Sonja came to the lunch Alfred planned for them. She considered bringing them a small gift, something very small that would fit in their luggage, as a token of appreciation, and but that idea got lost as she rushed about. She wanted to see Ted off not because he had worked for her for over a year and half, not because of his contributions to the theater, not even because she had counted on him and he had always come through, but for cultural reasons she had to make sure that his departure went smoothly. She said, “We really thought Ted would be with us for a much longer time.” Here she succeeded in making him feel good and this without relying on anyone else. She also knew what else to say, when she said, “like you, I’ve found what I really want to do. Like you, I love theater; and I was hoping that that love could be translated into convincing you to stay.” At that point Susan didn’t want to hear that, and said, “Oh, no you don’t.”
Alfred said, “Um! Ted, I think you better listen to her. And why not, she’s your wife. And Ted, when do you think we’ll hear from you again?”
Within a few seconds, Alfred had saved the day. Neither negotiator nor a judge, he took over the conversation by bringing Ted up to speed on the progress of the play in the dungeon. To Alfred HINDI ACO PATAY was the perfect play for down there. He wanted to thank Ted for the Katipunan flag, which on the nights of performance he planned to fly under the Filipino flag at Fort Santiago. Ted agreed that that could be considered seditious and said he was glad he would be out of the country. But he felt at home, and they had to laugh.
Ted made one last trip to Diliman and caught Nick between classes. Nick asked him if he would like to sit down. He no longer had a Chinese flag hanging on his wall and tried to explain why, “Once upon a time I was more radical than I am now, and then one day they came and arrested me. And it seemed ridiculous for me to be in solitary confinement, when I could’ve been more useful on the outside. It seemed so ridiculous that I signed a pact with myself, which means I’m smarter now. I should go home at the end of the semester. It’s heating up up there. It’s getting hotter all the time; and I suspect it won’t be long before it’s adios Uncle Sam. I guess we’re both learning. So, you and the Mrs. are going home.”
“Not exactly,” Ted said, and they had to laugh.
“You know, it’s beautiful in Mindanao right now,” Don said. “With the dense forest and that blue sky and the blue sea, it’s heaven. Don went on to explain why he left Mindanao this time, a heaven to him, and how his heaven had turned into hell. The Moros held Marawi, and the college there probably had as many Muslim students attending it as any other college in the Philippines. Very colorful people and Don had always felt safe there and enjoyed the lake.
“Give me an opportunity to explain. I’ve got to get this out of my system. ”
Ted asked him again what happened.
“I am easy, generally. And I’d been to Marawi many times and knew the town. I had no sense of fear, but I know when my gut tells me something’s wrong. I know it’s a warning I need to heed. Neither the students nor I were looking for trouble; rather I thought one of them was showing off with a Kris. He had it in his hand. High above his head. Yelling. I don’t play around with someone with a knife, or running amok. As far as I was concerned, my life was in danger, period, no ands or buts. By the time he was stopped by a bullet, he had decapitated someone. In fact, soon after my arrival in idyllic Marawi, I caught a glimpse of him running and yelling, somewhat like a kamikaze. Marawi, where there are all of those intellectuals. My stomach, which is very weak, and was upset from a bumpy bus ride anyway, couldn’t take all the gore; but since I was only temporarily there, I fled; and I won’t go back.
The last thing they did was to check the Peace Corps office for mail. From home they sent them a care package. Susan swooned over the chocolate chip cookies. The few people watching her said she wept, or did she die and go to heaven?
They almost didn’t make their flight.