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Theory of Three

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Third yawned; he was not a morning shopping person, he preferred to spend the time before 9am in the comfort of the home, not in a crowded supermarket on Friday morning, his stomach empty. There was about four people with loaded shopping carts in the queue infront of him and he cursed the person who decided to open only one of the six cashiers. “Third? Oh my god it is you!” A voice too close to him exclaimed and Third lazily turned around to see his friend with shopping cart filled to the brim with alcohol and snacks. “Oh hey Two…having a party?” He gestured towards the cart. Two smiled. “Don’t you remember what’s tomorrow?” 


Third frowned. “Weekend, right?” “First of November!” Two’s smile widened. “Come on, it’s our graduation date. Well, three years ago. Reunion, remember? You didn’t come last year or the year before that; we all really miss you.” Damn, was he already 24? Third yawned again. He wanted a quiet weekend, not a party, especially with so many people of which half of he’d rather forget. “I don’t know, I might be busy.” He said, stepping closer to the cashier. “Please, don’t  you want to see the old gang?” Third raised an eyebrow. “I do, he gonna be there too?” “He?” Two faked oblivion. “Oh, you mean Khai? Yeah he’s coming. I guess you two haven’t talked since then, huh?” 

Third shook his head. He didn’t have any desire to talk to his cheating ex-boyfriend who in their last year broke his heart and humiliated him in front of a crowd of people. He shuddered at the memory. “I’m not sure I wanna see him.” He admitted. “There will be like twenty people; you don’t have to interact if you don’t want to. Bone would love to see you and P’Un too; I live with him so he’ll be there. Bone is staying over tonight so if you’d like, you can come earlier in the day and have lunch with us since most people will come around 4. Here’s gonna be a barbecue and everything. Please come?” Two’s smile was practically beaming at this point. It was too early, Third was too tired and without any energy to argue back or come up with an excuse.


“Fine fine, I’ll come. Stop smiling at me like that, it’s so creepy.” He agreed and turned back when the line moved again and it was his turn at the cashier. Third emptied his basket onto the conveyor belt, shielding it from Two as best as he could, but his friend still noticed the few strange items in Third’s shopping before he could stash them into the bag. Why on earth did he need baby powder and nappies? And what was with the apples and carrots that Third was definitely allergic to? “I’ll come after 3!” Third called over the shoulder as he grabbed his bag and scurried out of the shop.


“Thanks Jennie, you’re a life saver. I didn’t think mom would have outing with friends today.” Third frantically searched his closet for a good top to match with his jeans. Once he finally settled on the outfit it was time to deck out his wrists with bracelets and put some earring in too. “It’s okay, you know I’m always happy to babysit for you.” “I promise I’ll be back by 7.” Third tousled his hair a little to give his mushroom cut a little curl and definition. “Oh no no no baby boy, you properly enjoy yourself, stay the night if you want. God knows you need it. Come here, let me decorate you a little.” Jennie rummaged through the make up bag on Third’s table before pulling him closer and decorating his eyes with a silver eyeliner and his mouth with a soft layer of pink gloss. “Your ex is gonna be there, right? Show him what he’s missing.” Jennie smiled, patting his shoulder. “Now go, have fun.” 


Third looked at himself in the mirror and smiled; when was the last time he made himself this pretty? It’s been a long time since he went to any party or even hang out with friends outside of his house, so when he looked at his reflection, he couldn’t help but smile. He looked as what his mom would describe as ‘a confident gay’ and he was loving it. He grabbed his car keys and before leaving stepped into the living room to see his little bundle of joy still sleeping, his nap time undisturbed. “I’ll call you if I decide to stay late. See ya!” He waved before leaving in his car. Luckily Two still lived in the same house and Third didn’t have a trouble to finding it. The trouble came when he parked on the street next to Two’s house and saw a very familiar motorcycle already parked by the driveway. 


His hair was dripping orange juice. His eyes were stinging with tears. His ears were ringing from the laughter erupting around him. His heart ached as the girl called him a faggot. He looked around, people pointed at him. She shouted at him obscenities. He and Khai were secretly dating for months, only two closest friends knew. Khai said he loved him. So why did he sleep with that girl? Why did she have to come and tell him how disgusting he is for seducing her boyfriend? His eyes met Khai’s, pleading for help. She screamed at Khai to choose. And Khai chose…but not him. For the rest of the year up until graduation Third wore a hoodie, covering his head and pretending to be invisible.



Third hesitated. It was already past five and he heard many voices talking and laughing, the party was already going on. He couldn’t bring himself to look at the motorcycle any longer and took a deep breath before going through the door with his head held high, smile spreading across his face when Un came to greet him and hugged him. “We expected you for lunch! Are you hungry? Two is busting his ass by the grill; come eat.” Un coaxed him to the garden where they already set up benches and chairs, the pool had some balls floating in it and people were just mingling happily. To Third’s relief Khai was nowhere to be seen and many of his former classmates greeted him with smiles.


He recognised everyone, it’s not like people would change much in only three years. “Hey Two, hey Bone.” Third greeted them and Bone gave him a tight hug. “Wow, you look incredible. Still so tiny; here, food.” Bone thrusted a plate of meat into Third’s hands and a glass of beer which Third happily gulped down within minutes. It didn’t take long for Third to get tipsy; just three beers have done it since he hasn’t drank alcohol for over a year now. He sat by the pool with legs dangling in the water as he wiped another drink, this time some juice mixed with rum that left his mouth burning. It was only a few minutes in that he noticed Khai sitting at the opposite side of the pool, his eyes fixed on Third. As soon as their eyes met, Khai looked away and someone put hand on Third’s shoulder.

“May I join you?” Un smiled, holding a bowl of cheesy fries. Third nodded, patting the tile beside him. Un noticed immediately the person on the opposite side and he shot him a dirty glare before glancing at Third who’s smile faltered a little. “Have you talked to him?” Un asked. Third grabbed a fry and lazily chewed on it. “Nah. I have nothing to say to him.” Un shrugged. He wasn’t there when that crazy scene happened but he heard the story word for word from Two. He didn’t hate Khai, but it didn’t sit well with him that someone has hurt his friend. “Let’s not talk about this; how is it with you and Two?” Third smiled again, nicking more fries from the bowl.

Un seemed to take the bait as he got really excited when his boyfriend was mentioned. “It’s great! I mean we live together now, we got a cat but he’s sleeping inside, probably hiding under the bed because he doesn’t like noise. We’re going on a vacation next month, he always wanted to visit Spain so we’re gonna go for a week. I think…I want to propose to him when we come back.” “Oh, that’s awesome. Fingers crossed.” Third looked back at Khai who was now immersed in a conversation with other people, no longer sitting by the pool, his back turned towards Third. Un chuckled. “Yeah thanks. I wanted to do it sooner but decided to wait; I think people getting married that early is just weird. I’m glad neither one of us is a woman, that soon of a pregnancy…ugh. Having a kid this early age would be so damn weird and stupid. You okay?”

Un noticed how Third uncomfortably shifted in place and basically chugged down his drink, despite it burning his throat like hot coal. He pulled out his phone and flipped through the photo album before showing the screen to Un who had to blink twice to focus his eyes on the image. “Is that you when you were little? Damn, your face doesn’t change.” Un laughed, pinching Third’s cheek as he looked at his friend and then back at the baby on screen. Third swatted his hand away rather harshly. “It’s my son.” He frowned. Un’s jaw dropped and the bowl of fries slipped through his hands and into the pool. “Third I’m so-“ “I need another drink.” Third stood up, leaving his shocked friend in place and going to the drink table. It didn’t take long before the murmur around him started and he felt the uncomfortable gaze of others. 


When he found Bone it seemed the news didn’t reach him yet and they engaged in a casual conversation, but it was just a waiting game for Third, waiting for the gossip to finish circulating. Once it all started to calm down however, he heard the voice behind his back that was unmistakably his ex’s. “You’ve got a kid?” Khai stood there with a shocked expression. Third mustered a smile and curtly nodded before turning around again and pretending to ignore Khai. He knew the guy didn’t move, he was still staring daggers through his back and Third started to feel queasy. “Two, you really need to control your gossipy boyfriend; now everybody knows!” Third hissed at his friend who’s expression turned guilty very fast. “Yeah uh, sorry, I think that was my fault. He asked me if I knew about it and I asked Bone if he knew, and it just kinda spiralled when other overheard it.” Two awkwardly smiled. “But hey that’s a good news, isn’t it? Why would you keep that a secret?” He said encouragingly. Third checked behind his shoulder to see Khai still stood there, waiting. “I’ll tell you, just…away from all these ears, please?”


Two nodded and together with Bone they entered the house and Third felt even more awkward; this felt more like an intervention rather than a friendly chat. He gulped down half of his drink and sat on the sofa, unsure where to start, but luckily Bone didn’t disappoint and started bombarding him with questions. “Since when do you have a kid? I thought you were gay? Is it a boy or a girl? What’s the name? How old is it? Are you getting married? Is it adopted or yours?”

Third laughed. “Take a breath, will you?” He patted Bone on the shoulder. “I’m still gay, and it was kind of an accident, or a mistake. I had a one night stand with a lesbian; we got drunk and fooled around, we both wanted to know if we’re really queer or not. Didn’t use a protection and…well. She didn’t want the baby but she didn’t want an abortion either, so I supported her during pregnancy with money and things and I have a full custody. She doesn’t want to have anything to do with the baby and I don’t blame her, I’m making decent money from work so we’re doing okay. His name is Chimon Daw, he’s 10 months old.” Third gave them his phone and both Bone and Two awed over the baby pictures, giggling. “Wow, he really is your carbon copy.” Bone traced the full lips on the picture before looking at Third, comparing their features. He wasn’t wrong; Chimon had the same button nose, big lips, round eyes and long lashes, his hair pitch black like Third’s.

“So uh…are you with someone?” Two hesitantly asked and Third immediately knew where that question was coming from. “Khai asked you to find out, didn’t he?” “Err…yeah. Sorry.” Third shook his head. “It’s fine. I’m single; not many guys want a boyfriend who has a kid. I’m okay though; I live with my mom so she helps when I’m working and my best friend Jennie babysits when mom is busy. I haven’t dated anyone since…you know.” He bit his lip. Two nodded. “Neither did he. He broke up with her just before graduation because she cheated on him with multiple guys.” “I don’t want to talk about him. I’m trying to forget that part of my past, you know? Just seeing him again…hurts.” Third sighed before finishing his drink and sinking further into the sofa. “I think… I think you should talk to him, Third.” Two hesitated before continuing. “I think maybe…even if you don’t have anything to say to him, he might want to say something to you.” “I don’t want to listen. I think I’ll go home.” 

Third stood up from the sofa and with very wobbly legs walked out of the house, inhaling deeply the cold evening air and hoping to sober up enough to call an Uber. “Third, you can stay here, you said Jennie is staying with your kid for the night.” Bone tried to plead with his friend who was now frustrated as there was no Uber available. “I’m not staying. I need to see Chimon when he wakes up. Can someone drive me?” He looked around at his friends, but everyone shook their heads. “We all had alcohol, sorry. Just stay here…” Two patted his shoulder. “I can drive you; I haven’t had any alcohol.”


Third turned around. Khai stood there with an awkward smile, holding a bottle of coke. “I can get a cab back here to pick up my bike…” He added, clearly nervous about the answer. “Cool! So we’re just gonna…yeah bye!” Bone grabbed Two and dragged him away before Third could object, leaving him and Khai alone by the front gate. He took a step back and cautiously looked at Khai who was still looking at him with a little hopeful smile. “Can we talk?” Khai said after a moment of silently staring at each other. When Third didn’t say anything and just started walking to his car, Khai promptly followed and leaned against the driver’s door before Third could get to the car. “You can’t drive like this.” “Move out of the way.” “If you drive your child will grow up without a parent!” Khai snapped, opening his palm. “Now is not the time to pout. Fine, we don’t have to talk at all, but let me drive you home safely. You can hate me again once you’re home. Keys.”


Third reluctantly handed over his car keys a circled the car to sit at the passenger side while Khai sat behind the wheel. He changed the rear view mirror position and pushed his seat a bit further before noticing the baby car seat in the back with a plush elephant dangling above it. He had so many questions and so many things he wanted to say but decided to just drive in silence and occasionally take a peek at the drunk man beside him who’s head was now clanking against the window. As Khai parked in the driveway Third was still asleep and no amount of patting and poking would wake him up. Khai knew this was a huge overstep of boundaries but decided to act on it anyway and picked up Third in his arms before letting himself in and quietly walking into the house through the back porch.

It’s been years since he’s been there, yet the place looked exactly the same, except with a fair amount of baby stuff scattered around. There were toys, clothes, and some things Khai had no clue what they were. As he walked further into the house a woman’s figure gave him a fright and he nearly dropped Third on the ground. “Oh, Third, what happened to him? Who are you?” Jennie poked Third in the cheek but the sleeping man didn’t even flinch. “He’s just drunk and fell asleep in the car. Where is the little one?” Khai hugged Third tighter; as light as he was it wasn’t exactly easy holding him up. Jennie pointed behind her. “Sleeping with me in the guest room, I just wanted a glass of water so…goodnight? Wait, what’s your name?” “…Khai.” “You’re the one who-!” 

Jennie’s words were interrupted with a tiny cry and she scurried away, but not before she shot a deadly glare towards Khai, gesturing fingers across neck in a ‘I’m gonna cut your head off if something happens’ kind of fashion. Khai finally entered Third’s bedroom, and even here only so little has changed. He still had the big stuffed bear in the corner of his room, the cork board covered in photos, now several of them baby pictures. Khai gently laid him on the bed and very carefully removed Third’s shoes, covering him with blanket. He looked at the photos which in the dark room looked really hazy, but he could still distinguish all the faces. He had to take a double look  when he noticed a photo of him and Third in a hug, smack in the middle of the board. “I really fucked up big style, didn’t I?” Khai sighed as he sat at the edge of the bed and very gently stroked the sleeping man’s hair. Third stirred, his eyes halfway open and brain still fuzzy, but he could still remember who was the person beside him and why was he here. His hand covered the bigger one and he pulled it to his cheek. Khai’s palm felt so warm… “Can you stay with me tonight?”