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Journey into Disaster
I proudly present chapter
3.16. Naked in the hotel. Tommy’s story
The parents visit the accused Tommy [Mr. Heger]
The mothers give me a short hug. Lang and Rica sob, Vicente weeps softly. The women’s faces are tearful, and I look into reddened eyes. The men greet me with a loose handshake without looking in the eyes. It’s such a custom.
Now the parents are sitting on upturned Coke crates or on the few dingy plastic chairs. The teenagers Silas and Mikel-Loy squat comfortably on the floor, in the typical Asian posture: their knees at their chest and their upper body bent slightly forward. This way keeps the balance optimally. They stare, point and whisper with wide eyes about the condition and the trash in my cell.
Franco and Kagawad Jacob Castro are still not back from running errands. I’m starting to worry. After all, they carry my VISA card with them.
There is an embarrassed silence. The mothers sob a little and the exuberant joy from the first meeting this morning is gone.
The policewomen have probably given the parents another hard time, is my interpretation of the change in the parents’ mood. With my right sandal, I paint a small figure eight on the dirty concrete floor. I’m insecure and nervously thinking: How can I get the conversation going? First of all, should I apologize? Answers come to my mind: But for what? Maybe for the stress that I caused the parents or for the isolation of the children in the children’s home of the BSWD?
I look around. In the faces of Romolo, Vicente and Michael — I think — I can see the joy at seeing me back and it seems there is a certain expectation of myself. Matthew and Ernesto have impenetrable expressions. Impossible to look behind the façade there. The women Lang and Rica have sadness and despair on their faces. Between cleaning and blowing their noses, they keep looking for eye contact with me.
Michael laboriously digs cigarettes and a lighter out of his worn jeans and grins broadly and offers me a Marlboro. Relieved and grateful, I accept, although my nicotine level must already be toxic. Michael, Matthew, his wife Lang and Romolo also set one on fire. Smoking creates community. The ice is broken. I blow the smoke into the blue, cloudless sky and try to sound casual: “This is all exhausting!” Michael nods vigorously so that his thick pigtail swirls around. Romolo and Matthew start grinning broadly. The women breathe more easily now, the sobbing stops. Only Ernesto still looks bitter. He opens the conversation with a deep voice: “Of course, we could say that, it’s exhausting.”
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Poor but carefree!