Teachers barely noticed. All talk was about Mad Dog and his arrest in Riyadh. There were more questions than answers.
His roommate, an astute chemist from Auckland named David, said he hadn’t a clue Mad Dog was even gone. Word was Martin was at the U.S. Consulate having him released. Flintstone said he knew the truth, “Mad Dog’s gone loco son. Head be all swimming over some fine little honey he got stashed up there. Probably eloped or something.”
Basically, no one knew anything, least of all me. Besides, men who throw diamonds in the sea don’t run off to get married, and without iqamas, nobody was leaving Saudi Arabia alive.
That afternoon riding home through the desert on the bus, I had a rare moment with Bangkok Phil. All the other teachers were wrapped asleep in headphones and hoodies and neck pillows and for the first time we spoke as humans.
“All my life,” Phil said, “I’ve done whatever I wanted. I followed every instinct, every base desire I’ve ever had. I never thought about consequences. I just wanted more. More of life, more of lust, more of living… but I always felt a little guilty, you know? Then 9/11 happened and I realized it didn’t matter if you were good or bad because whether you knew it or not, you were already dead.”
He stared at the passing dunes and a line of dirty camels drinking from a bathtub hose.
“When the planes hit the towers, I had no idea my father was traveling that day. I only saw the flames and the people running away on TV and my students cheering, shooting their guns in the air in triumph. You know I was here for that, didn’t you?”
The bus came to an abrupt stop at a light. An old man in robes rode a donkey across the street, beating its hind rump with a stick.
This went on for years even after the grief of losing my father passed. It got to be that I wouldn’t watch a movie unless I read the instant reviews online first or go to a restaurant before checking the customer service comments. I began trusting anonymous people more than myself. It became destructive because next thing you know, I was having random sex and pick-ups on the street. Quick and easy with a delete button attached. Anything to keep me from seeing the real me. To keep me from seeing what I had become.”
When we arrived at the compound Senior Director Martin was waiting. He had an update on Mad Dog. We were called into the meeting room between the main office and mosque to listen and Martin explained there’d been an incident with a Saudi man whom Mad Dog had assaulted. Charges were being filed and an arrest was made. Mad Dog was released after a full confession.