out they didn’t stop at Bongao or Tawi Tawi; they saved both ports for the return. He spent most of his time on board trying to bury himself in a book he didn’t care about. Reading books had been a big part of his Peace Corps experience; he had read every book provided to him by the agency; but he later couldn’t tell you the name of the book he tried to read on that trip.
He found himself feeling a little bit better as they sailed along. After successfully finishing his business at Sitangkia, he felt even better. They had to row in on high tide, and much of the town was built over water. He enjoyed navigating boardwalks and saw why the town was called the Venice of the Philippines. Or was that Tawi Tawi? He couldn’t give a replay of that trip, even if his life depended on it.