Chapter 28: Balance: ฿88
“Yes. That’s fine…mmhmm…don’t worry about it, it’s no problem…yes, I will…”
Kongpob chews on his thumbnail as Arthit’s mother utters a thousand reassurances over the phone to his own Mae, probably about how he won’t magically fall out of the window or somehow choke on a mung bean. He’s amazed that she had agreed to let him stay over in the first place, what with how she’d had such a hard time even letting him stay over at M’s house every so often as kids. The pooling impromptu river that had formed along every dip and curve of Yaowarat Road, however, had left her with no choice.
Looking out the window, he can only see slurried smudges of colour, the glass completely blurred from the torrential downpour. They’d made it back just before the flooding had begun to seep into the area, pushing the cart into an alleyway and completely wrapping in tarp before chaining it a lamppost. Now, in clean, dry clothes that he’d borrowed from Arthit, it’s oddly calm, the murky, brownish water passing through the now-empty streets below.
He sighs, growing slightly impatient after almost ten minutes of a conversation of which he can only hear one side. While he rarely protests his mother’s somewhat overprotective concerns in front of her, having someone else witness the extent of her paranoia has him burying his face behind his hands.
“Of course. Yes….okay, I’ll pass the phone back now.”
“Thanks, Khun Mae.”
He takes the phone from her, and she smiles warmly at him before ducking back into the kitchen, where she’d been making dinner. Arthit and Prae are in one corner, sat at the fold-out table. They’re each wearing plastic gloves, sharing laughter and conversation as they help Arthit’s mother spear slivers of meat onto bamboo skewers.
He clears his throat, stepping into the living room and shuffling towards the window before putting the phone to his own ear.
“Hello, Mae? It’s me now.”
“Oh, hello. Are you alright?”
“Yes, Mae. I’m fine.”
“Did you get soaked in the rain?”
“Just a little, but I’ve changed clothes now.”
“Okay…you’ll be good there, yes?”
“Yes. I will.”
“Don’t cause Paa any trouble.”
“It’s very kind of her to let you stay over for the night.”
“I know. I’ll make sure to thank her.”
“And…you’ll uh…” she trails off for a few seconds. “Where will you be…sleeping?”
She says this slowly, as if nervous, although Kongpob can’t think why. Fear of potential back problems, he supposes, or proper elevation for his leg. For most of his childhood, his mother had been cautious of the smallest things regarding his safety, and would preach rhetoric of how one wrong move could land him in hospital, or with bad omens, or worse, in detention. He doesn’t question it, but right now, he can sense something unfamiliar to her anxious behaviour.
“Um…probably on the sofa? Like you said, I don’t want to be of any trouble or intrude.”
“Okay…okay, yes. Good. Alright.”
“Is that it?”
“Yes…Oh! Wait, don’t forget your things before you leave for school in the morning.”
“I won’t, Mae.”
“And ask Paa for a plastic bag for your cast when you shower.”
“Oh, and remember not to eat spicy food. You know how bad your stomach gets when you—”
“Mae?” he interjects.
“I’m only staying for one night. I’ll be fine.”
There’s a brief pause, and Kongpob can hear the shuffling of her slippers come to a halt as well.
“Right. Of course.”
“Are you sure that’s all?”
“I’m…I can’t tell you what to do, Kong. You’re growing up whether I like it or not. But try to make good decisions, okay?”
“I…don’t know what you mean, but okay.”
“It’s…never mind. Just call if you need anything, alright? I love you.”
“Okay. Love you, Mae.” Several more seconds pass with no response, and Kongpob can almost feel himself holding his breath in case she might have any further last words for him. “I’m…going to hang up now.”
“Okay! Yes, of course. Bye, then.”
He stares at the phone for a few moments after hanging up, then pockets it with a shrug.
Arthit and Prae are on the tail end of an apparently humorous recount when he hobbles back into the kitchen, sitting at the fold-out table with them so that he’s wedged between the wall and Arthit.
“Hey,” Arthit says, at the end of his laughter.
“Can I help?” Kongpob nods at the tray, slowly filling up with skewers, some of the marinade forming a sticky pool at the base. Arthit glances over at him a second, then pulls a pair of clear plastic gloves from a box on the windowsill, handing them to Kongpob.
“Here. This is the pork, your favourite.” He picks up several pieces of the thinly sliced meat from a large bowl, lining them up on his palm. “Spread about four pieces across your hand like this, then…” He threads the skewers through the chain with skilled ease, taking all but two seconds to do so before picking up another skewer. Kongpob stares in awe, then hesitantly takes the thin bamboo spear from him. He carefully lays the meat out on one hand, then makes a futile attempt at mimicking Arthit’s controlled motions.
“Ow!” he hisses, poking himself in his finger. Arthit startles and takes the skewer from him, grabbing his hand to look at where Kongpob had jabbed himself. It’s not bleeding, but there’s a line of dotted tears in the skin where the point had skidded across it. He rubs at the spot, blowing gently to soothe it.
“Is that better?”
“Yeah,” Kongpob almost whispers, blissfully shy as he watches Arthit fuss over his relatively mild pain. “Thank you, P’Arthit.”
“Maybe I’ll take it from here,” Arthit laughs, pulling the clear gloves off of him.
“Am I not cut out to be your sous-chef then?”
“No, not for now.”
“Ughhhh, gross! Mae, they’re flirting!” Prae pretends to gag. She shakes her head as she removes her own gloves and tosses them into the kitchen bin. “Stop feasting in front of the hungry.”
Arthit’s mother simply chuckles, and the two boys shy away from each other’s touch like children being caught sneaking sweets from the pantry. Arthit resumes his chore, the handiwork just slightly clumsier than before.
“Well, you could always just confess to your own crush already,” he mutters.
“I told you, it’s hopeless. Maprang likes someone at her school. A boy, nonetheless. Gross.”
“Hey, we’re not all gross. Also, if you just sit back and watch, it’s not going to make her…”
Kongpob tunes out as Arthit continues his bickering with Prae. If one were to pay close attention to the flickers in Kongpob’s eyes and the faintest of shifts in his expressions, they could observe the amusingly dynamic chain of reaction to this seemingly mundane conversation.
A confused pause, a quiet processing, a dawning realisation, and then a…smile.
“…unlike you, where it was blindingly obvious your crush liked you back,” Prae huffs, pulling out her phone to wake the screen. “Oh, my parents are home. I’m off then. It was nice seeing you, Kong.” She pockets the device again, then smiles at him before turning to Arthit to scrunch her nose up at him, ruffling his hair. “Bye, dork.”
“Bye, jerk.” Arthit leans away, peering over the food to make sure no hair has fallen into it.
“Oon, language!” his mother half-heartedly scolds.
“Yes, Mae.” He sticks his tongue out at his friend.
“Bye, Prae,” Kongpob grins in amusement at the interaction.
Truly—as they’d told him—like siblings.
As the door clicks shut, Arthit eyes him sideways, continuing to pile skewers onto the tray.
“What are you smiling about?”
“Nothing,” Kongpob replies, his smile softening now. “You’re very good at what you do.”
Arthit pauses his movements for the briefest of seconds, a flush creeping up his neck.
“How’s your leg healing, Kongpob?”
Arthit’s mother places several stalks of fried string beans on Kongpob’s plate. He nods in thanks, pushing some rice onto his spoon. It’s been a while since he’s had home-cooked food made fresh, and not reheated in a microwave, much less in the company of anyone other than his phone or whichever book he was poring through that day.
“Better. It’s only been a little over a week, so I’m mostly just adjusting to the walking boot. The doctor says it’s not as bad as the external injury made it seem, so it should heal completely in a few weeks or so.”
“That’s good,” she says, eyeing her son with some skepticism. “I hope my Arthit has been taking good care of you. The lazy bum.”
“He has,” Kongpob chuckles. “He always has my best interests at heart.”
As Arthit continues to grumble from the collective embarrassment, a faint smile forms on his mother’s lips.
There’d been times when she’d wondered if her son would ever be able to cut the bolts and chains around his heart to trust anyone ever again, or if his brightest smile would ever return to his face. She looks at him now, eyes glistening with quiet joy as this boy—a sweet, caring boy—showers him with all the affection that Arthit had so desperately yearned for and deserved in all his younger years.
“I’m glad,” she says after a few moments’ pause, interrupting their quiet chatter. “You know, you two remind me of the days when Oon’s father was trying to woo me.”
“Mae…” Arthit groans, burying his face into the back of his hand.
“What? I’m just saying. I had such a huge crush on him in school, and…” she trails off into soft laughter. “I can’t remember if I’ve told you about this, Oon, but there was this silly myth that was popular when I was young.”
“A myth?” Kongpob says, interested now.
“Yes. The saying went that if you had a crush on someone and you wanted them to notice you, you were supposed to write their name on an eraser, and when you’d used it up—”
“Mae!” Arthit yelps, his face burning, and not at all from the hot soup he’d been sipping on. “You’re right. I’ve heard this one. You don’t have to tell me again.”
He sneaks a nervous glance at Kongpob, whose smile is wide enough that one could barely make out the elated mischief in his eyes.
After helping to clear the table, Arthit leaves his mother to do the dishes, claiming that he and Kongpob have homework. His hand becomes slightly clammy as he rather skittishly enters into the comparative dimness of his room, pulling Kongpob by the hem of his shirt. He makes the subconscious decision to leave only the most minuscule of gaps open in his bedroom door, enough for only a common house gecko to squeeze through. It’s at least, as his mother had quietly reminded him to do as he was placing dishes in the sink, technically left open.
“Are you okay?” Kongpob is suddenly next to him as he busies himself with rearranging the cluttered heap on his desk. Arthit spins around to face him, before sucking in a breath.
He’s close. So close.
Arthit can feel his fingers go slightly numb at the notion of having his boyfriend in his room, with the door not-quite-closed, and close enough to hear his shortened breaths. Surely, he could get through one evening. They wouldn’t even sleep in the same bed. Not that he doesn’t want to, because that would be—
“I’m fine,” is what eventually falls out of his mouth in a hurried mumble.
“Do you…want to turn the lights on?” Kongpob looks up at the ceiling at the singular lightbulb.
“Uh…no, it’s fine. You know, electricity bills. It’s not even that dark yet.”
He bites his lip, then side-steps out from between Kongpob and the desk to cautiously sit on the edge of his bed.
Yes, this is better. Or worse, he can’t decide.
Kongpob pauses for a moment before joining him, turning to face Arthit as he sits down.
“Hey,” he says quietly.
“Hey,” Arthit replies, turning up one corner of his mouth as Kongpob looks down at their hands, hesitating for just a moment before taking it in his. This is nice, he decides. The comforting contact and warmth of Kongpob’s fingers holding his own brings his previously erratically thumping heart to a comforting thrum. “Uh…so how are things? You know, since we last really talked.”
He turns Kongpob’s palm over to face upwards, and traces the lines lightly with his finger.
“I feel better, I guess,” he says, eyes following Arthit’s movements. “I kind of spoke to Por after you called.”
Arthit looks up, but says nothing.
“It was weird,” Kongpob continues with a shrug. “It just feels like he wasn’t around for most of my childhood, even though we live under the same roof. He says he’s trying, but I can’t help but think that…he still favours my sister even if he says that’s not the case.”
The other boy nods, now linking their fingers together loosely and running his fingertips over each of Kongpob’s knuckles, bony and jutting out, unlike the lightly dimpled crevasses under which his own hide.
“Do you believe him?”
“When he says he’s trying. Do you believe that?”
Kongpob inhales the beginning of a sigh, looking directly at his boyfriend. He smirks a little, then shrugs noncommittally.
“I don’t know.”
“But he’s still your father.”
They both become quiet for a moment, their attention drawn to the meditative comfort of each other’s company. Arthit is the first to break the silence, chuckling at his own thoughts.
“What?” Kongpob laughs, too, amused.
“Nothing, just,” Arthit shakes his head. “I don’t know if I can really say anything to make you feel better. But, uh, I can tell you about my own father.”
“Oh. Well, you don’t have t—”
“I want to,” he says firmly. “I want you to know.”
“Okay,” Kongpob says after a moment. Until now, Arthit had mostly skimmed over the details about his father. Kongpob knew that the man had died of a heart attack, and that he’d had a less than cushy relationship with his son. But if Arthit is willing to invite him into this part of his life, Kongpob can only feel slightly honoured.
“He was…very charming. Not particularly good-looking, mind you, but he could talk his way around almost everyone. People would line up around the block for his skewers, just because he had this way of making you feel like you were the most important person in the world whenever he spoke to you. But obviously, he was one way in public, and another when he was home.”
Kongpob watches Arthit strain to gather his thoughts, and gently clasps a hand over his wrist.
“I’m fine,” he reassures him with a smile. “Anyway, uh…shortly after I was born, he’d finally saved up enough money to buy a space in Siam Square to start his restaurant. It was his dream. He’d been saving up since he was…uh, younger than us, maybe. He had all these plans drawn out and he even went and printed menus and had them laminated with the logo he designed. Porky’s Grill, it was called. Actually, we still have those menus sitting around somewhere.” He gestures vaguely in the direction of his mother’s room.
“And then…a week before he was due to meet with the realtors, the agency called, saying that the space had already been bought by someone who had bid higher than him…” he trails off, pressing his tongue into the hollows of his cheek. “They were…they were a gay couple. One of them was a transsexual man. Mae and I found out later that they’d owned a restaurant on Silom Road that had been burned down by homophobic thugs, but that their insurance wouldn’t cover the full extent of the damage. Anyhow, Por was furious, and decided from then on that anyone who wasn’t straight or didn’t conform to traditional gender roles was the core of the world’s problems. And I guess that extended to his own son, too.”
He scoffs, looking up to Kongpob’s gaze of sympathy, but shakes his head, laughing bitterly.
“He literally gave himself a heart attack because he was so appalled by even the idea of me liking a boy. Like, I know it sounds really bad to say, but…I honestly think it was for the better that it happened. Don’t look at me like that, I don’t mean it like I wished for his death. I just mean…he’d spiralled so far into his depression, and he was just getting mad at anyone he saw as a threat to his success. At least he’s not suffering anymore.”
“It’s fine, it’s in the past.”
“No,” Kongpob says, reaching up to brush down an unruly stray hair on Arthit’s head. “I…I have a question.”
“Oh. What is it?”
“Did you…always know you…liked boys?”
“Um…no? I mean, to be fair, I didn’t really think about being attracted to anyone. I didn’t exactly have friends aside from Prae, and I just knew I didn’t like her that way. I guess…I don’t know…I found both guys and girls attractive, but I didn’t have feelings for any of them. You know, aside from…” he mumbles this last part, eyebrows narrowed at Kongpob’s pleased grin. “Shut up.”
“I didn’t say anything.”
“Anyway,” he clears his throat. “What I’m trying to say is not that it could be so much worse. That’s not it. I just mean that…your dad probably has worries or troubles of his own that have nothing to do with you. If he says he’s trying, then…maybe don’t wait until it’s too late to give him the benefit of the doubt. Even if it’s difficult right now.”
Kongpob tilts his head, gazing fondly at his boyfriend.
“When did you get so wise?”
“I’ve always been the wiser of the two of us,” Arthit retorts, sticking his tongue out before they both break into soft laughter.
“That you are,” Kongpob says, just above a whisper. “Thank you.”
He inches forward just a little, nuzzling their noses together, and Arthit’s breath just…leaves him.
All evening, since his mother’s sly but deliberate teasing at dinner, he’d become increasingly cognisant of the fact that Kongpob would be staying the night. The idea, although he knows his mother is a mere thirty steps away, has him acutely on edge. He’d only been able to stall the inevitable with conversation for so long before the stupidly handsome boy in front of him had flung open the cage of rabid butterflies in his stomach. Not that he’s complaining.
He decides a quick peck—just one, no more—will suffice to curb the tingling in the pit of his stomach. But like icy water on a hot day, a tiny sip just isn’t enough, and Kongpob’s lips linger…one, two, three seconds, before Arthit throws all reason out into the raging storm outside his bedroom window, and pulls his face in by the cheeks, emitting a sharp inhale from Kongpob.
Arthit thinks his entire being might burst out of his skin. Indeed, they’d kissed a fair few times over the duration of their still fresh-out-the-oven relationship thus far, but always just sweet, continuous pecks, always kept short as though someone—but who?—might interrupt and catch them at any given moment.
This…this is new. Where he finds the bravery to part his lips to gently nibble at Kongpob’s bottom lip and run his slightly trembling hands down to the collar line of Kongpob’s shirt, he doesn’t know. No, wait. His shirt. Kongpob is wearing one of his sleep shirts.
He smells good, too, which is silly, because Kongpob had borrowed his own shower gel and shampoo, but somehow, it smells better on him.
And then Kongpob is reaching for Arthit’s waist, pulling him closer as their mouths glide cautiously over each other’s, exhilarating, and yet like everything pieced together to make comforting, perfect sense. Until Arthit pulls back just a few centimetres, slightly breathless and eyes burning with a wordless question whose answer he’s afraid of.
Mae is home, the rational part of him remembers. She could come in at any moment.
But Kongpob’s breath is mixing with his own, and whatever is left of Arthit’s internal debate gives up all resolve, pulling him back in and kissing him like he’s parched. The boy’s mouth, warm and moist against his own, tastes faintly like the minced pork with black beans they’d had with dinner.
Arthit would later groan in embarrassment at the memory, but as their kisses grow deeper and the rain against the window pours heavier, he finds himself slowly leaning farther and farther forward until Kongpob lets out the tiniest of yelps as his back meets the mattress. But not for a second do their mouths detach from each other, Arthit leaning over him with one hand next to Kongpob’s side and the latter’s hands around the back of Arthit’s neck as they continue to float adrift in this newfound form each other’s affection.
Not even as he feels his heart thrashing wildly in his chest and an urgent stir in his pants does Arthit want to stop. All that festers at the forefront of both their minds is the desperate need to learn every curve and edge of the other, and as Kongpob’s hand nervously drifts its way down Arthit’s chest and down to the hem of his shirt, does he hesitate.
Where will you be sleeping? his mother’s question rears its nagging head among his clouded thoughts. The soft cotton material is gripped gently between a forefinger and thumb, lingering but unmoving. He could easily lift the hem, just an inch, just to feel at the warm skin underneath like a shared secret. He could run his fingers along the small of Arthit’s back and memorise the dip where his spine lies, or—
The exclamation comes after a loud clatter from the kitchen, and suddenly, all rhyme and reason return to the two boys. They scramble apart until they’re at opposite ends of the bed, catching their breaths and pulling the hems of their shirts over their shorts to dispel the evidence of their mutual excitement.
“Everything okay, Mae?” Arthit eventually calls out in a stammer. He’s endlessly thankful for not having turned on the lights, lest Kongpob sees just how pink his face is.
“Yeah, just dropped something! It’s fine!”
Almost a minute passes before both boys can feel their breaths return to normal, although the distance between them doesn’t narrow.
“Um…sorry,” Arthit mumbles. “I didn’t mean to get carried away like that.”
“No, it’s okay.” Kongpob sits up straighter now, nervously shuffling closer to Arthit and holding his hand out, palm facing up. Arthit stares at it for a moment before placing his own in it, intertwining their fingers. “I wanted it, too. But…you know…I don’t think either of us are ready for…that kind of thing yet,” he says, the words coming out in chunks. “Not that I haven’t…like, thought about it before,” he adds this last part so faintly that Arthit almost doesn’t hear it.
“Perv,” Arthit says with a slight snicker.
“Hey! I didn’t hear you complaining.”
The tension in Arthit’s chest eases, silently thankful for the interruption. He shifts closer until their shoulders meet, and he slowly pulls their clasped hands into his lap.
“But uh…maybe one day?” he says, practically whispering. “Like…when we’re older?”
Kongpob gulps, turning his head to look into dark, half-lidded eyes, the only light reflected from the street lamp outside the window.
When they’re older.
In the future.
Yes, that would be nice, he thinks.
“One day,” he smiles, just for Arthit.
Kong wakes up to the sound of his phone buzzing ceaselessly next to his pillow. He’d ended up sleeping in the bed, Arthit taking the sofa instead, insisting that Kongpob needed more space because of his cast.
He swipes to receive the call, not bothering to look at the caller ID.
“Hello?” he croaks out, voice still hoarse with sleep.
“Kong! It’s me.”
“M? Wait, oh gosh, what time is it?” he sits up quickly, suddenly panicking. Had he overslept?
“It’s 2020,” M deadpans. “The world has descended into social chaos, a deadly disease has wiped out a good chunk of the population, and kids these days have descended so far into their suppressed hopelessness for the future that they’re digitally cloning themselves into backup dancers.”
“M,” Kongpob whines, then throws the covers off of him, reaching for his walking boot, which he straps on hurriedly. He pushes himself out of bed before shuffling around to find the towel that Arthit’s mother that left out for him.
“Okay, okay. Did you just wake up? School is closed today.”
Kongpob stops in his tracks, furrowing his brows.
“Wait, what? Is it still flooding?” He moves to open the window. Aside from a thin sheen of debris on the glass, the day is clear, if a bit humid. The street below is still darkened from rainwater, but the flooding appears to have subsided, the only remaining evidence being patches of wet soil from potted plants knocked over in the storm, caked into the edges of the pavement.
“No, but there was some water damage to several schools in the area, so the BMA called for temporary closure across the district.”
“Gosh…is it that bad?”
“Not at our school, but my cousin says that one of the toilets at his school flooded over last night.”
“Yeah. Anyway, just letting you know in case you were about to head out the door already.”
“Oh…uh…I’m not at home.”
“What? Where are you?”
“I’m…I stayed the night at Arthit’s place.”
There’s silence on the other end of the line for a few seconds.
“Oh,” M says after a few moments.
“I was at the stall when the travel restriction was announced. So I didn’t really have a choice,” Kongpob explains, despite that M hadn’t actually asked.
“Nothing happened, not really.”
“You don’t sound so sure.”
“M, his mother is here.”
“Right, right. Okay.”
“Yeah” Kongpob rubs at his eyes now, his body welcoming the warmth and energy from the sunlight.
“Are you okay? Like…with your dad and stuff.”
“Yeah, I guess, all things considered. Are you?”
“Why wouldn’t I be okay?”
“Because…John punched you in the face? How’s it healing?”
“I’ve got a cool purple bruise that’s spreading under my eye, but it’s definitely more sore than actually painful now. I’m still dashingly handsome, though.”
Kongpob snorts, shifting the phone to his other ear. “You always find the good in everything.”
“Well, one of us has to. Anyway, are you staying there for the day?”
“Maybe. Might catch up on homework here before heading home.”
“Oh, right. We’re presenting book reports tomorrow.”
“Are you finished with yours?”
“Uh…I haven’t started. But I’ll get it done. Probably do something safe and simple. You?”
“I’m about halfway done.”
“You usually do well. Anyhow, I’ll leave you to it. Try not get married before I see you two next.”
“Kidding, you guys are cute.”
“Bye, M,” Kongpob half-groans.
“Byeeee—” he replies, before cutting himself off with the dial tone.
When Kongpob sneaks back into the apartment at around eight o’clock, he brings with him two bags of congee and Chinese doughnuts with soy milk. He shuts the door behind him with a quiet click, peering into the living room.
Arthit is still asleep on the sofa, and as Kongpob sets the food down on the dining table, he can’t help but laugh softly at how his boyfriend looks with his mouth hanging open just slightly, and his hair, already growing out since he’d cut it, all mussed up.
He goes over to him, carefully sitting on the edge of the sofa and brushing hair out of his face. There are moments in which he can’t believe how his entire world had changed so drastically in the last couple of months. But he wouldn’t trade any of it, not even for a second.
Potentially sensing the presence next to him, Arthit eventually stirs from his sleep. He sorely blinks a few times while yawning, before bolting upright.
“Shit. What time is it? Are we late?”
Kongpob laughs, shaking his head as Arthit grabs his phone off the coffee table to check the time.
“It’s okay, school’s closed for the day due to water damage.”
“Oh,” Arthit says with a curt nod. Then, realising how he must look, tries to adjust himself, patting his hair down.
“I…uh, yeah. Good morning,” he says, still shy from their closeness, especially after the previous night.
Kongpob smirks, trying his luck as he leans in, but Arthit leans away.
“Kong, my mother is here.”
“She went out about an hour ago. I went and got us breakfast,” he nods towards the dining table. “Congee and doughnuts.”
“Now can I kiss you?”
“No! I haven’t even brushed my teeth!”
“I don’t care.”
“Kongpob!” Arthit tuts, although his cheeks flush slightly. He could blame it on sleep if Kongpob tried to tease him.
Instead, the boy just laughs in amusement, then kisses him on the forehead.
“I—“ Arthit tries, rather unsuccessfully, to frown, but a smile creeps its way to his face as he gently pushes Kongpob aside to get off the couch and scurry to the bathroom.
“Is he almost here?” Arthit peers over the grill at the street, watching periodically for P’Shin with the family car. “Why, are you trying to get rid of me?”
“No, just wondering,” Arthit snorts. “I couldn’t get rid of you even if I tried, I don’t think.”
“He’s on his way,” Kongpob says, scrolling through his phone. “He says he just left the house.”
Arthit nods in acknowledgement. “Do you want food?”
“Mmmm, okay. Four of the beef. Oh, and three of the chicken for P’Shin.”
The cart, thankfully, had survived the flooding, thanks to the old but sturdy tarp, the only harm done being a bit of leakage into the bottom shelf of the cabinet. He’d kept the most important possession safe, though.
24/09/2014 – ฿50
“How much is there left?” Kongpob peers around Arthit’s side at the notepad.
“A little under 40 baht. I thought you were keeping track too?”
“Nah, fuck that. Why would I, when—”
“Wait, hold up.” Arthit spins around to face him, mirth in narrowed gaze.
“You just….you just said ‘fuck’. So casually. Like, out loud.”
Kongpob shies away, raising an eyebrow in mock nonchalance. “Yes. And?”
“Nothing,” Arthit says, biting his lip. “It’s…cute.”
“Oh, you like bad boys, do you?” Kongpob grins, waggling his eyebrows.
“Please,” his boyfriend scoffs. “You are literally the furthest thing from a bad boy.”
“I can be bad!”
“No, you can’t,” Arthit laughs fondly at the boy’s mildly offended expression. “But…I love you anyway.”
Whatever protest had been on the tip of Kongpob’s tongue dies there, his frown replaced by mild shock, before his entire face lights up with a smile that has Arthit looking away again, embarrassed, but in awe even with himself.
He hadn’t meant to say it like this. He’d pictured this moment to be infinitely more profound, and certainly not so soon, lest he scare the boy away. But it’s true, even if he’d only recently come to realise it. And now, the sheer joy in Kongpob’s reaction diminishes whatever regret he might have felt at the spontaneous confession.
“Say it again.”
“Please, P’Arthit,” Kongpob tugs lightly at his sleeve with a half-hearted pout.
“Kong,” Arthit sighs, although if he’s being honest, the wide-eyed look on Kongpob’s face is truly working its charm. Almost. “We’re in public.”
“Fine…another time then.”
Arthit rolls his eyes, watching the boy scrunch up his nose in mild disappointment, which is soon replaced by his wandering attention over towards the street.
“Oh, P’Shin is here.”
Sure enough, the familiar black car pulls to a stop in front of them, and Kongpob gets to his feet.
“Here, your food.” Arthit hands him the bag.
“Um…get home safely,” he says, holding Kongpob’s gaze for a few seconds.
“I will.” Kongpob nods. “Bye, P’Arthit.”
He climbs into the car, waving before he closes the door behind him.
As Arthit is about to return his attention to the grill, he feels his phone vibrating in his apron pocket. He pulls it out, squinting at it in confusion.
He looks up at the car again, and the window of the passenger seat rolls down to reveal his boyfriend, who’s grinning from ear to ear with the phone pressed to one of them.
“I love you too,” he says, waving to him as the car pulls away, leaving Arthit with a smile that doesn’t leave his face for the rest of the day.