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Heartstrings

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On Wednesday night, he plays Sarawat Yiruma’s “Sky”. It is a lovely melody that to him speaks of promise, slow dancing, quiet afternoons spent in discovery and maybe remembrance- like lovers looking back at the beginning of it all.   

Thursday, he plays Joe Hisashi’s “One Summer’s Day" which absolutely delights Sarawat.  

(His eyes sparkle and his mouth turns up in a smile as he begs Tine to play Merry Go Round of Life next and Tine should be surprised. But, somehow, he is not. As if Sarawat isn’t already unfairly perfect, with his talent, general gorgeousness and patience, he just had to be a dork.) 

The feeling of nostalgia the piece should evoke is lost on Sarawat. 

Friday, Tine plays Yiruma’s “Passing by”- a bittersweet melody that reminds him of old loves who seemed to pass through his life- all having made their marks but none having stayed.  

(He thinks of the one-sidedness of all his past relationships. He thinks of the hurt, the crying for loves lost to the whims of fate and the universe and of being brushed casually aside for wrists wrapped in red. 

He thinks of terminals and how people pass through them on the way to somewhere better.) 

He plays them in between nameless warmups and standard Chopin’s and Debussy’s and Liszt’s. He plays them in between thoughtless exercises- his hands moving, as if, on autopilot.  

But these, these are the songs he plays with purpose. For Sarawat . He sprinkles them in, with no particular order, and is careful not let Sarawat know.   

These songs are his heart .  

And his hands offer these pieces for Sarawat to consider. As if saying- here do with this what you will . It is not quite the whole of him yet, only bits and parts, but it is a start.    

------ 

 

Sarawat plays Scrubb in return. And Tine is both grateful and confused.  

He doesn’t know many other bands.     

(Once upon a time, his older brother had introduced him to Scrubb- claiming a need to expand Tine’s musical horizons. P’Type had gotten tired of him obsessively playing the same music over and over again- what he did not expect was for Tine to latch on to Scrubb with much the same intensity as piano. 

Before, Tine played piano for sad days and contemplative days- when he wanted nothing more than to drown in whatever emotions he was feeling, occasionally content and happy days- when he joined his mother in dancing but could not move without music.  

After, he listens to Scrubb when he is sad and needs cheering up, when he wants to dance like no one is watching, when he is in love and wants to fall deeper. 

Years later, he still only listens to either piano or Scrubb.) 

But, Sarawat does not know this.  

Tine catches him singing unknown melodies, composing or singing songs from indie bands that Tine has never heard of. But when he notices Tine listening, Sarawat switches to singing Scrubb- as if he knew (far earlier than he should) of Tine’s near obsession and decided to play these just for him.  

Tine does not know what this means.  

------ 

 

They don’t talk but it still feels as though they are sharing tiny pieces of themselves with each other. They don’t really know each other yet, but Tine is hopeful that they will get there in time.   

He wonders idly how many songs it’ll take before one of them falls in love. 

(He has no strings to put his faith in.) 

------ 

 

Audition day comes too soon and Tine does not feel prepared at all.  

There is a stage and a small crowd and Tine can barely breathe. While he spent hours in the music club, playing for Sarawat, he is anxious to play in a room full of people.   

(When he was younger, he was told he could train and join competitions if he wanted. But he did not want to. He had no ambitions of playing on a stage. The stage is meant for people who are born in the light and revel in it. He was born in darkness, tucked away in a circle of comfort and over protective arms. He revels in the quiet, in the lone melodies of piano and single heartbeats.) 

He goes on after a girl who plays the flute. He sits on the piano bench and is petrified. He’d prepared for this moment- all of it, even the nerves, the sheer terror of being on stage and Sarawat had helped. He thinks back to the night before, after he played Sarawat his final song, as his hands shakily place the music sheet on its rack. Sarawat had told him to think of this moment as the ending scene in a movie, where he is a star and he's been practicing for a very long time and there are people clapping for his brilliant performance.  

It does not make him feel any better.  

For a minute he has no idea where to place his hands and his mind is blank, but then from the audience he hears “Just play, Nuisance".  

He looks around to where the shout came from and spots Sarawat in a corner, leaning against a wall, casual as you please. He is all easy encouraging smiles as he nods at Tine- as if to say Go on, wow them  and Tine feels lighter. He does not need to be a star and does not need anyone else clapping for his brilliant performance but he thinks- if only to himself Go on, wow him.  

He smiles as he plays Clair De Lune and imagines it is just the two of them in the room.  

------ 

 

He passes with flying colors. P’Air posts his name on the board for advanced players and gives him a congratulatory pat on the back. P’Dim smiles at him and Tine should be worried for the considering look in his eyes as the older man offers his own congratulations but Tine is still riding on the high of having gotten in. Green hugs him and the two of them jump excitedly as they hold on to and congratulate each other.  

(Later, Tine will think Green’s string must have been working their magic and pulling him and P’Dim together. He will be happy for Green but he also cannot help but feel envy.  

Somewhere, somehow the red strings are working their magic on other people- pulling them closer and closer. Tine imagines if his were a perfect love story, there would be no need for scheming. As it is, his is not a perfect love story. His wrists are still bare, so is Sarawat’s and there is nothing pulling them closer.  

His bare wrist itches.) 

He does not notice Sarawat scowling at him and Green jumping excitedly.  

------- 

 

In between performances, the club practices songs. The advance players assist in teaching the beginners. There is no one else that plays or is interested in piano so Tine should not be terribly busy for club. But Tine is learning keyboard on P’Dim’s insistence and the instrument is annoying him. His skills on the piano should translate to the keyboard but it is a whole different monster, with buttons for effects he has no idea how to use.  

They give him songs to learn, upbeat tracks with, barely there, keyboard accompaniment. Tine would rather spend time on the piano, in the corner now gathering dust, but he has never quite learnt how to say no.  

And there are other reasons to learn keyboard also.  

Sarawat is teaching a cute girl basic chords and they are sitting close together- heads mere inches from each other. The girl looks absolutely smitten with Sarawat as she listens to him carefully explain where to place her fingers and there is an uncomfortable feeling growing in Tine’s stomach (a lot like jealousy  his mind supplies. That could be you, he’s teaching a voice that sounds suspiciously like Fong’s says. How easy it would be to just swallow his pride and pretend he was interested in adding guitar to his repertoire.)  

When Sarawat and the girl take a break from each other, Tine abandons his sorry attempt at learning keyboard and walks over to where Sarawat is munching on snacks. Sarawat is once again wearing his tan jacket but he looks softer up close. 

“Hey" he greets as he takes a seat next to Sarawat- not too close, not close enough to touch. The bench they are sitting on is narrow and uncomfortable but Tine still tries to make himself as small as possible and keep a bit of distance between him and Sarawat.  

“Hey yourself, Nuisance" Sarawat says in between a mouthful of chips. Tine should be disgusted. He can almost hear his brother saying “don’t speak with food in your mouth " but he is charmed at the carefree imperfection.  

“How’s the teaching going?" Tine asks- a little stupidly, he knows. He can see the tiredness around Sarawat eyes. It must be grating having to teach all of those newbies. Tine himself doesn’t think he has the patience. 

Sarawat doesn’t answer the question only asks in return. “How is learning the keyboard going?"  

“It’s fine, just a little slow.” he answers, fully aware that anyone can tell he is lying. In truth, he feels frustrated. He doesn’t much enjoy learning keyboard- a little too old and a little too set in his ways to be learning new instruments for a  boy .   

Sarawat gives him a disbelieving “Uhuh, you sure about that Nuisance? It looked like you were getting ready to murder the keyboard."  

Tine feels his face heat at being caught in the lie and called out on it. He didn’t think the other boy would notice, didn't think Sarawat was watching. “I.. It's just.. um... harder than I thought it would be” He lies. In truth, he hates it. He’s so used to the weight of keys on a piano that the keys on an electronic keyboard feel a little too foreign in their lightness. 

“If you don’t enjoy it, just tell P’Dim.” Sarawat huffs. He looks annoyed all of a sudden and Tine isn’t quite sure why.  

“Look, he only asked you to learn it so you could play in the band. But the band doesn’t need a keyboard player. We can manage just fine."  It sounds a lot like  We don’t need you.  

“Um... I don’t really mind it." Tine hurries to assure him. There are reasons to learn keyboard and potentially being part of a band that has Sarawat in it- is one of those reasons. (If he was being honest that is the only reason, but he likes to lie to himself every now and then.) 

“You are amazing at piano. You should stick to what you know and enjoy." Sarawat says as he stands up, already seemingly done with this conversation. There is something in Sarawat’s tone that sounds distant. It gives Tine the feeling of whiplash- happy at the praise, one moment, disappointed at the casual dismissal, the next.   

 P’Dim interrupts them to call Sarawat to where he is standing next to another newbie holding a guitar.  

“Uh... I gotta go and help P’Dim. Talk to you later."  

Tine thinks back to the week they spend together as he watches Sarawat rushing away from him.  

The feeling of disappointment grows. 

Green pulls him away from his thoughts, taking the space Sarawat had just abandoned and hands him a plastic cup of Blue Hawaii.  

------ 

 

His friends ask him how “Plan get-your-potential-soulmate-to-like-you" is going (he has elaborate plans to kill Fong in his head. He’s going to be a lawyer, one day and he can get away with it). He tells them he isn’t sure. He suspects it is not going well. 

(Honestly, there is no plan. He and Sarawat barely speak to each other and Tine really has no idea where to go from here.) 

He tells them about how Sarawat had played him Scrubb songs and had encouraged him to play, in spite of the stage fright, during auditions ("Oh how sweet" ). He tells them how he had hoped that after getting into the club things would be easier but then  Sarawat  had all but implied that he  stops  learning the keyboard because he didn’t want to be in the same band ("Are you sure that’s what he meant?" ).  

Tine has no idea how to proceed, planning has never been his strong suite but he had the beginnings of one all thought out. 

1) Get into the club, 2) Get to know Sarawat, 3) Become Friends, 4) Heavily imply that he is interested in becoming more than friends (?), 5) Hope Sarawat gets the hint and asks him out (?)  

Except, Sarawat is playing hot and cold and he cannot keep up. They are barely friends now. 

He thinks if he were lucky enough to have a red string tied to his wrist, all he would need to do was pull.  

------ 

 

Tine does not get the chance to talk to Sarawat again till the first week of exams. By the time exams start, Tine’s life has gotten hectic with cramming. His nights are spent studying piles upon piles of materials. For his first year at law, he had thought the workload would be less. He is already regretting letting P’Type influence his career choice.  

He tries not to think about Sarawat (It should be easy. They don’t bump into each other on campus). But he can’t always control where his mind decides to wander.  

He imagines Sarawat going through the same- comforts himself in the knowledge that maybe he is not being avoided and that the missed opportunities are due to Sarawat being just as busy.  

His bare wrist itches. He pays it no mind.  

------- 

 

They pass each other often outside of club on the way to their own classes but Tine and Sarawat do not know this. Wrapped up in their own lives, they never notice. Both seemingly, completely unaware. Sometimes, they miss each other by only a few minutes. If Tine had lingered just a little bit longer outside of his first class of the day, the two of them would have bumped into each other at the front of the science building. If Sarawat had not waited on his friends before going to get coffee at the little café outside their campus, he would have caught Tine sitting there with Fong doing their homework.  

Somewhere, Fate and the Universe are laughing. 

------ 

 

What eventually breaks the impasse, is not anything Tine could have predicted. 

Music club should be the safe haven where Tine turns off the buzzing in his mind and tries desperately to forget all of his worries (that Sarawat is also there and is also something or someone he worries about does not matter at this moment). This week has been stressful enough as it is. He will worry about the lack of progress between him and Sarawat later. This does not mean he is not going to spend the entirety of club time (not creepily) discretely staring at Sarawat’s face.  

But, as he walks into music club that day, it is anything but a safe haven.  

In one corner of the room, Green and P’Dim are arguing and everyone in the music club is watching with interest. Tine thinks of walking back out from where he came but he can’t ignore the sudden pounding in his head. There is a screeching inside Tine’s head and outside of it and it isn’t Green and P’Dim’s loud voices causing it.  

The red strings wrapped around their wrists are screeching, pulsing and pulling taut- as if they would snap at any moment. (Tine has yet to see a red string break. Theoretically it should be possible, real world strings break all the time.) So, he moves closer to the two to interrupt the argument before something happens that neither of them can fix. (He’s never had the chance to test the red string’s endurance. He likes to think they aren’t delicate but he isn’t curious enough to want to wait and see what happens. Because, it would be a shame really- if it did break. Green and P’Dim are meant to be. They just don’t know it yet.) 

Before he can get closer, Earn interrupts them with a loud proclamation of her own.  

“Oh, just get it over with, we are choking on the sexual tension."  

The silence that echoes after should be blissful but after the occupants of the room are finished gawking at Earn, someone spots him near the door and says loudly “Oh Tine, you’re here". 

They turn to him collectively- like cats having caught the scent of the same prey. He doesn’t understand why they are all looking at him.  

The attention makes him uncomfortable. So, he pays them all no mind and exits the room, when it looks like Green and P’Dim are not going to start up their arguing.  

If it looks like he is fleeing, he really isn’t. He doesn’t have a reason to.  

------ 

 

He goes to wash his face in the comfort room at the end of the hallway and is surprised to see Sarawat waiting for him at the door.  

“Are you okay?" He asks. And Tine wonders if it's the darkness under his eyes that give him away. He had washed off the small amount of concealer he’d taken to using to mask the bruises.  

“Just tired, is all." His voice sounds thin even to him. He sounds as pathetic as he feels. Weeks of exams and not getting anywhere with this boy is making him contemplate all of his life choices.  

He should be happy Sarawat is speaking to him and showing he cares. But all he feels right now is bone deep tired and if he could, he would just crawl back into bed.  

“Come take a walk with me? I'll treat you to ice cream.” 

On second thoughts, ice cream sounds nice. Ice cream with Sarawat sounds nicer than crawling back into an empty bed.  

------ 

 

It starts like this: 

Sarawat takes him out for ice cream and they walk to a tiny park near the campus while they eat. They talk about everything and nothing as the sky slowly turns from orange to purple to black.  

Sarawat still confuses Tine. He is prickly one moment, kind and considerate the next. Tine thinks back to the boy that had so casually dismissed him, as he looks at the boy who now smiles at him openly as they talk about music, family and friends.  

(He learns these things: 

Sarawat started playing guitar as a child because he was too easily distracted and his mother had thought it would teach him discipline. His small guitar with soft strings gathered dust in his closet for years, while he forgot about it and was distracted by other things like video games and soccer. Just before high school, he discovered alternative rock music, fallen in love and learnt how to play again seriously. (There is no girl that Sarawat learnt guitar to woo- like Tine had previously assumed.) 

Sarawat has a younger brother named Phukong- who according to him is a little shit. His parents run a family business together but are under no illusions that either Sarawat or Phukong will take over in the future. (Tine wonders what he dreams of being when he’s older but doesn’t ask- thinks it would be nice to learn later.

Sarawat’s best friends are named Man and Boss. The three of them met in high school while playing soccer for the school team. Sarawat tells him how the two had wormed their way into his life and refused to leave. (Tine thinks they are lucky to have Sarawat speak of them so fondly- even if he complains that they are stupid and weird).) 

All in a single night, Tine learns more about Sarawat than he ever imagined he would. It makes Tine feel special, as if he had gotten a tiny bit closer to solving a mystery everyone else was still scratching their heads over. 

His bare wrist itches something fierce. He really should go to the doctor to have it checked. But as Sarawat walks him all the way to his dorm, it is a passing thought, quickly forgotten.  

------ 

 

He meets Man and Boss on a Friday. Exams are finally over and Sarawat invites Tine and his friends to go drinking with them. Tine’s friends are ecstatic and the entire way to the little bar, they agree to meet in, they tease and congratulate him on more progress.  

They drink, invade the stage and sing songs entirely off-key. (At one point, Boss decides to jump off the stage, Man catches him and holds him for a bit- spinning and laughing and looking lost in each other. There is a red string between them fluttering happily- content.) 

That night, he learns Sarawat can hold his liquor really well. He is seven beers in before Tine can see his face flushed red. He learns Sarawat is just as prone to acts of stupidity when he finally does get drunk and picks a fight with a cat that crosses in front of Tine and nearly causes him to fall down on his face.  

He learns Sarawat is even more of a dork when he begs Tine to let him sleep over at the end of the night. They sing Scrubb songs on his little balcony and Sarawat confesses he has never been in love.   

------ 

 

It is obvious- painfully so.  

But Fate and the Universe can only watch in amusement as two thread less, untethered boys gravitate towards each other. 

------ 

 

For a while, it is steady- this tiny growing thing between them. He learns Sarawat actually adores cats-when Man sends them the video of Sarawat arguing with the cat that almost tripped Tine over and it snowballs into sending each other funny cat videos in between classes.  

He learns Sarawat does not know how to text- when Sarawat sends him the wrong emoticons and typo filled short messages in reply.  

He learns Sarawat likes boys- when Man sends them a video of an admirer playing Sarawat the song ‘Wish you were gay’ and Sarawat replies in their group chat with a casual "I  amtho ?" ( and Tine has feelings about that, so many feelings- but mostly Oh thank God and hope- just a tiny little seed of one). 

Tine smiles at his phone more often and his friends have fun teasing him.  

He scratches his left wrist absent mindedly. 

------ 

 

 

They don’t spend a lot of time together during the weekends but one Saturday Sarawat invites him over to his dormitory to plan which songs to play at the showcase happening at the end of the month.  

They had agreed Tine would come over at eight in the morning. Why he needs to be there so early is anyone’s guess. Tine is just excited to spend time with Sarawat outside campus. He’d even worn his lucky blue shirt and maybe a touch of his vanilla perfume- but no one needs to know.  

He isn’t expecting Sarawat to still be asleep. He isn’t expecting to have to use the key that Sarawat had mentioned he keeps under the plotted plant next to his door. Who invites someone to their house at eight in the morning and doesn’t even bother to let them in? 

As he closes the door behind him, he notices a human shaped lump on the mattress. The audacity of this man to still be asleep when Tine had made all this effort to be exactly on time. (Stupid Sarawat, with his stupidly pretty face and his stupidly attractive everything, stupidly forgetting that they were supposed to meet today.)  

It must be the frustration at having been forgotten or the exasperation at having been awake so early that possesses him to do it. (Later, much later, Fong will laugh when he recounts this story).  

But as he jumps onto the massive bed next to his sleeping friend and grabs onto the bedsheet to remove it- intending, only intending to shock Sarawat awake- he'll have to admit that he has only himself to blame.  

------ 

 

Well maybe Fate and the Universe too. Because he’s sure- somewhere out there, they are laughing at him too.  

------ 

 

What Tine remembers is this:  

Above the neck is safe, chests are okay (he is a healthy human boy even if he is magic), shoulders (he later on realizes can be pretty), backs and thighs are all a yes. Hands are a no (everything below the elbow are to be avoided) .  

Sarawat is laying on his front, completely naked under the sheet and nowhere is safe .  

Tine does not know where to look.  

(Sarawat’s back is broad and his shoulders are muscular (which had escaped his attention because Sarawat is always in clothes two sizes too big) and Tine can imagine the strength there as Sarawat pushes him down (where did that come from?).  

But below is not much safer. He avoids looking at Sarawat’s ass (that way led madness ) but the back of Sarawat’s thighs is just as dangerous. 

Sarawat’s hands are tucked away pillowed under his head and his face looks peaceful- content (so peaceful and sweet and stupid- if Tine were not a better man he would just lean in and kiss it).)  

And pretends he was saw nothing.  

He throws the bedsheet back onto his sleeping friend, moves off the bed and from a respectable distance shouts “Sarawat" loud enough to startle the dead, loud enough to startle Sarawat, he falls from the bed.   

And ignores the pounding in his heart and the unbearable itching on his wrist.  

------ 

It should have been fine. He should have been fine. Friends see other friends naked all the god damn time. But that was before, before he knew what Sarawat was really like. 

Before he knew. 

He likes Sarawat. Sarawat is attractive, talented, surprisingly kind and thoughtful. He plays Scrubb songs like they are meant to be played, offers comfort when Tine is feeling overwhelmed with classes and responsibilities, invites him for walks at tiny parks and buys him ice cream. He sends Tine funny cat videos and pictures of himself looking disapprovingly at his friends being gross and domestic. He listens- listens to Tine complain about classes, friends, family and responsibilities- listens to Tine playing piano for hours and says nothing, only offering Tine a smile and a song of his own. He makes Tine feel  special - not in the way a boy who can see red strings is special.  

He likes Sarawat. Likes, likes, loves (?) him.  

He’s in love with Sarawat- knowing Sarawat and seeing Sarawat sleep rumpled and bare, has him reeled in hook, line and sinker.  

But Sarawat could have anyone and Tine’s wrists are still unfortunately bare

------ 

 

He avoids Sarawat. 

By the time he meets Sarawat he has had six ex-lovers, but none of them make Tine feel like this.  

(Tine dreams of an ocean of red thread. 

In the middle is Sarawat laying on his back and covered from his neck to his toes- each point connected to a red string.  

Tine swims in it and tries desperately to get closer. When he is near enough, he gathers the thread in his hands and tries to untangle Sarawat from it. But there are knots upon knots and the string will not budge- will not unravel.  

He thinks of scissors and it is in his hand. He cuts. But the strings just keep growing back and it pulls Sarawat deeper until Tine is unable to see him.  

Tine wakes.)  

He wonders if by virtue of proximity to him, the universe will bring Sarawat closer to his other half, sooner by just a tiny bit. The idea makes him want to cry.  

------ 

 

No matter how much his friends argue: “Just ask him out, Tine”, “You’ve got nothing to lose", “You can’t keep waiting and waiting and waiting forever”  

He does not think it is a good idea. In his head, where no one can hear him, he replies “I can’t”, “I have everything to lose", “I can wait- forever, if I have to".  

Fong, who understands and offers him easy acceptance and love, hears it anyway and looks at him saying nothing.  

(Later, much later, when they are alone in Fong’s room, he will hug Tine tightly as Tine cries in fear of losing another love to the whims of fate and the universe.)   

 ------ 

 

If Tine was not Tine, he imagines he could be brave for Sarawat.   

But Tine is just Tine.  

Tine, who sees red strings but has none of his own, with subpar piano playing and skeletons in his closet filled with ex-lovers, is not very brave.  

And so, he waits. Fortunately for him, Sarawat does not keep him waiting for very long. 

------ 

 

Later, he will look back and wonder how he could have been so cowardly. Noone will blame him for being afraid but he’ll blame himself anyway. It'll turn out it doesn’t matter- not really, not when it would lead to this. 

The showcase is the single most important event for the music club. They use the small auditorium on campus and spend months advertising anywhere and everywhere- putting up flyers at little cafes and creating short music videos to drum up excitement. There will be no big music executives watching to sign anyone up, there will be no recruiters from prestigious music schools, it’ll be just a bunch of students who love music and wish to share it. It’ll be a chance for old hats to show what they are good at and new hats to show what they’ve learned.  

It’ll be a chance to bare their souls.   

Tine stands backstage shaking from nerves. He breathes in and out loudly like his brother taught him. There are hundreds of people in the auditorium, complete strangers who will listen to Tine play piano- who will undoubtedly judge him if he fails. Tine’s stomach is already aching- lack of sleep, lack of food and nerves playing havoc on his delicate system.  

All he can think about is Don’t throw up, don’t throw up, don’t throw up.   

He can’t think of anything else. He cannot afford to.  

P’Air is rubbing circles on his back in sympathy. P’Dim is off to one side watching the girl who plays flute carefully, ready to intervene at any sign of things not going well. Green is chattering away at another club member seemingly completely at ease- as if he was born on the stage- lack of musical prowess be damned.  

Sarawat, Sarawat- is nowhere in sight. Which is good, it’s great really.  Tine can concentrate on playing and not on Sarawat and being so in love with Sarawat- Tine would literally trade anything for Sarawat to choose him, love him back- soulmates and red strings be damned.  

He cannot help but feel disappointed though. After all, the song he will be playing- the song he’s chosen- is for Sarawat - another tiny piece of him, to do with what you will.  

The girl with the flute leaves the stage when she is done. She is all smiles. It went well  her smiles say.  

Before Tine can get onto the stage though, Sarawat comes rushing in, a little sweaty but still so gorgeous. Sarawat stops next to him, catches his breath and says “Just play, Nuisance. Don’t think about anything else. Imagine it's just you and me."  

Sarawat gives him an encouraging smile as he gives Tine a hug and whispers into his ear “When you are done, stay and listen to my song."  

He lets go and pushes Tine towards the stage. Tine looks around but feels no panic, only lightness. Up on stage with the spotlight on him, he can see no one, just blurry shapes. They don't matter anyway. Tine looks back at the side of the stage to see Sarawat looking at him intent, small smile on his lips- as if to say Go on. He sits on the piano bench and plays Clair de Lune. 

After, when he is done, when everyone has congratulated him on his playing and he’s gotten hugs from everyone in the music club, he’ll stand at the side of the stage behind the curtains and wait for Sarawat to finish playing his song. He’ll return the encouraging smile as Sarawat gives him his answer.  

Sarawat gets on stage, announces his name, as the band behind him starts to play, and says “For Tine". 

It is the best rendition of Scrubb’s “Your Smile", Tine has ever heard.  

Later, much later, when it is just the two of them back stage, when everyone is done teasing the both of them and they’ve all gone their separate ways to celebrate a successful night, Tine and Sarawat will share a kiss.  It will be short and sweet- but as far as first kisses go- it will be the best Tine will ever have. 

------ 

Tine dreams of an ocean of red thread.  

(He is lying on his back and he is covered in them from his neck to his toes. Each point connected to a red string. It should feel suffocating but it isn’t. He’s longed for red strings since he first felt the pull of attraction (to that one girl in class with the almond eyes and pretty smile). He'd longed for it as Fong held him in his arms as he cried for another love lost to the whims of fate and the universe.   

He’d prayed for it when he had met Sarawat.  

In his dreams, they cradle him in a warm embrace and he has never felt more connected to world more than this moment.  

Next to him, on his bed of red thread, is Sarawat- asleep and covered in thread from his neck to his toes and Tine smiles.)  

He wakes. And on his wrist is a single red thread. He follows the end of it a short distance next to him- tied to Sarawat’s wrist.  

------ 

A year later, at nineteen, Tine stops seeing the red threads.  

He didn’t need them anyway.