A little while after that, Ted saw Nick sitting alone in the lunchroom, slurping soup from a spoon. They now regularly met for lunch. But on this particular day Nick hadn’t invited him, which suggested that he wanted to eat alone, or he was waiting for someone else. That someone turned out to be his girlfriend, and Ted couldn’t get over it when she turned out to be white.
Ted hadn’t known Nick had a girlfriend. They had been seeing each other off and on for quite a while, and that surprised Ted too. From her blond hair, blue eyes, and fair skin, it was apparent that she wasn’t a Filipina; only later did Ted learn her connection with the commander in charge of the American Naval Station on Cavite, the peninsular that formed the southern portion of Manila Bay. Elaine was the Commander’s daughter. And here she greeted Nick by kissing him on the forehead before sitting down across from him. There they displayed affection, in public, more specifically in the lunchroom. Why was this more shocking to Ted than seeing how the Texan treated the Filipina that day in the American Embassy compound? Neither situation had anything to do with the other; neither one on the surface had anything to do with him; and Ted could relate but superficially. He couldn’t have known all of the implications.
Ted, however, knew about the American Naval Station on Cavite, and could see why that didn’t sit well with his students. On campus Elaine could’ve easily pass for a foreign exchange student; that alone, given the display of affection Ted witnessed, was enough to cause a scandal, but that compared to Nick dating an American commander’s daughter: the Nick Ted knew. The Nick who espoused the dogma of Mao. Yes, and he had been to Red China and look! what he brought back: songs, a flag, and The Little Red Book. That he gave to Ted to read. And when the big debate then was “who lost China,” with the Domino Theory very much in tact. So Ted was startled by what he saw. He knew it looked odd, very odd when you thought about it, but he seemed to be the only person in the lunchroom that noticed.
Now after he saw Elaine and Nick together and discovered who she was, he was amazed. Ted said, “This doesn’t make sense.” He could understand why students around him were demonstrating, but he didn’t understand why Nick would date Elaine. He knew too little about his colleague. He was definitely more complex than Ted had realized. Understanding him would’ve required more skills than he had then.