By evening Ted wanted to the leave the camp, but really had known for some time that he didn’t belong there. Nick said, “The Constabulary and the Army know we’re here, but we have a truce for now.” Ted said, “That’s good to hear.” Then he thought, “If I got caught here, what would they do to me? I would have a lot of explaining to do.”
He asked Nick, “What’s next for you? You seem happy at the university.”
Nick said, “I’m doing well, and the movement needs me there. But who knows about tomorrow. I’m one of the few who has a grasp of the big picture and am actually one of the few who’s been to China. When I came back I saw the Philippines differently. I hate the Americans. You can say I woke up.”
Ted said, “But Elaine and I are Americans.”
“I think you have to make a distinction between American influence and policy and the American people. To be against everything American would be counterproductive. To rid ourselves of everything would be impossible and set us back a hundred years. We can’t ignore our history, the good or the bad. But to see what’s happened can break your heart. But generally common people don’t know how to speak for themselves; and they tend to forget what the Americans have taken from them. So it’s up to us who are articulate. I don’t think I have to explain myself to you. You came here to help. We accept your help, but we may not be as grateful as you think we should be. In the end you will go back to the United States. We’ll send you off with a fiesta, but we’ll still be here, and we’ll have to live with the choices we make.”
Ted said, “I want to say that I’m different, but I’m still who I am. An American from Texas and a Texan through and through.”
And as they wandered around the countryside and all over town, Ted began to tell Nick about growing up in his home state.
Back in Manila at home the days (Ted said) were by and large the same. Their maid (Linda) took care of everything in the apartment…the cleaning, the cooking, the washing and the ironing (yes ironing because that was the way it had always been done). Having a live-in maid was affordable, even on the stipend the Peace Corps gave them, and when it wouldn’t have been affordable at home. All of the apartments in the building were basically the same, with an upstairs and a downstairs, a bathroom, a kitchen, and a living room down, with the bedrooms up, and in the bathroom a porcelain toilet without a lid or a seat. People around the world would’ve been familiar with an apartment like that, even those who would’ve been envious. Unlike other apartment buildings in Manila, Ted and Susan’s building withstood the great quake of that year.
Somehow Ted got back to Manila, without totally compromising his position with the Peace Corps and without anyone knowing how close he came to calling it quits. And thank goodness he hadn’t been kidnapped. He had come home safe. Nick had seen to that. Incidents from the trip and the struggle that was obvious seemed to fit the goings-on on campus. He waited all the time after that for a knock on his door. That knock never came. Sometimes he would glance over his shoulder to reassure himself, and more than once he thought he spotted the woman warrior. Saw a face like hers. A face in a crowd would appear and he was aware he had seen the face before. There were voices in his head, then something like a fist in his chest, then screaming and shots in the dark, all somehow connected. Immediately after the shaking stopped their neighbors lit candles which made them think that their building was on fire.
He couldn’t focus on anything. He knew everything that was expected of him, classes at the university during the day and drama at the fort at night, the long bus and jeepny rides; the familiar bridges, Quiapo Church,and the Luneta…the midnight rides down Mabini Street; and when he would finally lay down to sleep…the sleep he needed to keep going…sleep wouldn’t come. And why? Way too often he would see himself surrounded by arm militants and among them a woman warrior with a sidearm.
He relied on Susan, on her strength and her common sense. And just as he knew he had screwed up, he knew, as he had known from when they first met, that she would stand by him. He believed in her. Some of this had to do with his thinking that she was more intelligent than he was. He believed that she was essential to him and, as long as she was there, that they could get through anything. It may be because she was use to picking up after him; she really helped him get through college. And of course, he naturally leaned on her or went back to her whenever he made a mistake, and this was one of those times. He depended on her being there for him. And there was no way that you were going to change his mind. He hardly knew, however, why she would go along with moving to a foreign country, when before she had even been afraid of flying, except it was her idea to join the Peace Corps. He loved Susan and believed in her. Somehow they had stuck it out together. And since she had her own ideas about the Peace Corps and Peace Corps service, he could use her as a sounding board. And that was important to him because he wasn’t always himself sure. You probably know couples like them, where dependency came with the marriage. So he loved Susan, for all she did for him and because he could depend on her. He knew she would do anything for him.