Don found them. They hadn’t expected to see him again. He explained in his quirky way that he found heaven in Mindanoa. Then he said, “But heaven wasn’t enough for me. At age twenty-one, twenty-two, getting a degree, Chase Western, no, none of it was enough, not for me. In Mindanoa, I was reading about Venezuela, and down there in heaven it had become required reading. Until then I hadn’t thought of Venezuela, and then finally I was able to see where I wanted to go. Indeed before coming up here, I hadn’t thought it through; but now, seeing how you two are ready to go, I’m ready too. I’ve had enough Peace Corps. So I’m off to Venezuela. Why Venezuela? I haven’t a clue.” And they all three laughed.
Late one night, right before they were scheduled to leave, Susan woke Ted up. She couldn’t sleep. She was in the lightweight summer pajamas she always wore to bed.
She said, “Ted, I’ve got to get out of this room. It’s too quiet. This is not Manila.” Until then she had thought she was some place else, or had she been dreaming? In deed, as she lay there next to Ted, she laid out all their plans for the week, including all they had to do when they got to Singapore in a day or two. But she was so completely in charge that she could hardly believe it, so full of energy that she could no longer lie there next to her husband. She had to wake him up. For some time she realized she no longer heard the clamor and the chaos of Manila, that she had grown accustomed to it and had concluded that Manila had become her home. She had tried to sleep. She was reminded of all of the kids she taught in school and felt sure that one of them would one day become president of the Philippines. To hell with Marcos! Who never showed up! The bastard! What had her all fired up? Now what? A flight to Singapore.
She recalled how daunting those first flights were: first to San Francisco, then Hawaii. How when she landed there in Hawaii she was expected to be someone else, to have changed on the flight. She was constantly tempted to quit. There was always more training, more reflection, so on. She found she first had to do what? She first had to decide what. Just as she now needed to decide. “Ted get up!”
“Let’s go for a walk. Something’s missing.”
“At this hour?”
“Yes!” She wanted to say, “You’ve dragged me half way around the world and now you want me to” and of course she couldn’t/wouldn’t say it right. Forget all those bad memories. “Ted get up!”
They went to the elevator and there was no elevator operator at that time of night. They looked for the fire escape when Susan insisted that she needed air. She had lived through an earthquake. So she could live through this.
She had never confided her doubts to Ted in any comprehensible way, and he started talking about how he wished they could afford to buy a jeepney, an untouched jeepney with all the color, pomp and circumstance, and tour the world in it. She told him that since age four she had been scared to death. Yes, age four. Did he hear her? All he did all the time was talk about Borneo, Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand; and in so doing, he once again left her behind. Stand your ground girl.
“Ah, he said, “But we’d have find a way of shipping the darn thing.”
When he said that, she didn’t know what he was talking about.
It was a typical night. She asked to be held. She was learning. He held her tight. Ted felt how she relaxed in his arms. She returned to the same things out of her past over and over again: masturbating by definition. She was learning to forget to edit. Many might’ve found the exercise passe and even useless, but it wasn’t to her. She was doing well and mostly by herself. How often had she remembered her father doing everything for her and not allowing her to do things for herself? But what if that wasn’t true? What difference would it make?
Susan said, “I don’t know if I can adjust to another place.”
He said, “I think you can.”
Walking the streets of Manila. That was it. That was all they did for a week. And without direction. Perhaps it was because they didn’t need direction. Manila had become their home.
She said, “I want you to promise me something, that you won’t die on me. Just think if something were to happen to you in a place where they didn’t speak English.”