Ted, mocking himself, cast himself in his own drama. At the beginning he made it clear that he wasn’t an actor, because he would overact and exaggerate. But he very soon became absorbed in his part, and afterwards when he approached Don he was wide-eyed. His eyes were alive. He then frowned at his friend and said, with exasperation in his voice, “I’d like to hear your suggestions, Don. You have no idea how difficult this has been for me.” And now looking as if he were about to cry, he sat down in the dirt and waited for Don.
Don might’ve stayed and seen the production that evening. But he felt restless and figured he’d been around Ted long enough for one day. Beneath his calm exterior he was about to explode. For much of the time, at the university, at the theater, and now in the dungeons, he was very pensive. He looked at Ted’s face, and, in contrast with his own sadness, his friend seemed very happy. When Ted got up out of the pit and signaled for him to follow him, Don did. They went deeper into the dungeons. There were four or five cells connected by a tunnel. Each cell had been sanitized with a raised walkway around the walls, and all of the cells were about the same size. Ted explained how the last cell, the one closest to the river, had been used as an execution chamber. It was the famous “Water Cell.” Water would’ve been controlled, but Don couldn’t see how that worked.
Without a true guide the tour to Don seemed inadequate. But Ted had tried hard; he needed a tour guide himself. Don wasn’t really interested; instead his focus was really on Ted. Ted kept touching the dungeon walls; they were bone dry when in the past they would’ve been very damp, even wet. Don wouldn’t have liked it down their back then; it was still possible to imagine how it was. But the restoration of the dungeons had completely altered them and changed the atmosphere; yes, they had already been denigrated. But Don couldn’t feel connected, not as he did with Mindanoa. All of those experiences he carried with him, living in his small concrete house, the two years he spent teaching science, all of his students, all that they had taught him; all they had learned together, students and teacher. He knew he had gained more than he had given.
So far he hadn’t made up his mind what he was going to do about Ted. But he didn’t have to decide at that moment. He still didn’t know what would be best, or whether his thinking and opinions were even valid. He knew his biases muddled it all. During long debates with himself, like the debates he had had about censorship and Joseph McCarthy, he thought, “Who am I to judge?” And he had to excuse himself.
He and Ted were to remain friends afterwards. Don accepted the hospitality offered to him, though it was strained sometimes, mostly when he felt guilty. He had been given a key to the apartment. Ted was rarely home. Often Don worried that something could happen to his friend; his being a friend was a major obstacle for him. The take-over of the university continued, and surprisingly it hadn’t turned into a siege; everyone was waiting to see what Marcos would do. It made Don think of what could go wrong, about the violence associated with the demonstrations and what had happened in front the Congress building and Malacanang Palace and Ted’s involvement. But then, on the other hand, what it would mean to Susan, happy and secure as an elementary school teacher, who was apparently safe and smart enough to stay away from controversy. Don didn’t like the notion that he might have to betray them. He could say with truth that he didn’t have a choice. But tucked away in his mind were the American ideals of freedom, freedom of speech and so forth, and he felt the tension between freedom and duty, when in his case there really did seem to be a conflict. He could think of no reason why he would ever put someone else’s life in jeopardy and that alone may have offered him a way out. But he began think that there was no need for him to panic.
And just when Ted thought he had settled on a plan, everything changed, and made it simpler for Don. It had to do with Sonja and Deroy Valencia, and a piece about Ted’s upcoming project that the elder statesman wrote for his column in The Manila Times. Suddenly they had Emelda’s attention.
Ted began to realize that he might be in well over his head. It was like choking on his favorite food. We are all capable of creating a mess, but we’re not all capable of recognizing when we’re in the middle of one, and sometimes when we do recognize it, it’s already too late. People like Ted are naïve and often jump into something before they have thought it through. Ted now had the attention of the First Lady of the Philippines. And the Emelda equation changed everything. Up until then Ted had been very passionate about his project. Or obsessed by it. There would’ve been a way before Valencia got wind of it to open the show without a lot of attention, regardless of the political content and the political climate. But a good part of Ted’s excitement and enthusiasm hadn’t come from a personal belief in a particular cause but out of his own need to belong. As with so many people in the theater, he sought attention. Now finding himself on center stage, he should’ve been happy. He had never been in the spotlight in such a way before. Even though he wanted it all for himself, Ted knew he couldn’t have it that way and thought of Alfred. When he thought of his situation, and as an American how tenuous it was, handing the project over to a Filipino made a lot of sense. So in way he helped Don out. He would help Alfred out with the show; and since they were already very close, beyond simply having a working relationship, Ted felt he could trust him with his project. And if Alfred hadn’t been there, well, Ted would’ve plunged ahead, unless someone stopped him, and soon would’ve found himself in the middle of a bushfire.