Chapter 13: Balance: ฿653

Arthit sluggishly makes his way up the steps of his building late on Saturday evening, having put in an extra hour at the cart after the game. He’s halfway up the last flight, reaching into his pocket for the apartment keys when he hears another set of footsteps behind him.

“You just finished, too?”

Prae shoves her now-frizzy hair into a messy bun, and parks herself onto a step, stretching her toes out in her flip flops.

“Yeah,” he sighs, plopping down on the step beside her. “I’m completely wiped.”

His body, indeed, is heavy with physical fatigue, but his mind is alert beyond belief, racing with endless spirals of thoughts surrounding the day’s events.

“So…that was fun today, right?” Prae picks at one of her fingers. “You had fun?”

“I…yeah, I guess.”

Fun? He doesn’t know if he can call the mental marathon following their day fun, but spending time with people he trusted and liked? With Kongpob? He supposes it had been sufficiently enjoyable.

“You think Kongpob had a good time?”

“I don’t know,” he shrugs, picking at a loose thread on his jeans. Her voice is clearly teasing, but he’s not got much energy at the moment to be embarrassed at the mention of Kongpob’s name.

“Wow,” Prae cocks an eyebrow at him. “You’re not even going to argue back?”

He exhales slowly, choosing not to respond. Instead, he’s now twirling the thread around his forefinger, so tightly that it’s zigzagged white where the thread digs into his flesh. Prae watches him for a moment, a burning question knitted in her brows.

“Do you like him or not?”

Like? What does that even mean, really?

Arthit doesn’t think he’s ever liked anyone before, what with how literally everyone his age with the exception of Prae (until recently) had essentially deemed him worthless for the better part of his entire life. He doesn’t think he’s even had a passing crush, let alone true, full-fledged, feelings, and he’s not about to jump to conclusions with the first classmate who’s actually nice to him.

“I…don’t know,” he answers, truthfully. “And it doesn’t matter, anyway.”

“Why? Because he’s a boy?”

“Prae, you know that’s the last thing that bothers me.”

It’s true. His most consistent friend sitting next to him had come out to him just two years ago, and he’d simply asked her, Does that mean I can finally tell Mae that I don’t have to marry you?, which they’d both laughed over. His mother, if the previous night’s rather embarrassing conversation were any indication, is not opposed to the idea, either.

No, the fact that Kongpob is a boy is the very least of his concerns.

“Then what is it?”

“You know exactly what, Prae,” he mumbles, glancing sideways at her inquisitive expression, her head tilted slightly. “His mom was the one who specifically requested that I move classes.”

Kongpob’s mother. Powerful wife of one of Bangkok’s richest businessmen. A major financial contributor to the school’s annual events. 

Head of the PTA.

Prae sighs, pulling her legs up under her to sit Indian style.

“I’m guessing that’s why you freaked out when you saw her today?”

“It’s just better that she doesn’t remember me,” Arthit pulls his finger out of its thread-prison, watching as the blood rushes back through the previously cut off vessels. “And he doesn’t need to know, either. It would just…scare him off.”

“You don’t even know that it was him who asked her to do it,” Prae rolls her eyes. “From what I can tell, he has no idea what even happened. Didn’t you say that he only recently found out about your card?”

He nods, realising that he’s probably overthinking the entire matter, but nevertheless, he still has trouble believing that Kongpob’s friendship truly has no ulterior motive. He’d once yearned so desperately for his friendship before and the second he’d acted upon his deep admiration (infatuation?), it had backfired so badly that he’d begged his mother to switch schools at the time. Maybe it had been for the best that he’d moved classes.

Better safe than needlessly get hurt. Again.

“So it’s just his mother that’s possibly a bigot. It doesn’t mean you don’t still have a chance with Kong.”

“That’s just as bad, Prae,” he huffs in exasperation and buries his head in his hands. “Look, I’m not saying I like him, but hypothetically, how would that even go if his mother already hates me for even possibly being gay? Also, I’m also pretty sure he just thinks of me as a friend.”

Prae snorts at this, actual choked laughter escaping her.

“Okay, I’m willing to bet my father’s cart that Kongpob doesn’t just want to be friends,” she raises her eyebrows pointedly.

“Seriously, he’s just nice to everyone—”

“Yeah, yeah. I didn’t see him wave to anyone else at the game,” she smirks, dodging a half-hearted smack. “But…I see your point about his mother. That would suck to have to hide all the time.”


“So…you do like him, then,” she says, more of a statement than a question. “Otherwise you wouldn’t even be thinking about all of this.”

“I…I don’t know, okay?!” he stands up, eyebrows pinched and ears tinged red. “I’m tired. I’m going to bed.”

Prae shakes her head as he turns and jogs up the last of the steps, quickly opening up the apartment door before sliding down onto the floor behind it.

Perhaps, somehow, his childhood infatuation had developed into something more, or maybe this is just what having a close friend (who isn’t practically your sibling) is supposed to feel like. But he’s not going to dwell on it any more than he’s losing sleep over.

After all, as he’d so blatantly pointed out, it doesn’t matter anyway.

Sunday passes with excruciating lethargy, at least for Arthit.

Kongpob spends most of his remaining weekend day catching up on homework he hadn’t managed to finish on Friday. He holes himself up in his room, completely focused. His phone is turned off and kept at the other side of the room, and he asks Shin for the fourth large cup of coffee before his mother specifically comes up to his room to cut off the habit before he spends the night sleepless.

And she’s right; when he does finally finish the last of his assignments, he has trouble falling asleep despite his mental exhaustion. Instead, he lies awake, restlessly trying to dismiss thoughts about Arthit’s adorably shy smile, and what it would feel like to kiss it. What it would feel like if their breaths were to mingle for just a few seconds. Eventually, the caffeine finally wears off at almost 3AM, and his dreams mimic his last waking thoughts.

Arthit spends his namesake sleeping in until noon, then working for a few hours at the cart before pacing around his room pretending to read one of his five comic books and periodically eyeing his phone, anticipating the frequent influx of messages that he’d grown accustomed to receiving throughout the day on any other weekend.

Not that he expects Kongpob to text him, but since his conversation with Prae last night, he’d (obviously) gone down a slippery spiral of contemplating the possibility of having feelings for Kongpob, and he can’t help but worry that his friend has magically somehow caught wind of his purely hypothetical feelings and decided that he doesn’t want to talk to him anymore.

So when Monday morning rolls around, both boys are exhausted to the point where neither of them realise that they’ve slept through their alarms.

Kongpob, of course, is the first to peek an eye open at 7:06 AM, almost falling out of bed when he realises he’s late for his tutoring session with Arthit. Immediately, he bolts across the room, still looking a right mess from sleep.

Kong☕: p!

Kong☕: oh goh im so sorryyyy 😩😩😩

Kong☕: i spnt all day doing hw yesteday and i overslept

Kong☕: be there asap

He doesn’t even bother correcting his typos or using proper punctuation, texting hurriedly with one hand as his other is busy brushing his teeth while he sits on the toilet, trying to multitask to cut down time. As he spits out his toothpaste, his phone buzzes.

Arthit☀️: …fuck

Arthit☀️: well i guess don’t worry about it

Arthit☀️: i overslept too🤦🏻‍♂️

Arthit☀️: guess we can reschedule?

Arthit☀️: or nvm, we can just cancel

Kong☕: No! It’s fine, we can reschedule!

Kong☕: How does tomorrow sound?

Arthit☀️: i’ll set an extra alarm 😑

“Lunch?” M claps his hand onto Kongpob’s shoulder as he steps out into the corridor. He looks expectantly at Arthit, too, who hesitantly points at himself. “Yes, you too, Arthit.”

Kongpob wavers his glance between his two friends. Sure, they’d eaten together on Saturday, but that had been outside of school.

“I, uh…maybe, I’ll join you after-”

“Yeah, okay,” Arthit says suddenly, and Kongpob twirls to look at him, genuinely surprised.


Arthit shrugs, his face still expressionless. He points at thumb towards the staircase.

“We could all eat on the roof.”


Kongpob hesitates at the idea of welcoming a third party into their place (could he really call it theirs?) but he doesn’t want to be rude to his own best friend, and if Arthit is okay with it, then he has no reason to be.

“Yes, okay. Sure,” he nods, turning to M.

“On the roof?” is all M says as they make their way up the stairs. “What’s up there?”

His jaw drops as he takes in the space, stopping at every plant and sniffing various flowers and fruit, and eventually jumping in excitement upon seeing the basketball hoop.

“This is so cool! How come I’ve never known about this place?”

“I only knew about it because of the student council,” Kongpob chuckles, seating himself at the bench across from Arthit. He smiles upon unscrewing the lid of his thermos, inhaling the fragrant waft of lemongrass, coconut, and lime from the fish soup.

M doesn’t respond, busy dribbling a stray basketball and attempting several shots at the hoop without accidentally throwing the ball off of the roof. Arthit smirks at this, snapping open the lid of his lunchbox. He peers over at Kongpob, who’s sipping at a spoonful of a creamy white liquid.

“What’s that?”

Tom kha pla,” Kongpob fills his spoon up again, holding it out to him. “Want some?”

Arthit regards the spoon held in front of his face, and the cogs in his dead turn with difficulty, trying to work out if Kongpob is seriously trying to feed him, or if he’s supposed to take the spoon.

“Uh…that’s okay,” he says, gently pushing his hand away so the liquid doesn’t drip.

“Just try some. It’s really good, I promise,” Kongpob moves the spoon towards him again.

M is still distracted, pumping himself up every time he makes a basket. Arthit briefly glances at him from the corner of his eye, then back at Kongpob, who’s waiting expectantly. 

It really shouldn’t be as big a deal as he’s making it to be.

It’s just a spoon.

He leans forwards, quietly slurping up the broth. It’s got a wonderful, nutty flavour, with just a hint of a kick – not spicy, but more like the warmth of fresh ginger.

“It’s really good,” he nods, looking down when Kongpob smiles at him. “Your mother makes you lunch?”

“She likes trying out different recipes,” he smiles, his cheeks warming under tanned skin as he discreetly nips at the spoon that had just been at Arthit’s mouth. “M is always trying to get her to adopt him.”

“Do you ever cook?” Arthit says, mostly just trying to keep the conversation going.

“No,” Kongpob laughs a little. “Mae tries to teach me basic stuff sometimes, but I can’t even fry an egg without burning it.”

“You can’t fry an egg?”

“I’m hopeless, okay? Just not one of my skill sets. I’m guessing you’re an excellent cook, unless grilled meat is the only thing you can make.”

“I can cook,” Arthit nods, chewing on a cashew. “Por taught me a lot when I was a kid.”

“Marriage material, you are,” Kongpob jokes, but Arthit’s cheeks turn slightly pink. “Hey, if you don’t mind me asking…what exactly…” he trails off awkwardly.

“He passed away from a heart attack when I was in ninth grade. He…was also severely overweight and diabetic, which just made things even more complicated.”

Kongpob just nods, trying and failing to come up with words to say.

“It’s fine; you don’t have to say anything,” Arthit cuts into his broken chain of thoughts. “It was a while ago, and if anything, it gave me a kick up the ass to finally do something about my own…predicament.”

“I found you in the yearbook,” Kongpob suddenly recalls, trying to move from the subject. “You were so cuuuute,” he teases, reaching out to pinch Arthit’s right cheek, and promptly being swatted away with a disapproving tut.

“I’ll have you know that my mother says I’m still very cute, thank you very much,” Arthit says snarkily, jabbing his spoon in Kongpob’s direction. The tanner boy laughs, amused by his friend’s remark. 

“Yeah, you are.”

And then it grows quiet, both of them dawning with the realisation of what Kongpob has just said.

Arthit cautiously brings a hand up to his ear, trying to cover the reddening tips. 

It’s just a compliment. He’s just being nice. It’s what friends do.

Kongpob, on the other hand, is simply staring into his soup, chewing on his bottom lip at trying to think of something that might cancel out what he’s just admitted.

“Kong!” M calls out, relieving them both of their embarrassment. “I’m going down. It’s nice here, but too quiet. You two have fun!” he jogs over, picking up his backpack and nodding in Arthit’s direction before heading towards the door.

Arthit watches after him before setting his spoon down.

“Hey, uh, sorry about….you know, just inviting M here. I know this is kind of your secret spot.”

“Oh, it’s fine. It’s not really a secret, and it’s just M. I don’t think he’s going to go around advertising it to everyone.”

“I’m just…not ready yet.”

“I know.”

They exchange a small smile before returning to their food, finishing it in silence.

Prae🍐: lover boy is here to see arthit again

M🎯: is he there often?

Prae🍐: almost every day

Prae🍐: except weekends

Prae🍐: any news on your end?

M🎯: i had lunch with them today, sorta

M🎯: did you know that they eat together?

M🎯: ALONE? on the rooftop garden of the school????

Prae🍐: what???

Prae🍐: sounds a little romantic to me 🤭

Prae🍐: and???

M🎯: i swear they were flirting

M🎯: i think i heard kong called him cute

Prae🍐: asdfjkahlsgj


M🎯: they basically forgot i was there

Prae🍐: way to go, kong!!

Prae🍐: and then??

M🎯: and then i think arthit didn’t know what to say so it was awkward

Prae🍐: 🤦🏻‍♀️

Prae🍐: of course he did

M🎯: so nothing from arthit then?

Prae🍐: well it’s only been two days

Prae🍐: i did talk to him the other night

Prae🍐: i straight up asked him if he liked kong

Prae🍐: he basically said he doesn’t know and it’d be a bad idea anyway

M🎯: what?!! why?

Prae🍐: idk how much you or kong know

Prae🍐: but arthit had to move classes in eighth grade

M🎯: …kong’s mae…of course

M🎯: is our ship sinking before it even gets to sail 🙁

Prae🍐: idk 🙁

Prae🍐: so it’s true then? she had him moved?

M🎯: yeah

M🎯: kong doesn’t know about it though

M🎯: although it makes no sense why she would do that

M🎯: according to what my mae told me, she fought really hard at the time to have the bullies suspended

M🎯: but she and my mae were outvoted because those kids’ parents were on the pta too

Prae🍐: that’s weird

Prae🍐: did she know that the card was for kong?

M🎯: i don’t know, actually

Prae🍐: i wish we knew more

Prae🍐: sigh they’re being disgustingly cute

M🎯: what are they saying???

M🎯: maybe take pictures?? 🤪

Prae🍐: that’s really creepy, dude 🤨

Prae🍐: also i’m more than 10 metres away

Prae🍐: but they’re being all cute and smiley and blushing UGH

M🎯: gahhhh keep me posted

Prae🍐: likewise!!

Prae🍐: ok i gtg kong is leaving the stall now

Arthit tries to suppress his growing blush as Kong turns back to smile at him while walking away.

When he’s finally far enough away, he pulls out the notepad from under the cart, something that doesn’t go unnoticed by Prae.

01/09/2014 – ฿33

Balance: 620

Chapter 29: Balance: ฿38

True to M’s word, the damage caused to the school grounds by the flooding had been fairly minimal. A few fallen potted trees, some rainwater welling in the corridor gutters, a few fallen branches off the trees surrounding the basketball court. 

The school custodians can be seen dotted around the campus clearing away the last of the debris, and as Arthit walks up to the entrance, he can’t help but pause in amazement. 

There, where a gaping hole had once been, a fresh slab of cement sits over the drain, never to hospitalise another unsuspecting victim again. Or perhaps he should be thankful, as Kongpob’s accident had been such a significant catalyst in hurdling them in the direction that had led them to where they are. He wouldn’t change a thing. Well, alright, except for the part where the boy had unfortunately been injured. 

As per usual, the classroom is sparsely filled in the early hours, only about twelve or students leaning over their desks or sneaking a peek at their phones before the bell rings. Somewhere along the line, Arthit had stopped feeling disgruntled at the thought of having to haul himself out of bed every morning. Even now, as he yawns into the back of his hand at his desk, he can’t bring himself to be particularly bothered by his hazy current state of mind. 

He’s deep into his usual routine of ingraining himself into a chapter of the Peanuts volumethat he’s read at least a hundred times, and Charlie Brown has made yet another self-deprecating remark. Perhaps he would get a mediocre grade for choosing a comic strip for his book report presentation, but frankly, it’s the only reading material in English that he knows well, and if he has to hear yet another presentation about the same book they’d been assigned two years ago in required reading, he will gladly saw his own ear off. 


A familiar voice alerts him out of his stagnant reading. Kongpob leans against the wall by the desk, briefcase still clutched to his chest. By now, about thirty more of their classmates have filed in, the chatter having increased to a mild hum around them. 

“Hey,” Arthit smiles, closing the book. 

“You’re not going to bookmark?”

“I’ve read this so many times, I could describe each frame to you without even looking.”

“I believe that.” Kongpob nods, then breathes a short laugh. “You know, just two months ago, you were telling me to stop talking to you and that we weren’t friends.”

Arthit raises an eyebrow, folding his arms in front of him now.

“What’s your point? That you won me over, or something?”

“No, although now that you mention it, I really hit the jackpot.”


“Kidding,” he laughs. “I just mean that I was reminded because I saw you reading that book.”

“Uh huh,” Arthit rolls his eyes, although he’s smiling.

“You’re not presenting until next week, right?”

“Yep, Monday. Are you doing yours today?”

“Yeah,” he unclasps his briefcase and pulls out the printed report. “It, uh….it took me most of yesterday, but I think I’m ready.”

“Well then, I look forward to pretending to understand what you’re saying.”

Kongpob simply grins, and places his paper down. He almost reaches for Arthit’s hand, before the latter quietly clears his throat, his gaze shifting to the forty or so other students in the classroom. They’re distracted by their own conversations and preoccupations, but just a passing glance; one fleeting moment of observation could set off a chain reaction of whispers.

Following his line of vision, Kongpob’s breath shortens for a moment with realisation, and his former mischief dissolves into distracted disappointment. 

A part of him had known all along what Arthit had meant when he’d said that hiding sucks. He’d known, and yet he hates it with a burning passion. Others could shout about their first loves from the mountains or exchange unabashedly smitten stares across tables of crowded cafes. The jealousy leaves a bitter taste that he can’t wash down.

But he doesn’t want to put another person’s safety in danger again, especially not Arthit’s. His mind wanders to the contents of his upcoming presentation, and he swallows at the potential risk he’s about to take. 

One day, he reminds himself. One day I’ll hold your hand, walk you home, kiss your cheek in broad daylight, and nobody will even blink. 

For now, he sighs, retracting his hand. 

“You’ll do great,” Arthit reassures him softly, as if sensing the shift in his demeanour. Then, he looks down at Kongpob’s report. As if reminded of an inside joke, he suppresses a smile and turns the paper towards him, picking his pencil up off the desk.

“What are you writing?”

“No peeking!” he curls his hand around the page, pointing the eraser tip in mock warning at Kongpob, who shrinks back. He looks down smugly again, writing as neatly as possible at the bottom of the second page. Then, satisfied with his work, folds the document in half and tucks it into Kongpob’s open briefcase.

“P’Arthit,” Kongpob laughs, trying to undo the clasp, only to have his hand swatted off of it. “What did you write?”

“Nothing. You’ll see later.”

“You didn’t draw anything vulgar, did you?”

“You’re right, I drew a penis on your homework. Now go back to your seat. Class is about to start.”


He’s effectively silenced when the bell rings, leaving him with no choice but to return to his seat, but not before stealing one more sceptical glance between his closed briefcase and the boy smirking at him, an oddly gratifying sensation from someone who’d once only scowled in his direction.

“…and…I very like this book. It is interesting. It have the good people and the bad people. Also have many colours. It is good. I like it so much. I give 100 marks. This is end of my talk. Thank you.”

The boy bows, pushing his thick glasses up the bridge of his nose with a proud grin as he holds up a shabby, faded library copy of Elmer the Elephant, likely something he’d wrangled out of his infant sister’s hands that same morning. Following several excruciating moments of deeply uncomfortable silence, Teacher Lynn clears her throat.

“Yes, uh…thank you, Oak. That was…well, thank you.” 

She gives him a tight smile as he returns to his seat, immediately shoving his illustrated book into his desk drawer, likely to become one of many crumpled, forgotten items. Her eyes widen in disbelief at her own words before making a few carefully supportive remarks on her clipboard: Try to choose a book with a reading level that is more appropriate for your age. Happy to offer some suggestions if necessary. 

Frankly, she could dismiss less than perfect grammar and pronunciation. After all, not everyone is linguistically inclined. That being said, it’s about as constructive a comment she can make, given the bespectacled boy’s heinous track record of idleness and last-minute preparations. 

“Kongpob,” she looks up, slightly relieved. She gestures to the front of the classroom, the space awaiting him. “Whenever you’re ready.”

Kongpob gulps a little, nodding as he pulls out his report and book from his briefcase. He’d stayed up an extra hour going over each and every word again and again, just to make sure it said exactly what he wanted it to. Despite always having always performed well in English, he didn’t particularly like the attention that public speaking drew towards him. There were also certain expectations of him from his peers, not to mention that it would make for a third of their semester grade. He could only hope to not disappoint. 

Most of the class is zoned out, struggling to stay awake after listening to what was possibly the twentieth presentation of that week. As Kongpob eyes wander around the room, he can see maybe only ten or so of his classmates watching him intently, including M, who shoots him a subtle fist pump, and Arthit, who appears equally nervous, lips mashed together behind clasped hands.

This could go well, or it could go so terribly, terribly wrong. But he has nothing else.  

After several moments, he sucks in a deep breath, eyes fixed on the paper in his hands.

Good morning, everyone. Today, I’d like to talk about a book that has become very important for me in these past months. I first read this book two years ago after I borrowed it from my sister. She told me that it had helped her through some difficult times when she felt that she couldn’t live up to people’s expectations. I…didn’t really understand it back then, partly because the language was quite difficult for me.”

He pauses, licking at his bottom lip, which has gone dry. 

“The Danish Girl is a novel by David Ebershoff, and is a fictional retelling of the life of a Danish painter named Lili Elbe. Elbe was born as Einar Wegener, a…a man with a wife named Greta. The primary focus of the story follows….it talks about….”

Kongpob pauses, scratching at an invisible itch on his face. He steals a glance at M, who nods once in an attempt to prompt him onwards, although the giant gauze plastered on his face is somewhat distracting from his overall expression. 

It…One day, Greta is supposed to do a painting of one of her friends, a woman called Anna. However, Anna is unable to attend their session on time. Greta still needs to finish the painting, though, so…so she asks Einar to dress up as Anna and model the pose for her. Anna…arrives later and sees Einar…uh…dressed as a woman, so she names him ‘Lili’.”

Either nobody understands a word, or they’re too tired to care, but contrary to Kongpob’s prior dread, there are no hushed whispers or disparaging snickers muffled behind hands. 

Uh…At first, Greta finds it amusing to bring her husband out to parties as Lili. But Lili soon finds herself enamoured with her new identity, even briefly engaging in a relationship with a man she meets at a party. However, she gets sick and has nosebleeds often, especially when she appears as Lili. I think…I think that the author used these physical reactions to show how Lili struggles between her new identity as a woman and the expectations that other have of Einar. She…didn’t know that Lili would be what she truly identified with…”

He pauses again to take several deep breaths, feeling slightly less antsy now, realising that most of the class’ attention has already been numbed into tired apathy. How ironic, it dawns on him. To think that he’d once placed so much importance on how others looked at and thought of him, when he’d been his own perfectionist critic all along.  

“…until she became Lili and realised…she was Lili all along. But Einar was married, and widely known as a man. However…what impressed me most about this story was not Lili. It was Greta. For me, Greta is the true heroine of the story. I don’t mean that Lili was not brave for eventually accepting herself and seeking reassignment surgery. She was. But she was sometimes careless with others’ feelings, too, as we all are at times. And I’ve come to understand just how important it is to have people around us who unfailingly love and support us.”

This time, when he lifts his eyes from the page, he looks straight at M, who holds his breath, stunned.

Greta began as Einar’s wife, and she loved him then. That is the first kind of love she gave, and Einar trusted Greta enough to make the big decision of becoming Lili. Greta gave Lili the gift of living her life from a whole new perspective. Lili discovered romance and attraction like she never had before, and even if it wasn’t always perfect, it was real.”

Arthit only understands a portion of what he’s said, his secondhand anxiety really only registering romance, attraction, and it was real as Kongpob’s gaze falls on him. His entire face burns with a raging blush, and if literally any more than five people were paying attention, he would hide under his desk. Luckily, though, the boy returns to his speech.

However, it’s really after Lili begins to transition and let go of Einar that we can see just how much Greta cares for her. She’s sad that she loses Einar as her husband and struggles a lot with her emotions. The quality of her paintings also get worse. But even then, she puts her own pain aside to accept Lili and never makes her feel like her happiness is unimportant. Till the very end of the story, Greta unselfishly cares about Lili’s happiness and well-being, even if she doesn’t always agree with Lili’s choices, and even if it hurt her to let Lili continue her journey on her own. 

I’d like to share this excerpt from the story. It’s from the last chapter, after Lili undergoes her final operation. 

A tram called, and then the bell for a cathedral. And for once Lili stopped thinking about the misty, double-sided past and the promise of the future. It didn’t matter who she once was, or who she’d become. She was Fräulein Lili Elbe. A Danish girl in Dresden. A young woman out in the afternoon with a pair of friends. A young woman whose dearest friend was off in California, leaving Lili, it suddenly felt, alone. She thought of each of them — Henrik, Anna, Carlisle, Hans, Greta. Each, in his own way, partially responsible for the birth of Lili Elbe. Now she knew what Greta had meant: the rest Lili would have to undergo alone.

The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff

“I actually don’t know a lot about the type of transition that Lili went through, and it’s not something that I can relate to, so I don’t think it’s good for me to try and speak from that point of view. But I’ve recently had many major changes happen in my own life. Some were welcome, others were not. I may not understand the exact experiences from the book, but I think that Lili and Greta have shown me something valuable. That love, in all forms, means helping each other grow in our own ways, respecting each other’s boundaries, and always being honest with each other. Thankfully, I do have a Greta in my life, but unlike Lili, I hope that I never have to part with them. Thank you.”

M is sniffling back tears, mouthing a silent Fuck you as he grins through his embarrassment. He winces a little as he wipes his nose, the swelling still sore and tender. Arthit peers over at him, mildly amused by their friend’s snivelling state, and equally touched by Kongpob’s sentiment. 

Kongpob’s eyes reach the end of his report, and when he sees what’s written at the bottom in pencil, he can’t help the fluttering in his stomach.

Well done! I’m proud of you. ^3^

As traffic bustles by behind Kongpob, he tucks his briefcase under one arm, inhaling the delicious scent that not only satisfies his palette, but his heart, too.

“You can’t stick around today?”

Arthit re-ties his apron strings behind him, then tucks his hand towel back in the waistband. 

“Aww, are you asking me to stay?”

“Shut up. I’m just asking.”

“No, I can’t,” Kongpob says through a chuckle. “I have to go for a checkup for my ankle.” 

With a nod, Arthit pulls out the notepad, now battered and the corners curled upwards from being flipped through over time. He swallows a little as he clicks his pen open. There’s a microscopic part of him, the tiniest of voices in the back of his mind that is still unconvinced that Kongpob had truly kept coming back without intentions other than to eat his fill of meat skewers. 

Perhaps, now that the balance had reached the based of the barrel, he would stop coming by almost every day. He’d stop feeling obligated. He would—

No. Stop.

He pushes the thought back into its cage and kicks the door shut with a resounding clang. 

“Uh…do you want food?”

Kongpob watches him fidget with the edge of the notepad, and nods.

“Yeah. I’ll have…” He pauses, mentally running through the sum he’d rehearsed over a hundred times on the way to the cart, almost positive that he has it right. Then he says, looking straight at Arthit, “Three of the pork and three of the beef.”

He moves enough to fill the order to the hotter part of the grill, brushing more marinade on the beef for an extra glaze, just the way he knows Kongpob likes it. 

“Three of the…” Arthit furrows his brow, suddenly doubting his keen for mental arithmetic. ฿5 times three…that’s 15….and ฿8 times 3 is 24….that’s…no, that’s definitely….39…? “But that’s—”

“฿39. I know,” Kongpob says. 

“Kong, the balance is at—”

“฿38. Again, I know.”

Arthit stares at him now, unsure now of what his the boy in front of him is trying to achieve.

“Um…then I guess you’ll have to make up the difference in cash.”

“Oh,” Kongpob nods. “Yes, of course.”

He reaches into his pocket for his wallet, making a rather exaggerated show of peering into the opening with a deep frown. Arthit narrows his eyes, arms akimbo as Kongpob lets out a deliberate gasp, followed by a tight-lipped frown. 

“I don’t have exactly ฿1. Do you perhaps have change?”

Slowly, carefully, he pulls out what looks like—confirming Arthit’s suspicions—a ฿1000 note.

“Kongpob, what are you doing?”

“I mean, I have to pay the difference, don’t I?”

His mischievous grin reaches his eyes, clearly enjoying the scene unfolding before him.

Arthit shakes his head, laughing in disbelief. “Yes, but—”

“Well? Do you have change? This is all I have.”

“Kong, you know I don’t.”

“Arthit, you mean to tell me that you run a business in which you handle cash and don’t hold enough change for ฿1000?”

He raises an eyebrow. Okay, I’ll play along.

“Even if I did, I can’t give it all to you, smartass. I’d have none left for other customers.”

“I see,” Kongpob grins. “Then…I guess you should keep it.”

“I can’t charge you that much for six skewers,” Arthit is grinning now, sticking the skewers in a paper container and handing them to Kongpob. “Here, just take them and go.”

“I can’t do that.”


“Yes, P’Arthit?”

He looks at him pointedly now. “What are you doing?”

“I’m not going anywhere, Arthit,” he says, eyes softening now. He holds the banknote up, then slides it across the worktop. “Skewers or not, I’ll keep coming back without proper change until you’re tired of me and never sell me moo-ping again. And even then, you won’t have seen the last of me.”

Arthit just stares at him now, mouth hanging open just slightly, breathing out words he can’t articulate. Indeed, in all these past years, the last two months had brought him more joy than anything he’d ever experienced. Yes, he would love to have Kongpob pester him for the rest of time. 

Eventually, he allows the warmth in his chest and smile on his lips to take over, not even bothering to mask the flush in his cheeks.

“I guess all that math practice finally did something useful for you, huh?”

“Oh, no, I’m still going to need you to keep track for me. I’ve got a tutor to keep busy.”

“You’re ridiculous.”

“So it’s a deal, then?” Kongpob tilts his head in question.

Arthit just rolls his eyes, his smile never leaving his face.

“Do whatever you want, Kongpob.”

 25/09/2014 – ฿39

 24/09/2014 – + ฿1000

Balance: ฿999


Chapter 14: Balance: ฿620

Much to the disappointment of Prae’s curiosity, Kongpob doesn’t stop by Arthit’s cart again for the rest of the week. When she finally can’t curb the need to know more without raising suspicion, she texts M, who simply informs her about the added basketball practice they have with their upcoming game. 

To the untrained eye, it would seem that she had an unhealthy obsession with her neighbour’s budding (read: painstakingly slow) romance. But Praepailin hasn’t seen her friend smile so much since they were small children, and she firmly believes that Kongpob plays a major role in this occurrence.

All throughout middle school, she’d listened to him talk about a boy he named ‘SuperKong’ and how since the day he’d witnessed his hero stop a group of rowdy boys from pushing one their classmates into the school pond just to make her shirt go see-through, Kongpob had become his idol to whom he wanted to be a loyal, if rather pathetic, sidekick. 

Even though they’d gone to different schools, she’d become accustomed to sitting with him at his dining room table doing homework and eating their dinner together until their respective parents got home.

Arthit’s father, a man larger than life both in size, volume and presence, would often joke about the two of them getting married in the future, making both of them equally uncomfortable.

“I don’t want to marry you, Arthit,” she’d told him plainly one day as she watched him draw a cape on a stick figure, the back of the two-dimensional fabric adorned with a large letter K.

“I don’t want to marry you, either,” he’d replied, somewhat amused at the sudden announcement.

“I…think I want to marry a girl one day,” she’d said, just loud enough for him to hear. She’d looked at him, eyes searching his for any sort of reaction. He’d paused to comprehend what she’d meant, then slowly nodded with a small smile.

“Okay. I guess I should tell Mae to make Por stop joking about us, then.”

“Thanks,” she’d smiled back. Then, she’d watched as he’d shaded in the scrappily drawn cape with the edge of his pencil. “Do you want to marry Kongpob?”

“Wh-what?” he’d sounded startled.

“Well, you like him, right?”

“He…doesn’t even know me. How could I like someone I’ve never spoken to?”

“Just asking,” she’d shrugged.

“I just think he’s cool and he’s not mean like the other kids,” he’d clarified. “Besides…Por would never let me, anyway. You know he doesn’t like it when boys like other boys,” he said this last part in a much quieter voice.

Prae had nodded, recalling a particular disturbance in the night, courtesy of Arthit’s parents very loudly arguing about how his father had refused to sell food to two men because he’d seen them holding hands. I can’t believe I married someone like you!, she’d heard his mother scream at some point. 

For as long as she could remember, things had always been tense in her neighbours’ apartment. Throughout the years, she’d watch Arthit bend over backwards to make his father happy, whether it be accompanying him on his frequent bingeing sprees around the market, learning how to ‘cook like a man’ on an open fire, or hiding empty beer bottles in the dumpster behind the next building before his mother got home and found them. He would do all of this, if only to keep some semblance of peace in the household. 

As far as she knows, the man had never laid a hand on either his wife or son, but she and her parents knew that his jolly demeanour was reserved only for public settings, disappearing as soon as the apartment door closed and he’d had enough liquor in his blood that he would air his misdirected grievances. 

After Arthit moved classes, his father had drunkenly shouted at his mother one night during the summer, blaming her for coddling their son and turning him into one of those sissy boys who writes love letters to his classmatesNo wonder he’s a fucking queer! 

Prae could only pretend not to hear his hateful words, trying and failing to focus on helping her own father chop hundreds of scallion stalks in their tiny kitchen, silently shedding tears for her friend who was probably crying twice as hard into his pillow. 

The man’s voice could have shaken the entire building and after several moments of subsequent silence, a young, scared and crying Arthit had come banging on Prae’s door begging her parents to call an ambulance.

There’d been no more shouting after that.

Prae thinks it’s fate that Kongpob has re-entered Arthit’s life, like life’s reward to him for enduring his past troubles, and while she won’t say that she’s glad his father is gone, it’s certainly an obstacle that Arthit doesn’t need. 

But she also knows there’s some deep-seated guilt in her beloved friend. While he resented a lot of the things his father had inflicted upon him and his mother, he felt as though his death had been at least partially his fault, despite his mother’s insistence that there was nothing wrong with him even if he did like a boy.

All that said, the last two years had seen much weight—both literally and figuratively—lifted off of Arthit’s shoulders, even if he’s still crawling out of his reluctance to trust new people.

It’s with relief that Prae watches a familiar pink and white jersey come into view, sparking a light that had once been lost from her friend’s eyes.

“I feel like I haven’t seen you in forever,” Kongpob pretends to pout, shifting his duffel bag to rest behind him. He’s being melodramatic, of course, but he can admit, if only to himself, that he’s more than happy to fill every spare moment he has in Arthit’s presence.

“We had lunch together, like, seven hours ago.”

“Yeah, but I missed coming here and talking to you,” he says, eyes scanning the grill as he inhales the sweet aroma of the sizzling food, which provokes a loud rumble from his stomach, one that can be heard even over the bustling traffic behind him.

“I think you mean that your stomach misses my food,” Arthit raises an eyebrow, a slightly amused smirk on his face.

“What can I say? The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,” Kongpob shoots right back, although he’s only half-joking. His remark, however, earns him an exaggerated gag from Arthit. 

“Please, save that crap for desperate girls when you’re in university,” Arthit shakes his head. “What do you want?” he points his chin towards the grill.

“I think I’ll take five of the beef, actually. Could do with the extra iron and protein.”

“That bad, huh?” Arthit lays out the skewers, subtly watching as Kongpob pulls his arm across his chest, tugging it in with his other hand to stretch his shoulders and triceps, still slightly moist with sweat. He gulps, and forces his gaze away to check on another customer’s batch of skewers.    

“The finals are next weekend, so Coach Pak is being extra tough on us lately,” he says, rolling his shoulders back to loosen his sore muscles. “I’ve also had to stay up late to get homework done, too.”

Arthit nods, taking a written order from yet another customer as Kongpob continues talking, before she heads towards an open area behind him with fold-out tables and plastic stools.

“But I’m going to try and get as much done tonight as possible.”

“I thought you said the game was next weekend?”

“It is, but we’ve got a short practice again tomorrow morning,” he sighs heavily, before perking up slightly, remembering something. “Actually, the team are coming over to hang out for a bit tomorrow after practice. Do you…want to join? We’re just going to order pizza and play video games.”

“Uh…” he starts, but gnaws at his lip in hesitation. His mother would most likely have no issue with him taking a few hours off again, but the thought of being in the company of so many new people is far from appealing to him. “Maybe not. I don’t really know them.”

“Well there’s really only six of us, and you already know me and M,” Kongpob says lamely, knowing he’s not making much of a case.

He realises that it’s a far stretch, asking someone as emotionally reserved as Arthit to be around even more new people, but he thinks it doesn’t hurt to ask. After all, even though the idea of other people dividing his time with Arthit sparks an inexplicable tightness in his stomach, he’ll take what he can get.

“I, uh…” Arthit slowly stirs his marinade, the thick, syrupy liquid forming a whirlpool in the pail. “I’ll ask Mae and get back to you.”

“Yeah, okay!” he smiles slightly, nodding perhaps too enthusiastically. The corner of Arthit’s mouth turns up just slightly at seeing just how excited Kongpob is. He mentally scolds himself, though, for thinking that someone like Kongpob would ever even think of him that way.

Not that that’s what I want, he thinks. Not that it matters, anyway.

“Um…aren’t your parents going to be home?” he asks absentmindedly, brushing extra marinade onto Kongpob’s order. He’s not sure he can deal with another run-in with Kongpob’s mother just yet.

“Nah, my parents usually go to these fancy business brunches on Saturdays. But Shin should be around.”

Right. With the way Kongpob’s mother seemed to pamper him with exquisite meals and fancy cars, Arthit finds more reason yet to not even consider whatever delusional thoughts he might be having about developing romantic feelings for this boy. 

That, and the the terse, serious look on her face when they’d sat in the principal’s office as the man had informed Arthit that this lady had proposed that he move to the other class. He nods again, and, satisfied with the glaze to grill mark ratio on the skewers, gathers all five of them off of the wire rack and shoves them into an open paper bag.

“Here,” he says. He looks back up, finding that Kongpob is already eating in front of him. “Don’t you have to go home? It’s almost 8PM.”

“Oh, sugar!” Kongpob drops the one finished skewer stick back into the bag. “You’re right.”

Arthit can’t help himself and actually breaks into a wide smile, laughing softly.

“What? What’s so funny?” Kongpob looks up, mirroring Arthit’s dimpled smile.

“We’re not at school anymore, Kongpob. You can say ‘shit’.”

Kongpob rubs the back of his neck, slightly embarrassed, but he’s smiling sheepishly.

“I’m just not used to it, okay?”

“Go on, say it. You know you want to.”


“Say ‘shit’,” he exaggeratedly mouths the word for emphasis.

“No, I’m not going to—”

“Say it!” Arthit is grinning now, clearly teasing.

“I…” Kongpob runs his hand over his face and sighs, squeezing his eyes shut. “Fine……..shit.” 

It comes out just above a whisper, but Arthit grins proudly at Kongpob’s flushed face, for once breaking his usual composure.

“There we go. Was that so hard?”

“P’Arthiiit,” he whines slightly. “I’m leaving now.”

“Next time, we’ll work on getting you to say ‘fuck’.”

“Bye, P’Arthit,” he ignores him, waving as he heads down the street. Arthit watches after him, and as he’s about to turn his attention back to the cart, he catches sight of Prae’s wagging eyebrows and shit-eating grin. He rolls his eyes and sticks his middle finger up at her.

He’s definitely not telling her about tomorrow, not if he can help it.

05/09/2014 – ฿40

Balance: ฿580


Warning: Mildy mature content

Sunday, June 5th, 2016

“Stop, they’re going to be here any moment now,” Arthit laughs, pushing a very affectionate Kongpob off of him so that he rolls over with a grunt onto the bed. The boy pouts before shifting onto his side, drawing small circles into the soft material of Arthit’s T-shirt over his chest. He watches its steady rise and fall, still slightly heaving from their activity just moments ago.

“I was doing some of my best work,” he jokes, finally pulling his eyes away to look back up at Arthit’s flushed face. His remark earns him a gratuitous eye roll. Arthit pulls at the finger that’s tickling his chest and with it, the attached arm across his shoulders.

“While I will always reluctantly volunteer to be on the receiving end of your handiwork, there are literally only ten minutes before you told the others to get here.”


“Hey, this entire thing was your idea, remember? Let’s open our results together, guys! I’ve been itching to check my results all morning and I swear I’m about to get a fucking rash, I’m so anxious.”

“I can scratch it for yo—ow!”

His arm gets flung back over to him, smacking himself in the face.

“Seriously,” Arthit pushes himself up to sit cross-legged on the foot of Kongpob’s queen-sized bed. “How are you so calm right now? Are you that confident?”

“Of course not,” he reaches up to wipe at Arthit’s reddened bottom lip, still slightly wet from where he’d gently tugged at it with eager relish. “You know how difficult that paper was. I’m pretty sure I saw someone crying when they came out of the exam hall.”

“I don’t think Oak is really a good determiner of how difficult an English paper is.”

Kongpob shakes his head in amusement, sitting up now, too. His laughter simmers out into a faint smile, which doesn’t go unnoticed by his boyfriend. 

“You’re doing it again.”




In the last two years during which they’d spent almost every waking hour and then some together, Arthit had begun to memorise every creased brow, every playful smirk that was up to no good, every lingering pinky against his that ached to hold his hand, and every clouded gaze that would flit longingly between eyes and lips at the end of a long day, before their homework and study notes would fall to the side in favour of learning each other’s unspoken affections. 

Now, Arthit recognises this particular variant of anxiety among his myriad of emotions. 


He runs mindless fingers through the downy hairs along Kongpob’s legs, twisting some of them together into knotted plaits. 

“I’m just thinking about how I might feel in any given case,” he finally says after a moment. “If I don’t have the grades I need for the translation programme—”

“You will.”

Arthit is sure of it. Not only had Kongpob maintained the top grades in both English and Thai for two consecutive years in their cohort, he’d done enough volunteer work, internships and run the English club at school with such mastery that their teachers hadn’t so much as hesitated to draft up their recommendation letters. When he’d subtly boasted about it to his mother in passing, Prae had stood at the sidelines with wide eyes and a shit-eating grin.

Still, he’s come to learn just how much his boyfriend takes it upon himself to surpass everyone’s expectations, even if nobody asks it of him. Between all the different responsibilities they’d both taken on in the last year, it was a wonder that they even managed to get a moment alone together on a regular basis. A stolen kiss here, a hidden clasp of the hands there, and the occasional afternoons spent in each other’s room with the door open about as wide as their intentions to study were pure. 

“But if I don’t, then…that would mean I would probably be studying engineering, just like my parents wanted all along. Stop that,” he pulls Arthit’s fingers away before they permanently tangle his leg hairs into dreads.

“I thought that your sister was training with your Por to join the company?”

“Yeah. But P’Nam is still only finishing her freshman year, and who knows if it’s what she’ll end up wanting to do,” Kongpob pastes on a tight-lipped smile. “But if I do go to engineering school…” he pulls Arthit’s hands into his lap, pressing his thumb into each dimpled knuckle. “I’ll get to see you all day, every day, just like now.”

“Yuck,” Arthit snarls in mock disgust. “Let’s hope you get into that translation programme. Don’t want my future classmates thinking that I brought my boyfriend along as a comfort blanket.”

“You would love having me around. We could…” Kongpob inches forward again, donning a lip bite and slight raise of an eyebrow that Arthit knows all too well.”…share a dorm room.”

“That’s it. You need to be spritzed with holy water.”

Arthit clamps a hand over his boyfriend’s mouth to block eager lips. Kongpob’s laugh is muffled into Arthit’s palm, and he kisses it anyway with a smile. 

“Kong,” he says again, softer this time as his boyfriend presses another kiss against the pad of his thumb. “Promise me, okay?”


“Make a decision that you really want for yourself, whatever that is.”

Kongpob looks up, eyes still with question. 

“What do you mean?” 

“I mean,” Arthit sighs. “You’ll probably do well, so you’ll have options. But I also know you would let other things get in the way of your decision-making process. Just…you should choose what you think will be best for you, and you alone.”

“You don’t want us to go to the same school?”

“No, that’s not what I mean. Of course I want you around.”


“I’m saying that I shouldn’t be the reason you end up choosing that school, if I even get in. And your Por has already said he supports whatever you choose, so don’t let your parents decide for you, either.”

“I know. But what if I end up making the wrong choice?”

“Then…” Arthit twists his lips to the side. “Then you start again. There’s no shame in making changes in your life if they’ll ultimately benefit you.”

And if the past year or two had taught them anything, change—welcome or not—brings with it opportunity to make important decisions. 

Kongpob fondly tracing the sharp outline of Arthit’s nose with his gaze, then nods. “You’re right. And…you, too. If you don’t get in through central admissions, I’ll help you study for the other tests for direct application.”

“You? Help me study?” Arthit scoffs, jabbing a finger into his boyfriend’s chest. “You’re half the reason I barely get any studying done to begin with.”

“I can concentrate when I want to.”

“If I had five baht for every time you’ve tried to distract me from doing homework with…not homework, I wouldn’t have had to tutor you or sell moo-ping anymore to pay for university,” he furrows his brows, but softens his expression at Kongpob’s smile. “But thanks; that’s very thoughtful of you.”

Kongpob’s mischievous grin dampens into something that’s almost sad after a few moments, and he shuffles sideways before lying back into Arthit’s lap to stare up at him, his neck warm against the fabric of Arthit’s shorts. 

“There are only two months left,” he says quietly. “And then we won’t see each other all the time.”

“You say it as though we’re studying in completely different cities,” Arthit muses, playing with the collar of Kongpob’s T-shirt. “Our first choice schools are less than an hour apart.”

“It doesn’t mean I won’t miss you.”

He knows. Of course he knows. 

From the day that they’d been advised to start doing research into further studies, Arthit had watched Kongpob miserably fail at hiding his attempts at scrolling through the arts programme at Arthit’s first choice school, despite its reputation not being quite as stellar. There had been a few times that he’d thought about bringing it up, but then it would seem almost accusatory, and there was just no need to fuel the flames of Kongpob’s already fragile anxiety. 

Still, the part of Arthit that realises how his boyfriend is troubled with the idea of their time together diminishing struggles to fathom the idea of knowing he won’t see Kongpob first thing in class each morning, or have him walk him home after school. Indeed, he would sorely miss his endearingly clingy presence, sneaking pink milk and iced coffee into the library in the early mornings, and doodling secret messages on each other’s thighs in class when they thought nobody else was watching. 

“Yeah…me, too.”

Once upon a time, Arthit might have kept up a pretence of being shy and reserved about letting Kongpob know exactly how he feels. Occasionally, he still does, just to tease him and delight in the way Kongpob’s bottom lip would jut out ever so slightly, both relishing and hating how cute it was. 

His mind drifts back to the week they’d both turned eighteen, just a few months ago, and Arthit had stayed behind after the others had left to help clean up after the party. Kongpob’s parents had said something about going for a walk, and when the lock on his bedroom door had clicked shut, both boys had stumbled backwards, a tangled mess of limbs and bruising, open-mouthed kisses like a heartfelt gift that only the two of them could exchange. 

What had started out relatively innocent had ventured into a hesitant, wandering hand slipping under the back of Kongpob’s shorts to explore previously untouched territory. There’d been a brief gasp coming from Kongpob, who pulled back slightly as Arthit’s fingers had grazed over one particular spot, silently asking permission to explore further. Several seconds of painstaking arousal had passed between them, and then Kongpob had leaned down to recapture Arthit’s lips, a whimper occasionally spilling from his own when the foreign sensation consumed him beyond the ability to contain his pleasure or concentrate on his own hand down the front of Arthit’s boxers. 

The room is as quiet now as it had felt then, and while neither of them have plans of breathing in each other’s secret sounds, Arthit’s chest suddenly aches a little with the envisioned longing for the pure elegance of his boyfriend’s touch, his own name whispered against his lips, the comfort of his easy laughter always next to him, and very much so the thrilling rush of adrenaline that he would feel from the most ridiculous conversations among their small group of friends. 

Change had once injected his life with pure joy, and starting afresh while trying to hold on to the existing parts of his life he had only just come to explore would pose a challenge he wasn’t quite ready to face just yet. But he has to believe in the strength of his present, or everything will fall apart before he even sets foot through a new door. 

Kongpob lolls his head against Arthit’s tummy at one point during their mutually silent contemplation, distractedly fiddling with a hangnail before ultimately chewing it off.

Just then, the aggressive and repeated ringing of the doorbell sounds from downstairs, indicating their friends’ boisterous arrival. Kongpob sits up, patting the back of his hair down, then holding his hand out to Arthit.

“It’s time.”

They’re huddled around the kitchen island now, typing their login details on the central admissions system’s page. Prae had practically brought Chinatown with her, bags full of moo-ping, scallion pancakes, frozen pineapple and enough icy drinks to feed a small army. Or, apparently, just M and Tew, who have already worked their way through half the bag of skewers in the fifteen or so minutes since they’d arrived. 

“How much longer do we have to wait?” M garbles through a mouthful of pancake, already reaching for one of the pineapple slices. 

Kongpob shakes his head. Where the food all goes, he has no idea. 

“About five minutes.”

“Why? We’re all here already,” Prae sips on her drink.

“Well, it doesn’t make for a very good story to tell if you say that you received your results on a June Sunday at 1:55 PM.”

“I can’t believe you’re making us wait to check almost two hours after everyone else has already gotten their results. My mae has been a nervous wreck all morning and asked if she could check for me instead,” Tew frowns at his phone, tapping away before a hint of a smile creeps up on his face, as he’d been doing a lot recently. M leans over slightly to peer at his screen, before raising his eyebrows upon seeing the words P’Tew krub~ towards the end of the most recent message. 

“Hey, I wanted all of us to check together. And at least we won’t be making the server crash with how many people are checking at the same time.”

“Prae, why are you here? I thought you were taking a gap year,” M sulks as she pulls the bag of skewers away from him. 

“Enough, you pig. Save some for the rest of us,” Prae shoves the fragrant bag towards Kongpob, who happily pulls out a pork skewer. He takes a bite before holding it out to Arthit, who shakes his head, but allows Kongpob to rest his hand on his hip from behind him. “And yes, I’m still saving up, but I figured this was one of the last times we’d be able to hang out like this before…you know… y’all fuck off and leave me to rot alone.”

“Aww, Prae…” M cranes his neck to look at her fallen gaze. “I promise we’ll never stop being your favourite pains in the ass. None of us are leaving Bangkok. We’ll come and buy food from yours and Arthit’s carts for the rest of time.”

Such an honour,” she plasters an artificial smile on her face before sneaking a questioning glance at Arthit. You haven’t told them yet? she raises an eyebrow at him. He bites his lip, shaking his head before taking a deep breath.

“Oh…uh, actually, guys? Just letting you know…” his gaze darts between their curious expressions. “I’m selling the cart at the end of the summer.” 

Tew is the first to react.

“Wait, what? Why? When?”

“You are? But I thought you were going to just cut down on hours or something,” M adds, genuinely surprised. Arthit’s stall had become like a landmark of their friendship, where he and Tew would stop by almost every day after school to get their fill of protein after practice, and had served as the kindling of his friends’ romance. 

Kongpob, who’d been the second person after Prae that Arthit had informed of this, simply rests his chin on his boyfriend’s shoulder.

“I…uh, well. Long story short,” Arthit smiles to himself. “It was just time. Mae and I have been talking about it for a while, actually. I’ve already saved up enough money to cover my first two years of university, and I can just work part-time to cover my daily expenses and save for the other two years. Mae has been saving up, too, and we got a loan from the bank, which means…” He pauses mid-ramble to watch his friends’ expectant faces. “…which means we’re moving the grill indoors.”

“Holy shit, dude!” M’s mouth falls open. “That’s amazing!” 

“Yeah, it is,” he places a hand over Kongpob’s on his waist, clutching at his fingers. “Piggy Bank will be up and running in Chinatown by October, if everything goes smoothly.”

Piggy Bank? Is that what you’re naming it?”

Arthit nods. He’d not thought too much about it, but once it had come to him, it stuck.

“What does it mean?”

Kongpob smiles against Arthit’s shirt, sharing in the secret tale of a notepad filled with two years of transactions, a record of their journey that’s only just begun. 

Before M or Tew even get the chance to pry further, though, Kongpob’s phone buzzes on the table, drawing all of their attention towards it as the alarm echoes throughout the kitchen. 

They exchange nervous looks, and Prae grabs onto M and Arthit’s shoulders, her own palms clammy with second-hand restlessness. Then, with breaths held in their throats, phones in their numbing hands, their fingers hover over the Login button. 

“You guys ready?”

Kongpob says, barely a whisper. 

They all nod.




Chapter 15: Balance: ฿580

Kongpob wakes up with a…problem.

It’s seven in the morning when he rolls over, blindly reaching and slapping any surface he can reach before he finally hits the alarm clock, which ceases its infuriatingly loud beeping.

He rubs at his eyes, slowly allowing for the sunlight to seep in, although he’s still squinting. As he cranes his neck to stretch out any kinks, he winces at the cracking noises. At this point, he still doesn’t notice anything.

It’s only as he’s pulling his legs off the side of the bed and throws the blanket off himself that he looks down, and his eyes widen in horror.

Despite being completely alone in his room, he clasps both hands in front of his crotch in embarrassment, before slowly removing them, gently lifting the waistband of his boxers to confirm that yes, he does indeed have a boner.

That’s never happened before, he immediately thinks.

He’s always just considered himself a late bloomer in that department, hearing rather crude comments in the changing rooms about morning wood and some sharing racy photos of scantily clad women on their phones. He usually turns away in disgust, but even M has quietly mentioned to him about the first time it had happened to him almost two years ago.

The first few times he’d heard his classmates laughing about it, he’d stood naked in the bathroom mirror at home, staring at his own crotch for a good ten minutes. 

He’d even touched himself on a couple of occasions, trying to picture what others told him were supposed to be ‘hot’ about women, just to see what kind of reaction he’d get. Sure, it would feel nice, but it would soon get quite boring, and he’d give up, opting instead to focus on shaving the ten or so hairs that had begun to sprout on his chin.

A few times, he’d even tried to picture what the women in his life told him that they found attractive about men. He doesn’t have a problem with the prospect of being attracted to boys, but he’s acutely aware of polarised attitudes towards the matter in society. Regardless, his mental exploration leads to nothing.

No matter how many pictures of large breasts, moistened vaginas, oversized penises or broad, muscled torsos he’d search up the private mode of his phone browser, he’d feel next to nothing.

So why, at sixteen, is it only happening to him now?

What had changed?

His phone pings with a new message, the notification banner simply reading

Arthit☀️: mae says i can come over

Right. Of course.

For the past week or so, he’d begun having dreams, both day and night, in which he saw himself kissing his friend. Alone in bed at night, he’d even wedged his thumb against his index finger, kissing the soft flesh that would form between them and imagining Arthit’s plump, pink lips against his own. A rush of warmth would pass through his entire body, his chest tightening with excitement merely at the thought.

He can’t picture what it would be like to do it for real, nor is he ready to accept what it means that he really, really wants to.

For now, he groans into his hands, slipping into a cold shower (because he’s heard that it helps) and aiming the spray only at his crotch in an attempt to make his problem go away in time for him to get ready and leave for practice.

When he does finally emerge from the bathroom, he picks his phone up to reply to Arthit’s message.

Kong☕: Great! I’ll text you when we’re done with practice.

“Okay, boys, take ten minutes,” Coach Pak calls out after pumping his manual whistle a few times.

The six of them jog tiresomely to their respective spots on the bleachers, reaching into their bags for icy cold bottles of water and wiping sweat off their faces.

M flops down next to Kongpob on the bleacher step, chugging down about half his water before taking in his friend’s somewhat distracted state, if his anxious fidgeting is any indication.

“You okay?” he says, nudging Kongpob in the arm. He pulls out an energy bar from his bag, munching hungrily as he rests his feet on the step below. Kongpob turns to look at him, then pivots his entire body to face him, one leg now resting on the step.

“M, what happened between you and May?”

“Whoa, what? Where is this coming from?”

Kongpob recalls the day his friend had returned from their summer holiday, boasting about dating a girl he’d met at the library, how she was incredibly pretty, kind and polite, and smart to boot. Then, gradually, he’d talked about her less and less until one day, when Kong had asked about her, M simply said that they’d broken up, and left it at that.

“I…I’m just curious.”

M eyes him sideways, trying to gauge what his friend is getting at, but nods slowly.

“Uh, well. I guess it was mostly my fault. She’s really pretty, and sometimes I would catch other guys looking at her, and well, I guess I got kind of insecure. So I’d ask her to stop dressing a certain way, or I’d try to feed her more food so that she’d become less attractive in others’ eyes. But I realise now how she was really offended by that. I was basically narrowing her worth down to her looks.”

Kongpob nods after a moment, trying to absorb what M is telling him.

“So…you don’t — sorry, didn’t — just like her for her looks.”

“Of course not. I told you, right? We met and started talking because we were looking at the same books in the library. I was really impressed by how much she knew about the author and stories. She’s also funny, and smart, but not in the way you would expect. And then I just slowly started finding her physically attractive, too. Like, I would imagine kissing her, and her face would just constantly be on my mind, and—”


He blurts all of this out in a hurry, the words slurring together in a mess of verbal diarrhoea, but M hears every word. He almost chokes on air, his eyes wide in a shocked stupor at what he’s just heard. Kongpob is just looking at him now, hand clasped over his own mouth, in disbelief that he’s just said told someone about having an erection. Out loud.

“I……..okay?” M manages, still bewildered and shifting his gaze from side to side.

Kongpob shakes his head rapidly, then runs a hand through his damp hair.

“Sorry, just…it’s never happened before,” he explains, although somewhat quieter this time, suddenly aware that they might be overheard by their other teammates. “I just woke up this morning, and it was just…there.”

M is just repeatedly nodding now, unsure of what to say.

“Uh…um…did you have any…interesting dreams prior to this?”

“What do you mean?” Kongpob furrows his brows in question.

“Like…a sexual dream,” he mutters quietly, the slight embarrassment of the fact that they’re discussing wet dreams on school grounds not lost on him.

Kongpob seems to ponder this for a moment, trying to recall any flashing images from his deep sleep.

“Does…just kissing count?”

“Maybe? I guess…who were you kissing? In the dream, I mean.”

A shortened breath reaches Kongpob’s throat, and he briefly ponders if he’s really about to tell M this. They’re best friends, yes, but this is the first time he’s been on the sharing end of this conversation rather than a receptacle to M’s excited rambling about his library crush.

But he doesn’t know how much longer he can keep everything that’s been building inside of him for a few weeks now.

“Arthit,” he says, barely a whisper. His entire body grows warm, and he’s certainly not sweating from the intensive training. 

“Huh? Sorry, I didn’t hear you,” M narrows his eyes for a moment, leaning in closer to hear him over the sound of their teammates laughing about something or other.

“I-I said…in my dream I was kissing….Arthit.”

Somehow, saying it aloud makes it feel all too real, and with the realisation, he buries his face in his towel.

“Oh, god, M! I like Arthit!” he groans softly, his voice muffled by the material in his lap as he wrings his hands through his hair.

He feels a hand reach out to pat his back gently, a weak attempt at easing his anguish.

“Yeah…I know…”

Kongpob snaps his head up at this, eyes glassy as he stares waveringly at his friend’s grimacing face.

“What do you mean, ‘you know’?”

M sighs heavily, unscrewing the cap of his water bottle.

“I mean, well, okay, I didn’t know know, not until you just said so, but I certainly suspected. You haven’t really stopped talking about him or paying attention to everything to do with him since you two became friends.”

Had he really been that obvious? True, he’d been dividing more of his time with M and his other friends between his time with Arthit, but isn’t that only natural when your friends run in different circles? Surely, his inexplicable attraction hadn’t been noticed by anyone else.

“If it makes you feel any better, I’ve only noticed because you keep asking me about him. Also, you keep rushing off every day after school, presumably to go see him. And…you seem really happy every time you talk about him.”

Kongpob blushes, unaware that he’d somehow allowed his crush to manifest itself noticeable at all. Then, something occurs to him.

“M, he’s coming over with us this afternoon,” he says all of a sudden, panicking as he digs around in his bag for his phone. “I should tell him it’s cancelled.”

“Whoa, whoa, what are you doing? Stop. Stop.”

M snatches the phone out of his hand, holding it above his head, pointing at his friend with his other hand. “Dude, what is the problem here? You like him, he’s coming to hang out with us, you’re going to get to spend more time with him. Why are you cancelling?”

“I….I can’t like him, M,” he shakes his head quickly. “I can’t.”

“Why the hell not?”

“He’s…so out of my league, M.”

“What does that even mean?”

“He’s like, insanely smart, really hard-working, and he has all these ambitions, and he’s talented, and I just know he’s going to be some genius inventor one day, and he’s funny, M. He just makes people laugh, and you don’t even see it coming, and oh god, he’s got the best smile, and—”

“Okay, that’s nice and all, but none of these things tell me why you think he’s out of your league.”

Kongpob exhales heavily and begins to wring the towel in his hands until his knuckles turn white. 

“He’s all of those things, and I’m just…Kerkkrai Sutthiluck’s son. I’m going to study something I don’t care much about, and everything about my future has already been paved out in front of me, and I’m not even good enough at any of my hobbies to seriously pursue something else. He’s someone of substance, and I’m just…an empty shell, M.”

“Kong,” M shakes his head and drapes an arm around his friend’s shoulder. “You are many things. Impulsive, kind of stubborn, a little too noble for your own good.”


“I’m just saying. You’re hardly perfect, but you’re definitely not an empty shell. Besides, maybe he likes you, too.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t like boys.”

“Last I checked, neither did you. As far as I recall, you didn’t like girls, either.”

“It doesn’t matter. I’m pretty sure he has a thing with Prae.”

M actually laughs aloud, mock wiping a tear from his eye.

“Trust me, he does not have a thing with Prae.”

“How would you know?”

“Prae and I talk sometimes,” he shrugs. “Don’t read into it.” he adds, upon seeing his friend’s curious expression. 

Kongpob sighs again, groaning into his towel as he wipes at some sweat behind his neck.

“Alright, boys, one last practice game and we’ll wrap it up for today!” Coach Pak calls, clapping to get their attention.

M stands up, handing him back his phone.

“Stop thinking so much about it. And don’t cancel on him,” he points, a hint of warning in his tone.

Kong☕: Hi! We’re just wrapping up here.

Kong☕: Some of the guys are going home to change first, so Shin is picking me, M and Tew up.

Kong☕: I’ll meet you at the cart in ten minutes? Or should we come straight to your building?

Arthit☀️: uh the cart’s fine

Arthit☀️: just let me get changed

Kong☕: Haha did you go back to sleep?

Arthit☀️: it’s a saturday and for once i don’t have to work

Arthit☀️: see u in ten

Arthit☀️: wait who’s tew

Kong☕: He’s on the team as well. You’ll like him. He’s nice.

Arthit☀️: u think everyone’s nice

Kong☕: That’s not true!

Arthit☀️: whatever, later

Arthit sets the phone down on his bedside table.

Contrary to what he’d told Kongpob, he’d been wide awake all morning, pacing back and forth in front of his narrow wardrobe. He’d been trying to decide if he should wear his one somewhat dressier blue button down with his nicer, newer jeans, or if he should just opt for what he always wears. 

That is, one of the T-shirts he’d been given as hand-me-downs from the son of P’Boyd, who runs the pad thai stall behind Prae’s stall, and whose daughter Prae had been crushing on for the past year.

It’s not that he’s trying to impress Kongpob (because it’s not like it’s a date or anything), or anyone else for that matter, but he’s acutely aware of the fact that his friend lives in the nicer part of the district, and he doesn’t know if there’s some sort of unspoken dress code for entering that neck of the woods.

After fiddling with his hair in the mirror, tweaking bits of his bangs into something that doesn’t look like he just woke up, he finally settles on a mixture of the two outfits, opting for the button down paired with his familiar, knee-holed jeans, and his usual pair of sneakers. He doesn’t want to look like he thought that much about it.

Kongpob, M, and another kid he vaguely recognises are already at his cart when he arrives. Suddenly, he feels almost intrusive walking into the conversation that’s already taking place between Kongpob and his mother.

He nods awkwardly in acknowledgement when they notice him, wai-ing to the boy who must be Tew.

“Oon, you look nice!” his mother remarks, flipping a few skewers on the grill as she takes in his appearance with a knowing grin.

“What? I wear this all the time,” he shrugs, and turns to the others. “You guys are getting food?”

“Yeah, we’re starving after practice. We’re getting more food later, but we figured that while we’re here, we may as well.”

Kongpob is unusually quiet, kind of cowering behind M, but he’s still smiling briefly at Arthit, who gives a small smile back.

“Uh…who’s watching the drink stall then?” he asks his mother. He peers over at her usual spot.

“Maprang. I thought I’d let her and Prae hang out for today.”

Arthit smiles despite himself. Prae would be happy about that, and for a change, he’d be able to tease her about her crush.

Not that he has a crush on Kongpob. Or, whatever.

As the other boys pay for their food, he pays close attention to Kongpob’s order in particular, making a mental note.

“Bye, Mae,” he says nonchalantly, moving to follow the others.

“Oon, keep your phone on, okay?”

“I will.”

“Just in case. If you need to leave, just call me.”

Arthit looks at her a moment, before nodding slowly.

As he catches up to Kongpob, he gently pulls him back by the elbow, leaning in slightly to speak in a low voice.

“Hey, I’ll pay you back on Monday.”

Kongpob, while he’s nodding, has his gaze fixed on Arthit’s grasp on his elbow, soft fingers around his tan arm. He gulps slightly, and smiles, barely looking up.

“Yeah, okay.”

They make the rest of their way to the car in not an uncomfortable silence.

06/09/2014 – ฿43

Balance: ฿537

Chapter 16: Balance: ฿537

As soon as they’re in the car, Kongpob leans forward from the backseat to hand a bag to the driver, a man probably in his forties.

“Not only do I have your favourite for you today, Shin, but I’ve also brought along the chef,” Kongpob grins, nudging Arthit, who’s sitting on his left.

Shin turns around, looking at Arthit, who’s slightly flushed.

“Well, it’s nice to finally meet you, Arthit. I’m a huge fan of your work. My compliments.”

The boy chuckles awkwardly, but returns the acknowledgement with a simple wai.

“So you’re Arthit!” Tew says, a wide grin on his face as he bites hungrily into a skewer.

“I…you know me?”

There could be a million different reasons why this boy he’d only vaguely recognised as someone on Kongpob’s basketball team would recognise him.

His previous weight? His rumoured sexuality? The cart? What, exactly?

“Yeah, you got the top Maths score last year! Man, I thought you’d beat me just by a point or two, but even I couldn’t be mad when I saw you had a 98.”


He heaves a gentle sigh of relief, nodding awkwardly at the indirect compliment.

“Arthit, you’re tutoring Kong, right?” M says from the front seat.

“Erm…yeah,” he mumbles quietly as he buckles himself into the seat.

“You got room for another student? My mother keeps telling me to get one, but honestly, university students charge so much these days.”

Arthit pauses for a moment, seriously considering M’s offer. One hour of tutoring would equate to about seven or eight orders at the cart, and with how slow things were, especially on Monday afternoons, he would be earning more than he would be sweating behind the grill.

Kongpob seems to interpret Arthit’s silent calculation as hesitation, and after a few moments, replies M with mock nonchalance.

“Oh, I’m sure Arthit is too busy with his job at the cart. He’s already coming in early mornings to tutor me.”

Arthit looks up, meeting Kongpob’s gaze in quiet confusion.

“Uh, actually, I’ve…been wanting to cut down on working at the cart,” he says to M, without tearing his eyes away from Kongpob’s puzzled expression. “It’s our senior year next year, and I need to still be making money while cutting down my hours anyway.”

Kongpob is downright gobsmacked with how Arthit is saying so many words at once, not to mention in the presence of unfamiliar company. He tries to catch M’s gaze in the rearview mirror, but only sees Shin’s eyes focused on the road.

“Well, great! I don’t know if I can pay you the market rate, but I think I could give you 350 an hour.”

“Ooh!” Tew pipes up, finishing his last skewer. “I might want in, too! If we do group sessions, could we get a discount? 300 each?”

“Oh, um…well, I’m only charging Kongpob 250, so—”

“What? Kong!” M snaps his head around to look at his friend.

Kongpob, still bewildered by the entire exchange happening around him, shrugs vaguely.

“I did try to tell him, but he wouldn’t let me pay him more.”

M shakes his head and maneuvers himself to turn further in his seat to look at Arthit, much to Shin’s annoyed concern.

“Okay, listen, Arthit, as your friends, it is our duty to not let people walk all over you. If you’re down for tutoring me and Tew as well, we’d be happy to pay you 350 each. Right, Tew?”

Tew nods in agreement, tapping at Kong’s arm in search of compliance. Arthit, however, is too busy wrapping his mind around how M has just said as your friends, so casually, as if it goes without saying. Was friendship truly this…simple? And if so, where had they been all his life?

“P’Arthit?” Kong says gently, nudging him back to attention. “Are you okay with that? It’s okay if you’re not, I know you’re busy and all—“

“Yeah, okay.”

As M reaches out for a hesitant high five, and Tew begins to chatter about something mundane, Kongpob watches Arthit out of his peripheral vision. Surely, he should be glad that Arthit is able to earn more, and also that he seems to be more receptive towards other people. But the thought of having to share Arthit’s time among his friends leaves him irrationally disappointed.

He remains quiet for the rest of the ride.

Stepping into the Sutthiluck mansion, Arthit immediately feels out of place, like a candy ring pop among 40 carat diamonds. Every inch of floor is a warm, triana yellow marble, and he cautiously notes the living room chandelier, which looks simplistic in design, but is probably worth more than his entire apartment and the cart combined. All the furniture is sleek, modern and sophisticated, but not stiff and unwelcoming. That being said, he still feels like he’s tarnishing the place just by being here.

“It’s really something, isn’t it?” Tew whispers, noticing his awestruck expression. “I had the same reaction the first time I came here.”

Arthit nods in concurrence as M and Kongpob toe off their shoes in the front room. Tew begins engaging him in small talk, mostly about school and their least favourite teachers, all to which Arthit gives simple, but polite responses, nodding and smiling where appropriate. Kongpob had been right; Tew is nice.

Meanwhile, Kongpob grabs M’s arm sharply as they speedwalk further ahead down a corridor past the living room.

“What was that, M? Since when do you need a tutor?” Kongpob whisper-yells once he’s sure they’re out of earshot of the other two.

“Dude, why are you freaking? I thought I was helping your boy out.”

“He’s not my…boy!”

“Not yet,” M says, wagging his eyebrows, a gesture that’s met with a scowl.

“What if he’s not ready for that kind of…social exposure?!” he gestures vaguely, still trying to keep his voice down. “You know he’s had trouble being around new people.”

“He seemed fine to me,” M shrugs, raising an eyebrow. “Maybe you should give him some credit. I don’t think he would so readily agree to it if he weren’t comfortable.”

“I know that! I just mean…like…I don’t know!”

“Right, you’re making perfect sense,” he snickers for a moment, revelling in Kongpob’s exasperated expression.

“M! What do I do? Should I join your group session?”

“Oh my, someone’s jealous,” M smirks in satisfaction. “Don’t worry, I’m not trying to come on to your little crush.” He peeks behind them, where Arthit is nodding briefly and smiling at something Tew is saying. “I can’t say the same about Tew, though. They seem to be very chummy.”

“What?” Kongpob turns to look, too, eyes wide but trying not to be too conspicuous.

“Oookay,” M grabs him by the arm before clapping his hand on his friend’s back. “You need to chill the fuck out, Kong. I’ve never seen you like this. It’s hilarious, but you’re not doing yourself any favours here. Just…relax, and go talk to him…I don’t know, maybe flirt a little.”

“What? How—“

He shoves Kongpob backwards slightly, and the boy stumbles a little before he plasters an embarrassed grin on his face as he comes face to face with Tew and Arthit.

“Um, Tew, you and M can go set up in the den first,” he says hurriedly, waving vaguely behind him.

“Yeah, sure,” Tew shrugs and slings his arm around M’s shoulders as they babble on about their video game stats, effectively leaving Kongpob alone with Arthit, standing in front of the kitchen door.

As the other two voices die down, they stand in the doorway, just looking at each other, small smiles creeping onto their flushed faces.

“Hey,” they say at the same time, before bursting into soft chuckles.

“Um…you’re awfully quiet today,” Arthit remarks, raising an eyebrow. “No clever comments? Not even one?”

“I’m just…kinda tired, I guess.”

Don’t be weird, Kong, just…go with it. He motions for them to enter the kitchen, and heads straight for the fridge, both to get himself some water, and to hide his face as he cools his particularly warm cheeks.

“Here,” he says, handing Arthit a bottle. “Unless you want something else?” he adds hurriedly, opening the fridge again. “We have soda, iced tea, one of those yogurt drinks, orange ju-“

“Water’s fine,” Arthit takes the bottle, nodding slightly. “Thanks.”

“Right, okay, well…”

He scurries over to the overhead cupboards, grabbing several bags of crisps, and then pulls open a drawer, taking out a pizza takeout menu.

“You have a preference for pizza toppings?”

“Um…not really,” Arthit shrugs, unscrewing the bottle cap. “Just…no pineapple.”

“Ah, so you’re one of those people,” Kongpob smiles easily for the first time that day, leaning against the counter.

“What, the kind of person who actually knows their way around food, as opposed to someone who can’t even fry an egg?” Arthit retorts teasingly as he, too, leans slightly against the marble top island in the middle of the enormous kitchen.

Flirt a little…but how?

Kongpob grins and dares himself to step forward, an eyebrow cocked challengingly. He doesn’t really know what he’s doing, but whatever his face is doing seems to be masking whatever his stomach is trying to communicate with its incessant flipping and clenching.

“I’ll have you know that I make a mean bowl of cereal.”

“Let me guess, you do milk first, then add cereal?” Arthit takes another step closer, head tilted as he dons a smirk that’s far more confident than what’s more accurately reflected by the rapid thudding in his chest. He doesn’t know what’s gotten into him, but he just…wants to get closer.

Kongpob takes this as a good sign, and his voice lowers to just above a whisper.

“Is there any other way?”

The gap between them narrows further yet, and Kongpob suddenly forgets the anxiety of his realisation from earlier that day. All he can think about right now is his excitement at potentially making his recent dreams a reality.

“Well, you see,” Arthit inches forward just the tiniest bit, their bodies a little more than a forearm’s length away from each other now, close enough that he can almost feel the warmth radiating off of Kongpob’s chest, and their eyes lingering on each other in way that makes Arthit’s hair stand on end. He swallows slightly. “You’re supposed to pour however much cereal you want first, and then—”

“Hey, Kong!” a too-loud voice resounds from the other end of the kitchen, and the two boys spring apart so fast that Arthit almost curses as he stubs his heel on the edge of the counter.

Grimacing in his temporary pain, he turns to see three other boys, who must be the other members of the team having just arrived.

“Oh, hi, John,” Kongpob clears his throat, his face slightly pink from their proximity just moments ago. Had that really just happened? He mentally shakes his head, nodding in acknowledgement of his new guests. He must not have heard them come in. “M and Tew are in the den. We’re just…um,” he grabs at the open paper menu on the counter. “….ordering pizza.”

“Who’s your friend?” John leans against the doorframe, eyeing Arthit, who has his arms straight along his sides, fingers curled into anxious fists.

“Uh, this is Arthit,” Kongpob says lamely as Arthit briefly nods in John’s direction. If he remembers correctly, M and Kongpob had spoken poorly of this member of their team the last time, and he’s not sure if he wants to associate with him more than he needs to. “He’s in my class.”

John continues to eye Arthit for just a moment more, a sly smirk forming on his face.

“I’ll leave you to your…pizza then,” he remarks, a hint of something indetectable in his voice. He pushes off the door frame, the other two boys following him towards the den.

It’s quiet for a moment, neither boy daring to look each other in the eye.

“Um…is, uh, pepperoni okay?” Kongpob says, eyes pretending to focus on the menu in his hands. “Or maybe the four cheese…” he trails off, simply looking for words that his eyes catch sight of. His mouth feels dry, and he can barely feel himself breathing.

“Y-yeah…that’s fine,” Arthit mumbles, wiping his clammy hands on the back of his jeans. He pauses before grabbing the few bags of crisps off the counter. “I’ll…go take these to the den.”

Without waiting for a response, he slips out of the kitchen, his footsteps muted by his socks as he follows the raucous laughter coming from down the hallway, where he presumes the den is. He stops briefly, leaning against a wall to process his thoughts for a moment.

He isn’t entirely sure, but it seems as though Kongpob might have just…flirted with him. Or perhaps he’d just been teasing again, and they neither had the barrier of a table nor a food cart between them this time. He sucks in a breath, reassuring himself that the latter was more probable.

As he gets closer to the den, he hears shooting sound effects from the TV, and one particularly loud voice that he’d just heard a minute ago, and then his own name. He pauses just outside the doorway, trying as much as possible to remain quiet despite the crinkling packets in his arms.

“So what’s with that Arthit kid?” comes John’s sleazy voice.

“He’s hanging out with us today,” M simply says.

“But why?”

“Because…that’s what friends do?”

“Well, I’ve never met him until today. Although his name sounds familiar.”

“That’s because you don’t pay attention to anyone other than yourself or anyone else who boosts your ego.” M jokes, but there’s a hint of spite to his tone. “Arthit went to our middle school, too.”

“Really? That’s cool,” Tew remarks. “Oh, crap, I died!” he groans, before the sound of a controller clatters to the ground.

“Wait, now that you mention it….holy shit! That’s Porky!”

“Seriously, John? What are you, twelve?”

“I’m just saying, he was huge! And he wrote that love note to Kong, didn’t he? Dude, I knew he was gay. He even has that girly look about him. Is that why he’s here? Is he still pining after Kong? Oh, boy, that’s hilarious!”

“John, I swear to god, shut the fuck up, man,” M sounds increasingly aggravated.

“Arthit likes Kong?” Tew sounds confused by the entire exchange.

“Well duh, he’s like a lost puppy in those animal adoption commercials. You can’t tell me that Kong has any other reason to bring him here than pitying him.”

“I am this close to beating the shit out of you,” M’s voice is now dangerously low.

“Don’t get your panties in a twist, Kathawut,” John’s tone remains unfazed. “It’s not like Kong actually likes him back or anything.”

Arthit sucks in a breath briefly, increasingly uneased with every second that passes in which M says nothing. Why isn’t he agreeing? Why isn’t he saying anything now? Unless…

“Holy shit!” comes John’s nasally voice again. “He does like him, doesn’t he? Kong likes it up the shitter! Oh, man, this is too good! I’m—”

Finally losing all feeling in his arms, Arthit drops the bags of crisps with a noise that draws the five boys in the den to notice him in the doorway. He can’t focus on anything, his head spinning with a million different thoughts, but he meets M’s gaze for a moment. His expression morphs from surprise, to realisation, to anger.

“Arthit,” he manages to choke out, starting to get off the sofa, but Arthit is already backing away.

“I-I’ll just go,” are the only words he can force out before he’s speedwalking down the hallway.

“Are you happy now, John? Honestly, you are such a fucking jerk.”

M drops the game controller and scrambles from his seat to go after Arthit, who’s already several meters away.


But he doesn’t respond, his vision blurring everything around him, only the front door on his mind. And it’s his tunnel vision that blinds him to the figure coming out from a doorway somewhere to his right, resulting in a collision that jolts him out of his spiralling daze.

“Arthit, are you okay? Sorry,” Kongpob says, rubbing his own forehead, but Arthit is already pushing past him. “Wait, where are you going?”

He scurries after his friend, quickly shoving his feet into a pair of sandals before following him down the front drive.

“Arthit!” he finally catches up to him, grabbing him gently by the arm.

“I’m fine, Kongpob. Just…I need to go.” Arthit tries to wrangle his arm out of Kongpob’s grasp.

“What happened? Is something wrong?”

Arthit finally stops, turning to look straight at Kongpob, whose eyes are full of genuine concern. If M’s silence had been a confirmation of a highly unlikely prospect, he should feel elated right now.

His heart racing from their moment in the kitchen, the teasing that he now realises might have subconsciously been flirting, the way Kongpob had gone out of his way to help him slowly, patiently overcome his fears, the frequent visits to the cart.

He wants to believe all of it, because the lingering ache in his chest once and for all confirms for him what he’s been denying for weeks, or maybe even years.

“Nothing. I just…I have to get home.”


“I’ll see you on Monday, Kong.”

He hurries the rest of the way towards the gate, jogging several houses down the street before stopping and pulling out his phone.

Arthit☀️: mae, can u come get me please

Maeon my way

Arthit doesn’t answer his phone or read any messages for the rest of the day. In fact, he continues to pay no regard to the incessant buzzing in his pocket on Sunday. He knows who they’re all from, and frankly, it’s not that he doesn’t want to talk to him, but he just doesn’t know what to say.

So he pushes any creeping thoughts down, busying himself with homework in the morning, and spending his afternoon fulfilling order after order at the cart.

In fact, he’s so ingrained in his familiar task of flipping skewers and fanning charcoal that he doesn’t register who’s in front of him.

Sawasdee krab, what can I get you?” he says almost routinely, barely looking up.

“Five minutes of your time?” the familiar voice stops Arthit in his tracks, and he slowly brings his gaze up to see Kongpob’s tired, puffy eyes and brows pinched in the middle.

Arthit says nothing, deliberately avoiding Kongpob’s unwavering glance as he takes a written order from the next person in line. After placing the raw skewers down, he maintains his distraction by stirring the pail of marinade, slowly running the small ladle in smooth circles around the bottom of the container.

“Please, Arthit.”

Always with that tone. He pauses his stirring for a moment, looking up just an inch, but not far up enough to look at Kongpob.

When he’d explained everything to Prae the night before, he’d expected her to chastise him for not trying to find out if Kong did in fact like him, but instead, she’d compiled a four-point plan on how to murder John, whom she’d never even met, and then hugged his shoulders until he’d stopped shaking.

“I just want to talk. But if you won’t say anything, then at least hear me out.”

“I…I’m busy, Kongpob,” he finally says, brushing marinade over what’s already on the grill.

“Then I’ll buy something. I’ll take four of the pork and two of the beef, please.”

Arthit realises he’s cornered now, as he can’t turn away a paying customer with no good reason. After a few shallow breaths, he sets Kongpob’s order on the wire rack, focusing on adjusting their position over the charcoals.

“M told me everything,” Kongpob says, his voice still gentle.

Everything? Arthit pauses now, gripping the edge of the worktop.

“John is not my friend, and none of us like him. I only invited him because it would have been rude to invite the rest of the team and leave him out. But he had no right to dig up your past like that, and…I’m sorry for putting you in a position where you had to be around him.”

“Well, he wasn’t wrong…I was the fat kid who wrote you a note.”

“That’s about ten times nicer than what he actually said, and you know it. I won’t tolerate people saying crap like that to or about you.”

“Why? Why would it bother you so much?”

Arthit finally looks up. Of five hundred odd thoughts swirling around in his head right now, at the forefront are two that battle between wanting to know if Kongpob truly does return his feelings, and silently praying that it doesn’t get brought up at all.

“Because we’re friends, Arthit. I’ve been telling you since the day I first came here. And that means I’m going to stand up for you when you’ve done nothing wrong.”

A wave of relief washes over Arthit’s back, and he almost smiles despite himself. He truly is SuperKong, he thinks.

“I’m not a damsel in distress, Kongpob,” he smirks slightly now. “And if you must know, I wasn’t really bothered about what he said. I’ve been hearing people call me gay Porky for years.”

“Then…why’d you leave?”

“I was concerned that you were going to order a Hawaiian pizza.”

“P’Arthit! Be serious,” Kongpob groans as Arthit chuckles in amusement. “Why did you leave if you weren’t bothered by what he said?”

Arthit sighs, dropping the skewers into a bag.

Hey, so I had an epiphany about possibly having a huge crush on you, but there’s just so much that I’m not ready to unpack about that mess, so I had to go and scream into a pillow while I figure my shit out before I’m even remotely close to facing yours, if that’s even what you feel.

That response would probably not go over well surrounded by weekend pedestrian traffic, and with a tray of white-hot burning coals between them.

Instead, he opts for the next most logical explanation.

“I…I don’t care about his words, but I…didn’t want to eat in front of him.”

Which is partially true, although certainly not what had been his first thought at the time.

“Oh…I’m sorry, I didn’t even think about that.”

“It’s fine. I kind of forgot, too, and panicked.”

He hands Kongpob his order, holding his gaze for a few seconds.

“So…are we okay?”

“Well you came all the way here on a Sunday. Do I have a choice?” he says mockingly.

And there it is, the smile that warms his cheeks and sends shivers down his spine.

“I’ll see you tomorrow, P’Arthit.”

07/09/2014 – ฿36

Balance: ฿501

Chapter 1: Balance: ฿1000

It isn’t often that Kongpob makes his own way home from school. Most of the time, either the family butler, Shin, or his mother drives him home, regardless of how late he has to stay.

But today is one such day in which he would have to navigate his way through the busy street market to the bus stop.

It isn’t often that Kongpob makes his own way home from school. Most of the time, either the family butler, Shin, or his mother drives him home, regardless of how late he has to stay.

“I’m sorry, Kong. You know Shin is on leave until the end of next week, and I don’t think I can get someone to fix this engine on time for me to come get you.”

“That’s okay, Mae. I’ll manage.”

If Kongpob is being honest, he rather enjoys the days when he can wander around on his own, exploring the hustle and bustle of the city rather than simply observing it through the tinted windows of the family car. Not that he doesn’t appreciate the convenience of having someone drive him straight home rather than having to spend over 45 minutes pushing his way through public transport.

But he secretly loves the noise and the smells that swarm around him. As stupid and privileged as it might sound, he sees these days as mini adventures on which he can try his luck at finding another way to live like his peers, away from the luxury and loneliness of his enormous home.

Today, still sweaty and exhausted from basketball practice, he makes his way down the road from his school, most of his classmates having already left over an hour ago. The sun is slowly setting, the sky hazy with hues of greyish pink and purple.

There’s a street food market not ten minutes away from the school. Not the most popular one in the district, but buzzing with people nonetheless, especially with the rush of white collars getting off work.

Kongpob has never really tried much of the many delicacies that he sees on his sporadic adventures, his parents often informing him of the many articles they’d read about food poisoning and rat infestations in these places. But today, he’s too tempted by the delicious aromas to resist.

It’s when he reaches halfway down the street of neon lights and colourful stalls and carts selling everything from frozen pineapple to oyster omelettes that Kongpob sees him.

The guy, standing behind his yellow cart – Porky’s Moo-Ping – selling an assortment of meat skewers, is in his class, Kongpob realises. He’s never really learned his name, nor have they ever really spoken to each other, but he is unmistakably the same classmate who he’d lent his eraser to several months ago when the guy had dropped his own one in the drain on the way to class. He’d stammered a quick thanks before returning to his seat.

Here, he looks completely different from the stoic, quiet figure that sits at the back of the classroom. He’s actually smiling, Kongpob notices, and is talking freely with customers like he’s always been this sociable. As he’s handing the customer their food, he grins, a deep dimple forming in his left cheek.

It’s quite the sight, and Kongpob is fascinated.


His classmate is busy putting a new batch of skewers on the grill as Kongpob approaches the cart. The guy looks up suddenly, startled out of his working daze, and accidentally drops a raw skewer on the ground. He curses quietly, trashing the fallen skewer in the trash can behind him.

“Sorry about that,” Kongpob rummages in his bag for his wallet. “I’ll pay for the loss.”

The guy shakes his head quickly, and places a hand out to stop him.

“It’s fine,” he says. “It’s just one skewer.”

Kongpob nods and takes a closer look at the guy’s face, which has quickly shrunken back into its familiar terse, expressionless look. He wonders what could possibly explain the drastic change in demeanour, when Kongpob had just seen him smile. Still, his large doe eyes and pale, round cheeks give him an air of innocence that Kongpob finds difficult to tear his eyes away from.

“We’re in the same class, right?” Kongpob offers after a moment of silence. “I’m Kongpob.”

The guy nods slightly, turning over a few skewers on the charcoal grill, but doesn’t look up.

“Yeah, I know.”

Oh, so he was aware.

“I…uh, this is kind of embarrassing, but I never really got your name…?”

Indeed, it had been four months since the school year had started, and despite the fact that there were 50 students in the entire class that he couldn’t possibly all be friends with, Kongpob still felt bad for not knowing his name.

The guy pauses a moment, biting his lip.


Arthit. What a name for someone who hides in the shadows, Kongpob thinks.

“Well, it’s nice to meet you, Arthit.” 

“Um….can I…get you something?” Arthit eyes the wide variety of skewers, lined up on the grill in tidy rows, sizzling and emitting the most delicious scent. The ones that are already cooked sit in a pyramid-like stack, making room for a fresh batch. 

Kongpob doesn’t even know where to start. 

“What is there? I’ve…uh, never tried this before.”

“You’ve…never had moo ping?” Arthit’s subtle pinch of the eyebrows is about as much indication of his incredulous tone as Kongpob can decipher.

“I don’t get out much, I guess.”

“Okay…” Arthit mumbles. “Um, there are three kinds of skewers; pork (moo-ping), then chicken (kai-ping), and beef (neua-ping).” he explains as he points to each of the three sections on the grill.

Kongpob nods, although he’s not really paying attention to the grill but rather to Arthit, whose expression remains flat and uninterested, unlike the bright and warm demeanour he’d carried just moments before Kongpob had approached the cart.

“What do you recommend?”

Arthit has most likely never been asked this question by someone other than a tourist, and Kongpob can sense slight irritation in Arthit’s body language.

“They’re all good. Pork is the most popular, though.”

“Hmm…In that case, I’ll take two of each, then.”

“Pork is ฿5, chicken is ฿6, and beef is ฿8. So that’s ฿38 in total.”

Kongpob is a bit in awe of how quickly he’s rattled off the total price without even using a calculator or even pausing to think about it. How had he never spoken to this kid before?

“Here,” he hands over the only banknote in his wallet.

Arthit stares at it, before a glare of clear annoyance crosses his face.

“What are you doing, running from the law? Who pays with a ฿1000 note?”

“It’s the only one I have. Just got my allowance this morning.”

Arthit is gradually losing his temper and sighs deeply, lips pressed into a thin line.

“Well, I don’t have enough change here for that.”

Now this, Kongpob is skeptical of.

“You run a business handling cash and don’t hold enough change for ฿1000?”

“Even if I did, I can’t give it all to you, smartass. I’d have none left for other customers.”

Oh. Kongpob bites his lip. It isn’t the first time he’s been told off for something like this, having received head shakes of annoyance from street shop owners for trying to pay for simple things with a credit card.

“Keep it, then.”

“Are you insane? I can’t charge you ฿1000 for six skewers,” Arthit huffs in exasperation, sticking the skewers in a paper container and handing them to Kongpob. “Here, just take them and go.”

“I can’t do that.”

“Well, what do you want, then? I can’t leave these on the grill or they’ll burn, and they’ll go to waste if I just leave them out cold. I don’t have change for you. Just take them.”

As much as he’s slightly taken aback by Arthit’s seeming reluctance to interact with him, Kongpob is determined not to let this interaction end on such a sour note. That, and he’s deeply uncomfortable with the prospect of not paying for the skewers. 

As if inspired by his need to gain the boy’s approval, he’s struck with what he believes to be a brilliant idea.

“How about this? Keep the money,” he grabs Arthit’s hand and presses the banknote into his palm. “I’ll come back and buy from you another time, and you can just deduct it from that amount.”

Arthit stares at the money in his hand, then cocks an eyebrow at Kongpob.

“What is this, a bar? You want me to keep a tab open for you?”

Kongpob smiles, pulling out his phone and typing into his notes app.

“Here,” he holds the phone up. “I’ll keep track. ฿1000 to start with…so deduct ฿38 and that’s…” he pauses, fumbling to open the calculator app.


Arthit says, not even blinking as he puts a fresh batch of skewers on the grill to replace the ones he’s just given to Kongpob.

“So it’s a deal, then?”

“Do whatever you want.”

His expression is unreadable, but Kongpob grins anyway, holding up the box of skewers.

“Thanks for these, Arthit. It was nice to meet you.”

He gives Arthit a brief wai and continues down the street, biting off a piece of the tender grilled pork and deciding that it’s the most amazing thing he’s ever tasted. He’d have to finish them all before he got home, though, and Mae would certainly question his lack of appetite at dinner, but Kongpob doesn’t care.

“Fucking rich kids…” Arthit mutters as he watches after his classmate. But he pulls out a spare notepad from the bottom of the cart, usually used for customers to write their orders if there was a long line.

Kongpob: he scrawls.


08/08/2014 – ฿38

Balance: ฿962

Chapter 17: Balance: ฿501

The next few days see a clear, indescribable shift in Arthit and Kongpob’s friendship.

Well, it had gradually been shifting since the day it had started, just a little over a month ago, but Arthit thinks that something is definitely distinct about how they’d been interacting since the incident with John.

Had it really only been a month? Perhaps it’s because the long hours at school on almost a daily basis bring them into frequent contact, but Arthit almost feels like a year has passed since Kongpob had first spoken to him and struck up their ridiculous transaction deal. Or maybe it’s because it truly had been years that Arthit had been keeping his friend in his peripheral attention.

He’d first noticed the change when Kongpob had started texting him every ten minutes or so on Sunday evening, and they’d talked almost endlessly about everything and nothing at the same time, until Arthit had finally yawned into his pillow while typing out his message goodnight a little past midnight.

Then, they’d met on Monday morning for their usual tutoring session, and Kongpob had brought him congee with an egg cracked into it, just the way Arthit likes it. He’d also proceeded to deliberately get questions wrong, giggling when Arthit would get frustrated with him for messing around.

On Wednesday morning, Kongpob had decided to sit in the chair next to him at their library table rather than across from him, and Arthit had stumbled through trying to explain the homework to him, his cheeks incredibly flustered and his heart beating a mile a minute with the way Kong watched him with such close intent.

Frankly, Arthit doesn’t know what he’s supposed to think about all of this.

Sure, he’d like to believe that the indubitably handsome boy returned his own hypothetical feelings, but it’s always hard to tell with someone like Kongpob, who is naturally polite and generous. He could say the same about M and Tew, who, in the last few days, had seemed to adopt him into their small group, engaging him in mindless chatter about their respective hobbies during recess. Tew, in particular, seems to go out of his way to come over their classroom just to hang out with the other three, and always stops to talk to him about something or other if they happen to run into each other in the corridor.

So, yes, Kongpob is indeed incredibly kind to him and looks out for him, but if his other friends are an example, it would be silly of Arthit to assume that Kongpob’s attention towards him is anything unique.

Still, he finds himself daydreaming more often in class, his chest tightening and cheeks warming a little every time Kongpob turns around to make silly faces at him when the teacher isn’t looking, or stops to smile at him when he’s handing out materials to the whole class. He finds it, dare he say, kind of cute.

As he works on a task that’s been given to them in English class that he only half understands, he begins to wonder what having Kongpob as a boyfriend would be like. Surely, any person would be so lucky to have someone so understanding and patient, even if he’s got no culinary common sense whatsoever, is incredibly annoying and pushy, and makes attempts at jokes that sound like something out of a made-for-television romcom.

He silently chuckles to himself as he thinks of Kongpob driving someone mad with his corny lines, mindlessly doodling on his worksheet, already having sort of given up half way.

It’s only as he hears slow, tentative footsteps moving towards him that he realises what he’s doing, and hurriedly makes an attempt to scribble out what he’s drawn, but the piece of paper is already plucked off his desk before he manages to cover it fully.

Teacher Lynn frowns in disapproval as she scans her eyes over the worksheet, until her gaze falls onto the bottom right corner, where he’s just been scribbling. She pauses, inspecting the doodle a little more closely.

His cheeks flush, mortified with the knowledge that she’s seen it. He slowly raises his eyes to look at her, fearing the worst.

 But she simply raises her eyebrows and glances between him and the drawing several times, before settling the worksheet face down on the desk again, giving him a tight-lipped smile.

“Please stay focused on the task, Arthit,” she says ever so quietly.

“Yes, Teacher Lynn,” he manages to sputter out, eyes silently thanking her, before she’s moving away quietly back to the front of the room.

He thanks the stars that it’s in English class that this has happened, or he’d probably have wished for the floor to swallow him whole, as most other teachers would probably have drawn far more unnecessary attention to the matter.

He makes quick work of covering up the doodles with probably twenty layers of correction tape on both sides of the page, before forcing himself to work on the remaining questions, although his mind is on literally anything other than defining relative clauses. Despite that literally nobody else is paying any attention to him, he still feels his entire face redden and his back prickle with sweat.

Get it together, Arthit. It’s just a crush.

Maybe he’d pack his things and move to the countryside, and live a solitary life in a wooden cottage, surrounded by only rice fields and grassy hills, nothing to remind him of his embarrassment and nobody to see him blush even if he did.

Yes, right now, that sounds like a fine idea to Arthit.

His plans of rural hermitage, however, are utterly ruined when Kongpob keeps smiling at him at lunch, flashing perfect teeth and crinkling his eyes into the shape of Arthit’s favourite cashews. But he can’t help but smile back, completely taken with the way Kongpob talks animatedly about a comic book he’d bought, entertaining Arthit’s protests that Kongpob’s favourite character isn’t actually heroic, but rather just likes the attention.

At some point, he swears that Kongpob leans his foot against Arthit’s ankle under the table, but he tries to brush it off as an accident, Kongpob probably having mistaken his bony calf as the table leg.

And when afternoon rolls around, Arthit is mentally exhausted from his micro-dissection of every tiny moment between them, and is somewhat relieved to finally have a moment to himself, shoving out the tornado of reeling thoughts out of his head and instead replacing them with the routine task of grilling, flipping, marinating and bagging skewer after skewer.

Kongpob hadn’t come to the cart all week, mostly because the finals game would be on the coming weekend, and his practice sessions now ran late enough that it left Kongpob fatigued in every muscle, barely only having enough energy to call himself a taxi home, despite it being far more costly than the bus.

He would still text Arthit on the ride home, though, often apologising for not being able to come visit him, and then proceeding to whinge about basketball practice, then winding into various other things until they’d both exhausted just about every topic they could think of while simultaneously doing their homework together over the phone.

Arthit knows he shouldn’t think too much of their increasing time spent together, and yet he almost feels an itch whenever half an hour has passed without a single message, fidgeting and fighting the urge to send something completely random and follow up with oops wrong chat lol just to get any sort of reply.

It’s almost like déjà vu to him when he drops a raw skewer at the sound of his voice.


“Shit!” he whispers, tossing the fallen skewer into the trash can behind him before turning back around to glare at the offender.

“Sorry,” Kongpob grimaces apologetically. “You could deduct that from my bill.”

“Maybe if you stop sneaking up on me like that, I wouldn’t drop so many skewers.”

“Don’t be mad,” he pouts jokingly, exaggeratedly puffing his bottom lip out. Arthit rolls his eyes, but he’s smiling.

“I bet you use that face on everyone.”

“Is it working?”

“Shut up, you’re so annoying,” Arthit makes no attempt to even scowl. “What do you want? And I thought you had practice today?”

“Four of the pork, two of the beef. Mae hasn’t cooked tonight, so I thought I’d get food on the way home instead.”

“You could just order a Hawaiian pizza,” he says mockingly.

“I could, but someone would never let me hear the end of it.”

“It’s not my fault you have weird taste buds. Next time, you should let M and Tew order.”

Kongpob just smiles, fiddling with the strap of his duffel bag.

“Will you be there? If there’s a next time, I mean.”

Arthit bites his lip and shrugs noncommittally, eyes focused on brushing marinade.

“I won’t invite John, if that’s what you’re worried about. If I haven’t already said, I’m sorry about—”

“Kongpob, it’s fine.”

“No, it’s not. If I hadn’t invited him, none of this would have happened,” he scratches the back of his neck. He knows he’s been harping on about how sorry he is, but he still feels awful every time he thinks of Arthit’s distraught face as he’d bolted down his driveway. “I just feel bad because it’s like I keep bringing you bad luck or something.”

“What? That doesn’t even make sense.”

“I know you keep saying it’s fine, but I feel like I’ve inadvertently dug up so many things you’d probably rather forget,” Kongpob sighs, realising that that’s exactly what he’s doing right now. “Like the birthday card, and reminding you of that incident, and then the whole John thing…damn it, I’m doing it again. Sorry.”

“Kongpob, stop apologising. It’s really okay.”

“So—” he cuts himself off. “Right.”

Arthit squints his eyes at him for a moment. Does Kongpob truly believe that all of this is his fault? He tries to push down any nagging thoughts that guilt might be the reason why Kongpob is so nice to him. If there’s any possibility of something happening between them, he needs to bury any doubts once and for all.

“Kongpob,” he starts, serious now. “I know I’m maybe not always so upfront about this kind of thing…but…if not for you, I would still be eating lunch alone in a toilet cubicle, and…I would probably end up with Prae as my only friend for the rest of time. You didn’t start the rumours back then, and you’re not responsible for what comes out of John’s mouth. If you’re looking for forgiveness, then you have it, not that you had anything to be sorry for in the first place. So please, stop apologising, because…I’m…really grateful.”

He gives Kongpob his order along with a small, tentative smile, aware that the tips of his ears are probably reddening from having said so much. Kongpob’s expression softens in return, seeming to finally accept the weight of his words. Then, his mouth morphs into a smirk.

“You know, I’ve always wondered,” he says teasingly, and Arthit can already feel himself groan internally. “I know they were rumours…but…was there any truth to them?”

“What, that I was overweight? Yes, I was,” Arthit immediately retorts, deliberately dodging what he knows Kongpob is trying to get at. Despite the rally in his tone, the question has nagged at Kongpob for a little while now, even before he’d come to terms with his own feelings.


“You want to see photos? I was almost 200 pounds.” he makes a show of pulling out his phone to scroll through his camera roll.

“You know that’s not what I mean,” Kongpob grumbles, and becomes quieter. “Did you…you know…have a crush on me back then?”

Arthit sighs in exasperation, knowing he’s not going to drop the subject without an answer.

“Honestly?” he says, looking him dead in the eye. “No, I didn’t.” He thinks he imagines it when Kongpob looks slightly disappointed. “I…admired you a lot. You stood up to assholes like John when nobody else would. So I wanted to be friends with you. That’s it.”

And it’s the truth, although he can’t say the same about the present.

“What’s wrong with me that you couldn’t possibly have had a crush on me?” Kongpob pretends to pout before puffing his chest out a little and tossing his hair back. “I’m charming, handsome, and—”

“Get out of here, I’m busy.”

Kongpob just laughs, and playfully blows him a kiss as he walks away, to which Arthit wrinkles his nose in mock disgust, catching the air kiss and tossing it behind him.

This boy would be the death of him.

11/09/2014 – ฿36

Balance: ฿465

Kongpob finds his mother in the living room when he gets home, watching one of those ridiculous, melodramatic lakorns in which there’s at least one instance of suspected incest and a pregnancy scandal.

“Hi, Mae,” he flops down onto the sofa next to her, leaning his head on her shoulder like he’d always done as a child. She smiles fondly at her clingy child and ruffles his hair before lightly shoving him off of her.

“Yuck, you’re all sweaty,” she chuckles. “And you smell like…is that barbecue?” She leans closer to him, sniffing his jersey before raising an eyebrow skeptically. “Have you been eating street food again?”

Kongpob grins sheepishly, aware of his mother’s disapproval, but is surprised when she simply shakes her head, barely fazed.

“I knew there was a reason you’ve been insisting on coming home on your own lately. Just don’t eat too much deep fried or salty food, or you’ll get mouth ulcers.”

“I know, Mae,” he says. “I only had some moo-ping.”

“I can make that for you at home, you know.”

“I know. But Arthit makes the best moo-ping in Chinatown,” he smiles, pulling his legs up onto the sofa. Not that he’s tried any other of the stalls selling meat skewers, but he strongly believes in his statement.

“Arthit? You mean your friend who’s also your maths tutor?”

“Yeah, his family runs a stall on Yaowarat. He works there after school.”

“He seems like a nice boy, that one,” she nods approvingly, then nudges him. “You should probably get yourself a part time job. It might teach you a thing or two about work ethic and then maybe you’ll stop leaving your socks in the front room for other people to pick up.”

“Mae,” he groans at her lecture. “I’ve already got basketball tiring me out. I don’t have time for a job.”

“Mmm. How’s your tutoring going anyway?”

“Good. Arthit is really helpful, so my grades are up to a B plus on average now.”

She nods, then looks away from the television for a moment to take in her son’s distracted gaze.

“I noticed you’ve been spending a lot of time with Arthit lately,” she remarks teasingly, and doesn’t miss his sudden shyness at the mention of this fact. “I hear you talking on the phone sometimes.”

“Yeah, well…we’ve become good friends. We do homework together.”

“I see,” she nods slowly. “I was looking through your old yearbooks earlier this week. I knew he looked familiar, although I can see why I didn’t recognise him at first.”

“Yeah…uh, he lost a lot of weight before freshman year.”

They fall into a comfortable silence as they watch one of the female characters burst into a tearful monologue about a tragic past in which she’d been kidnapped by thugs and forced to raise her own little brother on only raw corn and lemongrass. Kongpob snorts when she starts pounding on her chest in agony, shaking his head at the pure absurdity.

“I remember him, you know,” his mother says suddenly.

“Hmm?” he looks away from the screen momentarily, his brow furrowed in question at what she means.

“I don’t know if he’s told you, but…there was a bullying incident when you were in eighth grade…”

“Yeah, I know. The birthday card,” he chews at his lip. He’d thought that the topic had finally been buried after his earlier conversation with Arthit. “Wait, but how do you know about it?”

“I was the head of the PTA, or have you forgotten already?” she lightly smacks his thigh. “Usually when there are major cases like this, we get asked to offer our input as well. And, well, the parents of some of the bullies were on the board as well,” she explains.

“I didn’t know that,” he sits up now, turning to face his mother as she looks at him in equal confusion at his expression. “You never said anything at the time.”

“Well, I figured your friends would have told you by now, but I guess not,” she says, turning down the volume on the television now. “Also…I didn’t know how to bring the matter up with you…after all, the rumour was partially about you, and I wasn’t sure how you felt about the idea of a boy liking you…” she trails off.

“Mae, it was just a rumour,” his tone is defensive now.

“I know that, but at that age—”

“Wait, so you knew this whole time? And if you were head of the PTA then that means…you were also involved in the school moving him to the other class…” he eyes her incredulously, his fingers now curling with unease upon his realisation.

“Well…yes,” she eyes him sideways now, puzzled by the terse expression on her son’s face. “I specifically requested it.”

“…What?” he stands, staring down at her in disbelief. No, it can’t be… “Y-you asked for him to be moved?”

“What else could I have done?”

“Mae, how could you do that to him?!” he raises his voice, something he’s never done in front of his parents before.

“Do what? What are you on about?” she reaches for his arm, but he pulls it away harshly, his heart sinking with every breath. “Kong, calm down.”

“I can’t believe it…” he laughs bitterly. “This entire time, Mae, he thought that the bullies’ parents wanted him gone for even possibly being gay, when all this time, it was you! You wanted him gone.”

“Wait, Kong,” she stands too, now, seemingly taken aback by his accusation. “That’s not—”

“No, forget it,” he steps backwards, feeling his throat tighten up. “I’m going to my room.”

“Kongpob Sutthiluck! Come back here!” she calls after him, but he’s already bounding up the stairs two steps at a time, shaking with anger.

A few moments later, his bedroom door slams shut in the otherwise quiet house, and he falls face first into bed, willing himself not to cry. 

Chapter 2: Balance: ฿962

The weekend passes with a blur, and Kongpob is unusually excited to be at school.

Arthit is already at his desk in the back corner of the classroom, hunched over a small paperback book, the cover of which Kongpob can’t clearly make out from where he’s standing. His face is etched with concentration, brows pinched together. 

“Hi, Arthit,” Kongpob slumps his bag down onto his own chair before strolling over to Arthit and sitting at the empty desk in front of him, turning around to face the bookworm.

Arthit ignores him and continues reading. Kongpob peeks a glance at the cover – Charlie Brown: Here We Go Again – and smiles.

“I never took you as someone who likes reading the Peanuts series. That’s cute.” 

Arthit huffs a small sigh and looks up, but doesn’t lift his head.

“Why are you talking to me?”

“Why not?”

“Because I’m busy, and we’re not friends. So either you need something or you’re seriously that bored,” he wets his thumb slightly and turns the page. Kongpob notices the slight peek of Arthit’s tiny pink tongue.

“Well, okay. Let’s be friends, then,” he holds out a hand for Arthit to shake. The paler boy just stares at his hand for a brief moment with narrowed eyes and turns his attention back to the book. 

“You don’t want to be my friend,” he says, turning yet another page. 

“Says who? I’m offering my hand, aren’t I?”

“You don’t know anything about me, Kongpob.”

“I..know your name is Arthit. You sell moo-ping. You like reading the Peanuts series,” he grins when Arthit rolls his eyes. “And…oh! I lent you my eraser two months ago.”

“Is that all you want? I can give it back to you right now.,” Arthit reaches into his pencil case on the desk, fishing around for said eraser.

“No, no! Keep it,” Kongpob shakes his head. “Think of it as a token of our newly found friendship.”

“We’re not friends. You bought grilled pork from me one time. That’s it.” 

“So…if I buy more grilled pork from you, then we can be friends?” Kongpob grins hopefully.

Arthit shuts his eyes in frustration and puts the book down. 

“This is just a transaction deal. People like you aren’t friends with people like me.”

“Come on, what’s that supposed to mean?”

“Just leave me alone, okay? Class is starting.” 

The sound of their teacher’s heels can be heard clicking along the corridor outside the classroom window as she slowly approaches the door, and Kongpob sighs.

“We’re friends, Arthit,” he says teasingly, then makes his way back to his seat, but not before catching sight of Arthit’s eye roll. 

As soon as the school bell rings for lunch Kongpob hurriedly puts his books away, hoping to get another word in with Arthit, but his angsty new friend has slipped out the door and disappeared down the corridor into the crowd before Kongpob can even get out of his seat. 

He’s sitting in the courtyard with his friends and a packed lunch – rice with plain roasted eel and a runny poached egg – and his gaze darts around in every direction, failing to spot Arthit.

“Who are you looking for?” his best friend M asks, trying to follow his line of vision.

“Huh?” Kongpob is brought out of his distracted stupor.

“You keep looking around as if you’re waiting for someone.”

“What? Oh, uh…it’s nothing,” he shakes his head and pushes the food around his lunchbox, mixing the runny egg with his rice. “Hey, M? What do you know about Arthit?”

M turns his face to cock an eyebrow at his friend. 

“Arthit? As in Arthit ‘Porky’ Rojnapat, the loner kid in our class?”


“Yeah, uh, he used to be like, really, really fat when we were in middle school. Like Jabba the Hutt fat. And his family owns that moo-ping stall on Yaowarat. Don’t you remember?”

“He went to middle school with us?”

“Dude, were you half asleep? Kids used to pick on him all the time, and he almost switched schools. Shame, he used to be a really nice kid, too. Probably why he lost all the weight before our freshman year and now he just never talks to anyone, and nobody talks to him either. Why are you asking about him all of a sudden?”

Kongpob is still reeling from this information, trying to desperately to recall any image of someone called ‘Porky’, but nothing springs to mind.

“Uh…nothing. Just wondering.”

He’s there after school, of course, at the stall. Kongpob had made a rather cryptic call to his mother, telling her that he didn’t need to be picked up after practice, and that she should take it as an opportunity to go about her afternoon freely instead. 

“Are you sure you don’t need me to-”

“Mae, I’m 16. I’ve gone home on my own plenty of times.”

“Okay, but if you’re not home by 7, I’m sending out a search party.”

“I’ll be home before 7. Promise.”

At the moment, there is nobody lining up at the cart, probably because the streets are closed on Monday mornings for street cleaning, and the usual weekend crowd isn’t flooding the market looking for a quick bite before a night out. Kongpob is secretly glad, having waited all day to speak to Arthit. 

“What’s your favourite colour?” he says as soon as he’s in front of the smoky grill.

Arthit just looks at him.

“Why do you want to know?”

“Because we’re friends, and friends should know these things.”

“I told you, we’re not friends.”

“Come on, now. My favourite colour is orange.”

“Just tell me what you want to eat.” Arthit says, completely unfazed.

“Not until you tell me your favourite colour.” 

“Are you this annoying to everyone?” he drops the steel tongs in frustration onto the worktop in front of him. 

“It’s a simple question, Arthit.”

Arthit sighs, flipping over a few skewers and brushing them with marinade.


“Strong choice,” Kongpob quips, an amused grin on his face. “It suits your whole no talk me i angy thing. You’re right, I liked the pork last time. I’ll have four of them.”

“Do you want sauce?” Arthit puts the skewers in a container.


“Yes, sauce. You know, a condiment that one usually puts on food to add flavour?” he deadpans.

“I know what sauce is. I just didn’t know it was an option.”

“Do you want it or not?”

Kongpob makes an exaggerated show of thinking, craning his neck and stroking his chin.

“Yeah, okay. I’ll have sauce.”

It’s as Arthit begins spooning the sauce in question onto the skewers that Kongpob winces a little. It’s a bright orangey-red, which can only mean one thing. Chili sauce. His stomach was never a fan of spicy food. But he says nothing, not wanting the food to go to waste.

Arthit hands him the container, and Kongpob gives him a small smile.

“Thanks,” he says. “That leaves me at…”


“So you’re keeping track for me?” Kongpob smirks, his tone teasing.

He thinks it’s a wonder Arthit’s eyes haven’t rolled out of his head with how much he exercises the movement.

“It’s not like I know a ton of other annoying customers who have a value deduction plan at a street food stall.” 

Kongpob just smiles, shrugging his bag to adjust the strap on his shoulder. He’s about to leave, when it occurs to him what M had mentioned earlier that day. It’s difficult for him to picture the guy in front of him as being double the size he is now. 

“Hey, did you know we went to the same middle school?”

Arthit freezes for a second, but goes back to stirring the large bucket of sauce with a small ladle. 

“What of it?”

“Nothing, just an observation,” Kongpob nods. “I’ll see you tomorrow, friend.”

Arthit puffs out another sigh as Kongpob walks away.

The skewers are, indeed, spicy, but not as much as Kongpob had initially thought, the marinade surprisingly sweet and a little acidic, like lime juice and honey. He hopes that he won’t be on the toilet all evening.

Behind his cart, Arthit picks up the notepad that he has tucked under a stack of paper containers, where his mother won’t think to look. 

11/08/2014 – ฿20

Balance: ฿942

Chapter 18: Balance: ฿465

Arthit is more than glad to see the week coming to a close. While weekends are usually the busiest days of the week for him at the cart, it’s at least fairly repetitive, and he doesn’t really have to employ any in-depth critical thinking to grill some skewers.

Even so, as he’s slumped over his desk in the early morning, just a little past 7:15, he wonders if his mother would be okay with him taking Saturday off for the third weekend in a row. Kongpob hasn’t explicitly asked him to come and watch the final game, and it would be silly to presume that that’s what he would want, but should he really have to ask in the first place?

He begins to mindlessly sketch out random shapes on the back page of his notebook as he daydreams, not particularly drawing anything, but just letting his pencil faintly trace over the paper repeatedly. Eventually, he tires of the motion, and treats himself to some milk candy that he’d bought on the way home the night before. The sweet rush of sugar does wake him up, if only just a little. 

Then, he fishes his eraser out of his pencil case. Or, Kongpob’s eraser, the faded ink on the side now reading only Ko.

Of course he’s heard of the silly superstition. He’d been hearing it spread around among his classmates since they were in elementary school, and the girls would often write the names of their crushes on their erasers, hoping for something to happen after they’d finished using them, only to lose the damn thing or scrawl in a different name several weeks later.

He can’t recall why he’d written Kongpob’s name in the first place, given that he’d only slowly come to realise his own feelings in the last week or so. Perhaps a part of his younger self had been longing for his friendship for so long that any remnant of the boy that came his way felt like something he had to treasure, a pinprick of hope that they could be friends. But now that they are friends, the increasingly small piece of rubber now holds a different meaning. He’s not sure if he really wants to use it up just yet.

As he puts the eraser down, softly smiling to himself, a shadow casts over his left side just outside the window, and someone leans over the windowsill.

“Hi, Arthit,” comes the friendly voice, alerting Arthit to its attention.

It’s Tew. He slides the window open a little further and props his briefcase up on the sill as he leans forward, peering straight down at Arthit’s desk.

“Oh, hi, Tew,” Arthit nods, briefly smiling back.

“Are you always here this early?”

“Yeah, I live nearby. And it’s quiet this time of morning.”

“Right, I almost forgot. So what are you up to?”

Arthit shifts his gaze a moment, unsure of what exactly to say as he takes in the sight of his desk. Tew had been coming over to their classroom almost every recess in the last week, often engaging him in friendly conversation, so it’s not like he has trouble talking to him anymore. However, he doesn’t know how he feels about someone else knowing about his crush just yet, much less the slightly embarrassing way he’d been keeping the blasted eraser in his pencil case for months.

“Uh…just chilling out, I guess. Not entirely awake yet.”

Tew’s warm, friendly smile remains as he continues observing Arthit through the open window.

“Um…you’re here early, too,” Arthit finally says, an attempt to break the momentary silence.

“Yeah, I’m doing the flag raising this morning, so I have to get here a little earlier.”

“I see,” he nods. He’d wondered where he’d seen Tew before he knew he was on the basketball team. “Is that your assigned duty?”

“Yeah, well, it beats doing shoe duty, which is what I had last year,” the boy scrunches his nose up, remembering how he’d had to stand next to the numbered cabinet of shoes by the door at the end of each lesson before being able to leave the classroom himself. “Oh, by the way, are you coming to our game tomorrow?”

Arthit twiddles his pencil between his fingers, pondering the question before shrugging.

“I’m not sure. But maybe. I haven’t decided, but Kongpob did mention it.”

“Well…uh,” Tew fiddles with the handle of his briefcase nervously. “It’d be nice if you came. I mean…like…I’d really like it if…you came to watch.”

He seems to stumble over his words, eyeing Arthit expectantly as he chews on his bottom lip. Arthit squints a moment in question, trying to parse what Tew might be implying, but decides that it’s a simple invitation. Eventually, he moves his head side to side vaguely in a noncommittal response.

“Um…I’ll see. I might not be able to get out of working this weekend.”

“Right! Of course…uh, you can text me,” he flashes a toothy grin.

Arthit just nods gently. Tew, as well as M, had exchanged LINE IDs with him earlier that week, but he hasn’t really put either one to use for the time being. It’s not like he can just strike up a conversation with them the way he can with Kongpob, even if both of them are easy-going and fairly amicable. After all, the extent of what he knows about Tew is that he likes maths and video games.

Kongpob. Where is he, anyway?

“I’ll…see you later in assembly, then.” Tew pulls his briefcase off the windowsill and waves to him before heading down the corridor towards his own classroom.

Arthit goes back to his menial task of doodling nameless shapes for a while longer, until he finally notices Kongpob toeing his shoes off outside the classroom door. He looks up, ready to nod hi to him, when he notices something is off about his friend.

He’s lacking his usual bright smile, and the dark circles under his puffy eyes suggest that he’s barely slept. In fact, he looks, dare Arthit say, slightly angry. He had assumed that Kongpob had simply gone to bed early, when he’d tried to call him around 9 the night before so they could do their homework together, and Kongpob hadn’t picked up or read his texts.

The usually cheery boy slumps over on his desk, his head falling straight onto his forearms. What’s with him? Arthit thinks, and after looking around the classroom a moment, deciding that nobody is paying attention, quietly makes his way over to the desk in front of Kongpob, sitting backwards in the chair.

“Hey,” he says softly. Kongpob jolts out of his sleep and looks up blearily at a slightly startled Arthit, before smiling upon realising who’s in front of him.

“Oh, hey,” he replies, rubbing his eyes with the heels of his palms. “Everything okay?”

“I could ask you the same thing,” Arthit chuckles softly. “You look like a zombie.”

“A cute zombie?” he smirks a little, to which Arthit rolls his eyes. Even in his sleep-deprived state, Kongpob is still an outrageous flirt. Not that he’s flirting; it’s just how he is, Arthit reminds himself.

“Really though…I thought you went to bed early when you didn’t answer my call yesterday.”

“Oh, sugar…I’m sorry.” He shakes his head to further wake himself up. “I probably did, but I got up again in the night to do homework.”

Arthit nods, pursing his lip to the side.

“It’s fine…but, uh…are you going to be okay for the game tomorrow? How are you going to get through practice tonight?”

“Ugh, don’t even remind me,” Kongpob groans into his hands. “I already know I’m going to end up in hospital or something.”

“Maybe take it easy for today?”

“Coach Pak would never let me slack off the day before a major game. I’d have to have a broken limb or dead in a ditch to do that.”

“Well don’t jinx it.”

“Are you coming to the game, by the way? I didn’t want to ask because I wasn’t sure if it was okay with your mother.” he sniffs, rubbing a finger under his nose to soothe the itch.

“Yeah…I’ll have to ask again. It’ll be the third week in a row I’ve not worked a full Saturday.”

“Oh,” Kongpob sits up suddenly, brows furrowed. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to cause you any trouble.”

“No, it’s fine,” Arthit attempts a smile. “I like spending time with you…guys,” he tacks on the word at the last second, shifting his shy gaze towards the window. “Mae says I need to get a life anyway. But…I’ll still have to ask. I just kind of feel bad, you know? Because it’s technically our household income, and it’s not fair that I’m neglecting to help keep the lights on to go and socialise,” he sighs. “Maybe tutoring M and Tew will mean I don’t have to work as much anymore. I still need to calculate an estimate of how many hours I can get away with….Kongpob?”

He smiles softly, looking down at his friend, who’s got his head on his arms, having fallen asleep again. Maybe because he looks so peaceful, with his mouth hanging slightly open where his cheek meets his forearm, or maybe it’s because Arthit feels a sense of endearment towards the sleeping boy in his restful state, but he slowly reaches out a hand to brush a strand of hair off Kongpob’s forehead.

Then, he makes his way back to his own desk, watching fondly from his corner desk by the corridor window.

M practically bolts to the bathroom as soon as their teacher leaves the classroom, his shoelaces still loose as he sighs with relief upon finally closing the stall of the cubicle door. He’s so relieved in fact, that when he emerges from the stall, he almost falls backwards when he comes face to face with none other than his own best friend.

“…..Hi?” he says hesitantly, before sidestepping the stern-looking boy to move towards the sinks.

“Got a minute?”

“What’s this about? I’m…slightly…scared,” he raises an eyebrow as he meets Kongpob’s thoroughly unimpressed gaze in the large mirror while he washes his hands. He doesn’t look angry, exactly (he never does), but he’s not smiling either, which is bad enough of a sign coming from Kongpob.

“You knew, didn’t you?” he finally says after a pregnant silence, exhaling heavily through his nose.

“What did I know?” M shakes his hands of excess water before drying them on the back of his shorts, leaving a few darkened blotches where the fabric gets dampened.

“The fortune teller, M. He said that you were withholding information. He also said that I might not like what I wanted to know.”

“You seriously believe in that stuff? What is this about? I’m going to need you to spell it out for me. What are you—”

“The birthday card, M!”

“Kong, I told you about that ages ago.”

“I don’t mean the card!”

“Okay, now you’re making no sense any—”

“My mother, M,” Kongpob finally says loudly, exasperated as he throws his hands up. “You didn’t tell me my mother was the one who had Arthit moved to the other class.”

M sucks in a breath, his face falling as he shifts his gaze to the floor. It had been inevitable that Kongpob would eventually find out, but he hadn’t imagined that he’d be confronted about it after taking a dump in the school bathroom.

“Kong, listen. I…uh…”

“Why, M? Just answer me that. You knew even before Arthit and I ever became friends. You knew when we were in middle school.”

“I already told you too much when you basically forced me to tell you about the birthday card.”

“I was worried about Arthit! Why would you keep that information from me? Why—”

“Because it wasn’t my information to tell!” M finally snaps, now feeling cornered by the seemingly endless accusations. “Yeesh, Kong, you know, just because we’re friends, it doesn’t mean that you have the right to know every damn thing!” he narrows his eyes in disbelief. “I didn’t tell you because I was trying to prevent you from overreacting and doing something stupid like, oh, I don’t know, bringing it up to Arthit!”

Kongpob looks taken aback, watching his friend with wide, but tired eyes.

“You ever think that maybe Arthit wants to tell you this stuff in his own time, but you keep sticking your nose into it first? And what happens every time? You start trying to guilt yourself and apologise to him when he doesn’t think you even knew in the first place, and then you end up scaring him off.”

M is holding his arms stiffly at his sides now, visibly annoyed, but he softens a little when Kongpob looks somewhat hurt by his outburst.

“Look, I know you always mean well,” he sighs. “But just because you want to help, it doesn’t mean that you always go about it in the best way.” He snorts, recalling something. “Do you remember that time when we were in a café, and there was that blind lady sitting near us, and a guy took her wallet from her purse? You immediately accused him of stealing from a disabled person and then tried to call the police, and then it turned out he was her husband who was a few baht short of paying for their order?”

Kong huffs in sheepish acknowledgement, now shifting his gaze to the side.

“I just…I really like him, M,” he mumbles, a little sadly.

“Yeah, I know,” M heaves a sigh, rolling his eyes now. “But you still need to respect people’s boundaries sometimes. Not everyone is as…uh, understanding…of your intentions as Arthit. I didn’t tell you about your mother moving him because one, I knew it would upset you,” he gestures at Kongob’s current state. “And two, because…I didn’t want it to discourage you from trying to start something with Arthit. You obviously like him a lot and I’d be a shitty friend not to have your back on that front.”

Kongpob nods quietly.

“I’m sorry, M,” he murmurs. “I shouldn’t have accused you of keeping secrets.”

“All’s forgiven, dumbass,” he says, but there’s no malice to his tone. “So what are you going to do now?”

“I don’t know,” Kongpob runs a hand over his tired face. “I just never pegged my mother to be a homophobe. She was saying all these nice things about Arthit, and then she said ‘I didn’t know how you felt about the idea of a boy liking you’,” he spits each word out as though it leaves a bitter taste in his mouth.

“Wow,” M grimaces.

“Yeah,” he mashes his lips together, trying to process what it all means. His breaths become heavier, his throat forming a painful lump. “M, I just like him. Is that so wrong? Just because…because he’s a boy? I just want to live like any other kid. You know, have a crush, maybe a relationship, do fun stuff, study what I like. Is that so much to ask for from my own mother?” he says this with a slight crack in his voice, shedding fresh tears he’d been trying to hold back all night.

“Dude, come here,” M swings an arm around the back of his friend’s neck and pulls him into a hug. He doesn’t know what else to say to comfort him, so he just lets him cry into his shoulder, awkwardly patting his back until the sniffling resides. “Sorry I don’t know how to help you with your gay rich boy crisis. I can’t relate.”

Kongpob pulls away huffily, smacking M in the shoulder at his friendly jab.


“Oooooh, scary words coming from you,” M holds his hands up in mock surrender, mouth in a wide grin. “Come on, wash your face. Class is about to start.” He claps a hand to Kongpob’s back.

Kong☕: I’m finally done with practice 😩😩😩

Kong☕: I’ll be there soon, in about 15 minutes!

Kong☕: I just need to help Coach clean up.

Kong☕: Can I get 4x🐄 and 2x🐖? ☺️

Arthit☀️: sure 🙂

Kong☕: 🥰

Arthit smiles to himself as he pockets his phone again. He’s still got a little time, so he pulls out the hidden notepad and marks down the order first.

12/09/2014 – ฿42

Balance: ฿423

He’s writing in the last number when his phone buzzes again, this time with a text from Prae.

Prae🍐: what are you always writing in that thing?

Prae🍐: i thought customers were supposed to be the ones who write their order

Arthit☀️: none of ur business

He looks over to his far right and pastes a sardonic smile on his face as she meets his gaze from her stall.

Prae🍐: waiting for kong?

Arthit☀️: …

Arthit☀️: …and?

Prae🍐: at this rate, i’m going to be playing bingo in a retirement home before you two tell each other about your feelings

Arthit☀️: yeah well save me a chair at the table

Arthit☀️: besides, who said that i like him???

Prae🍐: you’re seriously asking that?

She gives him a pointed look, to which he rolls his eyes.

Arthit☀️: fine…but i’m still not telling him

Prae🍐: omgggggg finally

Prae🍐: asldkgj just ask him to hang out!!!

Prae🍐: and then maybe pull him into a dark corner and kiss him!😏😏😏😏😏

Arthit☀️: well gee y didn’t i think of that

Arthit☀️: u make it sound so easy

Arthit☀️: y haven’t u made a move on maprang yet, hmmmmm???

Prae🍐: …turns out she has a crush on a boy at her school

Prae🍐: crushing on straight girls…what’s new 😑

Arthit☀️: sorry to hear that 😕

Arthit☀️: but it doesn’t mean she only likes boys

Arthit☀️: hey…question

Arthit☀️: do u think i should i go to his game tmr?

Prae🍐: will that asshole be there? 🤬 i’m still plotting his murder

Arthit☀️: john? well he’s on the team, so yeah

Prae🍐: ugh

Prae🍐: do you want me to come with in case he tries to bother you?

Arthit☀️: it’s fine. he hasn’t given me trouble all week at school

Prae🍐: so you’re going alone?

Arthit☀️: i don’t know if mae will be okay with it

Arthit☀️: it’s like the third time in a row now

Not getting a response for a while, he looks up, expecting to see Prae busy fulfilling an order, but almost drops his phone when he realises she’s talking to his mother, who appears to listen with intent before shaking her head and laughing. Then, she leans her head out from behind Prae and waves at him, giving him the OK sign, grinning widely. He nods back awkwardly before picking up his phone again.

Arthit☀️: really????

Arthit☀️: i could have just asked her myself

Prae🍐: no, you would have guilt tripped yourself into not going, and then she would see you being all distracted and eventually wrangled the truth out of you 🙃

Arthit☀️: …shut up

Arthit☀️: i’ve got an order to fill

He shoots her a death glare before shoving his phone back in his pocket. Then, he sets about preparing Kongpob’s order, making sure to leave the beef longer on each side to get crispier grill marks, the way Kongpob likes it.

Almost twenty minutes pass, though, the skewers having long been done and ready in a take-away bag, when Arthit realises that Kongpob still hasn’t arrived. 

Maybe cleaning up had taken longer than he’d expected, and he was on his way now. He places the bag near the grill to keep the food warm, and sets about taking more orders, grilling, flipping, and mixing sauce in the pail.

Another fifteen minutes pass, and still no Kongpob. 

Arthit begins to become slightly anxious, fidgeting as he stares at their conversation, the last message he’d sent over half an hour ago. Deciding that he at least wants to know if he’s still coming, he finally gives into his resolve.

Arthit☀️: hey where r u?

Arthit☀️: food’s getting cold 🙄

He waits, watching as the “Read” sign appears next to both messages, although another few minutes pass without a response. He’s about to type out another message, when Kongpob himself calls him.

“Hey! I was beginning to think you’d died or something.”

“Uh…well, not quite,” Arthit hears him hiss after he says this, sending a pang of alarm through him.

“Is everything okay? You said you’d be here almost half an hour ago.”

“I know, I’m sorry. Hey, uh, I know it’s late, but I…I need a favour,” he says, groaning in pain again.

“Wait, what happened?! Where are you?”

“I’m outside the school…ow, fudge!”

“Kong? Are you okay?! What’s going on?!”

“Um…I…could you, uh, take me to the hospital?”