"I need to get out for a while."
"Maybe to my sister in Toronto or my brother in London."
"But if you go out of the country, they'll never let you back.
You said your visa expires next month."
"I know, but I can't go back to Pakistan."
Sayeed's face registers some surprise. "Rick, you know the news.
You hear what's happening. And my family's part of the opposition."
"Isn't there some other way?"
"Well, there was." He speaks a little lower. "I found
a woman who said she'd marry me. We Pakistanis do it all the time. She'd
have married me, and then after three years, we could've gotten divorced."
"But don't they check up on that?"
"Yes. But it doesn't matter any more. She backed out."
The first thought in Rick's head: "Maybe she was a set up."
"I thought of that."
"Maybe she ratted you out to the Feds, and now they're on your
"It's possible. Whatever the case, I can't stay here."
Rick puts his hand on Sayeed's knee. "Why are you telling me all
"Because I trust you, Rick." And for the first time, Rick
sees the real fear in Sayeed's eyes.
"What can I do?"
"Let me crash at your place tonight. My brother in Chicago can
get me a plane ticket. I'll print it out somewhere."
Rick became scared: "Maybe you shouldn't tell me more. Then I can't lie if they ask."
"Why are you at the airport?"
He so wanted to say, "For shits and giggles," but sanity
won. Don't be a smart ass, Ricky. Just play along. "I have
a ticket to Ireland."
He reaches into his jacket pocket and shows his boarding pass with
his luggage sticker. Hadn't he done this a few minutes ago? What
kind of fuckin' game is this? Just play along, Ricky. Just play along.
He hands back the envelope. "You alone?"
"You aren't traveling with Sayeed al-Saber?"
"Where is he?"
"I told you." Jesus Christ, get me the fuck out of here. This could go on forever, and his own flight was at 7:45.
"Maybe my younger brother's best. He's the one in London. That's
sure a lot better than Karachi."
"Don't tell me this."
"I need to tell someone. I'm scared." His eyes welled up.
"I just hope they don't put me in handcuffs like I'm a criminal
"And now that I know all this, what if they drug me or something?"
Somehow Sayeed's able to crack a smile. "You watch too many movies,
Rick suddenly feels small and selfish. "You're right. That's a
little preposterous." And adds, "Fuck my problems. I want
to help. Really."
"I think I'll go to London."
"You purchased your ticket Wednesday. That's rather short notice."
"Like I told you fifteen minutes ago ago, it was a whim. I saw
something online; I said, 'Why the hell not?' They're doing Ideal
Husband at The Abbey and a few new plays at The Gate."
"But why the rush? You can always find theater packages. Why now?
Why this week?"
"Like I've been saying: a whim. I'm on sabbatical. That's what
"I thought they were for projects."
He consulted an index card on the table. "And yours is about American
colonial writers. I guess some came from Ireland like Oscar Wilde
and the new playwrights." The sarcasm was palpable.
How the fuck do they know these things? Jesus, what else did they
find out? "I'm going to libraries and museums, too. And sabbaticals
aren't just about projects." Don't snap, Rick. "Jesus,
haven't you ever done anything spontaneous in your life?" He pulled
back in his chair. Don't lose your temper. You'll screw this up.
Rick got the don't-fuck-with-me stare.
Almost imperceptibly, the officer in the corner moved his hand to his
side, just above the gun.