A series of pictures in KongArt’s lives that are for Arthit’s eyes only.
“Help me take a picture! Use your phone; it takes good photos.”
Hazers, freshmen, and alumni alike crowd around the table to squeeze into the tiny frame of Arthit’s phone screen for one of the last pictures they’ll probably get the chance to take before the end of the night. The end of a growing process for the freshmen. The end of the hazers’ chapter of leadership. The end of a cycle for the recent graduates.
The end of an era.
Arthit, though holding the phone as far away from himself as possible to make sure everyone’s face can be seen, turns to look at the one image in his life’s view that he never wants to tear his eyes away from.
How much time had passed for his junior to grow up like this? The boy had slowly edged his way into infecting every fibre of Arthit’s being, whispering sweet nothings into his ear in the mornings, mastering the art of flirtation via LINE stickers, and sulking for kisses that Arthit would love to grant but won’t allow himself to for fear of getting carried away.
And on nights when Kongpob would stumble into his apartment, weary from all the hazing activities, or burned out from studying, Arthit would let him have whatever the boy wanted. If he could kiss and hold away all his fears and fatigue, he’s more than glad to tuck his shyness away in a drawer for just a little while.
He wants nothing more than for Kongpob to have all the joy he deserves, and hides a smile of his own as he takes in his boyfriend’s sparkling grin.
Happiness looks good on him.
Before he realises, Bright has finagled the phone out of his hand to take a look at the thirty or so selfies Arthit had unknowingly taken in his distracted appreciation.
“The photo looks nice…wait, Arthit,” he raises an eyebrow. “Why aren’t you looking at the camera?”
“Yeah, Arthit,” Prem pipes up. “Your eyes were on Kongpob.”
No, they weren’t….were they?
“No!” he says in protest, his entire face warming at the accusation, knowing full well that this tidbit of information would be the catalyst for endlessly smug teasing from both his friends and the very boy he’d just shamelessly been admiring.
“He mistook Kongpob’s eyes for the camera!” Bright says, followed by loud whoops of second-hand frisson from around the table.
“I wanted to show off my side profile,” Arthit insists, knowing full well that nobody in his presence believes him.
Kongpob, watching the entire commotion, blushes to himself, quiet with the satisfaction that the man he loves had momentarily slipped in his facade of aloofness. Perhaps he would allow him to kiss his very red face later on, when everyone else had dispersed.
For now, he links his fingers between Arthit’s under the table to calm the fluttering in his stomach.
And when the photo gets sent to the group chat, Kongpob makes a cropped duplicate, wanting always to be reminded of how Arthit does, in fact, love him like he loves nobody else.
The sand crunches wetly between his fingers as the two of them flop down by the water, still laughing and panting from their playful shenanigans. Their shirts cling wet to their backs, and Arthit shakes the salty water out his hair as they turn to face the setting sun.
A picturesque sight by any standard, but Arthit has his gaze cast elsewhere.
He’d finally wrangled his shirt back from his mischievous boyfriend, pulling it on as they’d clambered up to shore before anyone unnecessarily saw more of his naked torso. Not that he’s embarrassed or ashamed of his body, but in Kongpob’s presence…it almost feels scandalous to expose himself to him anywhere other than behind a locked door.
“P’Arthit, do you like the sea?”
The crashing waves and sand between his toes had bore witness to a night of some of the biggest milestones they’d reached in their time together, from a vague confession in which Kongpob had given him his heart, to the making of an appointment which he would later come to realise was a date, and the terrifying realisation that perhaps he, too, wanted his heart in Kongpob’s care.
If the sun had eyes, they would smile upon this moment.
For now, though, their shared bliss and the smiles that result from it are for Arthit’s eyes only.
“But there was a moment when I was scared of it.”
“When was that?”
True enough, he’d once panicked at the thought of losing someone he’d had yet to understand the labyrinth of his feelings for. To have crashing waves steal from him the bane—and heartbeat—of his existence.
“Actually, it was my fault,” he says, watching the water’s steady inhale, followed by a release that tickled the tips of their toes. “I shouldn’t have told you to go cool your head in the sea. Who would’ve known that you would actually do it?”
He’s teasing his boyfriend’s occasional flair for the dramatics, but in a strange way, he’s grateful for the boy’s disappearance under water highlighting for him the extent of the necessity Kongpob held in his heart.
“But you were looking at me the whole time. So you thought I was drowning.”
“What? Who was looking at you?”
I was. And I am now.
He hopes Kongpob will never be too long out of sight.
“What about you? Do you like the sea?”
The answer is prefaced with a smug raise of the eyebrow, and a smirk that Arthit loves to hate. “I do,” he says, and Arthit awaits his reasoning. “It reminds me that someone cares about me.”
And suddenly the view is overwhelming, bringing Arthit to avert Kongpob’s knowing smile.
“What? I don’t care about you.”
But Kongpob doesn’t get the opportunity to point this small detail out, as their gossip-mongering colleague comes bounding towards them with her camera.
“Let me take your photo!” she gestures for them to move closer to each other.
They do, but only as much as would be normal for a senior and junior who happen to be working at the same company.
She’s referring to the overall framework of the picture, but the borders of Arthit’s viewfinder are elsewhere.
They shuffle forward just a little, and Arthit can’t deny himself the pleasure of being reminded of Kongpob’s role in his life. He won’t ever let the sea, or anything else, induce the fear of losing him again, if he can help it. He’s selfish like that.
So when Durian asks for a photo with just Kongpob, Arthit tells her that his hands are dirty. A sore excuse if he’d ever heard one, what with the water literally inches away for him to rinse the sand away.
But as long as Kongpob will allow him, Arthit won’t let a single chapter of their story go by without reserving a page for just the two of them.
Everyone knows now.
“I love Kongpob,” he’d said into the microphone in front of a hundred surprised faces, and a few knowing smiles.
There’s something cathartic, or perhaps self-indulging, about claiming your territory. Not that Kongpob is an object to be possessed by any being, but indeed the object of desire for many, and Arthit no longer wants to allow the same people whose opinions he’d feared to potentially be options from which Kongpob could choose.
He doesn’t want Kongpob to even consider those many different options, when Arthit has only ever had one.
“Smile for me,” he says now, his tone teasing, but with sheer satisfaction in the knowledge that the upturned corners of Kongpob’s lips are, indeed, for Arthit alone.
For once, Kongpob is speechless, his smile so wide that his cheeks almost hurt. And so he simply follows his lover with his hand in Arthit’s warm, solid grasp as they make their way home.
At one point, Arthit lets go, allowing Kongpob to trail ahead of him, until he stops to pull out his phone. Kongpob pauses, thinking that the man might be replying to a message, until he’s proven wrong yet again.
“Kongpob,” Arthit calls for his attention. He turns around, blinking in surprise when his usually reserved boyfriend suddenly snaps a picture of him. And then he’s taking another one, and another, angling the phone back and forth to get the best framing and lighting as possible under the dim lighting of the street lamp.
“Why are you taking pictures of me?” he muses, although he’s not complaining.
Arthit doesn’t answer him, instead holding his hand out as he tucks his own phone away.
“Give me your phone,” he says, to Kongpob’s confusion, although the boy still hands the device over. He thinks he might like this slightly possessive side of Arthit, but he isn’t sure about the idea of being monitored in this fashion.
“Are you checking my phone?”
He doesn’t have anything to hide. After all, his friends know him to be notorious for leaving his messages on read except for work-related matters, family, and indeed, for the one whose every word for which he wants to create an album of its own.
“What are you talking about?” Arthit scrunches his brows up at the ridiculous notion. Didn’t the boy know by now that he trusted him more than anyone else? That it was others he held reservations for? “Give me your hand,” he feigns exasperation.
And for the second time that evening, Arthit takes hold of his hand, snapping a portrait of their grasp, a millisecond frozen in time of a memory only the two of them know the story behind. He makes it Kongpob’s wallpaper, the constant backdrop to his days, and a reminder of his love no matter the obstacles.
“Whenever you see your phone, you’ll see the picture that I took.”
Kongpob is still finding his footing in this seemingly renewed side of his boyfriend, and thinks that the man may be up to something.
“You’re being so lovely to me…is there something you want from me in particular?
“I don’t want anything,” he refutes the accusation, then, for the third time that evening, pulls Kongpob’s hand into his. “Let’s go.”
He won’t show Kongpob the photos, nor share them online for anyone to see. While most everyone in their lives knew about them now, Arthit is still a private person. He wants to remember this evening as not one in which he’d made a public declaration of his love, but a night on which he’d walked his lover home and held his hand.
Not too far ahead, nor trailing behind.
He’ll walk beside him, no matter the distance.
Picture this, if you will;
One day, if my eyesight
Fails me in my old age, or
I should go blind from staring
at the sun as it warms our faces, or
technology fails to preserve the bytes;
I will still have every picture
I framed with my own eyes, the ones
of you that were solely for me, the ones
only we experienced and I take out
to sift through when the nights are lonely.
My love is no secret
at least not one kept from you
I have pictures to prove
of a life only we knew.