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5 Times He said I’m Okay, 1 Time He really Meant it

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ONE

“Tin…” Can looked at the car as it drove further and further away.

Numb. Breathlessness. He didn’t know how to feel or where to go.

Aimless. Detached. He didn’t think Tin would just run away like that.

Maybe he made the right choice and not accepted it. It was for the best for everyone. And for him. Yet, he could not help but to feel disappointed in some way. Tin ran away when he got rejected. Was he that spoilt? Was Can not someone worth fighting for?

Can found himself trying to be his normal self as he went about his daily life. But despite being loud, the noise felt hollow with no energy. He can’t help it. Nothing felt the same anymore. Everyone could tell behind those loud sounds, Can was lacklustre.

Ae and Pete exchanged looks with each other as they walked past Can. He was sitting at a table at the corner of the Sports Science canteen with his shoulders slumped down, keeping quiet. This was definitely not an everyday occurrence. Can hated being alone much less being quiet.

“Ai Can, you alright?” Ae slung his arm around Can as he settled down next to Can with Pete sitting opposite them. There was a flitting surprised look that crossed Can’s face for a second before he replaced it with a cheerful look.

“I’m okay! How can I not be okay? The sun is out, the clouds are covering the deep blue sky…. It's the perfect time to play football! But I have to eat finish my food first. I am so hungry that you would not belie-” Ae put his hand over Can’s mouth to stop the verbal diarrhoea that was continuously spilling out of his mouth and looked at Pete.

Maybe Can was alright, Ae and Pete thought. They just had to give him time to heal.


TWO

“Ai Ae! Here! Passed it to me!” Can shouted out while flailing his arms around to catch Ae’s attention. “I’m open!”

1-0, it was the last 5 minutes and they didn’t need the extra points, but they did not want to hold back on their opponent nor underestimate them, in case they manage to catch up.

It was the final national competition and it has been 3 months since Tin stopped talking to him. Not that he was counting. He had spent the past 3 months immersing himself in football and his school work and everyone was starting to miss the loud and noisy albino monkey who would disappear after class and trainings, as if he was rushing for something.

Ae looked around and spotted Can. With a grin, he kicked the ball to Can whose eyes trained the ball that was flying towards him. They got this in the bag.

Can felt the sweat dripping down his forehead. He blinked the sweat away from his eyes, but it did not ease the pounding he felt in his head. The heat was getting to him. That was for sure and prolonging this match will not do any good to anyone. Inhaling deeply, he dodged an opponent and got ready to kick the ball. One… Two… Kic-

It never happened.

He could not feel his legs.

He felt his body falling to the ground.

No. Not now.

“OH MY GOSH!”

Pete who was sitting amongst the crowd, was in shock. His hands flew to his mouth as he saw Can crumble to the ground. Silence engulfed the field.

“Ai Can!” Ae and Techno shouted as they ran to Can. Techno scanned Can from head to toe, hoping that nothing is wrong as Ae tapped Can on his shoulders to get a response from Can.

“Ai Can? Ai Can?” Can started to respond and open his eyes.

“Ai Can? You alright??” Techno asked upon seeing Can’s response.

Can turned his head and blinked tightly before registering what happened.

“Umm… I’m fine! I think the heat got to me and my legs became jelly! Ahaha!” Can said as he tried to stand.

“I’m okay! See?” Can pushed himself off the ground but just as he took a step, his leg muscles failed on him as he crumbled to the ground again. Ae rushed to Can as he caught Can before he could hit the ground.

“Ahh, thanks Ai Ae.” Can said, feeling awkward.

“Ai Can, I’m switching you out until you feel better. Go rest at the infirmary.” Techno ordered.

“But-”

“No buts.” Techno glared at Can. However, his glare softened when he saw his junior looking down. He knew that Can wanted to win the game. Putting his hand on Can’s shoulder, he assured Can, “Don’t worry, you did great today. You scored that goal that gave us the lead. Just leave the rest to us okay?”

Can looked up at Techno and smiled. It felt good to have such reliable friends and seniors. He nodded before allowing the medics to take him to the infirmary.

Sometimes, it’s alright to lean on others, Can guessed.


THREE

They had won the competition and their school was finally the champion after 10 years. The school was in a festive mood all week long and the football team had planned to meet up for lunch after school a week after the game.

“P’Nooooo, buy me lunch pleaseeeeeeee? I have no money leeeeeeft, and Ma doesn’t want to give me more money, and then there was this cat that looked so poor thing so I spent money on it to give it food and…” Can whined, clinging onto Techno’s hand as the rest of the football team laughed and shook their heads. It was the first time in ages since Can hung out with them. It felt empty without Can there lifting up the mood and now, everything seems back to normal.

“P’Noooooo!” Can continued to whine.

“Okay okay okay!! Lets quickly go to the restaurant okay?” Techno smiled warmly. The football team along with Pete started to make their way to food store in front of their school.

“Yayyy!! Ai Good!! P’No is going to buy me food! Yayyy!” Can jumped around, bragging to Good as they crossed the road.

Suddenly, a wave of dizziness hit Can and he stepped backwards and onto the road that they had just crossed to stabilize himself.

“Ai Can, you ok-”

Before Good could finish his sentence, a car speeding through the road appeared just as Can stepped backwards.

“CAN!”

Can looked up to see who was calling him, however, before he could react, he felt himself flying, flying, fl-

He felt the floor on his right side. He felt the fiction of the floor scrapping his right side, and a splitting pain in his head… before he slowly… slipped… out… of… conscience…

When he woke up, he felt the headache once again, forcing him to close his eyes and groan in pain.

“Can!” The voice sounds familiar. “Someone call the doctor!” Another familiar voice shouted out as he slipped back out of conscience.

When he woke up again, the pain was gone, most likely because of painkillers. He looked around and took in his surrounding. His mother and sister were sitting beside him. Upon seeing Can waking up, Can’s mother immediately was by his side. “Cantaloupe, how are you feeling? Is any part hurting?”

Can shook his head but it made him dizzy as he leaned backwards again. Can’s sister quickly went out of the room to inform the doctor that Can was awake and appeared back in the room with his friends right behind her.

“Ai Can! Are you okay??” everyone asked at once, wanting to know what was the situation. Can wanted to reply, however, his throat felt parched. Pointing to the glass of water on the table with his left hand, everyone scrambled to pass the water to Can. It was a comical scene, and Can laughed internally. He felt his smile slip off when he was suddenly reminded about why this happened but as fast as it appeared in his mind, he pushed it away and stilled his emotions.

After finally being able to drink water, he smiled at all of them and said, “Sorry for scaring all of you! But I’m okay!!”


FOUR

“Are you really?”

Everyone in the room started to look around, looking for the person who had said that.

That voice… It felt familiar. Wait… Its…

“Are you really okay, Can?”

Tin.

Can looked to his right and his eyes widened. There he was, in all majesty, Tin Medthanan.

Why was he there? Why would he be there? Did he know…? How did he…

“Can, tell us the truth.” Tin said quietly as he walked towards Can.

Can couldn’t find any words to say. The usual blabbers that were usually on the tip of his tongue were nowhere to be found.

“I… What are you talking about, Tin? I am totally fine!” Can forced out of his mouth.

Tin looked straight into Can’s eyes before saying, “Then what is this?” Tin slammed a stack of papers on the table in front of his bed. Ae took the top paper and read, “Cantaloupe Kirakorn… Wait… Can! What is this? You are sick??”

Can looked away from everyone. No, this was not how he wanted everyone to find out. He didn’t want anyone to find out. He didn’t want Tin to find out…

Can’s mother saw what was going on and read the situation. She looked at Can and smiled bitterly. “Yes, Can is ill. He always was since he was a kid. But he has always been a brave child, never letting his illness get the better of him. He doesn’t talk about it because he does not want anyone to feel pity for him. He has always been diligent in going for his treatment but-“

“There is no need to tell them any further, Mom.” Can interrupted his mother. The atmosphere was getting heavy and he did not like it at all. Not when he knew what his mother was going to say next.

Silence loomed over the room as Can’s mother knew it was not her secret to tell.

“No, tell us. Tell me what is going on.” Tin broke the silence, still looking as stoic as usual.

Can looked anywhere but at the visitors in the room. It was starting to be suffocating for him with all pairs of eyes on him. This was not how he had planned to break the news to anyone. Heck, he did not even want to tell anyone. Sure he loved his friends, but he did not want to take away the happy go lucky image that he had spent years perfecting. He had wanted that image to stay, for a long long time even after he leaves - if that happens.

“His illness relapsed.” A new voice cut through the room.

“Ai’Ley, enough!” Can immediately bellowed out, glaring at Lemon. But his eyes soften as he saw tears threatening to spill from her eyes.

“What is enough? Me telling them the truth? Your treatment? Your illness? What is? I have had enough of this! I may not always be the best sister but I do care for you. Everyday is a ticking bomb. We don’t know when anything may happen! Just take today! If your friends were not there, you would have been banged down by a car! Why must this happen to you? You have been suffering for so long yet every time you come back from your treatment, no matter how tired you look, you never fail to put on a smile once you step into the house to make our day and to reassure us. You think that we don’t know and we didn’t want to show you that we know. Do you know how much it hurts us every time? How fragile looking you look after each treatment? Why you? Why not someone else? Why must it always be the happiest person? It is just not fair….” Lemon shouted back, tears no longer being able to hold back. Lemon sobbed as her mother turned around to hug her while shushing her daughter.

“Ley…” Can whispered out. As much as they were always fighting, they were siblings and nothing will change that.

“Can…” Can turned to see the pity looks on his friends’ faces. No, he does not want to see this. He doesn’t want the pity. He isn’t some pitiful charity. He hated it, he hated it all.

“Stop it, stop showing me those faces! I don’t need your pity! I have survived up to now without those pity. I don’t need them now!” Can said irritably. “If you guys are here to show pity, then I don’t want you here! Get out!”

His friends and seniors looked at each other. That was not the intended emotion to be portrayed. He was their comrade on field and off. They wanted to be there for him not because of pity, but because he is and always will be their friend.

“Can, when did your illness relapse?” Ae, the ever good friend friend of Can, carefully phased his words, knowing that Can may snap at him if he asked the wrong question.

“... 3 months ago.” Can unwillingly replied.

The day before Tin confessed…” Can thought to himself.

“Oh god, is this why you have been looking so down? Or rather tired now that I think about it?” Pete said in horror, he had thought it was because of Tin but it was not entirely Tin’s fault!

“Yeah, I had started on my treatment again right after the relapse but the treatment is taxing on me no matter how many times I have been through it and it just keeps getting worse.” Can chuckled. He was getting tired of the treatments that was prolonging his life so that he can have a chance of having a normal life. It really isn’t a choice.

“It is why you rejected me, isn’t it?” Tin said quietly from his corner, yet everyone could hear it clearly.

Can was taken aback. How…? But it was Tin. He knew everything.

Can took a deep breath and decided to face the question head on. He deserved to know the truth and maybe, just maybe,Tin will move on after hearing his reason. “Yes, I did not want to accept you only to abandon you in this world again after you open your heart out. It is not fair to you not after what your family did to you. I am not going to do the same thing as them.”

Can played with his fingers as he said. He hoped that Tin will accept his reason.

“I understand if you don’t want me, because I can’t be that loud and obnoxious person in your life anymore. Not in this state. And I’m not sure if I will ever recover totally again. So I do hope that you can move on for your own good. It’s not like I am much of a good influence anyways.” Can continued, smiling bitterly to himself.

He was still coming to terms with the fact that he is not the best person for Tin and he never will. Yet, with all the treatments everyday, he could not help longing for Tin to be at his side, giving him the encouragement he needed, comfort him when the treatment got tough. But he knew that he can’t make Tin share the burden with him. Not when he has enough problems on his plate.

Can waited. He hoped (yet he didn’t want it to come true) that Tin would understand and leave the room. Yet, he was suddenly face snugged into someone’s chest, someone with a familiar smell…

Tin… I… had missed you…

Can’s arms unconsciously wrapped around Tin’s waist. The tears that he had held in for the past 3 months finally being released like a dam. The fear of not recovering, the fear of dying all alone without Tin in his life, the heartache he felt when Tin was not with him, the emptiness that Tin had left behind since that day. It was all released at that instant in Tin’s embrace.

“Tin… Tin… I… I…”

“Shh… don’t worry Cantaloupe, don’t worry. I will find the best doctor to treat you. You don’t need to worry about anything. Just focus on your treatment. Okay?” Tin said while holding Cantaloupe. His sweet Cantaloupe who is too good for the world. “I would never leave you, baby, don’t ever use this as an excuse to push me away… You will get better, i promise this” Tin whispered repeatedly as he rubbed his face into Can’s hair.

It was only 5 minutes, that Can had finally settled into small hiccups, eyes swollen. “I… Thank you, Tin.”

Tin smiled warmly at Can, the smile that has been reserved for Can only. Can could not help but gain the strength that he had lost 3 month ago. He felt tons lighter than he had been in the past few months.

“I’m okay everyone! I will get better and I will face this head on!” Can said, determination oozing from every single word he said. Giving his toothy grin that everyone missed, Can gave a peace sign showing his will power to face his illness head on.

It will be alright.

Everything will be alright.

With Tin by his side.


FIVE

Nothing is alright.

It hurts.

Everywhere hurts.

Someone, anyone, just put me out of this pain. I can’t take this anymore. It hurts…

“Can? Baby? Hey, Cantaloupe. I am here. Oh, you did so well today. I am so proud of you.”

Tin… Tin… Right. I need to stay strong for Tin. Tin…

A gaunt looking boy in the middle of the bed, looking so frail, so fragile, as if with one touch, he will break. He was blending into the bedsheets of the hospital bed slowly, with all the muscles that he had gained over the past few years from soccer disappearing within the few months that he has been bed bound. Can’s illness had taken a turn for the worse 2 months after that very day, and it had been going downhill since then. The cancerous cells could not be contained, and even the best doctor had come to a conclusion that Can only had a few more months to live.

However, despite the deadline, Tin had stayed next to Can every second possible, giving Can the will to fight on. Yet, it was not enough. Can’s condition had continued to deteriorate and Can had been losing faith. His friends had started to not visit as often, not wanting to see Can in a state that was totally different from how he was just half a year ago. They did not want to see that sad state and Can did not want them to either. He just wanted to be left alone every time after his treatment and wallow in his pitiful state. He would reject visitors and lock his room if that did not work out. But Tin did not allow that. He would appear with the key to the hospital room to unlock the door each time and give Can the reassurance that was needed. He made sure that Can was well taken care of despite hurtful words being thrown at him by Can when Can could no longer take it.

It was tiring on both of them, but Tin knew what Can was going through was way worse. Today was another of those days.

“It hurts Tin… It hurts so bad… i just want to go home…” Can mumbled, tears streaming off the sides of his face, into the pillow.

It hurt Tin to see Can in that state but he knew he had to stay strong for Can who was both physically and emotionally drained. “Can, you have no idea how proud I am of you. Hold out even more for me please? It will all be worth it. I love you so much.”

Tin took Can’s bony hands into his hands.

“Thank… you… Tin… for always… being there. I love you too…” Can said weakly as his eyes started to droop.

Wait. Something feels wrong. Can’s condition looks worse than usual. His heart rate was slowing down bit by bit.

“Can? Can, baby? Are you alright? Can?” Tin called out to Can in panic.

“DOCTOR! ANYBODY!” Tin shouted as he frantically looked around for the emergency button and pressed it.

“Can, stay with me! The doctor is coming!”

“I’m.. Okay… Tin… I… Love you…”

Beep… beep… beeeeeeeeep…

“CAN!!!”


PLUS ONE

Tin looked at his reflection in the mirror, looking at himself once over. He has to look his best today. It is the day.

It’s been two years hasn’t it?

Today will finally be the day that Tin hopes he can move on from all that has happened. The year and a half has not been easy for anyone since that day. It should never be. Not with what happened.

Tin’s thoughts were disrupted by his phone that was ringing non stop for a while.

“Yes?”

“Tin kharp, we are outside your door right now.”

“Okay, give me a minute.”

“Khrap, Tin.”

Tin quickly looked at his reflections one more time, before picking up his bag discarded at the door, walking out of his room to the main door. He looked around the apartment. Tin had bought the apartment 2 years ago. A smile broke out on his face, looking fondly at the new furniture that he has bought, stating a start of a new life. Traces of warmth can be found around the place, with wheelchair accessibility infrastructures tricked out all over the apartment.

He would like it here, wouldn’t he?

Opening the door, he was greeted by Pete and Ae who looked over Tin once, knowing that today will be an emotional day for him.

“Tin…”

“I’m fine, don’t worry, let's go, yeah?” Tin said, brushing past Pete slightly to take the lift down to the car, where the chauffeur was waiting.

Pete frowned slightly with Ae touching his arm, pushing him towards the lift.

Throughout the car ride, Tin continued to spot a slight smile on his face while looking out of the window, watching the scenery.

Pete glanced over at Tin, this is not a normal Tin that you see everyday, but he knew to trust his friend.

Upon reaching their destination, Tin immediately stepped out of the car, not bothering to wait for Pete and Ae as he walked towards the sliding doors of the airport.

5 more minutes. Just 5 more minutes and time will finally start moving again for Tin ever since that day he parted with his lover.

4 minutes…

3 minutes…

The tension in the air around Tin could be felt. Pete could not help but want to say something to his best friend. Yet, he knew no words would reach him, thus going for the next best thing of tugging Ae’s arm.

2 minutes…

Tin steadied his breathing. He doesn’t want to feel like this anymore…

1 minute-

“TIIIIIIIIIIN!!!!!!”

Tin whipped around to see a ball of sunshine smiling right at him, arms outstretched. Trust the boy to be that loud in an open space. Tin’s eyes started to water as he walked slowly towards the wheelchair bound boy, before kneeling down in front of the boy.

Immediately, the boy threw himself into Tin’s arms, wrapping his arms around Tin’s neck. It has really been too long.

“Can… I missed you…”

“I missed you too. It was not the same without you there physically. But now, i am here for the long run.” Can whispered into Tin’s hair, hugging him tightly.

Pete and Ae smiled. They knew how much the couple had went through ever since that day.

Can had flatlined for 3 mins, and was almost declared to have passed away before a heartbeat miraculously started again. However, shortly after the relief, it was known that Thailand did not have the healthcare needed for Can. Can had slowly started losing the ability to walk due to other health issues stamping from his illness and Can’s mental health was deteriorating as a result. Everyday was a nightmare for Can’s family and friends. He was constantly throwing tantrums and finding ways to self harm and each time, he was found just in time by someone. The last straw was when Can had totally lost his ability to walk. His hope of being able to play soccer again was dashed and he was not able to take the news well.

As a last resort, Tin convinced Can’s family to send Can to the United States to receive treatment from the best doctor possible. Can had originally not accepted the offer, knowing that it will just be a financial burden, He had wanted to be left alone everyday, or better yet, to stop it all finally. But Tin held on to the notion and finally, after 2 months, Can gave in and 2 weeks later, he was on a plane to US. Tin had continued to keep track of Can’s condition, video calling Can whenever possible even though visiting was not possible because Can had not want Tin to see him at his worst. He wanted Tin to remember him at his best, his happy self. As such, they had promised to meet again when Can fully recovers. However, everyone knew that Can would never fully recover to how he was before. It was only when Can had acknowledged it, Can had then come to terms with his illness and they decided that once Can was stable and healthy enough, he would come back and continue his treatment here in Thailand to be back with Tin and his family instead. And today was finally the day.

Can sniffed, tears rolling down his eyes as he pulled apart from Tin. Tin reached out to Can’s face, using his finger tips to gently wipe away the tears, “It’s alright, you are finally back.”

Looking up, Tin wai-ed at Can’s mother who was pushing Can’s wheelchair. Can’s mother smiled lovingly back at Tin, touched by the scene in front of her. Her son is lucky to have found Tin, someone who is willing to accept Can as he is and care for her son this much.

Looking back at Can, Tin said, “Let’s meet the rest and we can go back to our place to rest. You will really love the apartment.”

Can beamed at Tin, “Really? Okay!”

“Can, just one more question.”

“Mmhmm?”

“How are you feeling?”

Can stole a glance at the rest of his friends behind Tin before looking back at Tin and giving him the biggest smile ever. When life gives you lemons, make lemonades with them. Can has finally understood it with what has happened and he intends to make the most lemonade possible with the lemons he has.

“I’m… definitely OKAY!!!!”