Thursday, February 02, 2006



I woke up this morning to find that the hallway light near my room had come on. Before I went to bed last night, I'm positive all the lights were off, because I recall thinking how brave I was, to sleep in the total darkness, with just the lights of Manila skyscrapers behind the curtain to keep me company.

Instantly I released my legs from the heavy coverlet and swung them to the floor. No fear. Not yet. But how could the light have come on? Is there a timer somewhere?

The door was still bolted; peering through the security keyhole I saw no one, at least no one I could see. I unbolted the door and peered outside into the hallway. The paper had not yet arrived, nor was anyone visible. Closed the door again, and this time, figured out how to use the third security device, an invisible chain.

The safe in the closet was open. No worries. I don't tend to lock it at night. There was my camera, a full camera card, my passport holder, my passport, and the envelope of pesos Rob bought me before he left.

But where was the new stash of money, the 8000 pesos I took late yesterday afternoon from a Citibank ATM, under the watch of several armed police spaced every 12 feet around the building? In the buttoned down pocket of my hiking pants? Negative. In all the other places I tend to keep money. Negative-negative. In Tagalog, when you want to superlatize an adjective, you just say it twice.

Panic-panic. Upon investigation, near the inside front door is a little slot where a room-key-type-card sits. I never figured out why it was there. Playing with it a little I found out why. Outside in the hallway, when you put your key in the door, the hallway light comes on, so that you don't have to come into a darkened room. If' you'd rather not have that happen, simply remove that card. Oh....Uh-oh.

I doubled my effort so find the P8000, my fear rising. Already my judgment began to cloud, the way it does when you begin to doubleback through your things looking for lost items. Soon, you go amok, searching in all the no-way places: bedcovers, ALL your pants pockets, the inner pockets of suitcase long closed.

In a zippered pouch on my right leg, in yesterday's pants, I found the money. Double feelings: relief coupled by a wave of self-hate. Why didn't I put the money in the safe? Why didn't I search more thoroughly.

Images of yesterday's lapses came back to me, and I could feel the fear bubbling up from my stomach. I left my purse in the driver's car while he drove around the block, while I went to Citibank. Upon arriving back at the hotel, I couldn't find my room key in its usual spot. Checked and re-checked. Figured I had mislaid it at the Archives, and simply re-keyed the room with the concierge and got another one

I tend to hypothesize when anything puzzles me. It's my way of making sense of the world, and fending off anxiety. This gets me in trouble occasionally, because the hypotheses are occasionally more scary than what has motivated me toward hypothesis-making.

This was one of those times: Okay, the hotel taxi driver, who has easily seen my wad of cash, stole my key. He seemed like a trustworthy fellow, but then he makes $395 pesos a day, a little over $7.00 a day, or less than a dollar an hour. Did he come into the hotel in the middle of the night? Did he try to use the key he stole? If so, because I had to re-key for a new card, it didn't work

But my light came on.

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