Randy Ford Author- Until the government forgave him

      It hadn’t sunk in.   She didn’t want to think about it.   She had been very good and had gone along with it and had even taken part ownership of the decision.   A first: it was a first for her; it could’ve even been the first time in her life, but she knew that that wasn’t true, or even a half-truth.   They no longer slept in a bed; but they planned to take it easy for a whole week in a hotel before they took off, the two of them alone, and she had many more things she wanted to share with him.   He hadn’t chewed her head off yet.   Sometimes when she thought about it she would shake her head in amazement and say to herself, “I really got away with something.”   And a little later she would nod.   Concerning such matters she knew it was about time.

      And she wasn’t totally surprised.   Susan had always thought she needed to confront him.   A big part of her problem was that in spite of all of their talk about the importance of equality in a marriage, she never insisted that he treat her equally.   Up until then Ted had made major decisions, and all she ever did was make suggestions.   The issue, which had been in the back of her mind for a very long time, had become important, in a major way, when Ted’s draft notice arrived.

      So Susan and Ted were going to take a very long trip.   Her parents wanted to know about that (a tour, apparently a long tour, a tour of the world, and she didn’t tell them about Ted’s draft situation).   But they didn’t need to know about everything.   They wanted to know how they could keep in touch with them.   They were going to have use poste restante; and after a few letters they asked how long they were gone for.   Until the government forgave Ted they would continue to live and travel overseas.   But they couldn’t be that direct with Susan’s parents.   Part of the deal Susan made was that they remain vague with her parents.   So Susan’s parents worried, but they didn’t say anything.   Ted had (in an indirect way) told his father, and his father told his mother, but his father wouldn’t accept the truth.   He wasn’t a very happy camper.   But since Ted had been on his own his parents hadn’t interfered.   It was their belief that since he was an adult, on his own, and with a wife, they couldn’t say anything.   Both sets of parents had begun thinking that Susan and Ted would never come home; at least that was how it seemed.

      Very soon after his draft board hadn’t heard from him and he hadn’t reported for his physical, he would cross a point of no return.   He could scarcely believe it.   On the run!   And he had a wife, and she was going with him.   They would first fly to Singapore.   They knew nothing about Singapore.   They were free and young and maybe stupid; but what could happen to them?   He began to suffer from paranoia.   He would carry their passports and their papers in a leather pouch and their travelers’ checks and money (except for “shoe money”) in a money belt, both items he purchased on Mabini Street for a song.   Before too long he would’ve been too old for the draft, and he figured that was why they were after him.   He assumed his draft board would come after him with a vengeance and already had him on some list at all airports.   What made him think that he could run away?   But then he didn’t really care.   He talked big about going to prison before fighting in Vietnam; it would be a fight, a fight he thought he could win in the long run.   He decided that he had been all along an expatriate.   It was an image he claimed for himself, an independent individual who thought independently.

      Eventually word got around that Susan and Ted were dropping out of the Peace Corps.   And when they all heard that they weren’t going straight home all kinds of stories started circulating.   One story had Ted being pressured out of the university and booted out of the Peace Corps.   Other stories involved scandals.   These stories could’ve been true or made up; they easily could’ve made a case that Ted had crossed the line and compromised his position with the Peace Corps, and as far as scandals, let’s not touch that one.   And then Don came back to Manila to say goodbye, and that led to more speculation.   Ted felt perfectly calm through all of this speculation; as far as he was concern he had already faced the guillotine.   After a while he made up a story about Susan becoming pregnant and that they wanted see as much of the world as they could before they were saddled with a baby.   (That one he kind of liked.)   The idea of becoming a father kind of seemed okay.   It would give him another reason for avoiding Vietnam.   He thought that it might go easier for him if they had a child.

      That last week in Manila, Susan and Ted stayed in a hotel.   She said, “Why don’t we stay where we first stayed.”   And they did.   And rode around the city in jeapneys and on buses, avoiding all the familiar places.   But other people wanted to see them off at the airport.   One day, tracking them down through the Peace Corps, Mr. Araya located them at the hotel.   Mr. Araya said, “I want your address.”   And they exchanged addresses.

Randy Ford

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