Following his stint as a Marine during the Vietnam war, James needs something beyond the mundane conformity of his life in Vicksburg, Mississippi. As he enters the Peace Corps, a political reformer named Begnino Aquino is gunned down in the turbulent Philippines, half a world away. James has no idea fate will interweave events for him to witness the overthrow of a dictatorship and the miracle of a bloodless revolution.
Lois has joined the Peace Corps to explore the world outside her staid Ohio upbringing. As a teacher in a remote village she totes her own household water from a distant source, learns to accept locals wandering through her hut at all hours, and even becomes accustomed to gunfire in the jungle night. But when the visit of a suspected spy to her village threatens their lives, she and her friend James must make a decision of lasting import.
Lois rubbed my hand softly and affectionately as we lay in the dark.
“We’re genetically geared to compete, but also to cooperate,” she said as if in a review session. “For survival of the species. Remember that time we rode the jeepney together going to Midsayap? Where I tried to ride the bumper with you?”
“They wouldn’t let you,” I reminisced with her. “You’re a woman. Women tire more easily, but also, women fall off more easily. Or if there’s an accident or ambush, no one wants to see a woman suffer.”
“Exactly,” Lois said. “Survival of the fittest includes gallantry of the strong to protect the weak. Remember what that man said to me to get me to go inside? He tapped me on the shoulder. That’s what they do. They tap on the shoulder and say, I will be the one. I will be the one to take the hardship and danger. That is so beautiful, so touching.”
She turned fully on her side as if to look at me, even though we were in total darkness.
“When we get married someday, Mississippi, that’s going to be our wedding vow. Before you kiss the bride to seal our marriage, we’re going to face each other, look each other in the eyes, hold both hands, and say to each other—”
She placed her hand on my cheek for emphasis. “Let’s say it now. I want to vow it right now. Let’s do it.”
“I will be the one,” we said to one another.
“Whenever one of us is weak,” she continued, “the other will be there. We will always be there for each other. We will always survive.”
We sealed our vow with a kiss.
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