Control + S, more like Delete. Tine wishes it could be that simple. He only has to press a single button and the heartache will be erased as if it never existed. Gone for good. The thing is, even the thought of that hurts. Forgetting the smiles that bloom so rarely, the particular way he tosses his head to get the hair away from his eyes, the way his fingers move across the strings, the sound of his warm voice, the way he looks at Tine in the softest way possible.
Was it all a lie? God, Tine doesn't know anymore. Sarawat is an asshole but he's not cruel. The memories turn and twist in his head, most of them so wonderful and sweet, confusing him and making him ache. It couldn't have been just pretend. Right? But Sarawat's gone; he hasn't even tried to get Tine back soon after their breakup. That tells Tine all he needs to know.
Tine looks toward the courtyard where the bands are setting up. He knows Sarawat is out there. He knows because he's still in that damn group chat and all they've been talking about is how Sarawat hardly ever does anything else lately other than rehearse for the competition. Man and Boss have been quiet, too. Tine's spent countless hours shamefully browsing their social media accounts hoping to get an update on Sarawat even though he knows he shouldn't. Sarawat has other people to worry about him. He doesn't need Tine.
Frowning, Tine turns away, unable to go out there where it all began after all —
Pam smiles hesitantly at him. 'Hello, Tine. Can we talk?'
Tine should say no. This is Sarawat's first and only love. She's beautiful, smart, and she's known Sarawat far longer than Tine ever has. His eyes drop down to her bare wrist.
Resigned, Tine nods curtly and follows her out of the building. She takes a graceful seat on the steps and after a moment's hesitation, Tine does the same, putting distance between them. He places his sweaty palms on his knees, gripping them hard. His heart aches. He vividly remembers her arms wrapped tight around Sarawat, his arms holding her just as tightly in return. Tine blinks.
'So, I'm probably the last person you want to talk to right now,' she begins, sneaking a glance at him.
Tine can't help but say, 'More than that.'
Pam winces. 'I've been wanting to talk to you for a while now but I was too busy with practising and then taking the exams — '
A pang goes through Tine.
Pam cuts herself off, frowns, and then sighs. 'Actually, no, I've been avoiding you. This. I just wasn't sure what to say.' She tucks her hair behind her ear and bites her bottom lip. The silence lingers, uncomfortable.
Tine's fingers tighten around his knees. 'You're going to be late for your boyfriend's concert,' he blurts out.
Pam looks at him, somehow contrite and amused at the same time. 'Tine,' she says gently, 'Sarawat's not my boyfriend.'
Truthfully, Tine already knows that because the wives group chat would have gone rabid with that information but it's still gratifying to hear her say it.
(Although the voice in his head points out Sarawat is still not with him. 'Leave me alone,' Tine had pleaded, tears at the corners of his eyes, 'seeing you hurts me too much.')
'You know, I already knew Sarawat had a boyfriend before I came here. You were all over his Ig account.' She gives a rueful smile and looks up at the sky. 'We've been apart since the start of college but I always thought Sarawat would wait for me. He's so good at that, right? The waiting. Just loving you from afar. He's fine with that, even if it hurts him.'
Tine swallows and looks away from her face.
'I thought, Sarawat will still be there once I'm ready. We've made it this long, just a little bit more. I should have known. Well, I did know, deep down, after we came here for that concert last year. He was...different. He was still the same Mr Grumpy but somehow I couldn't place a 'my' before the nickname anymore.'
There is such sad regret in her voice that Tine has to look back at her and finds her already staring at him.
'I'm sorry, Tine. I shouldn't have done what I did. He told me he already had a boyfriend he loved but I wouldn't listen. I couldn't accept that I'd lost him for good. I — '
Tine sits up straight, feeling like a lightning bolt just struck him. 'Wait. He told you about me?'
Pam tilts her head to the side, eyebrows knotted. 'Yes, and I could tell by the way he looked when he said your name that I was too late. Sarawat didn't wait for you, did he? He ran after you.'
Tine is dizzy with so many thoughts spinning in his head. What does this mean?
He remembers Pam's arms tight around Sarawat, and — what else? The sad look on Sarawat's face because he has to hurt a person who meant so much to him as he pushes her away —
Tine bites the inside of his cheek. He can hear the chants and cheers rise as the competition starts. Sarawat's name is the loudest, ringing through the air.
'Tine,' says Pam, 'I know you probably won't forgive me because I wouldn't if I was in your shoes but I really am sorry. I was stupid and selfish. I thought I could take him back, have him look at me the way he used to. I never stood a chance, actually. He's yours.'
Tine's heart gives a painful throb. All this time, Sarawat has been saying that Tine is his. Another memory resurfaces. Sarawat pouting, asking who he was to Tine in the real world. Shyly, Tine said, 'My boyfriend.' Then, soon after that, claiming Sarawat again in front of his brother, watching the surprise on Sarawat's face because Tine had admitted it. Mine, Tine often thinks when he looks at Sarawat but he forgot that simple truth when he let his fears drag him under.
Tine is Mr Chic. He's handsome and confident and popular. Sarawat knows he's lucky to have Tine as his boyfriend, the same way Tine knows he's just as lucky. He should trust that. Trust Sarawat.
'That's all I wanted to say,' says Pam. She lets out a long breath. 'Well, I thought I'd feel better but I still feel awful. Tine, I hope you'll forgive Sarawat. It really wasn't his fault. Sarawat is so...well, you know it yourself, right? That's why you fell in love with him. And ever since he saw you, you've been the only one in his eyes.'
Tine says nothing as she gets up and dusts off her jeans. 'I hope you'll stay to hear Sarawat's band play. You won't want to miss it.' She gives him a small smile and leaves, the only one walking in the opposite direction.
Eventually, Tine gets up. He hesitates for a moment before going back inside the building. He stops in front of the bulletin board again and stares at the poster for Control + S. At Sarawat's beautiful face front and centre.
He doesn't know what to do. Should he go? Stay? Is it too late for them? They already broke their own hearts, what else is there left to save?
The screams get louder and a familiar voice crackles from the speakers. Tine's heart pounds in his chest.
'The song we're going to play is special to me. I've been writing it for a long time and I promised Man that I would finally finish it once I found the right person for me.'
It's Sarawat speaking to the crowd but it also feels like Sarawat is talking directly to him.
Then, with a jolt, Tine realises that's exactly what's happening as he hears Sarawat say, 'Tine, I don't know if you're listening but I want you to know this — '