Noom’s nose twitched. It was a small, quick movement not unlike a sleeping lion’s reaction to a fly buzzing about its whiskers. Its second twitch focused my attention. Noom, my bar boy friend and current love of my life, has a cute nose. Though admittedly, I’m biased. It’s not an unusual nose, nothing much about it stands out; his is a typical Thai nose, a typical Asian nose, kinda like a baby’s nose, a little dusky ripe ball all fleshy and smooth smack in the middle of his face. Cute as a button, I believe is the phrase. And his was twitching.
The singular feature of Noom’s nose that makes it special is a small mole just above his right nostril. It’s not one of those raised bumps kind of mole, nor (thank the gods) one of those with a hair growing out of it. It’s more of a freckle, tiny, almost unnoticeable. You’d have to be fairly close to even see it. That I’m equally fascinated and enamored with an almost nonexistent mole on his nose should explain a lot. Especially since he’s probably never even noticed it himself. But on this night it was alive, jumping, riding his facial twitch like a neon sign on the fritz.
We were cuddled up in bed together. He’d been watching TV, some Thai channel with the volume turned low in deference to my farang ears, and had drifted off to sleep. I was reading a book, and still awake. Falling asleep is unusual for Noom. I mean while actively doing something else, even something as sedentary as watching television. Like most Thais, when the mood strikes, he can fall asleep anytime, anywhere. And often does. Sanook, the Thai fascination with having fun, gets big press. That they all love nothing more than a nap doesn’t. But I suspect if you asked a Thai if he would rather go have some fun or take a nap his answer would be the latter. At least if he was still awake and able to respond to your query.
I’ve seen Thais sleeping on park benches, grassy areas, concrete stairways, and sidewalks; grown adults, not kids, and regular citizens, not the homeless or obviously deranged. Look at any bus belching diesel fumes as it passes and a handful of riders, fast asleep with their head resting against the window, is the norm. I’m not sure if I have ever seen a pick-up truck moving down the road without at least one local stretched out, usually cuddled into the load, fast asleep. Unlike other countries where it is hot and humid, Thailand does not shut down for an afternoon siesta. Officially. But half the country manages to sneak in a few winks during the afternoon heat anyway. Even if their nap is a few hours late.
It’s not unusual to see street market vendors nodded off; a slow night at the market. When no money is coming in, a nap seems a productive use of one’s time. If the stray customer happens to wander in, surely someone will wake them up. If not, well, at least they got in a good nap; the evening is still a success, a few moments of sleep a serendipitous event in its own right. I have a feeling the reason there are so many tuk tuk drivers in Thailand is because it is an occupation that guarantees multiple naps daily. And on a padded, shaded bench to boot.
When Noom is going to catch a few zzzzs during the day, he gets comfy first. It’s planned somnolence, not a spur of the moment thing. Any long drive – meaning any ride that last longer than ten minutes – is a good time for a nap in Noom’s book. For those periods of rest, he uses me for a pillow. It’s nice to have a purpose in life. If we hit the hotel to freshen up before going out for the evening, I have to keep a close watch on the boy or he’ll stretch out on the bed for a quick nap. That’d be cool with me but those naps often extend for hours. And for a serious afternoon’s nap, Noom goes out like a rock. The hotel could burn down around him and he’d still be drifting away in la-la land.
Official sleep, our night’s rest, which usually starts around three or four in the morning, isn’t quite as sound. Noom wakes up often. Sometimes his bladder spurs his state of alertness. More often it’s his stomach. I have to assume his normal daily routine, when I’m not in town, includes a small meal around six in the morning. In our hotel room, pickings are often slim and his movements quiet enough I don’t often wake, but whatever may have been in the fridge, a chocolate bar or half eaten bag of chips, is gone by the time breakfast rolls around. I tend to sleep soundly through the night, but if I do get up Noom is immediately conscious, curious, and concerned about whatever it is that woke me. At least for the five seconds it takes before he nods off again.
When Noom is sound asleep, occasionally, he snores. As cutely as everything else he does. One night, deep in sleep he got caught up in a dream and woke me, his hand fluttering against my face. It was a soft, tentative movement centered on the middle of my face, just barely enough to pull me into consciousness. I wasn’t sure if he was having a good or bad dream but I wrapped him in my arms, a safe, secure cocoon just in case. That I enjoy wrapping him in my arms was but an added bonus. He sighed, snuggled in and returned to sleeping soundly. The next morning he didn’t remember the dream or his movements. But did remember to remind me he does not snore.
When we settle in for sleep, Noom often throws his leg over mine, body contact for closeness that still allows a degree of freedom. Once, I tried to beat him to it, throwing my leg over his instead but he immediately pulled his out and laid it where it belongs, on top of mine. Noom has a thing about positioning. In all matters. Even sleep. The problem on this night was that his nose couldn’t decide which position it wanted to be in. It kept twitching back and forth.
The best part of sleeping with Noom is waking up next to Noom. I think he wakes before I do and just lays there because when I do wake up, by the time I look over at him, he’s stirred, opened his eyes and it isn’t long before he leans over gives me a quick kiss and an accented, “Good Morning!” I’d be happy with that. Ecstatic even. But then he stretches out, throws the covers off and lays there naked showing off what he worked up over night. It is impossible not to have a good day when it begins like that. Then I get up and hop into the shower. And Noom decides he needs to catch up on his sleep. Again.
I’ve read reports from guys claiming the dud they landed for the night nodded off in the middle of the action. Even as much as the average Thai loves a good nap, that seems a bit extreme. And is probably exaggerated. That type of report is always used to bolster an argument about what a rip off the bar boy experience is; if true, though, I think it says more about the customer’s failings than the bar boy’s.
So Noom had fallen asleep, an unplanned event; I’m sure it did not count toward his official daily sleep quota. He’d used my chest for a pillow, though a few inches lower would have provided a softer, more padded spot to rest his head. And, not unusual for him, even sound asleep, he was smiling. It’d be easy to think he smiles so much when asleep because he’s happy to be sleeping. I’d be gratifying to think he smiles so often when asleep because he’s happy to be with me. The truth is Noom is just a very happy fellow. Awake or asleep. A smile is just his normal expression, it’s the one his face settles into when it doesn’t have something better to do.
His face was smiling, his nose, not quite as happy, was twitching. The problem was that his pillow had a hairy chest and it was tickling his nose. The solution was easy enough, a slight rearrangement of my body to move his nose out of harm’s way. But that small shift of torso was enough to wake Noom. He looked up at me and smiled. Wider. I think he was about to tell me how much he loves me. But he fell asleep again, instead.
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