Kongpob’s plans to go to China take an unexpected turn due to the outbreak of COVID19.
Not that he would ever admit it out loud, but ever since Kongpob had announced that he’d been accepted into his masters programme and would be leaving soon, Arthit had been decidedly anxious and pessimistic.
While he had spent months following his junior’s graduation helping him study day and night, a part of him dreaded the day he’d have to send his lover off at the airport. He had immense pride over Kong’s accomplishments, and didn’t know anyone else who was any more deserving of studying such a prestigious course. However, the selfish, paranoid part of him wanted to keep him here, the fear of navigating the distance slowly eating at him.
In fact, the thought of being away from the annoying brat for two years left him feeling so empty and lost that he’d not-so-subtly hinted at the various problems that Kongpob could encounter during his time away, not being able to bear the thought of not being at his side when he was sick, or worse, potentially growing apart.
Kongpob, of course, was having none of it. Although, to be fair, some of Arthit’s worries were valid.
“P’Arthit, I am not going to contract coronavirus. The worst of it is already over, anyway.”
“You don’t know what could happen! You could be quarantined and never be able to come back.”
“I’ll miss you too, P’.”
Others, however, were positively absurd.
“Kongpob, I’ve read that sometimes young people in Beijing and Shanghai get advertised like real estate at marriage markets by their parents. You should be careful.”
“My parents have no intention of shuttling me off like a farm animal, much less in a foreign country. Besides, I already have a pretty good idea of who I want to marry.”
“That’s besides the point. I’m just saying, be careful.”
He’d shed silent tears as Kongpob held him tenderly in their sleep on the last evening that they would be together in Arthit’s apartment. Of course he would miss him. They’d been through far too much together and even though he still put up a front of apprehension towards Kongpob’s affection, it was a comforting constant in his otherwise mundane life. The next evening, he would not fall asleep in his boyfriend’s arms, nor glower at his mischievous advances.
Morning comes, and Arthit remains staring at the ceiling, not having caught a single wink of sleep. Sunlight is slowly seeping through the blinds, and Arthit glances over the wall clock. 6 AM. The last time he’d been up this early, he’d been buzzing with excitement over Kongpob getting his results. Now, he’d rather have gone back and never found out.
Kong’s sleeping figure is still, his face relaxed and at peace. Arthit knows that between the two of them, his boyfriend was infinitely braver and took it upon himself to hold enough courage for them both.
He takes a longer shower than usual, silently hoping he might melt under the hot spray and trickle into liquid himself, slipping down the drain and into nothingness. What he does end up with is an alarmingly red neck and shoulders, and the prickling sensation through his blood vessels as he eventually steps out from under the shower head.
When he emerges from the bathroom, Kongpob is sitting at the desk, still in his pajamas and scrolling through something on his laptop. He glances at Arthit when he parks himself in the other desk chair, his still-damp hair resting on Kongpob’s shoulder.
“P’Arthit,” Kongpob gently kisses the top of his head. “I have some news.”
Arthit sits up at this, searching his boyfriend’s face for any clue of what he might mean.
“Good news or bad news?”
Kongpob ponders the question for a moment.
“Both…depends how you look at it, I guess.”
Kongpob turns his laptop screen slightly towards Arthit, who cocks and eyebrow, but reads the document that’s open. It’s in English, meaning that it takes him twice as long to parse.
Urgent Notice: Postponement of 2021 Spring Semester
“Wait, what? How come?”
Friday, 18th December, 2020
Dear students and international faculty,
First of all, we hope that all of you are safe and taking preventative measures to protect yourselves in spite of the gradually decreasing number of newly reported cases of pneumonia caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus.
We understand that this past academic year has posed some great challenges for both students and faculty alike, and we are grateful for the continued efforts of our teaching staff in ensuring that students maintain their learning progress through online learning and teaching. Prior to the Mid-Autumn festival, the Beijing Municipal Commission of Education had announced that all public universities were at liberty to decide whether or not to resume classes as scheduled for the Spring Semester in February, as well as allow students at postgraduate level to proceed with orientation activities in early January. Previously, the University had made the decision to begin the coming Spring Semester as planned.
“Kong, you know my English is only so-so. Can’t you just summarise it for me?”
“It’s in this next part, P’Arthit.”
However, due to unforeseen circumstances in which five of our local students in the Faculty of Business and Economics as well as in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures have confirmed to be infected with the COVID-19 coronavirus, the University has made the difficult decision to postpone the commencement of the Spring Semester until further notice. We hope that students and faculty alike understand that we have taken these measures in order to prevent the further contracting of the virus among all members of the University.
In the meantime, we will be working to provide the relevant learning materials for online learning should the situation persist beyond three weeks of class suspension. Local students are recommended to stay at home as much as possible, and we strongly recommend that international students refrain from returning or arriving on campus. Please contact your relevant airline companies for information on rescheduling or cancelling flights. If needed, the University can provide a small reimbursement for cancellation or rescheduling fees…
Arthit stops reading, the cogs in his brain still working to comprehend several words. When it dawns on him, he turns to Kongpob, who’s waiting for his reaction.
“So…you’re not going?”
“Not yet, anyway. I have to wait until they announce that it’s safe.”
“You’re…going to stay. For at least two more months.”
“Yes, P’,” Kongpob is still trying to read his boyfriend’s face. “Thoughts?”
Arthit is internally jumping up and down, any sour mood from the previous night dissolving into relief. Outwardly, though, he just nods.
“That’s…fine, I guess.”
“Yes, fine. I told you there was a chance of it spreading, didn’t I?”
“P’Arthit,” Kongpob takes one of his hands and plays with his fingers. “Are you happy about me staying?”
“Wh-who said I was happy?” Arthit stammers. “Now you’re going to continue racking up my water bill for two more months.”
“It’s okay if you’re happy, P’.” Kongpob just grins, taking his face in his hands.
Arthit stands up abruptly and points to the bathroom door.
“Go shower. I have to go to work.”
It’s 4:54 when Kongpob texts him.
Kong: p’arthit, do you want to have dinner out tonight?
Kong: the noodle place?
Arthit: ok. i’m leaving soon. 5:30?
Kong: I’m already downstairs 😉
Arthit: Of course you are -.-
Arthit: Did you wear a mask out? You shouldn’t be out without a mask.
Kong: Yes P’ i’m wearing a mask
True to his word, Kongpob’s face is covered with a blue surgical mask, Arthit wearing one of his own. Even with most of his face obscured, Arthit can tell Kongpob is grinning at him.
“P’Arthit,” his voice is slightly muffled by the material. “Let’s go for a walk.”
“Why? I thought you said you wanted dinner?”
“It’s still early.”
They link hands, strolling through the park near Arthit’s work.
“Was there something you wanted to talk about?”
Kongpob stops, taking both of Arthit’s hands in his and wrapping them around his waist.
“What are you doing?” Arthit tenses, but doesn’t remove his hands. They’re incredibly close now, faces centimeters apart.
“I talked to my parents today.”
“I told them about the postponement.”
Arthit nods, slightly more relaxed now and linking his hands together, resting them on Kongpob’s lower back. There are a few glances from passersby, but nothing more.
“So you’re moving home then?”
“Well, I don’t know. I want to stay with you, of course. But I know you’re concerned about your water bill…”
“I was joking. You know that, right?”
Kongpob’s eyes crinkle at the sides, and he lets out a low chuckle.
“Well, the thing is, it would make the most sense for me to move home, seeing as the semester has already ended.”
Arthit brings his hands in front of him again, putting a little bit of distance between them.
“So when are you moving out?”
Kongpob sighs, pulling Arthit closer again.
“I might not have to.”
Arthit’s eyebrows furrow, his eyes questioning.
“I haven’t said anything to them yet, but I was wondering if…you know, it’s time.”
“Oh.” he breathes. If Kongpob were to stay in the dorms (not even in one of his own, no less), he’d need a reason to justify it to his parents.
“I know it’s a huge step and that’s why I’m asking you first. I don’t want to hide it from them anymore, but if you’re not ready, then…”
Arthit gnaws at his bottom lip, his breath a little shallow. Of course, he’d considered bringing up the subject with his own parents, and should things take a turn for the worst, he was at least able to support himself financially. Kongpob, on the other hand, had more than just his family to lose. He wasn’t working, nor did he have a place of his own to stay. Not that Arthit wouldn’t happily let him stay with him, but it just wasn’t sustainable in the long run.
“I want to tell mine, too,” he starts. “But, I want you to wait.”
“I’m just worried that if you do it now, there’s the chance that they might not fund your studies anymore if it goes badly.”
Kongpob is quiet for a moment, but nods.
“You’re right. We’ll wait till I graduate.”
He brings a hand up to his mask and pulls at it slightly until the material is bunched up under his chin.
“Kongpob! Don’t take your mask off!”
“But…I want to kiss you, P’Arthit.” he says, eyes twinkling with mischief.
“No, I’m not taking my mask off, so you can forget it.” Arthit scowls, pulling Kongpob’s mask back up so that his nose and mouth are covered again.
“Okay, we can keep our masks on.”
He leans forward, pressing their mouths together through the layers of cotton. Arthit tenses a moment, but purses his mouth in return, his lips still tingling and stomach fluttering, even with the added layers of separation.
Kongpob pulls away, the corner of his eyes crinkling with a smile. Even with his mask, Arthit’s furious blush reaches his ears.
“I’m sending you packing now.” he stalks off down the path, Kongpob jogging to catch up.
“P’Arthit, but we won’t be able to do that as much when I’m gone!”