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Cafe Latte.

Brush. Thumbs. Blue, blue.

Do you want it to go, sir?

Airpods. Thick in his ear like the cold. Pete pretends the muffler around his neck is something beret-wearing artists do. Not that he wears berets.

Or that he’s an artist.

No

He doesn’t paint often. He knows it. The waitress knows it. Cracking out watercolors over paper napkins wasn’t such a good idea.

Is cheese supposed to be blue?

Extra sugar, please.

He sniffs. Snowflake-thin. His wrists hurt.

I’m afraid that we’ve run out, sir.

Pete shoves back his paint colored fingers into his gloves. And leans. The wicker armchair feels like a embrace.

No problem.

Isn’t there?

You are generous, sir.

He would’ve called the manager.

Then don’t take advantage of me, haha.

He snorts. There’s noise-cancellation available. But he pretends there isn’t. Just like the rest of the world pretends there isn’t a grown ass man with paint-covered fingers lying like the dead in an outdoor cafe.

Nobody asks for him.

And he asks for no one.

Have a nice day, sir.

Pete closes his eyes.

You too!

Happiness, happiness. The darkness behind his eyelids is blue.

When he opens them he sees a mole. On the napkin, once again that bloody left-eyed mole.

He doesn’t swear out loud. He’s far too past that now to say anything about it.

Good fucking day, indeed.

(When he turns, the bones of his back pop. And there is no one left there, anymore.)

---

He likes fanny packs.

If the girl behind him on the line squinted at the hello kitty sticker on it he had the grace not to stick his tongue back out to her.

Pete is decent, okay.

“Nine hundred and ninety nine baht.”

The song on his lips is transistor radio old. His mother’s nineties Audrey Hepburn bun pictures-old and dried seaweed crisps-old. Old, something so old he forgets it was supposed to be old and sings it like the kids mouth sugary pop numbers on the street.

He likes Tilly Birds, though.

He can have that much, right?

Khun?

Sorry, Zoned out!

Papayas. Chillis.

Pears.

His smiles. A rare thing. It’s her birthday. And San is coming over. And he didn’t draw any moles this week.

(He hasn’t drawn anything either, but shoelaces look good on film, he’s learnt.)

Not empty, she used to say, Nong, it is gravity, you are so full you cannot help but attract them—whoever they are.

You’re so full of shit, he used to laugh, she found his when she was five.

She was such a nerd.

He keeps her beret and her fanny pack.

He misses his sister.

---

Those pages of history are ochre under his fingerstips. The book was gone for a while. He’s been looking for it for longer.

Squares of little fingers twirled in red and lungs-ful of petals and star stretching over three finger-widths of waist.

When you kiss it, the book says, you shall know.

He doesn’t know what he was hoping to find.

---

The sky train lurches.

And so does his heart.

“Sorry, sorry.”

His shirt smells like jasmines now. Pete puts his airpods back into his fanny pack and shuffles on his feet.

The stranger is gone before his heart can stop racing.

Unfilled again.

P’Pear, he thinks, I don’t want to be alone anymore.

---

On the third Sunday of the month, he books the hall. Sandee doesn’t seem surprised.

“Fuck you,” she says over the phone. “You crashed our date night”

“Bring him,” he smirks, “and all his friends”

“I’m not your PR Manager!” She croaks.

Sleep-heavy. She’s softer than she lets on. And protects him like her own. “Put your blue shirt on,” she says.

“Yes mam!”, he almost smiles. But then again, she's always known him all too well, “And leave the fanny pack at home!”

“Ai’Dee!”

---

It rains.

Of fucking course it does.

But he’s fucking proud of what he’s done and he’s not going to back down after all this time.

It’s mostly film. And one painting.

Pete hopes he gets sold out.

Pete hopes nobody sees his clumsy watercolor.

He must have been crazy to add it to the exhibition.

(He doesn't know what had gotten into him.)

---

Red Light.

He turns the radio on and listens for signs. Like he used to back when he was a kid.

Today it is heaped at your feet, he closes his eyes. And leans on the steering wheel. It has found it’s end in you.

Why are his eyes wet?

Sandee had been so proud of him.

June was, too.

They had a friend, they said.

A friend they’d wanted to introduce him to but he’d left too early.

Did he see my painting, he wanted to ask.

But he didn’t.

Next time, he said. It felt he'd said these exact words a one thousand billion times before.

Pete craves some egg noodles.

---

The broth is shitty. Lighting, shittier. Maybe he has a cold. Maybe that is just how life is, for him. But that is not going to stop him.

He is thumbing for his camera before he can stop himself. Beauty is different in flesh and bone. In life.

He is mesmerized by the pink pucker of that mouth. Eyes barely on the display.

“Ow!”

“I’m sorry!”, he shouts, nearly upending his bowl again. God, how could he have kept the flash on! “I’m sorry”

He thinks the man, knows it then. When he brings a napkin out from his tote and wipes his cheek.

Pete thumbs over the mole over beside his eye. Feeling him tremble.

They smile.

They ask for each other’s names.

“I missed you—”

Kao.

“One times too many—”

“Are you always this annoying?”

“Only with you.”

He cannot breath. Totes. Stripes. Fanny packs. Moles. Phanuwat.

“Be my annoying,” he croaks. Cradling that pretty face in his hand, the moon-kissed smile, “Be my everything”

“I am already.”

“Me too,” he smiles. Is it the lip-balm? How are his even chill-stained lips sweet?

Never unfilled.

Never not have loved.

---

“Cafe latte.”

Charcoal and beige. Kao blinks.

“Do you want it to go, sir?”

The air smells musty. Like someone has died. Or something. He feels his throat close for an unknown funeral. It’s nothing new.

He cries easily, these days.

“No”

Kao keeps his little diary of schedules in his pocket. And his heart outside his sleeve and within his shirt front pocket.

Why does the brown of coffee taste so bitter?

“Extra sugar, please.”

He sniffs. His heart hurts.

“I’m afraid that we’ve run out, sir.”

Kao smiles. Her trepidation airs out his heart. She’s lucky he is kind. But then again, he doesn’t know how to be unkind.

“No problem.”

There isn’t.

“You are generous, sir”

He can borrow Thada’s sugar stock.

“Then don’t take advantage of me.”

A laugh. It tastes like derision. It sounds like relief to him. Kao wonders who laughed. His mind already reeling with schedules. The next client, and then the next, and the next.

He’s being asked for, everywhere.

He cannot help but respond.

“Have a nice day sir.”

Kao steps outside.

“You too!”

Tiredness, tiredness. Beige tote. How does he not tire of it, yet?

He swallows.

Why is he so sad?

Someone curses from behind him. Kao hopes that helped them.

He hopes they have a good day.

(When he turns, all the wicker chairs are full, and for a moment, his heart is, too.)

---

He likes totes.

They’re useful, he sweats through his shirt and adjusts the strap on his shoulder.

The girl ahead of him has a pickahu hairclip. Gift likes pokemons.

Nine hundred and ninety nine baht.

Kao squints at the hum of fluorescent lights at the ceiling of the grocery store. And holds his breath. The bulb in the front doorstep needs changing. The hem of his left leg cargo needs changing. The zipper of his tote needs changing.

The world needs changing.

Or is he the one who’s the problem?

“Khun?”

“Sorry”, he smiles, “Zoned out—”

Peaches. Persimmons.

Pears.

He sighs. When he turns and lifts the plastic bag for a moment it is heavier than fruit.

As heavy as the steady-beating heart inside of him. As the melody in the air so thick he wonders if he’s the only one getting suffocated.

Move on, she says, P’Kao, Life is not a drama. Go out with P’Sun, and stop spilling ice-cream on my carpet!

You’re spilling it! He wants to snort. But he doesn’t.

She’s such a nuisance.

Do berets look good with totes?

He’ll have to ask his sister.

---

Kao stares at the glass ceiling. He likes his loud Bangkok, fish-market-som-tam-loud. But he likes his quiet Bangkok too.

Quiet unlike the unrest he was born with. How does he fit in everywhere but it never feels like he was born in the right generation.

They’re not born like that anymore, they say.

Then why does he feel so untethered?

---

Kao thinks he broke the man’s camera.

How warm that chest feels at is back.

“Sorry,” he breaths, “Sorry.”

Sandalwood he thinks. Blinking up at the sky. He’d run like a coward. Like a schoolboy with a crush.

Should he really accept P’Sun’s offer?

To be filled again.

Gift, he grits his teeth, If you’re wrong about this—.

---

June likes his grilled prawns. Thada wants to take some back for his girlfriend.

“How was the date?”

He throws the towel.

“I thought Nong Gift had a crush on Song Joong-ki in high school?”

“Hmmph,” he huffs. “She likes Park Bo-gum now,” June cackles, “And don’t be nosy!”. Kao almost, almost smiles.

“Investigating the distributor of Khun Mork’s wedding invitations is not called being nosy!”

“Ai’Da!”

---

It rains.

He is used to it raining all the time.

Kao gets a taxi and wonders why he’s going at all. Thada had shown him a website.

He couldn’t believe his eyes, at first.

Stripes. Totes. Walks.

Fair-fingers-clasped paper cup, red-stringed little finger.

Was this artist crazy?

(Almost as crazy as him, then.)

---

Stop sign.

Kao’s feet ache. From walking. Walking and walking and walking around in circles of the exhibit.

The pictures felt like bones outside his body. That if they burned the building down that would be his end.

Another funeral.

He left before he could be swept away.

But the image stays anyway.

The rain on his cheeks feels like teardrops.

Caramel mouth on ivory.

He can’t get the painting out of his head.

Love.

The love of all man’s days both past and forever, plays at the restaurant.

Kao blindly takes seat.

---

A clumsy elbow nearly knocks out his ramen. And he feels eyes on him.He raises his nose. Shy.

Is this what it feels like to preen? It is one thing to be required, quite another, to be wanted.

Latte. Stripes. Fruits. Walks. Trains. Totes. Moles. Unkissed mouths. Kao turns.

“Ow!”

“I’m sorry!”, his rain-soaked shirt should’ve made him look hot. Kao thinks his fidgeting is cute. “I’m sorry!”

The cameraman flushes. Kao cups his cheek. Tips over his chin. Caramel mouth. Begging eyes.

His skin is blue. His shoes are beige. His touch feels hot on his skin.

They hold hands under the table.

The words taste better than egg noodles.

“I missed you—”

Kao.

“One times too many—”

“Are you always this annoying?”

“Only with you.”

He knows it’s the truth before he even says the words.

“Be my annoying,” their temples knock against the other, little fingers twined, “be my everything.”

“I am already.”

“Me too.” When Pete kisses him, he forgets to tease him about his beret.

So full, that they could never not have met.

Never not have loved.

---