“I wonder when it’ll end.”
The answer was, a couple of hours from now. The answer was, a couple of hours ago. But you didn’t know. None of you did, caught up as you were in a sideline of history, putting out in an empty building in utter weariness a magazine few people bought and even less cared to read – your whole life for the past couple of years.
Some time around ten thirty, it was over. “Well, that’s it, it’s over. I must – must get some rest. You, too, guys. Good night.”
“May I have a word with you?” Peter Pan stood po-faced in the middle of the room. A word it was, indeed: he was resigning, had found another job, no hassle, much bigger pay, his own man, starting next week. No amount of pleading would make him change his mind.
You took it all in. Clammed up. Resisted the urge to thank him for his grace in timing
went down the stairs
across the street
across the river
took a taxi.
Wife still up, bleary eyed, smiling. “It’s over,” she said. “It’s over,” you said. She broke the news: “It’s over. I saw it on TV. His Majesty called them both over and told them to stop behaving like children, bringing only destruction to the land. So, they’re quitting politics. Or so they say. You can watch it, too, you know. They keep showing it on all channels, the Audience, every other hour. The sound’s awful, though. Trust them to mess things up in a fine hour. Anyway, it’s over, sweetheart. It’s over.” You nodded your head slowly, repeatedly nodded your head, immensely tired, immensely relieved. Took her into your arms. No kiss, no smooching. Just for the feel of her – the warm, feeling, sensible bit of Thailand that she was. Walked up the stairs with her for the almost ritual kiss on the forehead of the sleeping beauty with brains the two of you begat. “Goodnight, darling.”
Dog-tired down the stairs
into the kitchen
find an apple, and start munching as you dial.
“The other Peter has resigned. What about you? Are you planning to quit, too?”
You listen, take it in, put down the receiver, turn on the sound of the television, finish the apple. And soon here it is – the Audience. They come crawling left of screen, the one in military garb, the one in peasant uniform, slicked-back hair versus crew-cut, solemn bulldog mug-by-snout to hilarious fox-terrier – and both sit on their arses on the floor, legs bent, ramrod backs, hands raised, while His Majesty addresses them both in a drone from His throne. The sound is truly awful, like the mike is being drawled all over a carpet. You don’t get many words but the message is obvious. And then the next shot is of a row of monks, top-notch well-fed Pali-proficient prelates with beady eyes who chant in a saffron glow, and now their seniormost says in effect, “The nightmare is over, we’re all brothers and sisters, let us forget the past, let us forgive the wounds—”
The one great moment of Thailand you haven’t missed. You burst out into jerky tears of joy for so much beauty, into tears of relief, tears of guilt, of utter exhaustion, and when the sobs recede and you feel fresher and clear-headed, you grab the phone.
You still have one more call to make.