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Going Down Deep into Memory Lane

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--_--

 

“No… please no… not him, not him… Mani, NO!”

I opened my eyes wide, my ragged breathing the only thing I heard inside the room. I looked around and found plainly coloured walls with band posters taped haphazardly on them, instead of gilded walls with lavish Victorian furnishings.

I was safe. Nobody was plotting someone’s death. I didn’t know any prince, and as far as I knew, I didn’t have an evil stepfather. I only have a loving biological one with the name of Aroon instead of Johann.

It was that sort of dream again. The one that felt like a memory. The one that included nefarious plans against kings, queens and princes. Some dreams were of the happy sort, with me and the prince hanging out, (or on one particular dream, making out and doing… stuff, which still made me blush). But most of the time, the theme of those dreams would be focused on something dark, about betrayals, murders and tragedies.

And every time I dreamed one of those damned dreams, I couldn’t get back to sleep afterwards. I was always bothered by it and kept thinking why I was dreaming of people I haven’t even met. It also bothered me that I couldn’t remember the prince’s face even though I was pretty sure it had been clear in that cycle of REM. Afterwards, it was all just… blurry face of that one person, while the other faces, such as the evil man himself were very vivid. I didn’t even remember having watched foreign historical shows so that I could dream such events up.

I checked my phone and saw that it was three in the morning. Typical. The witching hour, was it? I always woke up sometime between three and four in the morning every time I dreamt of that dream. It had spooked me at the beginning, but having experienced it for numerous times, I was just exhausted.

I sat at my desk and turned on the lamp. I began to write down what I saw in a notebook I kept hidden deep in my drawers. It wouldn’t do well for my friends to find it and read it. I was afraid they would find me crazy and call my parents about it.

After I wrote out the events— this time it was the meeting with the evil stepfather telling dream-me what he was planning to the prince – I closed the notebook in frustration after I had written all that I had remembered from the new dream. I grabbed one of my comics then to pass the time. I wasn’t going back to sleep soon.

 

--_--

 

I woke up crying out again. I sat up immediately and ran my hands all over my torso. My brain not satisfied with this, I ran towards my bathroom and turned on the light, blinding me for a few seconds. I removed my top so that I could check out my body in the mirror, turning this way and that.

There was nothing there, no blood, no bruise, and no scar. I leaned on the granite countertop, just trying to calm my racing heart. My limbs were still shaking at the pain that I felt, even though there weren’t any lacerations in my body; a phantom pain that my brain had convinced me that I had.

The dream had been so vivid, so real, that I thought I was really there myself. But how could I be when there hadn’t been any wars that plagued our land for the past decade?

I carded my fingers through my hair, and in frustration, I pulled on the strands until my scalp hurt like hell. I focused on the self-induced pain to help my brain forget about the phantom one. A few minutes later, the pain was gone, and I wasn’t panicking anymore. I stared at my reflection coated in cold sweat as I took deep fortifying breaths, and decided to take a shower to get rid of the sheen of sweat.

Afterwards, as I was toweling my hair, I sat on my desk and retrieved the journal I had kept for certain nights like this. According to my parents, I had been dreaming these dreams when I was a child. They said that I would wake up screaming in the middle of the night, yelling that something hurt.

At first, they would check all over my body for any injuries. They would always find nothing, of course. When this continued, they decided to take me to the doctor for any internal injuries that I might’ve had acquired. Still, there was none. When I had withdrawn into myself after all those scary dreams, they decided to take me to a psychiatrist. I had a vague recollection of those sessions, how I would cry out in fear and pain at the remembered images.

By that time, I was able to write already but my vocabulary was still limited. So, when the doctor encouraged me to write down what I remembered, he also said that I could also draw them. My first journals were a mishmash of blocky handwritten words and crayon drawings. Mostly, black and red lines slashing the white pages, and the psychiatrist was quite disturbed by the stick figure bodies littering the ground on the drawings.

But as I grew older, my vocabulary growing with me along with my ability to draw, I was able to articulate what had been in those dreams. I remember my psychiatrist being baffled by my journals, because reading and seeing scenes from a war? It was a first for him. The only plausible conclusion that he could give was that I had a very active and vivid imagination. I still think that he was wrong.

I continued to grow and the dreams stopped at one point. I was able to live a normal life since then, and I had slowly forgotten about my troubling childhood. I grew up to be a cheery and friendly kid, so very different from the younger version of myself, who was afraid of people and rarely went out of his room.

But now… Now, it had restarted again. Slowly, I began to remember that forgotten part of my childhood, remembering details from my sessions with the psychiatrist, the way I cowered before big burly bodyguards with scary guns on their hips, how I would refuse to go to sleep even at my parents’ frustrated tone.

I didn’t know what triggered it, but it had been going on for months now. Come to think of it, it started up again a few weeks after I started my freshman year in university. What could have caused the dreams to resurface again?

 

 

--_--

I played with the food in my plate, pushing the meat from one corner to the other. My head was propped on my open palm as I stared at the distance, my mind drifting away from the present.

I didn’t notice the looks that my friends were giving, nor the not-so-silent whispered conversations. My sleep-deprived mind didn’t register anything, actually.

“Arthit?” someone called to me like it was from far away. I think I might’ve hummed in acknowledgement.

That same voice came again, louder this time.

“Hmm?” I asked, slowly coming back to the present. I realized then that my friends had stopped eating and were all looking at me in concern, even Bright looked serious.

“Arthit,” Knot called me, the third, I realized, and I turned to look at him, blinking my weary eyes slowly.

“Are you okay?”

“Hmm… ‘M fine,” I told him. he didn’t look convinced though.

“No, you’re not,” he decided.

“Then why did you even ask if I was okay?” I asked with a snort. I brought a spoonful of food to my mouth and chewed on the cardboard-like food.

“Don’t be an ass, Arthit,” Prem interjected. “We’re actually quite worried about you.”

“Yes. I’ve noticed how you’re not yourself lately. You keep spacing out. Is there something that’s bothering you?” asked Knot.

“Nothing…” I answered mulishly.

“Arthit.”

“I’m just stressed out with the hazing and our projects, okay? You know I’m the head hazer and it’s not really a walk in the park to keep the first years in line.”

“I told you. You should’ve punished that 0062 more severely,” Prem grumbled.

I glared at him, done with that talk. I let him handle one hazing session and see what his temper had gotten us to? The fourth years had to intervene with the hazing!

“Are you stressing about the hazing later?” Knot asked, also stubbornly. I shot him an irritated look.

“If I say yes, would you stop questioning me?” I asked him. He shrugged his shoulders in reply.

“Yes, I am stressing about the hazing later. I’m still not sure if we would be able to garner the freshmen’s trust with what we’re about to do, and that everything will all be for nothing.”

He studied me for a while longer, gauging my truthfulness about my statement. I continued to eat my food slowly, not having much of an appetite to be enthusiastically stuffing my mouth with food. Thankfully, he backed off and continued with his lunch.

When it was time for our next class, Knot told us to go ahead, as he forgot to buy something. The four of us proceeded to our classroom and waited for the prof to attend. We still had a little bit more than fifteen minutes so I took that time to nap. I laid my head on my folded arms and I was immediately transported to dreamland. Thankfully, I didn’t dream those dreams during short naps like this or I might’ve made a fool of myself, with all the screaming I do whenever I dream.

I was awoken by something cold being pressed to my cheek. I tried to burrow further into my arms but the cold something was pretty insistent. I finally opened my eyes to glare at the perpetrator, then stopped when I saw what that cold something was.

“Drink this. The sugar would help with your energy. You didn’t finish your lunch and the dark circles under your eyes tells me you aren’t getting proper sleep at all. I swear, if something happens to you, I will contact your mother,” Knot said, offering the milky goodness. I grabbed the cup, never saying no to my glorious pink milk. That would be sacrilege.

“Thank you,” I told him with a smile.

“Hey! Where’s ours, Knot?” Bright protested.

“Go get your own.”

“Tch. You and your blatant favoritism.”

 

 

--_--

Another day, another hazing session. I was thinking of opting out for the gathering later in the afternoon to catch some winks but when I told the others about this, they also wanted to ditch the gathering. I had no choice but to attend, since I was pretty sure the seniors wouldn’t be forgiving if more students didn’t attend. I didn’t want the others in attendance to suffer.

At lunch, I didn’t have much of an appetite. Em, noticing this, asked if I was okay. I told him I was fine and that I was tired from all the school works I did. He accepted this reason for my listlessness and coaxed me to eat my food. I managed to eat most of it even though it didn’t taste as good as usual.

Before our classes, I told Em that I would just go and buy myself an iced coffee, and they proceeded without me. At the stall, I met up with P’Knot. I greeted him politely and ordered my drink.

We stood there silently, waiting for our orders. His came first and I was surprised at his choice for a drink.

“This isn’t for me,” he explained hastily, a hint of embarrassment coloring his tone. It must’ve been for P’Arthit then. I smiled wanly at him.

“Okay, P’.”

“Really, it isn’t.”

“Don’t worry, P’, I believe you,” I reassured him. He bid his goodbye, stuttering a little bit, then left me alone. It was refreshing for a little bit to see someone like him lose his composure.

“Nong, here’s your coffee,” the server said, startling me out of my reverie. I thanked her after paying then I was off to my own class.

 

 

--_--

The beat of my feet against the ground was in sync with the beating of my heart against my ribcage. Those two beats lulled me into some sort of a stupor that helped me forget the aching of my limbs and the coldness of the rain. I was in a daze, hypnotized by the far distance and the lines that guided my feet towards my goal.

Somebody yanked me forcibly from that state of mind and I felt frustration bubble up to the surface. How dare they?!

“P’Arthit! Stop running, please! Why are you doing this?” someone exclaimed. The rain stopped pouring over me in an instant, the suddenness throwing me into confusion. I looked up and stared at the white plastic sheet over me incomprehensively. I followed the metal skeleton towards a bigger metal rod—oh! An umbrella—back down to the hand that’s holding it up, then finally to the face of that person. I blinked slowly at the image before me – a worried looking 0062 – thinking that the illusion was way too realistic. The illusion was also funny because he was worried about me. I felt myself giggle at his funny face before I turned back towards my goal and started running again.

The illusion was persistently telling me to stop and my earlier euphoria vanished. In its place came irritation. I glared at the figure beside me, telling the illusion with my mind that he was being a nuisance. Usually, my imagination would shift whenever I willed it to, but this time, imaginary-Kongpob was annoyingly staying.

“Leave me the fuck alone!” I yelled when the mirage kept on bugging me. I flailed my arms around, it should’ve been a well-aimed swipe but my coordination was shot, and I hit something hard. I looked at Kongpob – real, non-illusion Kongpob—who was cradling his cheek with a shocked expression on his face.

“Fuck…” I said faintly. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck…

“What’s happening here?” came a voice from my side. I glanced at the newcomer and it was Knot. He was as drenched as I was, his crimson jacket and black undershirt sticking to him like second skin. I blinked at him slowly, deciding whether he was real too, or not.

I reached out a hand and poked him several times on his cheek. His face got progressively more concerned as I continued to poke him unblinkingly.

“Huh. You’re real,” I declared.

“Yo, Knot. Is he real?” I asked, pointing at the junior I just hit. I prayed to all the deities above that Knot would deny seeing anyone beside me.

“Yes? What’s happening to you?” he asked me, worry painted all over his features.

“Aaah, fuck. I just hit my junior. Who does that, Knot? Which good senior does that?” I asked.

“P’Knot, I don’t think he’s okay. When he first saw me, he giggled, P’Knot. Then he just left me behind like nothing had happened. And he’s slurring his speech! P’, why does he have to do this? He needs to stop already!”

“Sshhhh. You. Juniors shouldn’t butt in in seniors’ problems. Mind your own business, 0062,” I told him off.

“But you’re not okay! I—”

“Shush. A-shush. Shut it, Nong. And I’m really sorry for hitting you. I will face the consequences of my actions later on, okay? Just—Just let me finish this first, okay? Okay.”

“P’Knot! Are you really gonna make him continue like this?!” Kongpob exclaimed. I began to walk away from them, gaining a little burst of speed when I got clear of Knot’s bulky frame. At the distance I could see my other friends, waiting for me. Was it the last lap already? I hope it was. I was dead tired already.

 

 

--_--

“P’Knot, are you really gonna let him continue like this?!” I asked my senior hysterically.

My cheek was still stinging, since P’Arthit didn’t pull on his punch. Well, he thought I was an illusion, so he probably didn’t.

I heard my senior heave a deep sigh.

“Nong, stay out of this. This is between us and the fourth-year hazers. Do not involve yourself further,” he said in a clipped tone. He began to follow on his friend, who was swaying a little bit on his feet.

“But is it wrong for a junior to worry about his senior, huh?! I really am worried about P’Arthit, for pete’s sake! He’s not fine, P’Knot!”

“You think I don’t know that?! I know he’s not fine, Nong! And I also know that he would beat himself up if he came to know that he didn’t manage to finish his punishment! He is my best friend so I know him more that you ever do! Anyway, a few steps more and he’d be done. Understood?! Stay out of this, Kongpob. I’m serious.”

I faltered in my steps after P’Knot’s outburst. He was right, I know nothing about P’Arthit. I continued to follow my seniors, deciding to stop badgering them for now.

In the distance, I could see the other hazers cheering a swaying P’Arthit on. Right then, I was in awe of their friendship. No matter how mismatched they were with their personalities, they fit like puzzle pieces with one another.

I looked at P’Arthit. He was swaying dangerously on his feet. When he stumbled, I felt my heart race, and I dashed through the rain along with P’Knot. The other hazers also ran towards him and I stopped on my tracks when they managed to hoist him up and support him. I walked in a more sedate pace, watching their backs as they supported their friend towards the finish line.

Unity. There was no man left behind.

At that moment, with their backs facing me, I saw them as if they were larger than life. My respect for them increased tenfold, and that scene was forever etched in my mind. The seniors were amazing. P’Arthit was amazing.

.

.

.

.

.

.

They reached the finish line and cue, P’Arthit losing consciousness.

 

 

--_--

The woman looked at me with craziness in her eyes. They gleamed wickedly in the light on the winter moon shining through the large pointed-arc window. The knife on her hands caught the light, too, and it also gleamed like crazily; as crazy as its owner.

I stood still on my spot, also illuminated by the faint light of the moon – like a spotlight to its performer— as she slowly diminished the distance between us. I followed her with my eyes, my face set in the stone-cold way it had been since many moons ago. After this bitch of a woman—

Rage filled every vein in my body and I was itching to wrap my hand around her throat. I zeroed in on the fair column of her neck and imagined it breaking under my fingers. It would fill me with so much satisfaction, I swear.

She lunged at me, and the fight began.

The ensuing scuffle was bloody; a knife versus bare hands. I felt the blade slice through my skin several times—twenty? Fifty? A hundred?—but the pain was dulled by the rage I was feeling. I was numb, a dead man that was still alive, the stabs on my body feeling like needle pricks.

In contrast, she kept on shrieking whenever I landed a punch on her body, or whenever I broke some of her bones. It was getting annoying, really, fueling my rage further, as we continued to duel.

Then she made a mistake by plunging her blade on my side. It hit my lungs, as I could feel my breathing becoming wet. I twisted and she lost her grip on weapon. I struck her then, knocking her down on her back. I sat on her torso and set on squeezing the life out of her. It was a bit annoying that my hands kept on slipping on her skin, the blood from my palms making my hands slick.

I heard a snap and a choke, and I grinned in victory. She was dead, finally.

I looked to the window and stared at the moon. I beamed at it, smiling a bloody smile up to the piece of rock in the sky.

“Sorry…” I muttered. I felt laughter bubble up from my chest, so I let it out.

“Arth…”

It was a joyful laugh, a laugh of someone who was finally tasting freedom.

“Arthit.”

That was right. I was free! I did it. I finally did it! I avenged my prince.

“Arthit!”

Huh? What was that?

“Arthit, wake up!”

Who’s Arthit? Oh! Wait, that was my name, right? Arthit?

“Oi, Arthit! Please wake up! Come on, man. You’re scaring me…”

But wait. That wasn’t right. My name’s Sunna…?

“ARTHIT!—”

Could someone shut him up? I swear to god—

“—If you don’t wake up, I will ban you from drinking your nomyen for a month!”

“Wha--? What? Why? Huh?” I startled awake.

I looked around at the unfamiliar surroundings in confusion. Why was it so bright suddenly? I’m fairly sure that I was in one of the rooms in the palace where I met up with that assassin bitch, and there were no lit candles whatsoever. Only the light of the moon illuminated the space.

My eyes caught sight of my Knot, and then I realized that I had dreamed that again. I was still confused as to where I was, though. This didn’t look like my room. It looked pretty drab.

“Where am I?” I asked my best friend.

“At the hospital. You collapsed after your laps.”

“Whaaaaat? That’s a first.”

He snorted inelegantly, and rolled his eyes.

“Well, I would collapse, too, if I hadn’t been taking care of myself for the past few days. Seriously, Arthit. You’re not getting away this time. You’ve got to tell me what is happening to you, because it is already affecting your health. Don’t even bother lying to me, because I know your tells. And I’m warning you, if you dare tell any lies, I won’t hesitate to call your parents and sic them on you, no matter the time.”

Knot seemed pissed and stern. Way too stern. Dealing with this Knot, I just knew I wouldn’t be able to get away from it this time.

So, I told him about the dreams and the journal I kept hidden in my room. He called Tutah, who I learned was at my room to fetch a change of clothes for me, and asked him to get the journal. I wanted to protest but a warning glare form him made me back down. I meekly let him do whatever he wanted.

When Tutah arrived, he gave the familiar notebook to Knot questioningly. Knot thanked him without teilling him anything before the latter departed for the night.

Knot browsed the notebook, after I grudgingly allowed him to.

“How long has this been going on?” he asked.

“A few weeks before first semester began.”

“Has this occurred before?”

“No. If it did, I don’t remember it.”

“Hmm… Do your parents know?”

I shook my head in answer.

“I’m calling them—”

“No! Knot don’t, please!”

“But this is serious Arthit! This thing that’s happening to you, it would’ve been fine if it didn’t have physical repercussions to you. But it does! You’re not getting enough sleep and you’re not eating well. I can say that it is affecting your psychological state more than you ever think.”

“Are you implying that I’m crazy?”

“Wha—How did you come to that conclusion?! I just said that you haven’t been yourself for the past few weeks now, Arthit, and it’s affecting your studies, too! You’re always absentminded and then there’s this! You’re in the hospital because your fatigue caught up with you.”

“I’m in the hospital because I ran those fifty-four laps—”

“Yes, and in your fatigued and dehydrated condition, no less! If you had been on your best state, physically and mentally, I bet that your condition wouldn’t be as severe. You’re borderline anemic for pete’s sake, and you’re staying at the hospital for observation.”

I fell silent and mulishly stared at the ceiling. I heard my best friend sigh in frustration.

“I’m calling them. You can’t stop me.”

“Do whatever you want,” I answered defeatedly. Maybe, just maybe, my parents could help. I was honestly getting tired of these dreams, anyway.

 

 

--_--

That night, when P’Arthit got sent into the hospital, I found it hard to fall asleep, my mind churning in worry at his state. I couldn’t deny it anymore; I was in love with him.

I didn’t know when, or how, nor what had attracted me to him.

Wait. No. Scratch that last part. I did know what attracted me to him.

He was an amazing human being, warm and caring, behind his hazer persona. He was fair and so dependable that I couldn’t just help myself but to want to rely on him. I wanted him to take care of me, and I wanted to take care of him.

When I fell asleep, the last thoughts lingering on my mind before heeding the call of Morpheus were all about a certain pink milk loving senior of mine. That was the last good thing in my mind before it got plagued again by gunshots and cries of pain and help.

I was running through the murky battlefield, crouched down low with my rifle held at the ready. My mind was alert for any sign of enemies that might come running through the flying debris created by grenades and other bombs. Lifeless bodies stared at me as I passed, and those who were still alive were barely breathing, and some were calling desperately for help.

I didn’t stop for anything, selfishly thinking of saving my own self. I needed to get to the next trench to retaliate with the enemy forces, behind the cover that the dugout afforded us.

Another bomb detonated near me, making my ear ring. I got disoriented for a few precious seconds and then I was back on my feet again. When the debris cleared in front of me, I saw that the dugout was nearer than I thought. With a burst of speed, I pumped my legs then slid the rest of the way into the trench.

I thanked all my lucky stars that the people occupying the trench bore the same uniform patches as I was. I propped my rifle on top of the trench and began shooting at anyone who bore a different set of uniform. With all the displaced soil and rocks raining down on us, it was hard to see, but we made it work.

Somebody yanked me hard, startling me out of my concentration. As a result, I nearly clocked my CO in self defense, only managing to stop my hand at the last second. He didn’t even flinch. Instead, as soon as I was facing him, he started yelling at me to rendezvous with another platoon headed our way and lead them to where the fighting was.

I started to run towards the direction he pointed out and minutes later, came upon the lost platoon. I led them out into the field, with them taking their positions as soon as we arrived at their CO’s behest. I ran back towards dugout where I had been hiding before.

A few meters away from the relative safety that the trench offered, I stumbled to my feet and a sharp stinging pain lanced through my body. I looked down uncomprehendingly, until I saw several red patches blossom all over my torso. I kneeled on the dirty ground for several shocked seconds, and then I was screaming for a medic.

I began to cough up blood and my vision began to blur. Huh. The bullet must’ve pierced through my lungs. People suddenly appeared in my line of vision and then they were poking and prodding me as they laid me down to the ground. Someone was applying pressure to the numerous holes on my body and I couldn’t even cry out in pain. My vision began to blur as I felt weightless, as if I was floating on air or something.

I must’ve lost consciousness because the next I saw was white cloth tents and it was quiet all around me. Well, except for the occasional shouts of pain and moans of agony, everything was silent. No heavy artillery raining down, no gunshot sounds, and no yelling for ammos whatsoever.

They must’ve declared a cease fire.

I tried to sit up from where I laid but the movement caused me to cry out in pain. I looked down at my body and saw how it was a mess of bandages with small patches of red seeping through.

Right. I got shot.

It was also very hard to breath. It felt like there was water deep inside me, which was weird a feeling. A lady in a nurse outfit came by and she checked on me. I tried to talk to her but my throat refused to cooperate. I breathing came faster as that simple attempt tired me out.

Was this… it? It felt like this was it. A dimpled smile flashed through my brain and I forced myself to sit up. The nurse helped me with this after I insisted stubbornly. I asked her in a breathless voice for a piece of paper and a pen. A sad sort of understanding flashed through her eyes as she wordlessly collected what I needed. She was even gracious enough to provide me with a stiff piece of a wood plank so I could write properly.

With shaking hands and blurry eyes, I began to write my last letter to my sun.

.

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I woke up gasping for air, the phantom feeling of choking to death because of a probable collapsed lung sending me into a tizzy. I clawed at my throat and coughed so violently, bile rose through my throat. I stumbled out of my bed, and managed to reach the bathroom before the contents of my stomach managed to spill to my floor.

I retched, and retched, my throat getting sore from the continuous abuse and stomach acid that I regurgitated along with last night’s dinner. My eyes watered and I didn’t know if it was only because of the retching anymore.

My fingers clawed at my torso, desperately trying to rip the shirt covering it to see at the skin beneath. My hands pressed at remembered bullet wounds, trying so hard to keep non-existent blood from gushing out.

I dry-heaved again, followed by another, my arms hugging my torso tightly like that could help me from falling apart. Because at that time, I was falling apart. A sob bubbled up from my chest, getting caught in a cough, or maybe that was a laugh, I didn’t know. I was still breathing erratically, hyperventilating, and my vision started to blur. My panic further intensified as I thought I was dying. The last dredges of my dream had been that: dying as my vision dimmed and my breathing became difficult. Maybe I was really dying.

I retched again, and again, with sobs making my shortened breaths hitch.

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.

I didn’t die but I did stay inside my bathroom, lying on the cold tiled floor of the shower. A little bit of my self-preservation saved me from fully succumbing into panic. The shock of cold spray against my skin had managed to clear some of the haze in my mind, bringing me from living in that dream of someone else’s past back to the present. I didn’t even notice that I had moved towards the shower area.

I had focused on the coldness biting against my skin and little by little, my breathing evened out until I was calm enough to not feel like I was dying. I turned off the shower and slumped down on the floor, then, exhausted but unwilling to fall asleep. My self-preservation might have saved me from the panic attack but it couldn’t save me from the onset of depression.

I cried my heart out for the life of that someone whose memories – because they were memories—played in my mind like a reel through my dreams. I also cried in pity for myself and the indignity of having to experience something like this.

Why did it have to be me? Why did I have to suffer like this? Why?

I was tired; so very tired. Maybe I should just sleep and never wake up. Let the dreams play in an endless loop. At least then, I wouldn’t feel these aftermath emotions that was wrecking me inside and out.

I closed my eyes and stayed in stasis for quite some time. I think I heard my phone ring somewhere from the bedroom but I couldn’t be sure. I stayed in that state, aware of my surroundings but not comprehending them.

I didn’t know how much time have passed but after a while, someone was shaking me. A few moments after that, I heard a voice frantically calling out my name. Kong, they said. Kongpob. Was that even my name? Or was it Kraisingha?

Who was I again?

 

--_--

“How long has this been going on, Arthit?” my mom asked.

Arthit. She used my name. That usually spelt trouble for me when I was younger, and it was no different now.

“A couple of months…” I mumbled, picking at the loose thread of the blanket. I heard her breath hitch.

“Arthit, this is serious. Why didn’t you tell us?”

“But they are just dreams!” I exclaimed, finally looking at her stubbornly. We stared at each while my father sat at the visitor’s chair, his head on his palms.

“They aren’t just dreams, Arthit,” she answered quietly after a while. I was surprised with her words and I looked between my parents warily.

“What do you mean?”

“You don’t remember your childhood, do you?” my dad finally said.

“No. Please explain.”

My parents looked at each other, having a silent conversation with their eyes. Then my father stood up and moved towards my bed, sat on the edge and looked me dead in the eyes, concern swimming in them. I saw my mother do the same on the other side of me, taking my hand in her smaller ones and squeezed it.

“You’ve had these dreams before, son,” dad started.

He began to explain to me how when I was younger, I would always wake up in the middle of the night, screaming bloody murder, and how I was inconsolable afterwards. This would occur sporadically and for such a long period of time. They even took me to the doctor after one episode when I kept crying and telling them the I was hurt somewhere. But there was nothing wrong with me physically and this drove them crazy with worry. They didn’t know what to do anymore.

He told me that when one of my grandparents, who lived in a village up north, suggested they take me to a certain monk, they immediately took her advice, and drove to the temple where the monk was staying. The monk had said that I was experiencing my past life through my dreams, a rare occurrence, and then performed some sort of a ceremony for me to stop having these dreams.

Well, it was hard to believe for me, with me living in the twenty-first century, and all. But my parents seemed to believe in those mysticism things so much that I didn’t voice out my doubts. Well, they were my parents, and I was told that I was an open book, so they pretty much read my doubts on my face.

“Oon, I know it’s hard to believe. I wouldn’t have believed in it, too, if the situation had been different. But we were desperate; you were our only son and we were so afraid that it would affect you so much, especially your emotional stability. When even modern medicine couldn’t tell what was wrong with you, we had to look for other means just to find a cure for whatever was ailing you. And when after the monk performed the small ceremony, you got better, I couldn’t help but believe more in all this. Ever since then, you’ve never had those dreams again and I had thanked Buddha for it. You grew up normally and healthily and that is all I ever wanted. Don’t begrudge us of this belief, son.”

“I’m not begrudging you, or anything! It’s just… it is hard to believe, Por.”

“Hmm…”

“But—what do you want me to do?”

My parents looked at one another for a brief moment, ending with mom nodding her head subtly at dad.

“Well, we would like to take you back to the same temple. If this is affecting your health, it doesn’t hurt to try to talk to the monk again, don’t you think?” dad tried to coax me.

“I.. I’m not sure Por,” I told them hesitantly.

“Please, Arthit. For our peace of mind,” mom said this time.

I looked at their faces, lined with worry and fear. I didn’t take me long to give in to them. Dad was right. There wouldn’t be any harm in trying.

“Okay. But I’m busy with school right now, so. Where is it, by the way?”

“Saraburi.”

“It’s not that far…”

“Yes. Let’s set a date for it in the near future. I don’t want you losing sleep and becoming sick because of these dreams.”

 

 

--_--

I woke up from the sound of someone singing a lullaby to me to the disjointed beat of beeping. I whined in protest, wanting to go back to the feeling of someone’s lap under my head; the soft voice that was singing some unknown tune; the gentlest of hands running through my hair.

But try as I might to go back to that dream, the annoying beeping wouldn’t let me.

“Korn, please turn off the alarm,” I whined, trying to bury my head on the soft pillow.

Someone caressed my face and I felt myself smile. I nuzzled the hand, loving the way it was touching me gently.

“Korn…” I mumbled.

“Kongpob,” someone decidedly not masculine called out. I furrowed my brows, trying to discern who was calling me. She sounds familiar but I couldn’t place who it was.

“Kongpob,” the voice called again, firmer this time. Then someone shook my shoulder, rudely waking me up fully.

“What?” I asked, a bit harshly.

“Kongpob!” called out a deep voice, admonishing me.

I registered the two occupants of the room and immediately scrambled to a sitting position.

“Mae! Por! What are you doing here?” I asked them, surprised. Then I looked around the room and found I didn’t recognize it.

“Where am I?” I followed up.

I saw them sigh in relief. I turned my attention to them and got more confused. Since when did they wear something like that? What are those clothes even?

“Mae, Por. Why are you dressed like that?” I asked them, looking at them weirdly. They looked at me, baffled, then turned to look at each other.

“But dear, this is how we usually dress? We haven’t changed our fashion much,” Mae answered.

I still looked at them weirdly. Haven’t changed much? They have changed how they dressed a whole hundred-eighty! But then again, there was something inside me that tells me they were telling the truth. It was weird, really.

“And where am I?”

“Bangkok Hospital. About that. We need to have a serious discussion with you, young man,” Por told me, suddenly stern. I could also see the barely concealed worry deep within his eyes. My mother also looked the same, except she wasn’t masking her own concern.

“Do you have any problems at school, son? Is there someone bullying you? Or are you doing this to rebel against us because you didn’t want to go to Engineering? If so, why didn’t you tell us anything? We are not unreasonable, son. If you’d really wanted to go to Economics, we would’ve understood! We wouldn’t be happy at first but we would still be respecting your decision. You have to talk to us instead of keeping it all inside until you burst. Just like what happened. I swear to god, you left Em really shaken. He thought you’d committed self-harm, and he was so afraid that he was too late! So please. I’m begging you, son. Tell us what’s bothering you, hmm? It was really scary to see you so pale like that. I-I thought I’d lost you,” Por said, his façade breaking at the middle of his speech.

His voice broke when he thought that I attempted to kill myself. But why would I kill myself?

“Por, what are you talking about? I’ve been through war. Why would I try to survive just to kill myself, right? And I have Korn to think about, remember? Anyway, is he doing okay? I hope that he isn’t worrying about me too much.”

“Korn?” Mae asked, her concern turning into a deeper fear. “Wait, war?”

“Kongpob, what are you talking about?” Por asked me. Wait, Kongpob…?

“Kongpob? W-who’s that?” I asked uncertainly. The name sounded familiar, I could feel it deep inside.

My parents stared at me in shock. The silence that descended after my question raged on for quite some time and it made me feel nervous as I looked from my Mae to my Por. Then Mae started to cry.

“W-what do you think is your name?” Por asked. I wanted to ask him what was going, why were they asking me my own name, but then I remembered, they were referring to me as Kongpob.

“K-Kraisingha?” I told them, growing uncertain as I uttered each syllable. Mae’s sobs intensified as she buried her face on his hands. Por staggered away, as if he had been burnt or something.

“What’s going on?” I asked them in a small voice.

Por turned around and stared at me, his eyes full of anguish. He shook his head and turned to Mae.

“Kannika, I’m going to contact Dr. Saetang. Please don’t leave Kongpob alone?” Por told my Mae. I was getting scared the more time passed by and my parents weren’t acting the way they should be. And Kannika?

Mae tried her best to compose herself. She gave a brief smile to Por and did her best to wipe all of her tears.

“Go. Please. Just… get help.”

 

 

--_--

I glared at the back of my parents then tilted my head to glare at my best friend, who was at my back. He didn’t pay any attention to me, though, and just kept pushing the wheelchair I was sat on.

Wheelchair. The indignity.

I resigned myself to it when my silent treatment to them got ignored instead. We waited for my parents as they settled the bill at the reception desk in comfortable silence. I was fiddling with a loose strand at the hem of my shirt when Knot spoke.

“Hey, isn’t that our junior? Your 0062’s friend?” he said. I followed the direction he was looking at and saw that it was indeed our junior, I think Em was his name, waiting for his turn at the reception. I could see he was a bit impatient and I wondered what he was doing here.

“Yeah. Should we go say hi? He looks a bit frazzled,” I answered Knot.

“Sure.”

Knot was about to push me towards him when he suddenly called out to the older man approaching the reception, so we stayed where we were. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop but I was quite concerned for my junior since he really looked so worried.

“Uncle! Uncle, how is he?” he asked frantically, his face full of worry.

“Oh, Em. Are you done with your classes?” the elderly man asked.

“Yes, uncle.”

“That’s good. Em, I’m so glad you found him in time. I—if he woke up like that without anyone around, I don’t know what would’ve happened. And I don’t want to find out either. Thank you so much. Our family owes you big time for this.”

“I—I—you don’t need to thank me uncle. You know that he’s my best friend. My brother. I know that he would do the same if it was me in his shoes. But is he fine now? What—what happened?”

The older man heaved a weary sigh that seemed like he was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. He gave the younger man a small smile that somehow looked familiar. Actually, the older gentleman looked familiar to me, I just didn’t know where I saw him? Or why he looked familiar.

“He’s—Well, he’s fine. Physically…”

“Physically? What do you mean? So, he didn’t…?”

“No, it’s not a case of attempted suicide, Em. It’s—it’s something that had happened to him during his childhood. I thought that it wouldn’t happen to him again; that he would outgrow it. But it’s happening again. I don’t know if it had been happening for a while now or if it just started. He didn’t tell us anything so this came as a shock to us, too.”

“Well, that’s good to hear. So, what’s his condition uncle?”

“It’s… not that good, Em. I don’t know exactly what is happening to him. It’s not something that could be explained yet by science and it is so far from the realm of reality that it’s so hard to believe it’s really happening. Even his psychiatrist when he was younger didn’t know how to fully explain his condition.”

“I think we shouldn’t listen to this, Arthit,” Knot whispered. I nodded my head. I gestured to him to wheel me towards my parents who were still at the counter. Before we could reach them, however, it seemed like our junior had finally noticed us.

“P’Knot?” I heard him call out hesitantly. Knot and I both turned to look at him and he gasped when he saw me.

“O-oh, P’Arthit. Sawasdee Khrap, P’s” he said, wai-ing to the both of us. We returned the greeting and even wai-ed the elder gentleman.

“I didn’t know that you were admitted here, too, P’Arthit,” he said, a little bit nervously. Did I really have that effect on them?

“Yeah… By the way, are you here for someone, Nong?” asked Knot.

“Huh?! U-uh… I-I—”

“Are they your seniors, Em? In university?” asked the elderly man.

“Y-yes uncle. Uhm they’re actually the hazers for our batch for the SOTUS system…”

The older man then turned to us and greeted us properly, introducing himself too as we introduced ourselves.

“I’m Kerkklai Suthiluck. I would like to ask of you, young lads, something. Please excuse my son for the unforeseeable future. I know how much value you put into the SOTUS and hazing, and that I know how much a student’s attendance to these activities matters, as I am an engineer myself and I have gone through hazing during my time, too. But please, spare my son some time to be able to cope for his health.”

I looked at the older man in confusion. Em seemed fine to us—wait, he called him uncle. So that ruled him out as the son. I wonder who the son might be… WAIT! Suthiluck!

I snapped my head towards the duo then looked at my best friend, who wore an expression something akin to shock.

“Wait, are you talking about Kongpob, Khun? What happened to him?” I turned to our junior, who sported a deer-in-the-headlights look. “He was fine, yesterday evening.”

0062’s father heaved a sigh of defeat, suddenly making him look older than he probably was.

“Just some medical problems, Nong. I will need to contact his doctor and have him checked first.”

“Oh… Then, I pray that he would be fine, Khun,” Knot said, to which I nodded my head in agreement. The younger might have been a thorn on my side for months now but he was still my junior, and I may or may not have made some sort of a connection with him.

“Thank you, Nong. I appreciate it. And I’m sure that my son would love to know that he has such caring and understanding seniors.”

I nodded my head bashfully at him, with a hint of guilt mixed in. I wasn’t sure about the compliments since the first years had been seeing us as tyrants. We bid our goodbye and went towards the spacious lobby with seating area. It seemed like my parents weren’t done yet at the counter, and I wondered what was taking them so long.

The two of us were silent, mulling over what we had heard (eavesdropped or otherwise). Kongpob was physically okay, and that meant that he was not mentally. Em thinking that he tried to commit suicide was the glaring clue to it.

But the Kongpob that we saw yesterday would never do any self-harm! That was what’s baffling me. The younger man was pretty confident in my own eyes, so strong, that it was so hard for me to connect him with any mental health issues.

But then again, even strong-minded people succumb to depression. A stone weathered through the years was bound to crumble some time.

I looked at Knot uncertainly. I saw the same confusion mirrored in his eyes.

“Are we too hard on the first years, Knot?” I asked him silently. He pondered on this for a while before he shook his head.

“I don’t think so. Actually, the pressure’s higher on us. We toe the line between what is enough and what is too much. Teaching discipline is, after all, not a walk in the park.”

“Then—”

“I don’t think that’s N’Kongpob’s problem. Don’t start blaming yourself, you insecure heroic idiot.”

“Wha—I’m not heroic! And I’m also not an idiot.”

“You are an idiot hero because you ran those fifty-four laps instead of the agreed twenty laps!”

“I would be cheating if I only did twenty laps! How would the freshmen know that we are serious about the hazing when we couldn’t even do our punishments right?!”

“Too righteous idiot then.”

“Wha—"

“Look, the point still stands: it’s not your fault nor any of us what happened to Kongpob.”

“How are you so sure?”

“Because of the way he looked at you.”

“…How does he look at me?”

Knot stared at me with a blank face.

“I don’t want to reveal it if you haven’t figured it out yet. Not my place to tell.”

“Knot!”

Finally, I saw my parents walking towards.

“Ready to go?” dad asked me when he was in front of us.

“Ages ago,” I answered with a deadpan look.

“Oh hush, you,” mom replied to my sarcasatic remark.

“What took you so long?” I complained as we walked towards the exit. Well, they walked while I enjoyed my life being wheeled around on a wheelchair. What? I got over the indignity and enjoyed the little time that I got being treated ike a prince. Sorta like Mr. Bean in that one episode. Maybe I should ask my mom to get me a bunch of grapes and make them hand-feed me? Wait, I need a sexy and beautiful nurse, too!

“Quit whining. We weren’t that long!”

“Uh, yes, you were. Knot and I even had a conversation with our junior and another junior’s father. You were gone for like thirty minutes or more.”

“Were we? Mae is sorry then, Oon. I was just catching up with someone I know. There was also some error in their system for your check out,” mom explained. I accepted their reason.

“By the way, next week, we would have some company, okay?” she told us as we waited for dad to bring the car around. Knot didn’t bring his so they were going to drop us off at my dorm.

“Next week? What’s next week again, Mae?”

“Aw. You’ve forgotten our conversation already? We’re going to Saraburi, remember? You set the date just a while ago.”

Knot looked at me curiously. I mouthed ‘later’ to him and he nodded in acceptance.

“Yeah, yeah. Okay. Who would it be?”

“Oh. Well—wait, we’d better get in the car first.”

They helped inside the car and I scooted gingerly to settle myself comfortably on the seat. Knot went to return the wheelchair then we were off.

“Mae, who will be accompanying us?”

“Right, well. We met this gentleman at the counter awhile ago. I actually overheard him instructing a young man to get something, a notebook, from someone else’s dorm. He went to describe how the notebook should look like, or rather what the notebook should contain. Then the young man exclaimed something about dreams and written journals by the owner of the notebook. This piqued my curiosity. So, when he came to the counter, I asked him about it. He told me a bit about his son and the dreams that had afflicted him when he was a child. Then I told him a bit about your condition and suggested going to the monk with us. He was a bit hesitant at first but I could tell that he was desperate. So, we exchanged contact details, and there’s that.”

“Why are you so nosy, mae?” I asked her. She glared at from the front seat and I sunk deeper into my seat. Clearing my throat, I asked her another question to divert her attention.

“So… someone was actually like me? I’m not some one-in-a-million weird kid?”

“You’re not weird, son,” dad told me as he looked at me through the rearview mirror.

“Fine. Thanks Por. So, who is it? Who’s going to be with us when we go to the temple?”

“Khun Suthiluck and his wife and son.”

 

--_--

I woke up to drab four walls and tried to remember where I was and how I got there. I came blank on both regards. I scanned my eyes around the room and realized that it seemed to be a hospital. I was in a private room, with a large window to my right, opposite to the door. There was another smaller door near the one that I noticed before, and I was pretty sure that led to the en suite.

I sat upright and that was when I felt the splitting headache. I scrunched my eyes tightly as I cradled my head on my hands. What the hell had happened to me?

A long time passed—or maybe just a few minutes, I didn’t know—until there was a gentle hand on my back, rubbing back and forth soothingly. Another hand was gently prying my hand away from my head.

“Dear, what’s wrong?” my mom’s gentle voice called out to me. I took a wary peek in between my fingers to see if it would drive that pile driver inside my skull further (thankfully, it didn’t). “Did you have another dream?”

Slowly, I raised my head and turned to look at her. I squinted my eyes a little bit to help with my throbbing head.

“No, I—how did you know about the dreams, Mae?” I asked, suddenly alert. I was sure that I haven’t told anyone about it yet.

We stared at one another for a long while, her eyes scrutinizing every inch of mine, trying to find a hint of something I didn’t know. In turn, I studied her face, which was looking a bit too pale to my liking, with tired eyes and slightly sunken cheeks. What happened to her?

“What do you remember, dear?” she finally spoke.

“What…? I was in my dorm room. I took a shower because I got drenched in the rain the night befo—wait. Oh god, Mae, do you have any news about a senior of mine? Em should know him…”

“Hmm? What happened to him?”

“He ran fifty-four laps in the rain! He was even hallucinating when I saw him, Mae. Is he fine?”

My mother heaved a deep sigh and shook her head. I could see that her shoulders lost the tension that they were set in before.

“You’re in a hospital bed yourself, and you are worrying about another person?” she asked me exasperatedly. I noticed that her voice was a bit lighter than before … as if she was relieved or something.

“Mae? What happened to me? And why are you looking so haggard?”

“You’re not gonna ask why you’re in a hospital?”

“Well, I figured I must’ve caught a nasty cold since I got drenched in the rain and I haven’t been sleeping properly lately…”

My mom stared at me for a few seconds then she was showing me her phone screen. I looked at her, confused.

“Check the date, dear.”

I did as I was told and was taken aback when I read it. It was Tuesday. P’Arthit ran those laps on a Thursday, and the date said that it had been roughly four days since that time. I clutched at the phone tightly, suddenly feeling vulnerable. I was so thankful of my mother’s presence at that time.

“Mae… what—what exactly happened to me? Ho-how come I don’t remember the past four days? Wha—”

“Shh, Kong. Can I call you Kong?”

“Wha—of course! That’s the name you gave me?”

“Good. Kong, listen to me and delay your freak out. The thing is, Em brought you here after he found you passed out in your bathroom…”

She started to narrate what happened after that night. Right. The memory of going to sleep and dreaming that godawful dream came back to me.

Apparently, after that, I had a little episode of dissociation, the medical term that my psychiatrist had given my condition, although it wasn’t all that accurate, he had said.

I got spooked as she narrated how I had been referring to myself as Kraisingha, the name of the guy whose memories I have been dreaming belonged to. Thankfully, the doctor that I had been seeing since I was young was affiliated with the hospital and was able to see me in short notice.

He had talked to me privately, and then after that, with my parents’ consent, did hypnotherapy on me. I had been sleeping since and that was why I was hooked up to an IV line.

Uncertainty gnawed my insides. I have… lived in a different reality again. I was beginning to fear the dreams more and all I wished, now more than ever, was to be rid of these. As if having vivid images of violence and explosions wasn’t enough.

I haven’t realized that I had been crying until my Mae brought me inside her warm embrace. I clutched to her like my life depended on it—maybe it really did—and cried like a baby. She consoled me as I repeatedly told her that I was scared—so fucking scared—that I might lose myself and not be able to recognize them and all my loved ones. I didn’t want to live someone else’s life. It was mine, and I didn’t need those past events of some person who might’ve lived a long time ago.

When I finally calmed down. My mom talked me into going on a trip by Saturday. Somewhere north with a family they just met. She told me about the son having a similar condition as mine and how the monk had helped him when he was young. I immediately agreed to her suggestion to take me to the same monk, desperate for something that would make all of this go away.

I hoped that this time, it will be okay.

 

--_--

A white van stopped in front of us. Knot and I, along with my parents looked at it curiously until the passenger door opened and revealed two couples roughly the same age as my parents. I instantly recognized Khun Kerkklai and I wai-ed them both in greeting, Knot following suit.

We got inside the vehicle and sat on the twin seater at the third row behind two sleeping figures. I recognized N’Em even though he had those googly eyemask on and guessed that the one beside him, leaning against the window would be N’Kongpob. He had a black baseball cap covering his face but his lean figure was unmistakable. I felt something settle inside me when I saw the younger after days of him being absent from the university. I chalked it up to a senior caring for the well-being of his junior.

I must’ve have fallen asleep because when Knot woke me up, we were already at the entrance of the temple complex. I stared at scenery beyond the window groggily and dreaded the stairs I saw leading up to a structure atop the hill.

I heard someone whine and focused my attention back inside the vehicle. Khun Kannika was trying to wake up our juniors, and she hadn’t been that much successful. She called for his husband frustratedly. Khun Kerkklai sighed and stared at the juniors.

“I don’t want to wake him up…” he told his wife.

“Kerkklai,” the wife said sternly. The older man sighed in defeat.

“Em, Kong… wake up, now. We’re already here. Your seniors are also waiting,” he said in a stern voice.

“Wha--?” Em said groggily. Khun Kerkklai raised his eyebrow as he looked in our direction. There was a commotion in front of us as N’Em became more alert and I could see him trying to find us. He finally turned in our direction and I smiled sweetly at him. I glanced at Knot and he had this serene smile on his face.

Em visibly paled as he scooted backwards and began to randomly hit the person beside him, not daring to take his eyes off us. I so badly wanted to laugh at his reaction but I kept my poker face.

“Em, what?! Stop slapping me already!” exclaimed the other junior.

“Kong. Kong. Wake up.”

“I’m already awake, doofus.”

“Good. Now stand up and let’s wai our seniors.”

“Huh?”

I finally saw Kong’s face and I gave him the same sweet smile I gave to his friend. He did wai immediately upon seeing us, greeting us in that sleep-roughened voice of his. I didn’t know why but it sent a shiver down my spine.

“P’s. What are you doing here?” he asked, confused. His parents had already descended, leaving us four to talk. I gestured towards at the open door of the van. They followed our unspoken request like the good ducklings they were. I mean juniors.

All of us squinted when we were outside, getting used to the brightness of the sun. I wore my sunglasses and still brought my hands up to shield most of my face from the unforgiving rays. Suddenly, something was being shoved down my head, and I jerked away from the offending hand. I glared at Kongpob, who had a smile on his face beside me.

“Wear it, P’Arthit. You might get sunburnt,” he told me.

“Y-you--! Can’t you just normally offer it up to me? You didn’t have to shove it down my head, you know,” I scolded him. he only smiled in return, the bastard.

We started walking towards our parents, who stood at the foot of the—steps. The dreaded steps. Drat.

When we reached them, I was surely sporting a sour look on my face as I glared at the innocent structure up ahead. Our juniors wai-ed the elders as they were introduced. I could feel the burning stare of 0062 at the side of my head when my parents were introduced.

“Let’s go,” Por said and I reluctantly followed their lead.

 

--_--

I stayed behind as I watched my senior drag his feet towards the stairs. P’Knot and Em were already climbing up behind our parents, chatting away about something. I caught up to the sulking senior and walked silently bside him. I could feel that he was a little bit uncomfortable with my presence but I ignored it. He was probably not ready to answer my questions. I also ignored that.

“P’Arthit,” I called out. I heard him sigh beside me.

“What,” he answered monotonously.

“You’re here with us,” I told him simply. I saw him turn his head slightly towards me and I could see how his brows furrowed on top of his sunglasses (Which looked good on him along with my cap, might I add).

“Yes. Why are you stating the obvious?” he asked irritably.

“Because if you’re here with us, then that must mean that you’re here for the same reason as me.”

“What makes you think that, huh? We could as well be here to make a visit to our ancestors, you know.”

“Because my mom told me what your mom told her. That there is a monk here who managed to stop you from having those dreams when you were a kid,” I answered simply.

 

 

--_--

 

“—a monk here who managed to stop you from having those dreams when you were a kid,” he answered simply.

Busted.

“A-and? What of it?” I asked in defeat, deciding to be truthful to him for once.

“Well, are you okay P’?”

“Hmm. More or less. The dreams are making me tired, is all. I couldn’t fall asleep afterwards and I usually wake up at three in the morning.”

“Oh… That’s good then.”

“What do you mean that’s good? It’s not! I’m losing sleep and I am damn tired everyday!”

“At least you’re not losing yourself,” I heard him mumble. Louder, he said, “I didn’t mean to offend you, P’. I just thought that… never mind.”

He continued to climb up the stairs as I stayed rooted on the spot. I watched his back as I contemplated whether to pry or not. Well, there was a reason why I was friends with Prem, Bright and Tutah: all of us were nosy.

“Wait, wait, wait. Kongpob,” I called out as I ran to keep up with him. He stopped in his steps and waited for me to catch my breath.

“What did you mean about losing yourself?” I asked him. He looked at me, surprised, then his expression morphed into an impassive one.

“Oh. You heard that…” he muttered.

I nodded my head firmly and put my head hazer face on. He sighed in defeat and began to tell me his condition. Everything.

I felt horror, and at the same time, sympathized with him, but I didn’t show that latter emotion, afraid that he might take it the wrong way. At the end of it, he looked more exhausted than he ever was. Even though he was putting on a brave smile, I still could see the cracks on his being, how he had hastily put himself back together, sloppy and fragile.

Without thinking too much about it, I grabbed his arm and brought him into the circle of my arm. I pushed at the back of his head so that it was buried on the crook of my neck. I heard his shaky breath then felt himself burrow deeper into my warmth, his hands clutching at the fabric of my shirt, like it was his lifeline. He didn’t cry; there was no wet patch on my shoulder nor were there shaking shoulders due to powerful sobs. Instead, I felt his breath tickling the sensitive skin of my neck as he breathed in deeply. I felt his shaking frame as he let go his composure for some time, letting himself be vulnerable, let himself relax the hold he had on his entire self, entrusting his cracked core into my arms that held him. I squeezed tighter, not thinking about anything but to hold my junior together when he was near his breaking point.

“I’m honestly afraid right now, P’Arthit,” he confessed. This junior of mine who had always been the fearless hero that his batchmates looked up to, was telling me that he was afraid.

“Of what?” I asked him gently.

“Of the what if.” He took a fortifying breath. “What if this didn’t work at all? Will I be able to live my life normally? I didn’t want to lose myself into that other person, who might’ve lived in the past, but that was all he is; someone from the past. This is my life now and I don’t want that to be taken away from me. P’Arthit… I don’t know what to do anymore?” he said, finally with a sob.

I tightened my hold on the vulnerable junior of mine, not minding the scorching sun beating down on us, nor the weird looks we must’ve been receiving from other visitors.

When he had finally calmed down, he disentangled himself from my hold, muttering an embarrassed ‘sorry’ to me. I handed him the pack of tissues that my mom had insisted on me before the trip, and he took it gratefully, wiping his tear-stained face and blowing his nose.

We continued our walk, noting that the others were carefully not looking at us, but I knew that they saw us like that because they were patiently waiting for us at the next landing. When we reached them, they only smiled softly at us while Kongpob found his shoes suddenly fascinating.

The others went on again, climbing the last two flights of stairs, Kongpob and I bringing in the flank. I was debating internally if I wanted to hold his hand or not, if I was allowed to or not. My inhibitions flew out of the window after hearing him sniffle for a couple of times, bravely circling my fingers around his wrist. I felt his stare at the side of my head and I ignored him, staring ahead at the back of our friends. I squeezed his wrist though in reassurance. I took a peek at him at the corner of my eye and found that he was smiling softly down at our joined hands. Even though I was embarrassed, I didn’t let go and just stared straight ahead.

 

--_--

P’Arthit had been surprisingly warm towards me. He even comforted me when my fear got the best of me. Now, facing the monk as we sat side by side, I felt braver. His presence was reassuring me in ways that I had never thought it would before.

The elderly monk was chanting a prayer over the two of us, while our friends and parents stayed behind us. It had been thirty minutes since the older man approached us, took one long look at the both of us, and ushered all of towards this room.

Incense burned low on their holders, and I noted a younger monk adding new ones on them. My mind drifted in curiosity as I stared at the monk who had been chanting nonstop. Wasn’t he thirsty at all? I would be if I was the one doing the chanting.

I adjusted myself on my lotus position, trying to ease my limbs who had seemed to have fallen asleep, even though we had a cushion underneath us. P’Arthit wasn’t faring any better, squirming every minute in uncomfortability.

Just then, the monk stopped chanting, making the two of us freeze. He suddenly opened his eyes, making me jump a bit from where I was seated. I heard a squeak beside me (cute) but I didn’t dare look at my companion. The way that the monk had stared at us made my heart beat frantically, nervousness tensing every bit of my body.

“I have delved into the akasa. It seemed like you are finally reunited,” he said.

I was confused by what he meant. P’Arthit and I surely didn’t share the same dream for us to have a connection, as he talked about his dreams for a bit during our ascent here, and likewise, I told him about mine. His dreams were of monarchs, and the games of thrones (not the series!), of princes and assassins. It was very different from my war-torn country set during the second world war.

“Hmm… your souls are longing for each other, and that is why the films of memories from your past lives are bleeding to your present ones.”

I couldn’t hold my tongue any longer as my mind overloaded with more questions than answers.

“With all due respect, Luang Phu. I… don’t know what you mean. I’ve talked with P’Arthit here about our dreams and his doesn’t match mine,” I told him.

“Hmm. That just means that your souls are more intertwined than the others, my son,” he answered gently. P’Arthit and I shared a confused look.

“What I meant is that you have found each other in a previous reincarnation cycle. Your souls keep longing for each other. This happens whenever one of you, or both, wasn’t able to fulfill the promises you made to one another during your past lives. This usually happens when one or the other’s life ends abruptly before the promise was fulfilled.”

I thought back to the promise of Krai to his Korn. The strong feelings he felt as he went through army training and war. How, in the end, he struggled to survive and go back to his beloved Korn. How he had felt so miserable as he died. His guilt. His overwhelming love.

I had felt them all like they were my own. I felt his frustration and his anguish when he was shot multiple times. His willpower to survive. I felt them all like they were real, it drove me nearly crazy.

“Then, what should we do, Luang Phu?” I heard P’Arthit ask. I turned to him and studied his profile, worry etched on his face. “We cannot keep on living like this. The line between our realities and dreams are getting blurred every time we have those dreams. We might be waking up fine for now, but what about later? We’re afraid to lose ourselves into our pasts.”

I see. He must’ve been shaken by what happened to me, afraid that it would happen to him, too. What was I thinking, telling him that?

“We deserve to live within our present, live our lives as Arthit and Kongpob. Not, not—whoever it is we were in our past lives. They are dead. They’ve lived through their lives. I don’t want that bleeding into ours,” he told the monk adamantly. The elder focused his attention on him, silently listening to his every word.

“I… I don’t want to lose my junior to someone I barely know. He is who he is, and I liked him the way he is right now, his very person shaped by his parents, his experiences, his friends…” he must’ve realized that he had said too much because he suddenly clammed up, ducking his head to avoid looking at anyone, his red ears cluing to anyone present of his embarrassment.

He was thinking of my well-being and I was so elated by this.

“Child, listen to what I have to say. Your souls are yearning for each other. Tell me, when did your dreams start again?” the monk asked.

“A few weeks before I started my third year, Luang Phu.

The elder looked expectantly at me.

“U-uh… I think it’s the same, Luang Phu. My dreams started up at the end of my high school and before I entered university…” I trailed off. It couldn’t be a coincidence, right?

“That’s because you have met physically and your souls recognized each other. The faint bond that your souls had towards each other was renewed since that meeting and had been growing stronger, hence the memories of the past bleeding into your dreams.”

“But I’ve only met him during our hazing period, Luang Phu. He was one of my juniors whom I was hazing,” P’Arthit protested. I bit my lip, contemplating whether to reveal it to him or not. Deciding on the former, I caught his attention.

“Actually, P’, the freshmen orientation wasn’t our first meeting…” I began to tell him about how he had approached me during my interview, how he had helped me choose which course to take and how he had cheered me on regarding the interview. I watched as his expression grew more shocked by the second.

I stared at him meekly after I narrated what happened, letting him process this new information. The elder monk was smiling serenely at us, and I couldn’t help but think that he was actually smiling smugly at us.

“Well… this puts things into perspective…” P’Arthit muttered. He turned to the monk and asked again what they should do.

“It’s simple my child. Form a bond with each other. This way, your souls’ longing would be satisfied.”

P’Arthit spluttered in his seat, while I blushed furiously. Did this mean that we need to be… in a relationship or something? I peeked at P’Arthit and saw an affronted expression painted on his face. Seemed like he was opposed to being with me. There goes all my courage of pursuing him.

Well, thinking about it, I think I would also be opposed if I were to be forced into a relationship with someone. I was all for loving freely and all the schtick. So, I understood where P’Arthit was coming from.

I heard a chuckle and I turned my attention back to the monk.

“You youngsters love to jump into conclusions, don’t you? There are different kind of bonds in this world, and yours doesn’t necessarily have to be romantic bond. It could be a close friendship bond, too.”

“But… would our souls be satisfied with that, Luang Phu?” I asked.

“Well, if you are. Your soul resides within you. It will be satisfied as long as you are satisfied.”

I gulped at his answer. I was already in love with P’Arthit. Did this mean that I was doomed to be always dreaming the same gory dream, and become depressed? I’d definitely lose my sanity if that happened. And I meant that literally.

“Is-is there any other way, Luang Phu?” I asked him hopefully.

“If there is, I’m afraid I don’t know it, child.”

 

--_--

I was still reeling about our discoveries regarding ourselves. I didn’t expect that I would be connected to my junior like this. Then, as if everything hadn’t been enough as it was, Mae asked Kongpob’s mom to show us the drawing while we were on our way back to Bangkok.

That drawing was a candid of me (or of my past self rather), in black and white graphite and paper.

(AN: Ehehe, sorry, he doesn't look much like Krist. tweaked this a bit in PS because the picture I took was a bit dark.)

 

 

The artist? It was none other than Kongpob himself—or was it Kraisingha instead since he drew this when he was under that persona?

I didn’t know that the younger had a talent such as this.

Kongpob looked surprised, too, when he saw the drawing. He had no recollection of ever making it. So that begged the question: Who’s talent was this? Was it Kong or was it Krai?

I teased him about it, telling him that I had started to get impressed of his talent, but it turned out that it was Krai’s “hand” that had drawn this. He returned the teasing when he told me that it was still him who drew this, his hand and brain who had conjured it, and it was only Kraisingha’s memory he had based it from.

It was then that Khun Kannika explained that Kongpob had always been good at drawing (making that junior of mine smile smugly at me, the bastard) and that he had drawn the portrait when he was under hypnosis of his psychiatrist, as a form of therapy. I think the correct term was hypnotherapy?

The thing was, Kongpob had remembered the faces of everyone from his past life through his memories. But one person’s face escaped his mind. Everytime, he dreamed of the past, the most important person to Krai would always be blurry, making him, and the psychiatrist, a bit frustrated. He knew the name, though, and he was Phassakorn, nicknamed Korn.

And that Korn had the same face as me. I refuse for that sentence to be the other way around. And wasn’t that creepy as fuck?

We reached Bangkok by evening and our two families had a wonderful dinner together. The atmosphere was lighter than before and I saw that Kong (when did he become Kong?) was more at ease than before. I was too, to be honest. I think finding out the root cause of our problem somewhat lessened the burden of our plight, instead of the shots in the dark we’ve all been doing. Even though the solution was a bit unconventional but we promised our parents that we would at least try for a friendship with one another.

Now that was where it got tricky. I could I achieve that?! First of all, we weren’t even on the same year so we couldn’t hang out and get to know each other better. Second, (although it was a lesser concern now) I was still his head hazer. I couldn’t be seen bestowing preferential treatment to a junior of mine, not yet anyway, and well, if you were friends, that would definitely happen a lot of times. Third, and definitely the most important to me, I don’t know how to make small talk. Every interaction in our past had been me sort of bullying him. My introverted nature didn’t know how to interact with people properly.

Granted I had been irritated by his mere presence, but still. I hadn’t known how to react to him over a prolonged period of time.

Whatever should I do? Tell me.

 

 

--_--

The first night back at my dorm, I had high hopes that I could sleep peacefully now that I knew more of what was happening to me; that some sort of an explanation had been provided to me, to us, and that, I was no more walking blindly through this condition of mine. My subconscious should have been more at ease now that there was a solution to my problem.

Well, I hoped wrong. By three fifteen in the morning, I woke up yelling bloody murder, my neighbor probably startled awake by my outburst, the gunshots ringing faintly on my ears. I sat up and rubbed my hands on my face, my scream of frustration muffled by the appendage.

I was desperate to not be alone so I grabbed my phone and started a text message to Em. Then I changed my mind since he was as exhausted as I was, having been staying with me at the hospital and being woken up whenever I those dreams.

My fingers had minds of their own though, and started another message. My thumb hovered over the send icon, wondering if this was allowed between us now. I tapped on it, throwing away my doubts since I badly needed some company tonight.

I stood up from my bed and went to the bathroom to splash water on my face, hoping that the cool water would wash away the vestiges of my dream. After that, I turned on the lights to my room then sat at my desk again. My hands grabbed the graphite pencil, staring at it for a while. I grabbed my sketchbook and opened in on a blank page then I began to draw.

The repetitive scratching of my pencil against the paper was quite soothing, this time. Soon, I was lost into the creative haze that I usually adapted whenever I drew. A couple hours have passed and the sun was peeking through my curtains when I finally finished at my artwork.

I stared at it and was actually quite baffled with what I drew. A detailed portrait of P’Arthit stared back at me, the corners of his lips lifted up at the start of a smile, his naked eyes twinkling in mirth with his eyebrows raised, looking overall as someone gearing up for some mischief. The face was tilted up and to the side, to see through the black cap that almost hid his face from the viewer. My cap which was still in his possession. I didn’t mind one bit.

I sighed like the lovesick fool that I was, staring at his visage against the paper. I shut the notebook and decided to just go out for a late jog then breakfast.

Despite the memory-plagued dream, it still was a relatively good morning for me. At least I didn’t lose myself this time.

 

 

--_--

I saw N’Em at the cafeteria near the dorms, buying something, maybe breakfast for himself. I approached him, tapping on his shoulder to garner his attention. He jumped a foot on the air, clutching at his chest as he visibly tried to rein in his surprise.

“Oh. It’s you. P’Arthit. Uhm, hi. Good morning P’,” he stuttered as he wai-ed. I greeted him back.

“Have you heard from Kong?” I asked him, subconsciously calling him by his nickname like every one of his friends did.

“Uh, no P’. Why?” he asked back, suddenly alert.

“Well, I received a message from him this morning, asking me how I was doing. He told me that he had another episode of his dream. I was hoping that you heard from him.”

“No… I didn’t…”

I actually felt bad for the younger as he began to look upset. I watched him tap on his phone and minutes later he was talking to Kongpob. I listened to the one-sided conversation guiltily.

“Why didn’t you tell me?! You should’ve called me or something!” he was saying.

“And what would you do if—if—if—that happened again, huh?”

“…”

“Still. Kong! Come on.”

“…”

“You know what, I don’t trust your ‘I’m fine!’. I’m sleeping over and that’s final.”

After that, he immediately brought his phone away from his ear and tapped on the red end icon viciously. He turned to me and I was a bit taken aback with the seriousness I saw on his face. It was the first time I saw his fierce face and it was actually kinda scary.

“P’Arthit, thank you for telling me,” he said seriously and respectfully.

“U-uh, yeah. It’s nothing Nong.”

“How about you, P’? Have you had a dream?”

“Yeah… but it’s one of those okay ones. The happy ones.”

“That’s good to hear P’.”

“Well, I still woke up at the ass-crack of dawn,” I told him warily. I was honestly getting sick and tired of this. I was missing all those times that I could just sleep in until it was nearly time for lunch. All these waking up abruptly at the witching hour was getting into my already fraying nerves.

“How about calling P’Knot and telling him to accompany you? Just like how I will later on with Kong. It might actually help, you’ll never know.”

“If he’s not busy…”

 

 

--_--

“You look like shit,” someone told me from beside me and I recognized that voice so easily. I turned my head lethargically and smiled at my senior.

“Sawasdee Khrap, P’Arthit,” I greeted him. “Thanks. You’re looking quite handsome yourself.”

“At least I’m not about to keel over,” he retorted with a snort. I protested as he grabbed the books from my hands, and he wouldn’t budge when I tried to snatch back my references. I followed him out the aisle created by the shelves towards the seating area of the library. I guided him to my table and he sat down on the vacant chair opposite me.

“No friends with you today?” he asked me as he looked around.

“No, P’. They’re busy.”

“With what?”

“With their own lives? Seriously, they have their own engagements and I was doing my work in advance. You know too well that I couldn’t do it at night because I wanted to get as much sleep as possible.”

“I see…” he mumbled.

I opened one of the books, going to find that page that I needed and sorted through the data, isolating those relevant to my report. I continued my class work in relative silence that I almost forgot that I wasn’t alone. I’ve only remembered about him when I decided to take a break.

I looked up from my papers and a small smile bloomed on my face. His head was pillowed on his folded arms, and his breathing was slow and deep. It seemed like I wasn’t the only one who hadn’t been catching any winks these past few days. I looked at the time and it read five twenty-four.

I looked at the waiting papers for me on the table then towards my senior, then back down to my papers. I cleared a space on the table and laid my head on my folded arms, mirroring the elder’s position. Not even a few seconds have passed and I was already on my way to dreamland.

That day, I dreamed of bright eyes, dimpled cheeks, and smiling lips wrapped around a clear straw, a cup of never-emptying pink milk clutched on pale hands.

 

 

--_--

I didn’t know what I was doing here. Scratch that; I did know what I was doing here. I just didn’t know why at this time. I glared at the door like it has personally offended me, my closed fist poised over the wood. It was so easy to knock, yet why the hell couldn’t I do it?

I shuffled my feet, contemplating whether I should just leave or stay. When I have decided on the former, my hands did otherwise. Traitorous limb that it was, the knock on the wooden door sounded so loud in the silence of the night, making me wince.

I knocked a second time around when no one came to open the door. Was he asleep? But he just texted me—

“P’Arthit…?”

“Hey…”

I stared awkwardly at him then ducked my head in embarrassment. Maybe this was all a mistake. Maybe I shouldn’t have come. Maybe I should g—

“Hey, P’,” he said softly. I looked up at him and there was a relieved look on his face.

“Please. Do come in,” he added, stepping aside and opening his door wider to let me pass.

“U-uhm. Sorry for disturbing?”

He chuckled in response as he closed the door behind me. I scanned the new surroundings, taking note of how it was so neat, so very different from one would expect of a male’s dorm room.

“Please have a seat anywhere. Would you like some water? I only have water on the fridge,” Kongpob offered.

“I’m okay. I just… j-just came to—uhm…”

“Here to accompany me?” he asked, chuckling.

“Yeah. That,” I told lamely. I didn’t tell him that I also had one of those dreams and that when I received his text message, I instantly jumped on the opportunity to not be alone. The dream had spooked me a lot; a memory of someone getting beheaded.

I sat on one of the stools by the window, leaning on the wall and looking around. He approached me with two bottled water and left one on the table beside me. I muttered a soft ‘thank you’ to him and took a sip of water, while he went towards his study desk and sat on the swivel chair.

He reclined against the soft back of the chair and closed his eyes tiredly. I took this chance to study his features.

His fringe fell messily on his forehead, covering his perfectly arched eyebrows a tad. His high nose, and the thin upper lips partnered with his plump bottom ones, they make up a perfect classically handsome face. He could be a damn good Casanova with his good looks.

“Why were you awake, P’Arthit?” his soft husky voice broke me out of my reverie.

“Hmm? Dream.”

“You did, too, huh.”

His tone, the way he said it, it sounded like he was just talking about the weather or something. A regular occurrence. I couldn’t help the laugh that bubbled from my chest then. He opened his eyes, his dark orbs finding mine, flashing confusion. I shook my head at him.

“S-sorry. Don’t mind me,” I told him, still chuckling. His lips twitched and he had a bemused expression on his face.

“Mind sharing with me?”

I stared at him for a long while and then decided, ‘fuck it.’

“The way you said it… It’s just—I couldn’t help but laugh at our situation. After so many months of suffering through sleep deprivation, here we are, talking about it like it’s just you telling me that grass is green, or—or the sky is blue. It’s so normal to us now that it wouldn’t even come as a surprise anymore.”

“Well, you being here came as a surprise.”

I stared at him, and tried to gauge whatever he meant with that statement of his. There was a small smile playing on his lips; no meaning, just a simple tilt of his lips.

“Don’t get me wrong, P’. You being here now is actually proving better than being all alone after an episode like that. I find that I am relaxed now. But still, this is a first,” he clarified.

I accepted his explanation as it was. I thought to myself that, yeah. He was right. It did feel nicer to be around someone who knew about the horrors of those dreams. The guilt that I usually felt whenever I bugged Knot to accompany me at the ass-crack of dawn was absent, making me more at ease already with the younger.

“By the way, P’. How did you know where my dorm room is?” he asked.

“Oh… I, uh… Knot?”

“You don’t seem so sure about that P’,” he told me, unimpressed. He had an expression on like he was saying, without actually saying it, ‘better ‘fess up because I know you’re lying.’

“…I asked N’Em about it before…” I confessed, ducking my head in embarrassment. I couldn’t meet his eyes.

“And why?”

I fiddled with my fingers, contemplating if I should tell him about me knowing what happened before to him when he was rushed to the hospital. Would it be too nosy of me?

“P’Arthit…?”

“I-I worry, okay? Somehow, I—I got the feeling that you were in a worse form than I was…”

“Hmm. But what makes you say that?”

“Don’t get angry, okay? Remember the fifty-four laps debacle? Like how I was rushed to the hospital because of fatigue and dehydration? You were taken to the same hospital as me. When my parents were taking over my discharge papers, Knot and I met your father and N’Em. Actually, we overheard what they were talking about, and N’Em had been worried about you… and he thought you might’ve harmed yourself…” I tapered off.

“And I don’t want you to lose yourself again…”

“P’Arthit—”

“I could only imagine how scared you were. I wouldn’t know the extent because I don’t have the same dreams as you.”

“But your dreams wouldn’t be pleasant too. If it did, then why are you losing sleep like I do?”

“Oh no. Don’t get me wrong. They’re… disturbing too. The dreams. But it’s not as gory as experiencing war. Sunna—the one whose memories I am dreaming—was never a part of the main war, the revolution. But he did play a crucial part at the start of it. You could say that he was one of those who helped start the revolution against some king but he died even before the actual war started. He killed individually, that for his own agenda, too. That was protecting the prince whom he fell in love with.”

I started to narrate in detail about the dreams—the memories—I kept having; the treacheries of monarchs; greed, envy and all others in play. I didn’t spare him about his prince—the kind and pure-hearted Mani—except, of course, I didn’t delve into his intimate moments with him.

In the middle of my story-telling, we migrated to his bed to get comfortable, leaning side-by-side on his head board. Talking to him was—cathartic. It felt nice, to finally voice out those things that happened and not having to feel like you would be judged.

I didn’t know when or how I fell asleep. I just did. And judging by the soft and deep breathing of the younger, he did, too. Probably later than me, or maybe we fell asleep at the same time. I didn’t know.

I stared at his features, the first time I had seen him so relaxed, and I was fascinated. I wanted, oh so badly, to trace his sharp jaw with my fingertips but I was afraid that I would wake him up. I didn’t want to get caught. Also, he badly needed his sleep. We badly needed our sleep.

My eyes still felt heavy so I gave in to the temptation and closed them again, and within minutes I was back to my regular dreams, the one where I was riding on my bicycle back in my hometown. No more dreams of the past visited me that day.

 

 

--_--

Ever since that time P’Arthit went to my dorm, we sort of, started to hang out more. Em and P’Knot would sometimes accompany us, but most of the time, it was just the two of us. I was so elated by this. Of course, I was.

The only people who knew about our condition was still just Em and P’Knot, both our best friends who’ve been with us longer than our other friends. I was still uncomfortable in revealing about this unique condition of ours to the others, fearing their judgment.

As for the dreams… well, they still kept on coming. I had hoped that they would stop now since I could confidently say that P’Arthit and were past mere acquaintances. We were more that Phi-Nong. I would like to say that we were more than friends but that would just be my wishful thinking.

We continued on with our lives like nothing had happened; we still bickered from time to time and I was still a little shit (according to him) during hazing. It was like an unspoken agreement between the two of us that no one would know about our bond. Not yet anyway. Just after hazing. He was the head hazer, after all, and it wouldn’t do to tarnish his hard-earned respect from the juniors with accusations of favoritism.

I still nursed this little crush on him, unwilling to reveal it to him because of my what-if’s again.

What if I was only feeling this way for him because of the intertwined fates of our souls? Kraisingha definitely loved his Phassakorn, and according to P’Arthit, Sunna definitely loved his Mani. That begged the question of whether what I was feeling was only our past lives’ emotions bleeding into our current present.

There was another version of this what-if.

What if P’Arthit thought that I was only feeling this way because of our past lives, if ever I did accept to myself that I was indeed in love with him and not because he was my past life’s love of his life? What if he rejected me because of it?

Of course, that was barring the fact that he was a boy, and I was also a boy, and society’s scorn towards same sex couples. He could be straight, for all I know.

See my dilemma? That was why I opted to stay friends with him instead of pursuing him. That wasn’t to say I would stop flirting with him, though. I just loved to rile him up sometimes. Don’t tell him I said that, okay?

Capture the flag came and afterwards, the wrist tying ceremony. I found him crying alone behind the bleachers and I got worried about him. I approached him and had him tie one of the strings on my wrist, feigning ignorance on his red-rimmed eyes and reddened nose.

But I couldn’t hold my tongue entirely.

“P’Arthit, if you ever need a shoulder to cry on, you can always come to me. I’ll help you wipe those tears away as I let you lean your weight on me.”

“Oi, 0062! Stop being a little shit and get back inside!”

After that, the seniors had been warmer to us, their juniors, even though the gear hadn’t been distributed yet. There was a rumor that that would happen somewhere on the beach but nothing was sure for now.

The late-night visits, or rather early, very early morning visits, continued. Waking up next to each other felt natural now to the both of us. Some of P’Arthit’s things had also migrated to my dorm, while I was pretty sure that some of mine were also in his. It was like we skipped something in the escalation of our relationship.

Yeah. We definitely skipped something. And that something was the most important one.

We weren’t even boyfriends yet!

 

--_--

 

We got the approval from the dean to take our juniors out to the beach. All of us had fun there, and we, seniors, decided to dole out one last punishment to the rowdy boys, who weren’t all that listening to us.

Kongpob, always playing the hero, came up to us. There was certainly a glint in his eyes that I knew meant he was a bit pissed. He complained about being left roasting in the sea while the rest stayed under the shade along with them. I told him to get his head dunked into the sea to cool off.

It was a sarcastic remark on my part, and he should’ve known better than to follow that. Like was he being serious?! I thought he had drowned and the asshole and reasoned out that he was only following my orders. What a great time to be obedient, right?!

I shouted at him, the horror of seeing him disappear underwater and never surfacing making my heart beat so fast against my chest.

Then that picture of Kongpob morphed into that of a lifeless Mani, his mouth foaming, and his eyes staring straight ahead into oblivion. I ran as fast as I can towards my room, ignoring my friends’ and Kongpob’s shouts.

I locked myself inside the bathroom and slid down against the cold tiles, the image of Kongpob’s face clear on Mani’s body. My breathing became as erratic as my heart. I gulped lungsful of air, desperate to keep breathing, to survive. Tears blurred my vision, making me focus all the more on the dream—no, memory—of the prince. It wasn’t Kongpob’s face anymore; it was Mani’s. The blurry image of him was finally clear, and why did it have to be his stone-cold cadaver that I remembered it from?!

A sob wracked my frame, followed by another; and then another.

I didn’t know for how long I was crying, just that I was crying for my lost love. Grieving for my kind-hearted prince, the person who should’ve been alive instead of—me.

Distantly, I heard someone pounding at the door, but that was so irrelevant. Couldn’t they leave me alone to grieve for my lost love?!

I wrapped my arms around my drawn-up legs and buried my head on my knees, sobbing and gasping for air at the same time. My brain couldn’t function properly. I was pretty sure that I have something that needed to be done, but I didn’t know what. I was still comprehending how my prince was dead now.

Someone grasped my hands and I jerked violently away from them. I scrambled away as I glared at the newcomer—oh. It was Mani’s esteemed guard, Sir Konrad, the one that my prince trusted the most. Fresh tears flowed from my eyes as I grasped at his strong forearms tightly.

“He’s dead. My prince is dead,” I told him.

I expected him to look grimly at me, to see the anger in his eyes, and the hidden sorrow, but he showed nothing of those emotions. He showed confusion instead, and a hint of fear, but that didn’t make sense, right? He was one smart man, and fearless to boot. Loyal to my prince to a fault. So why…?

“Bright! Bring Kongpob here!” he bellowed.

Bright? Who was Bright?

 

--_--

 

I felt like a turd. Arrrgh! Why was I like this?! Could someone tell me why was I acting like an idiot?!

I punched the tiled wall of the bathroom (lightly), trying to fend off my frustration as the cold water beat down on my skin, washing away the saltiness of the sea. I reached for the shampoo glumly and began to clean myself off.

When my skin started to prune from standing under the water for too long, I decided to be less of a dick to the environment and stepped out of the shower, toweling off the excess water and going out to the bedroom area.

I got surprised when the bedroom door burst open, and in came a panting Em, followed by a confused-looking P’Bright. We stared at one another, P’Bright shamelessly running his eyes on my nearnakedness and shamelessly whistling, making me self-conscious.

“Uhm…” I said, clearing my throat to get the senior’s attention.

“Right! Right. Sorry, Nong. Knot told me to fetch you,” he told me, sobering up. “I don’t know what’s happening, really, just that Arthit had locked himself up inside the bathroom, and when Knot managed to open it up, I dunno what he said, but Knot is spooked. It was the first time I saw him like that.”

“What? But… P’, are you sure that P’Arthit would want to see me? I really messed up a while ago.”

“Yeah. Dick move, I know. But listen. Arthit is panicking right now, and I don’t really know why. Everything is so confusing! Those two haven’t been sharing what was bothering them for these last few months. It felt like we are strangers, really,” the senior said. He looked genuinely upset and I felt bad because I knew just what his two friends were troubled with and why they hadn’t been sharing their problems.

I looked at Em guiltily, and I saw the same emotion reflected in his eyes.

“But whatever it is, I wouldn’t pry. I will just wait for them to tell us the truth if they are willing. As for now, I’ll be a supporting friend to them. And I mean that, even if I have to drag you out with me, if that would help out on Arthit’s condition,” P’Bright continued, a determined look on his face as he advanced towards me. It was the first time I saw him this serious.

“Wait, wait, wait, wait, P’Bright!” I scrambled to stop him, rising my hands in front of me in self-defense. “Can I dress first? Please? I don’t want to flash anybody and become the talk of town when we go back to the university.”

“Reasonable. Hurry up, Nong!”

It was so awkward to put on clothes with two people present to witness everything you do. P’Bright wouldn’t even let me go to the bathroom to change, which was so ridiculous! He said that he couldn’t let me get away, like, hello! The bathroom didn’t have windows.

I tried to preserve as much of my dignity as I could, and that was it. I was a blushing mess, making my skin look darker than my light tan.

“Let’s go!” he said once I was done. Em had changed, too, foregoing the shower, claiming that he rinsed off on one of the outdoor showers near our room.

The three of us trudged towards the seniors’ room, P’Bright leading the way. It was located just a few doors down from ours, making me a bit surprised. He opened the door and the three of us filed in one after the other.

“What took you so long?!” was P’Tutah’s frazzled question. P’Prem glared at me, and I ducked my head in shame.

I thought so. Because of my thoughtless actions, P’Arthit was in this condition. Then, a shriek came from the open bathroom door, followed by garbled words. It was definitely P’Arthit’s voice. Next came P’Knot’s soothing voice, telling P’Arthit that everything was okay.

Wait a minute. Not garbled words…

“That’s not Thai,” P’Bright said, voicing out the same observation as mine. I turned to my best friend and he had the same wide-eyed look as I was. No, he couldn’t be…

I rushed through the seniors, who looked at me suspiciously, but I didn’t mind them. P’Prem was about to stop me but P’Tutah stopped him instead. I burst into the bathroom and the sight almost made my heart break.

P’Arthit was huddled at the corner of the shower stall with P’Knot kneeling in front of him, trying to coax out the hysterical man.

“Er ist tot! Er ist tot! Warum tust du nichts?”

I stared at the crying senior with my mouth wide open. Which language was that?! I pulled out my phone and accessed the internet. A few minutes later, I had on the open browser a language translator. I activated the microphone and let it catch P’Arthit’s continuous mumblings.

German. He was speaking German. I had thought that Sunna and Mani lived in old Siam.

“Du   bist   Prinz   ist   tot   und   du   tust   nichts?!   Johann   tötete   ihn.   Er   hat   ihn   umgebracht!”

I read the translation on my phone and paled. ‘Your prince is dead and you’re not doing anything?! Johann killed him. He killed him!’

Did my stunt on the ocean trigger this?

Well, he thought that you were drowning, stupid fool, I berated myself.

“Em, can you please call Mae or Por. Tell them what’s happening. And uh—I need someone to contact his parents too,” I told the other people who was watching the scene inside with worried faces.

The other three seniors were looking at me in suspicion and confusion, probably asking themselves why my parents should be involved.

“P’s. We will explain later if P’Arthit permits. But for now, please trust me—”

“Kongpob. Oh, thank god, you’re here,” P’Knot interrupted, relief evident in his voice. I turned back to him and saw red-rimmed brown orbs staring at me unblinkingly.

“He’s been like this, speaking in a foreign language and I can’t understand a single bit he said—” I walked slowly towards the frozen huddled figure, passing my phone to P’Knot in the process. I kneeled in front of the wide-eyed senior and smiled tentatively at him.

“I don’t know if he understands me, Nong. But I was trying to talk to him a while ago and he seemed to respond to it. I don’t know anymore, N’Kong. I don’t know what to do—”

“P’Knot, I asked Em to contact my parents. If he didn’t get back to himself anytime soon, we’ll have to consult Dr. Saetang. As for now, why don’t we try to calm him down first?”

“He’s calm now, Nong.”

“Yeah, but he’s staring at me unmoving. I feel like it’s the calm before the storm, P’Kn—Ow!”

P’Arthit slapped both of his hands on either side of my cheeks, squashing them, and then squeezing as if he was trying to decide if I was real or not.

“Du bist nicht tot?” he muttered, a single tear flowing down his cheek.

I side-eyed P’Knot and gestured at the phone. He told me what the translation said. ‘You’re not dead?’

I shook my head no, and tried to smile reassuringly at him despite the hands that were squishing my cheeks.

“Mani. Mani. Mein Prinz…” he said as he moved closer and straddled me. I held him tightly against me as I he squeezed the life out of me with his hug.

“I’m here, Sunna. Shh. It’s okay,” I tried to reassure him.

“Ist   es   nicht.   Wirklich   nicht.   Johann   hat   wieder   versucht,   dich   umzubringen.   Und   ich   dachte,   ich   hätte   dich   verloren!”

P’Knot showed me the phone again. ‘It's not. It's really not. Johann tried to kill you again. And I thought I had lost you!’

Well, that definitely confirmed that P’Arthit did understand Thai. Maybe his subconsciousness’s work. Or his real self was just beneath the surface, I didn’t know.

I continued to sooth him with my words, uttering reassurances, as I rubbed soothingly at his back. A few minutes later, the sobs subsided into sniffles. My knees were killing me but I didn’t dare move in fear that he it would bring about a fresh round of tears again.

I felt him disentangle himself from me and I let him, praying to any deity out there that he was back to himself already. Fat chance, though.

He didn’t go too far, still straddling me. He just put enough distance between us so that we could look at each other’s faces. He cupped my face in his hands, rubbing my cheeks with his thumb. I felt my heartbeat accelerate as his face descended slowly, head tilting slightly, and then out lips were touching.

I closed my eyes, drowning in the sensation of his soft moist lips against mine. I started to respond, fumbling in my actions, and just following his lead. A fleeting thought ran across my mind, wondering how many P’Arthit had kissed, because it felt so good.

We were lost in our own world, sinking in each other’s presence. The kiss was innocent, some sort of a reassurance for the older, that I was here and not – dead somewhere. We parted and I craved for more, but I held myself back, remembering that this was not P’Arthit, not really, but someone else whose memory resurfaced in my senior’s mind and blurred his reality with the present one.

“Mein Prinz.”

His eyes, then, rolled back and then he was slumping against me. This shocked me into the present, remembering the presence of other people. I buried my flaming face on the passed-out man’s shoulder, unable to look at my seniors. They were suspiciously silent and I didn’t want to face them just yet. My thighs and legs were already numb so a few more minutes wouldn’t matter.

I heard someone clear their throat.

“Well, that explained the bit about Arthit going ballistic after you went into the ocean. But not this entire situation. Care to explain to us, Nong? Knot?” P’Tutah said in a cold voice that sent shivers down my spine. It was also the first time that I heard him be like that. This situation surely brought out the hidden depths that the seniors had, especially towards their friends.

I hazarded a peek to my side where I knew P’Knot kneeled. He was scrutinizing me and his best friend, trying to puzzle something out. Like, you know, when did P’Arthit and I got cozy to the point that we were kissing each other. Or something.

I pleaded to him with my eyes to not ask questions right now since we have someone to take care of first. He sighed after a while and answered his friend.

“Later. I’ll have to ask Arthit about it first. This whole situation is a very sensitive matter.”

P’Knot looked at me meaningfully as if to say, ‘we also have a lot to talk about.’ I gulped down the lump that had formed in my throat and gave him a subtle nod.

He helped me out with P’Arthit, taking his dead weight from me. I sighed in relief and sat on my ass gingerly, wincing when my aching knees and muscles protested. I sat with my back against the glass enclosure of the shower, letting my legs recover.

“Kong, I called your parents. They’re asking if we need to take P’Arthit back to Bangkok. They could arrange a car to come pick him up if needed be,” Em reported.

I looked at my seniors then, especially at P’Knot, who had stopped midway towards the doorway.

“Let’s wait for him to wake up for now. If he’s not back to normal by that time, we should probably go back,” he decided.

“We?” asked Prem.

“What about the ceremony, Knot? Who will arrange it?”

“Right. You will have to do it, guys. I’m sorry but this is a serious matter.”

“But—” P’Tutah tried to protest but he was cut off by P’Prem.

“You can count on us. Just make sure to take care of our friend.”

“Thanks guys.”

 

--_--

There were voices talking at low tones around me as I dragged myself to wakefulness. I didn’t dare yet to open my eyes, trying to gauge who they were and listen in on their conversation.

“I’ll just put these on the nightstand. The juniors are on their way.” That was Tutah. Juniors? What juniors?

“Thanks a lot, Tutah.” Oh, Knot’s here.

“I got chilled nomyen instead of the iced one. I’m afraid the ice would melt by the time he wakes, and it wouldn’t be as sweet anymore.”

Someone snorted at Tutah’s statement. Their talking about me, huh.

“You know that he’d still drink it even if it’s not as sweet anymore.” Prem. Was the whole gang here? “I still don’t get why the juniors need to be here, too.”

“And if he wakes up and be hysterical again?” Knot challenged. Hysterical? I wasn’t hysterical. I was never hysterical!

Prem grumbled something, I wasn’t sure what. I heard a knock and then a door was being opened.

“Sawasdee Khrap, P’s,” Kongpob’s low baritone voice said. Hmph! What was this junior doing here in our room? I was still not happy with him.

My friends greeted him back. Prem and Tutah excused themselves to oversee the preparations for the gear-giving ceremony and later on, I heard the door closing softly. I didn’t dare move a muscle and kept my breathing as normal as I could.

“So Nong. Mind explaining to me about what happened in the bathroom a while ago?”

“There’s actually nothing to explain, P’.”

“Reaaally,” Knot’s disbelieving voice echoed. What happened?

“It’s true! You know that it had been the dreams, P’.”

“So… There’s nothing between you and Arthit?” What?!

“There’s really nothing between us P’. We’re just—friends.”

I didn’t know what but there was a pang in my heart after I heard that. What was that all about?

“Hmm. Okay, then. How about a crush?”

“C-crush?”

“Yeah. Or are you already in love with my best friend, N’Kongpob?”

I expected for Kong to answer negatively to Knot’s question. I didn’t expect the silence from the younger. As the silence stretched on, my heart began to beat faster. C’mon Kong… deny it!

“N’Kongpob?”

“Hmm…”

A hum? What did that mean? Wh-what?

“… If I tell you yes, P’, what would you do?”

“Well. Nothing, really. I won’t tell you to pursue him or to hinder you. I’d just extract a promise from you that you wouldn’t break his heart.”

“Oh… that’s reassuring I guess.”

Silence reigned again between the two. Then—

“P’. Am I that obvious?”

“Well, no. not really. It’s only through the way you reciprocated to the kiss, like you’d surrendered everything to my friend, did I notice it. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have had a clue.”

K-Kiss?! What kiss??! Did Kongpob and I—k-kiss?

“Urrrgh, I hope he doesn’t remember it when he wakes up…”

“Are you sure about that, Nong? Don’t you want him to know about what happened? You know, Arthit is very dense. There are a lot of people having a crush on him, and the braver ones even had the audacity to flirt with him. But those advances are always ignored, and that’s one of the reasons he hadn’t had a boyfriend or a girlfriend yet.”

DENSE?! How dare he bad mouth me! Some friend you are, Knot!

“What’s your point, P’?”

“Well, if he knew about the kiss, then wouldn’t he be more receptive to you?”

“Or he could very well become leery of me and ignore me, breaking our friendship just because of it.”

So… we really did kiss? Wha—how—when—where?! Oh the bathroom.. The BATHROOM?! What the hell?”

“Okay, I can’t do this anymore. I need answers!” I exclaimed, letting go of the pretense of sleeping. The two other occupants looked at me, wide-eyed. I sat up and scooted across the bed towards them.

“We kissed?” I asked Kongpob bluntly. He tried to answer but no words came out of his mouth. Instead, he resembled a fish out of water. So, I turned to my best friend.

Knot nodded at my question, looking nervously at me and our junior.

“What kind of kiss?”

“How is that relevant to all this?!” Knot asked incredulously.

“It’s important to me! Just answer the damned question.”

“French kiss.”

“What?! Nooooo. How could you, 0062!”

“Wha—?”

“You stole my first kiss!”

I stole your first kiss? You’re the one who stole my first kiss!”

“Oh, jeez. Two virgin idiots. Where’s the goddamn popcorn when you need a bucket?”

“What?! Hell no! I’m not the confident flirt between the two of us!”

“Well, you did! Ask your friends if you don’t believe me!”

I turned to Knot, expecting him to agree to me. I found him chewing on a fruit, an amused expression on his face.

“N’Kong’s right actually,” he said. Betrayer!

“Wha—How! I don’t remember doing anything?!” I replied hysterically.

“Well, you wouldn’t. You had a different persona. I’m just glad that you’re back to your normal self right now.”

“What do you mean?”

“Sunna. Sunna’s memories came to the surface, P’Arthit.”

“What…?” I asked them faintly. I looked for any signs of untruth on their faces but both were serious about it.

“Wha-what happened exactly?”

“Well, you were crying about your dead prince. You were also razing me, although I haven’t got a clue as to what you were talking about. I thought you were just spooked by N’Kong’s near-drowning, but then you started to speak German. I know you don’t speak German.”

What? That’s spooky.”

“Tell me about it. Well, after you saw Kongpob, you slowly calmed down, and then we used a translator on some website to know what you were talking about. You were crying about your prince, about some Johann trying to kill him. Then N’Kong comforted you as you didn’t really want anybody else. Then you kissed Mr. Prince Charming here. Then you passed out. And you lived happily ever after.”

“Knot! Jeez. Stop joking!”

“Alright, alright. it was just too good to pass up. You really did those things. Just disregard the last bit.”

I went silent after that, thinking about the new information. I lost myself. A personality different from mine, someone who was dead for a long time, took over my consciousness. Just like what happened to Kong.

Jeez, that sounded like there was someone else residing inside me, like in those freaky horror movies. Like a parasite or something. But that couldn’t be because that dead person and I share the same soul. Did that mean it was still me? I’m so confused.

I stood up abruptly and made a beeline towards the bathroom. I locked myself inside and then stared at my reflection on the mirror above the sink. I tried to look for something, anything, that might’ve changed on my appearance. It was ridiculous, I know, but my brain was getting paranoid.

Nothing was amiss. Thankfully.

All of this—this—this, whatever it was that was happening to me—it was getting too taxing on my nerves. Add to that the fact that these memories of the past trouble my dreams, turning them into nightmares and I couldn’t even have a proper good night’s sleep. My body and mind were running haggard and I didn’t know how much I could take. My only solace was that I have my parents and Knot, and also the fact that I wasn’t the only one experiencing this. Kongpob had been a huge help during the last few days, and I was thankful for that friendship I had with him. Granted that it had been our unique condition that brought us closer, but I genuinely think of the younger as a friend…

“… If I tell you yes, P’, what would you do?” his voice echoed in my mind.

He liked me. My junior liked me. The question now: did I like him back?

The touch of my fingertips on my bottom lip jolted me out of my deep thoughts. That was right. We shared a kiss, apparently. And I was suddenly frustrated. Why was I frustrated? Didn’t I like the kiss? Did this mean that I don’t like the junior like that? A nagging thought still lingered in my mind, a certain itch that I couldn’t scratch.

A flash of sensation tingled through my head, gone in an instant, but the imprint of it lingered on my lips. Said body part tingled in sudden remembrance of the feeling. I looked up to the mirror and found myself unconsciously smiling, a blush dusting my cheeks, making them rosy. Oh dear.

I immediately wiped the smile from my face then ducked my head and opened the tap, splashing water on my overheated cheeks. When I deemed it fine to go out, I affected a poker face and went out of the bathroom. Which immediately fell when I saw the younger missing.

“Hey, where’d Kongpob go?” I asked my best friend.

“Out. He’s joining his friends since you’re okay now.”

Oh… Why was I feeling this way?

I joined Knot on the table and he gestured at the food that Tutah had brought for us. I took the pink milky goodness, chomping on the straw with a pout.

“Eat, Arthit. You’ve skipped lunch because you decided to become sleeping beauty. Don’t just drink pink milk,” chided Knot. I glared at him and he only looked at me, unimpressed.

I pulled the untouched plate of food towards me and started eating sulkily. When I tasted the food, I realized that I was, indeed, hungry. I began eating with fervor, abandoning my sulking in favour of stuffing my mouth, and appeasing my stomach.

“So. Done with your freak out?” Knot asked nonchalantly.

“Not really.”

“Hmm. It must’ve been hard on you, losing yourself like that.”

I halted at Knot’s words. It must’ve been hard. Right. He didn’t know the feeling. I didn’t begrudge him because of this. I was actually really grateful for him being by my side all throughout this debacle. But the feeling of being able to share what I felt and being understood completely was such a novel feeling. I suddenly missed my junior’s presence.

I tried to smile at my best friend, and continued to eat, not deigning to reply. I heard him sigh.

“Arthit. I can tell that something more is bothering you. D’you wanna talk about it?” he asked.

I stopped eating, pushing the slice of carrot around my plate. I contemplated what he asked, whether I should tell him and ask for his advice or let myself figure it out on the subsequent days.

“Is it… Is it about Kongpob?” he asked hesitantly.

I raised my head to look him straight in the eye. I nodded my head.

“You’ve heard his, sort-of confession, right?” he asked. Again, I nodded.

“Well, what do you think about it?”

I looked back down at my plate, hoping to find the answers on the mess of vegetable, meat, and rice. What did I think about it? Well, I think I was flattered. Someone like Kongpob grew to like someone like as prickly as me.

But I also felt uncertain. We were both men. We were both destined to carry out our family names, produce offsprings.

And what would our parents say? If they were fine with it, which has a high probability, what about their relatives? What about other people?

And last but not the least… What if our attraction to one another was just a product of our past lives, bleeding into our present? What if everything was all a lie?

I vocalized all of this to Knot, haltingly, trying to express my words properly. He listened attentively, not saying anything until I finished. After that, he stared at a distance and mulled over these things.

“What do you feel? Let’s pretend that everything you said wasn’t a concern. What do you feel for our junior?”

“I feel… secure whenever I am with him. Lighter. I enjoy my time spending with him, to be honest. Even though we had a lot of differences, and I used to hate his guts a lot, now, I could honestly say that he wasn’t too bad. Heck, I feel like he could be my new best friend,” I teased him.

“Haha, right. Best friends do not kiss each other if they don’t have feelings for each other—“

“That was Sunna’s doing, not mine!”

“But did you enjoy it? Kongpob looked like he enjoyed it.”

“I-I—ho-ho-how would I know! I can’t remember anything from a while ago!”

He chuckled. I glared at him.

“But seriously. Do you think you can be with him in a more than best friends relationship? Faen?

I stayed silent for a while. I knew the answer to that, just. It was hard to say it. But for the sake of finding some peace of mind, no matter how small, I forced myself to.

“…Yes. I can see myself in a romantic relationship with him.”

There. I’ve finally said it. I’ve finally acknowledged those raging emotions that wreck havoc within me whenever I was in the presence of the younger. The need to protect him. The need to put a smile on his face. The need to take good care of him.

It was because I had developed a little crush on him. (I refuse to admit to—to—to the other one!)

“There you have it. Forget all about those reasons you’ve listed and just pursue your happiness. Pursue Kongpob. He surely was hurt when he left.”

“What? Why?”

“I don’t know. Maybe because his crush suddenly left him after he learned that they kissed just a little while ago?”

“What?! Why didn’t you stop him?! He totally misunderstood it!”

“Did he, though?”

“Wha—okay fine, I also freaked out about the kiss. But I was more freaked out about the whole event that I had no recollection of! And because of that, I don’t even remember how my first kiss went!”

“Okay, okay. Calm down, Arthit. Calm down.”

I took deep breaths to stabilized myself after reacting like that.

“I reassured N’Kongpob that I would talk to you, okay? He’s pretty reasonable. He understood your need to be alone and think by yourself, so he’s giving you space. But you have to talk to him soon, or he might really misunderstand you.”

“Yes, Por,” I joked.

I continued to eat and we shared a comfortable silence.

We lounged on the bed for a while, waiting for the rest of our friends to come back to the room. It was later in the night when the door opened, and in came the three, shuffling their feet. They were talking in hushed tones, which abruptly ended when they saw me. They looked on in uncertainty between me and Knot, focusing more of their attention on Knot.

“Speak German,” Knot told them. I whipped my head towards my best friend. I saw a tiny smirk playing on his face. Then I side-eyed the other three, who had visibly paled, and thought if I should go with Knot’s plan or not. I kept my silence.

“U-uhm. Shouldn’t we call Kongpob? We should take him back to Bangkok, right? That was the plan…” Bright stuttered.

Prem was looking between me and Knot, suspicion in his eyes. Tutah had tears in his, making me feel guilty.

“He’s well-behaved… so there’s no need for that for now.”

“Did N’Kongpob say that? Where is he? Had he seen Arthit awake? Shouldn’t he be here?” Prem demanded.

“Calm down, Prem. N’Kong is with the first years. It would become more suspicious if he disappeared for too long,” Tutah answered.

I heaved a sigh and shot Knot a look. His smile widened.

“There’s no need for that guys. Kong saw me before he went back to his own room. And I’m back to normal now.”

“What the fuck?! Why did you pretend then!” Bright burst out.

“Ask Knot.”

“We were so worried, you asshole!” Tutah seconded. I smiled at him and gestured for him to come nearer as his tears started to fall. He settled near me on the bed and I guided him to my embrace.

“Sorry for scaring you… I swear, this is the first time that happened.”

“What the hell was that? We need an explanation now, and we won’t take any bullshit as answers,” Prem told us.

Knot and I looked at each other. He raised an eyebrow, as if to say, ‘Up to you.’ I gave him a decisive nod.

“Well… this would sound absurd and Prem, you might think I am bullshitting you, but what I will tell you is the truth, okay? Listen to the whole story first before you react, please.”

The three of them nodded their heads firmly. They got comfortable on the beds and then I launched into the story.

 

--_--

I walked on the beach alone, listening to the waves crashing against the shore. The sky was clear, letting the half moon shine down on the path of lonely strangers, the twinkling stars companion to anyone who wanted to be alone. The breeze was cold but gently caressing the skin of those who were outside, sending a pleasant chill to the once hot and humid surroundings.

I left my friends in our hotel room, not in the mood to talk to them, especially Em. I didn’t want him asking questions that I didn’t know the answer of. I also want silence to contemplate about my feelings for a certain senior of mine.

I knew that I was hurt when he abruptly left P’Knot and me a while ago, and I felt that my heart shattered. Dark thoughts about him not wanting anything to do with me because I was in love with him swirled in my mind, planting seeds of doubt whether it was really a good idea owning up to my feeling for him or not. The happiness that the kiss had given me earlier turned sour, like spoilt milk.

I sat on the sand, staring at the dark horizon and just wallowed in my own self pity. I refused to let the tears that were on standby flow from my eyes.

‘He would probably stop hanging out with me from now on. I guess I’ll just let myself suffer from all these nightmares,’ I thought to myself with a self-deprecating smile.

I didn’t know how long I stayed outside. I had migrated from sitting to lying on the sand, enjoying the last vestiges of the warmth from the sun. At one point, the breeze had gotten chilly, raising goosebumps on my skin. I didn’t pay it any attention until it had gotten too much for me. In a way, I was punishing myself with it.

I got up and dusted myself before I trudged my way slowly towards the resort, wrapping my arms around myself. Blessed warmth welcomed me as I went inside the building, making me shiver in contentment. I smiled at the staff I met along the way and continued on to our room.

On the hallway, I stopped in my tracks when familiar figures stood in front of an open doorway. Wait… that was our room assignment! I hurried down the hall and the hazers’ expressions became clearer. They looked angry. Confused, I walked slowly towards them to ask what happened. Just then, they turned on their feet and stopped when they saw me.

I greeted them politely, my heart squeezing tightly when I saw his face. Before I could ask what was going, P’Arthit had gone up to my face and snarled at me.

“Were you in on this?”

I took a step back in shock. I have never seen him this angry before, the one at the cheer hall didn’t even compare to this. The accusation in his eyes hurt the most though.

“What? What happened, P’?” I asked them in a low voice. I looked at P’Knot, the one that I think was the most sensible person of the bunch. I found him looking at me with an inscrutable expression. Was he silently judging me, too, when I didn’t even know what they were accusing me of? What the hell even happened here?

“Look at me when I’m talking to you, damnit!” he hissed.

My attention snapped back to him, my eyes wide in shock. I took another step back at the fury in his face, mixed with disappointment.

“Wha—I don’t know what you are talking about, P’! What did I do?!” I asked him frustrated.

He stared at me, studying my features for any sign of lying. I felt myself close off by the second. I couldn’t take his judging stare anymore, and they haven’t even told me what was wrong. It had something to do with our room so I strode there with purpose, ignoring the hand that had stopped me along the way.

I stared disbelievingly at my friends, who looked kids that got scolded badly, and the mess of bottles and plastic cups.

“Where’d you get those?” I asked them, making my presence known to them.

“Snuck them f-from the seniors…” Em answered.

I closed my eyes, hoping that when I open them, the scene before would’ve changed. But it didn’t. Miracles rarely happened. They looked at me guiltily as I entered the room and helped them clean up the mess.

“A-are you mad at me, Kong?” asked Em after a while.

“No.”

“Then, is it me?” Oak asked next.

“Guys. No.” I said heaving a sigh.

“Okay… It’s just that… you’re really silent,” Em replied. We fell silent, focusing on the task at hand.

“I’m not necessarily angry at you guys. Just disappointed. There’s a reason why the seniors told us not to drink for now. They are the ones in-charage, so if something happened, it would be on them.”

“…Sorry,” they all murmured in a dissonant chorus.

“I’m not the one you should be telling that to.”

“I don’t think I have the guts to face the seniors right now. P’Arthit was especially scary,” Oak mumbled.

I hummed in acknowledgement. He was angry, I get that, but he was way too judgmental. Was that how he was going to treat me from now on? Treat me suspiciously like I was the instigator of every bad thing he would encounter? It hurt to think about it.

The girls bid their goodbye to us. At the doorway, I heard them talk to someone. I glanced at them and saw them wai-ing profusely to the one outside. Curious, I went out and was shocked.

“What are you still doing here, P’? Do you have other things to say?” I asked him neutrally. I saw him hesitate at my demeanor, biting his lower lip, a guilty expression on his face.

“I…”

“I’m sure my friends have all learned their lessons by now. They’re all remorseful and you’ve successfully driven your point across. On their behalf, I also would like to say sorry, P’,” I told him, giving him a deep bow.

“Y-you don’t have to do that. You did nothing wrong…” he said. I noticed how uncomfortable he was and a part of me was gleeful seeing him squirm.

“I think you should go now, P’. I don’t want to keep you from your duties. You still need to check on the other first years, don’t you?” I said, dismissing him as politely as I could.

I turned around and was about to go back inside our room when a pale hand held onto my mine, a bit tightly. I stared at the hand, unwilling to face the owner head-on.

“I’m sorry,” he said. I slowly looked up at him and found him with his head ducked. He made for such a sorry sight that I couldn’t stop my heart from melting. “I’m sorry for judging you. I-I was so very much disappointed that they snuck behind our backs. And when I saw that it was your friends, I just assumed that you were in on it. I guess you didn’t know what your friends had been up to…”

“I didn’t P’. That’s why it hurt when you suddenly accused me like that. Still, I should’ve been with them to stop them from doing something stupid.”

“Hey, no. You’re not responsible for their actions. They’re grown ups, for fuck’s sake! You can’t be responsible for what others do.”

“Okay,” I said with a sigh. I mustered up a weak smile for him and then bid him goodnight. He looked guilty still but I left him like that. I didn’t have the courage yet to comfort him with my words. His actions tonight were still stinging and I needed time to forget about it. The last thing I saw before I closed the door was his sad face. I gripped the door knob tightly to stop myself from going out and taking him into my arms.

“Hey. Are you okay?” Em asked near me. I gave him a nod and the same weak smile, before I went to the bathroom to freshen up.

All of us were silent, only the occasional murmurings from my friends and the soft hum of the aircon the only sounds inside the room. I went to sleep before my friends, hoping for a dreamless night, just this once.

.

.

.

.

.

I shouldn’t have hoped for it.

 

--_--

I woke up to Knot shaking me awake. My heartbeat was drumming against my ribs and my breathing was erratic. The image of the assassin—a boy, god he was only a boy—bloody, with his glazed eyes staring at me in accusation, was still fresh in my mind.

A sob bubbled up from my chest, spilling through my open mouth that was still struggling to pull fresh air into my lungs. Knot coaxed me into a sitting position, and rubbed my back as I breathed and sobbed. I wrapped my arms around my folded legs, burying my face on my knees.

I felt the bed dip as Bright, Prem and Tutah’s voice surrounded me with their reassurances. I felt guilty for waking them up but at the same time, I was so very grateful for their presence. It helped me anchor myself to the present and not get lost into the fog of misery of the past.

“Do you want us to get N’Kongpob?” asked Tutah.

“Wh-what? N-no… Don’t. He might still b-be sleeping,” I struggled to say.

Just then, there was a hesitant knock against the wooden door, soft enough that it was barely audible. I peeked at my friends and saw Prem going to answer the door. Another set of knocks came again before he could open it.

“Oh, N’Em?” he said. The other three all stared at me as I straightened my posture to watch the proceedings.

Prem let in our junior—oh, correction, juniors—into the room. Em was dragging a staggering Kongpob along with him, who looked worse than me. Prem helped him after he closed the doors and immediately, I gestured for them to bring the younger to me.

“Is he…?” I couldn’t finish my question, afraid of what N’Em would answer.

“I don’t know P’. But he’s catatonic. I found him in the bathroom like this. He only stared at me blankly when I called out to him,” N’Em said, a little bit panicky. They deposited the younger on the bed where we were sitting, and I pulled him closer to me. He complied pliantly, making my job easier.

“I’m sorry for disturbing you, P’, but I didn’t know where to ask for help. I figured P’Arthit would know how to help him?”

“I-I’ll try, nong, but I am also not sure what to do. And don’t worry. I’ve already woken up my friends even before you came,” I tried to joke to lighten up the mood.

Tutah snorted, and grumbled,” Hell yeah. It’s good that you know you interrupted my beauty sleep.”

“Beauty sleep? Are you sure sleeping does your face any good? I don’t see any difference even if you sleep for twelve hours,” Bright asked while he move his face closer to Tutah.

The latter shrieked then began telling how Bright’s loud snores couldn’t possibly make him sleep peacefully. He whacked the other on the arm as he was telling him this.

I heard a giggle beside me. Actually, all of us heard the giggle, making everyone stop and stare the junior. He was still breathing erratically as he wiped his face with his hands.

“Hey there,” I called out to him softly.

“Sorry… Sorry ‘bout that. Sorry…” he mumbled.

“It’s okay. Things happen.”

“What were you dreaming about, by the way?” Em asked. He was sat at the edge of the bed, facing the whole lot of us. It took a while before Kong could gather his thoughts and calm down for a bit.

“You know, Em. You were my CO. In the past.”

“CO?”

“Commanding officer? You were in the army?” interjected Tutah. Kong nodded his head in confirmation.

“Oh, that’s cool. What was my rank then?”

“I think, Master Sergeant, third class? And it’s so not cool.”

“What? Why?”

“I hated the way you died. That was my dream. You dying in front of me.”

“Wha—H-how did I die?”

“Nong, do you really wanna know?” asked Prem. Em was looking at us, wide eyed.

“Head shot. You were giving out orders one minute, then the next, your brain matter is splattered on all of our faces. I became the troop leader after you died, you asshole.”

All of us looked at Kongpob in horror.

“Kong! What the fuck?! I didn’t need to know that?”

“Aw. But you asked.”

“But I didn’t really wanna know that?!”

“That was a dick move,” I murmured to Kongpob. He looked at me with a ‘so-done’ look.

“Are your dreams always this gory, Nong?” asked Knot.

The younger heaved a sigh and then nodded.

“I was in the war, P’. Of course, it would be gory.”

“Oh… pretty violent then, huh?”

He hummed in reply.

“Okay, all of you, you should go back to sleep. I don’t know if the two of us could sleep anymore, but that didn’t mean you should be staying up with us too. N’Em, d’you want to sleep here? It would be a tight fit, but we could make it work, I think,” I told them.

“No, P’. I’ll go back to our room. I wanna get away from my asshole best friend,” he said while giving Kong the stinkeye.

“Thank you, Em,” Kong said sweetly, able to muster a small smile for his best friend. Em grumbled in reply as he stood up, patting his friend’s shoulder in the process.

“Hey, how about I join you, N’Em? To give room for N’Kong, here,” Prem said. Kongpob tried to protest but he was silenced by Prem’s infamous glare.

“Uh, if you’re okay with sharing a room with us, P’.”

“Let’s go.”

I watched as the two of them walk out of the door. Then I turned to the younger, who was looking shy all of the sudden. My friends settled back on the bed, going into slumber within minutes.

“Hey. Sure you’re okay now?” I asked him quietly.

“Relatively,” was his weak answer. “I was really shaken seeing someone with my best friend’s face die like that.”

I hummed. We were silent for a while until an idea came to me. There were extra bedding materials from when we requested from the front desk, so I took it out from the closet where we had left it a while ago. I dragged it out and gestured to Kongpob to follow me. He raised an eyebrow but still grabbed the rest of the unused pillows and followed me out to the balcony. I laid the sheet on the floor and he arranged the pillows. We laid down on the hard floor, staring at the vast heavens that we could see beyond the canopy above, sharing the blanket.

“Well, this isn’t comfortable and all,” I muttered, adjusting myself to find a comfortable position against the hard floor.

“It’s your idea,” he retorted with a laugh. “You can lay on me, if you want. I don’t mind.”

“But then you’ll be the one uncomfortable.”

“Don’t you want to?”

I didn’t waste any time and just slid closer to him. He opened his arms and I laid my head against his chest, the position already familiar with how often I ended up cuddling to him whenever we shared a bed after those nightmares.

My eyes started to grow heavy after a while. Then I remembered what happened earlier in the evening—or more likely, what happened yesterday’s evening.

“Kong?” I called out silently. He hummed in reply. “I’m really sorry about earlier this evening.”

“It’s okay. It’s all water under the bridge now.”

“Hmm, if you say so.” We stayed in relative silence after that, then—

“About the kiss—“ I started.

“P’Arthit—“

“No, no. Hear me out.”

“…okay.”

“About the kiss. The thing is, I really don’t remember about it and I am miffed that I don’t even remember my first kiss. Wait. That’s not my point. Okay. Uhm, about the kiss. And your confession—sorry if I eavesdropped—anyway. Your confession. I’m really flattered for that. Really, I am. And if I’m being honest… I… I-I could say that I-I feel the same too. Kinda. I don’t know—“

“So, you feel attraction towards me, too?”

“…y-yeah.”

“Oh.”

“Oh? That’s it?”

“Wait. I’m processing it. It’s not everyday that my crush is reciprocated.”

“Okay then… But can we talk about it first? Before we dive head on into a relationship.”

“I’m thinking that that’s the better option, too. Ours is not a simple relationship. With the past lives and memories and all. There are doubts within our hearts, I know. But one thing I know is that I want to give us a try, P’. I would never know if it was our past life talking or if I really developed feelings for you, I’m choosing the latter option to believe in by the way, and there is little bit of fear in me that everything wasn’t true; that if the dreams go away someday, our love for each other would also vanish…”

“Hmmm… But you still want to try.”

“I still want to try.”

“Why?”

“Because it’s you.”

“Me? What about me?!”

“Well… how do I explain this? I—even before I found out that there was a connection between because of the dreams, I already felt something for you. I couldn’t pinpoint exactly when, but I just knew that I wanted to get to know you better.”

“Is that why you always teased me during hazing? Not to mention all those times we accidentally met outside hazing?”

“Mmm, yeah. Sure.”

“Brat. Let’s talk tomorrow, yeah? I’m sleepy.”

“Mmm.”

 

 

--_--

Third Person POV

 

Prem entered the room, still chuckling. He found his friends already awake, and getting ready for the day.

“Why are you chuckling?” asked Knot. This question sent Prem into laughter again.

“The faces of the juniors when they saw me in their room,” he answered when he got his laughter in control. “They looked so terrified. You should’ve seen their faces. I think glasses boy was near fainting, too. He was looking so pale.”

Knot shook his head while Tutah and Bright chuckled at this.

“Hey, where’re the lovebirds?” He asked after he noticed their absence.

“Balcony,” Knot said with a smile. “Oh, I suggest you take your camera with you. It’s something you don’t wanna miss.”

Prem raised an eyebrow at Knot’s evil smirk. Whoever said that he couldn’t be devious was a goddman liar. He trusted the other though and assembled his kit, tweaking the adjustments on the way out.

He slapped a hand on his mouth as giggles bubbled up from his mouth. He started snapping shots of the couple, who was entangled within each other’s arms, gleefully. After a while, Knot came out to the balcony and observed the two with a soft smile on his face.

“Are you done?” he asked the photographer quietly.

“Wait… Just a few more… and… done.”

“I should probably need to wake them up. Breakfast is coming up.”

“You do that. You know how to handle Arthit’s early grumpy self.”

“Coward.”

“It’s called being ‘smart’.” Prem retreated towards inside the room and left Knot to wake up the two.

Knot didn’t miss the opportunity to snap a couple photos of the two, thinking along the lines of possible proof whenever Arthit became his in-denial self again, which happened most of the time anyway.

“Hey, wake up, you two,” he called out.

The pair didn’t even budge so Knot crouched down. Figuring that the younger would be the easier one to rouse, he gently shook Kongpob’s shoulder and called out softly to him. After a while, Kongpob did open his bleary eyes and looked around in confusion.

“P’Knot?” he asked in a sleep-laced voice.

“Wake up. It’s nearly time for breakfast. Wake Arthit, too, will you? It’s so hard to wake him up.”

“Oh… Thanks P’. Will wake him up.”

Kongpob managed to coax Arthit awake, and both of them groaned when their sore bodies protested. The others looked at them judgingly, which they ignored. Well, Arthit ignored them but Kongpob smiled awkwardly at them.

“Aww, won’t you look at these lovers. Already sleeping together, I see, I see,” Bright teased them.

“Bright, I will fucking murder you. Did you know, I know a good recipe for a poison? Hmm? The one that had killed a king before?” Arthit said menacingly.

“As if,” Bright scoffed.

“Wanna test me?” Arthit challenged. Bright noticed then the strange glint in Arthit’s eyes, how he looked serious and confident about something. He gulped, suddenly feeling fear.

“U-uh, m-maybe next time. hehe…”

--_--

Breakfast went by uneventfully for the seniors. For the juniors, however, especially a certain group of juniors…

“Kong!” they exclaimed when they saw their missing friend emerging from somewhere and joining them at their table. He smiled awkwardly at them as he took a seat.

“Where have you been?! Why do you always disappear like that, huh?! Don’t make it a habit, please!” Tew, the responsible one—aherm, semi-responsible one—scolded him.

“Uhm… Somewhere. I actually went for a… jog?” he said uncertainly.

Wad, upon hearing this, snorted loudly, rolling his eyes at the other.

“Yeah, tell a better lie next time?” Oak retorted. “Where have you been, really?”

“U-uhm, I woke up in the middle of the night and then I couldn’t fall asleep anymore… so I went for a walk by the beach…” ‘please believe me, please believe me…’

“And then, what? Don’t tell me you’ve been “walking” all this time?” it was Wad’s turn to counter him.

“W-well, uhm, it wasn’t that late of the night such that it was an early morning. Yeah. So, I decided to wait for dawn and watched the sunrise…”

The others watched him suspiciously, still not believing in whatever he told them. Kongpob wasn’t yet comfortable telling them about his dreams and how he was spending his time with the seniors these last few hours. He’d like to keep them all to himself and his best friend for now. Arthit’s friends were a different case altogether since Arthit trusted them wholeheartedly.

After a while, the others accepted his reason, even if they still had their doubts. Breakfast became a bit less uneventful after that, with only the rest telling Kong, and the girls who had joined them a bit later, about how they had a heart attack when they saw Prem sleeping in their room. Kongpob and Em kept quiet the whole time, and was trying so hard not to laugh at them.

They lost the battle when Oak, the loudmouth that he was, told them how Wad and their P’Prem had been eyeing each other like they wanted to devour one another. This earned him a dangerous glare from one half of the party, which deterred the other from spouting nonsense again.

The seniors really did make good of their promise to cancel all activities for the whole day aside from the gathering inside the multi-purpose hall of the resort, late in the afternoon.

And then the main event came… the solemn affair… the ecstasy and pride that the freshmen felt as they received their gears… the nostalgia from the seniors as they guided their Nongs across the human bridge… the seniors enduring the pain of carrying their juniors through the last ‘mile’ of their journey towards being their official juniors, satisfaction and pride nullifying the pain on their arms…

It was beautiful.

--_--

Kongpob sat alone by the seaside, having left his rowdy friends, to mull the things that had happened to him ever since he entered college. The life in the tertiary level of education was… different would be an understatement. It was a bit liberating, actually, and he felt like he was finally able to find more pieces of himself. He could finally see the start moulding what he wanted for his future self, with all the guidance of more mature people, his seniors, his professors. He was thankful now that he chose to go to IE and experienced the arduous trials of the SOTUS system.

Something cold was pressed to his cheek, making him jerk away from it. A familiar chuckle followed the action and then a certain senior of his plopped down next to him.

“P’,” he whined.

“Here,” Arthit handed over the cold glass of liquor to him. “Why are you here alone?”

“Just… to think about things. You know, reminisce…”

“Aaaww, I didn’t know you were the sentimental type,” the older teased, chuckling as he took a sip of his beer.

“Well… it’s been an eventful first year for me, so yeah. I guess I am feeling sentimental.”

“Well, brace yourself for the next days then. You’ll be swamped with more works the further you go into studying.”

“I expected that. At least, there wouldn’t be seniors hazing us anymore, making us do ridiculous things and all,” Kongpob teased.

“I could still do that to you, if you want,” the older said with a smirk.

“That would equate to bullying, P’,” Kongpob chided.

“No, it won’t. Because I’ll be making my boyfriend do all those things for me,” Arthit answered nonchalantly, driving the younger into speechlessness.

“W-what?” asked the older when Kongpob just kept staring at him. “I-I said that I’m w-willing to try, didn’t I?”

“I-I—yeah. Yes! Yes, you did say that. You also said that we should talk about it, first.”

“Well, don’t you want to? Because I can change my mind if you didn’t want it. It seemed like you didn’t want it.”

“No! No.. I mean, I do want it. To be in a relationship with you. It’s just that… that… We have a lot of doubts, the both of us. And I don’t want us to regret being together if we rushed into this. So, I wanna talk first before we agree to anything.”

“So talk.”

“Oh, I’m going first? Fine.” Kongpob paused for a while to gather his thoughts while Arthit watched him keenly. He took a deep breath before he began.

“Okay. First, the most important one for me, is that I’m afraid that what we are feeling for each other is just the product of our past lives intertwined fates. You heard what the monk had said, right? That our souls were yearning for each other and that was why the memories of our pasts bled into our dreams. Which should not be the case, at all. We are a glitch into the norm, as our souls feel strongly towards one another. What if, when the dreams do stop coming, our feelings for each other fades, too? What then?”

Arthit stared at the younger’s eyes, stares at the depth of those black orbs, then averts his gaze towards the dark horizon.

“That’s also a speculation, Kong. But you’re right. What then? I don’t really have an answer for that, Kong. Because no one knows the future. We may remain in love with each other, or we may drift apart. I don’t know.”

“Hmm, so you love me?”

“Huh--, W-what are you talking about? Wh-who said that?”

“You. Just now. You said we may remain in love with each other. Remain in love. That meant you are in love with me, P’.”

“I-I—You! Cheeky brat!”

Kongpob chuckled at the elder’s flustered expression. He took pity on him and decided to say sorry when the other spoke again.

“Yes. I am in love with you. Happy?!” Arthit mumbled, his face, ears and even his neck turned a bright shade of red. Kongpob was stunned, and then he was grinning like a fool.

“I’m sorry P’Arthit. What did you say?” he teased.

“I—0062!”

“Aww, my P’Arthit is shy. I love you, too, P’.”

“I take it back! I don’t l-lo—aargh!”

Kongpob laughed loudly at his shy P’Arthit. ‘Aw, so cute!’ he gushed in his mind.

“O-Oi! Stop teasing me. We still have a lot to talk about!”

“Right, right,” the younger conceded.

“P’Arthit. If one day, the dreams stop, and you realize that you’re not in love with me anymore, promise me that you will be honest with me and tell me, okay? Let’s break it off cleanly, without any fuss and fight, hmm?”

“I promise only if you do the same with me. We should be honest with one another, and not just with our feelings. With the important aspects of our lives, too.”

“I promise to all of that, P’Arthit.”

“Good.”

They raised their glasses to that and drank silently.

“What else?” Arthit asked after a while.

“Hmm… Well, I was concerned about you liking a boy but since you just told me you loved me, I guess that’s not a concern anymore.”

“Actually… Kong. Aren’t you afraid of what society would say? Heck, aren’t you afraid of what your parents, family would say?” Arthit fell silent for a while, trying to gather his scattered thoughts. The younger, meanwhile, waited for the other to speak his mind, while also thinking about what his P’Arthit just said.

“You know, when I met your parents, I thought they looked familiar. So, I did some google search. Kong, you are a high-profile person. You are the heir to a big corporation. What would you do when people begin to judge us, huh?”

“P’Arthit… I understand your concern. It’s real scary to be out; the ridicule, the shunning; all those would definitely hurt. But I am willing to weather those as long as you are, too. I want to be brave so that I could achieve my happiness, which now, I realized, included you. If you’re worried about my parents’ approval, I am quite sure that they wouldn’t have any problems with me dating you. You are a great person and that’s what matters the most with them.”

“Quite sure? Quite sure? Why don’t I trust your ‘quite sure’ thingy?”

“Aw, but you asked!”

“I need a better figure!”

“Well, how about… I am seventy-eight-ish percent sure that they would not oppose to us.”

“Seventy-eig—Only that?! twenty-two percent is a big deal, Kongpob!”

“Well, the remaining twenty-two is further divided. Fifteen percent of that is against it but they will learn how to love you; while the remaining seven percent is that they will forcibly break us apart.”

“Oh dear lord…”

“But you really have nothing to worry about, P’Arthit, when it comes to my parents. They’re understanding people. They’re pretty warm. And, they already know about our souls being partners so they would accept this easier, too.”

“Well, I hope you’re right, Kongpob.”

“Of course, I am, P’. But what about your parents? What do you think they would say?”

“Hmm… they are pretty chill. They’re already fond you, actually. They’re even comparing me to the ever polite you.”

This made the younger guffaw, while Arthit fake pouted. The corners of his lips twitched upwards though.

“Aw, I didn’t know I earned cookie points from them. Okay… What else? Are there any more concerns, P’? Before we start this relationship?”

Arthit thought for a minute about what else was concerning him.

“Children. How about children? What if your parents wanted an heir?”

“IVF or Adoption, although I’m leaning on the latter. Besides, they wouldn’t have to worry about it because I have two sisters and they’re both married. I already have a niece and my second sister is expecting. My parents are already happy being grandparents.”

“Ow, you have sisters? What if they don’t like you dating a guy?”

“Nope, they’re good. They’ve been teasing me since forever because I haven’t even had my first girlfriend yet. They kept pressuring me to just ‘choose a boy or a girl Kongpob; you’re missing on your youth, Kongpob’. So yeah, I don’t think there would be problems over there. What about you, P’? Any siblings”

“Nope. Only child here.”

“Aw, then the pressure’s heavier for me!”

“Deal with it. You’re the ‘sweet, polite child’ after all.”

“P’Arthiiiiiiiiit.”

Arthit laughed at the younger’s puppy dog face. To be fair, it was pretty effective, the pout and the widened eyes doing something to his heart.

“Fine! Fine, don’t worry about it. You said IVF or adoption, right? Wait, why the fuck are we planning our future already?! We’re not even boyfriends yet!”

“Well, what else should we plan other than our future? And, P’Arthit, give me your hand.”

The older offered his fisted hand, confused.

“No, palms up, and opened, P’.”

“Kongpob, I swear, if you put a bug on my hand, I will continue to drown you in the ocean!”

“Ow, come on! I won’t do that to you.”

“…Fine.”

Kongpob dropped something metallic into the hand of his senior, prompting the senior to exclaim loudly at him.

“Oi! 0062, why are you giving this back to me?!” he said as he tried to give back the copper-toned gear to the younger.

“Don’t you know the meaning behind this, P’? Oh, but you are our head hazer!”

“What? What meaning?”

“Hmm… It would be too easy if I tell you right now. Why don’t you go ask the other seniors, P’, about what it meant?” the younger said with wiggle of his eyebrows.

“You know what, let me drag you to the ocean so that I can drown you!”

Kongpob scrambled to his feet, laughing, as he left the one he just gave his heart to. He returned to his friends, lighthearted and smiling. He was pretty sure that his P’Arthit would get it.

--_-- 

 

AN: reference: