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This week’s I Fell In Love With A Bar Boy post was supposed to be about the Phi Phi Islands. I left our gang on the beach at Patong in Phuket last time, after a wild night out at the My Way gogo bar. There was a quick diversionary post about Chris’ pursuit of a bar boy packin’ some serious heat, and the resulting breakfast flavored with one liners brought on by his small encounter the night before, too. So our day-trip to the outer islands was the next logical progression.

But as I was writing that tale, little digressions kept cropping up, not an unusual experience for me as you may well know. But two of these became so lengthy that the main article took on the look of a small novel. That’s even a bit too much for me. So I’ve broken them out, and this one, at least, needs to be told first. It sets up what is yet to come. Which should be next week’s post. But don’t hold me to that. God only knows what other little tangents my mind will decide to zip off on between now and then.

Noom, my bar boy friend and current love of my life, and I get along swimmingly. He’s mellow, even for a Thai. And since I’m on holiday when I see him, so am I. That we spend a few weeks together at a time, separated by months in between, undoubtedly helps keep us out of conflict too. We are different enough, yet similar enough that our days and nights flow smoothly. We put up with each other’s little idiosyncrasies, I with his because I love him, he with mine . . . huh, haven’t a clue. But whatever it is that justifies keeping him from snapping, I’m glad for it.

There are things I like to do that don’t thrill him, and vice versa. But we both tolerate each others preferences, and we both have an unbridled curiosity about the world so just experiencing something new is enough to smooth over any disagreement about whatever it is we’ve decided to do for the day. Or night. There is the overarching degree of respect we have for each other to boot.

Respect for the other’s likes, dislikes, oddities, and cultural upbringing means that we have never had an argument or quarrel. Never have had a fight. Never have come to blows. At least not out of anger. We let off a bit of steam through humor, and the natural aggression that resides inside of both of us is calmed by taking great joy in pointing out whenever the other guy makes a wrongful call, a mistake, or error. Noom has the upper hand there, because I have to temper my comments to ensure I never allude to the S word (stupid) which is one of the biggest insults you can ever direct toward a Thai. But that’s cool. It’s not a contest. It’s a relationship.

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So all is rosy in our world. But we are still guys. Even though I’m gay and Noom is straight, bi, gay for pay, or however you want to designate that Thai sexual fluidity that is impossible to label, we are still guys. Testosterone flows freely. Even within our mellow relationship, sooner or later, who has the biggest dick comes into play. That’s not really about size. Because we’ve already established that fact. Intimately. It is really more about who has the biggest balls. It’s just a guy thing. Which once resulted is a slugfest. Wasn’t my fault. He started it.

I don’t remember what it was I said, some smart ass comment pointing out some error on his part I’m sure. But that is common enough between us that the specific insult is lost to memory. The result this time, was different: Noom punched me in the arm. My shoulder. It wasn’t a punch thrown out of anger, more of a bitch slap. A reasonable response as effective as a verbal comeback. But it hurt. And I told him so.

“Bastard! That hurt!”

Noom sobered up quickly, all joking aside. He was concerned that he’d really hurt me. “Sorry! I not mean that,” he assured me hoping I understood and would forgive him.

“You punch like a girl,” was my response, letting him know that yes it had hurt. But not that bad. And was well worth the temporary pain to be given the opportunity to razz him some more.

“Ohhhh, I puntch like girl?” he asked nodding his head slowly up and down, And then punched me again. With a bit more force. Smiling, he asked with false sincerity, “Still puntch like girl?”

Bastard. That one did hurt. He’s got a good right jab. I should have cried and ruined his day. But neither of us was out to hurt the other. So instead, I rose to the challenge and punched him back.

“Ow! What that for!”

“Oh. I thought you wanted to learn how to throw a punch,” I laughed at him.

“I puntch more hard.”

“Yeah, I don’t think so. You may be younger, but I have more weight on you,” I said. And punched him in the shoulder again.

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Whack. His turn. Ow. And he smiled, making a muscle and displaying his large guns to counter my claim.

So I put my weight behind my next punch and could tell it hurt. His nostrils flared. He rubbed his arm. I laughed again. And punched him again.

“Ow! Not your turn!” he complained not realizing I’ve never been one to play by the rules. So I punched him yet again to underscore that facet of my personality.

Noom started to giggle.

Okay, so I lied: he doesn’t punch like a girl. But does giggle like one. The old farang wailing on his shoulder was funny. Unexpected. And hurt. That he was standing in a hotel room, taking turns punching a farang was just too bizarre. That I’d landed three in a row was so unfair he couldn’t help but laugh. He wanted to get in another punch, but his giggle fit got the better of him.

Good thing, too. Or I would have had to accept defeat. Even when joking, with an Asian, face comes into play. Had we continued, he would never have conceded, would never have cried uncle. Instead, once he quit laughing, we went out to dinner and then later that night in bed compared our bruised arms, each a riotous display of impressionistic colors, yellows, oranges, and purples layered across our skin, each melding into the other in a muted rainbow of disturbed shades suitable for Hieronymus Bosch’s palette.

Noom was a muay thai fighter in his youth. So I always assumed he could take care of himself. But it was reassuring to see, when he threw his third punch and was getting a bit serious about it, that his other hand naturally came up in a blocking position. I don’t expect that we’ll ever be in a position where we have to defend ourselves, but it’s good to know if we do, he can handle what comes his way. One concern I no longer have to worry over.

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I always assume responsibility for friends. It’s my job to look after their welfare, take care of them, make sure bad things don’t happen, and fix whatever problems come up when they do. That’s just me. With Noom, that’s more financial and emotional than physical. But when he told me he wanted to go to Bali with me on my next trip there, my immediate thought was that I needed to check out his swimming abilities. Bali=ocean=swimming, and I know Noom well enough to know that even if he swam like a dead buffalo he’d be out in the surf splashing away. A drowned bar boy is a surefire way of ruining a tropical holiday.

We spent an afternoon in the hotel’s swimming pool then, and sure enough, the boy sinks better than he swims. A former lifeguard and swim instructor, I could have easily taught him – or corrected him – so that he could handle himself properly in the ocean. But that would have implied that his skills were wanting. Which somehow works into that whole Thai ‘stupid’ thing. A big no-no. Even when it is true.

Instead, I challenged him to a race. And put the boy to shame. Young, buff, athletic Noom did not fare well against the old farang. Then a bit of instruction was okay. It wasn’t to correct his attempt at swimming, but to improve his stroke so he could swim faster. The things you go through to keep a relationship on an even keel! He still would never qualify as a fish, but at least he can now make it across the length of the pool without becoming exhausted. And he’s learned how to float on his back just in case his swimming skills aren’t enough to keep him afloat. ( And that’s where our trip to the Phi Phi islands comes in, too. Because a day trip out of Phuket also = ocean, and also = swimming. And a drowned bar boy is just as calamitous in Thailand as it is in Indonesia.)

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That sense of responsibility is something Noom and I share. If you ask him, he’d tell you that it is he who watches out for me, that it is he who takes care of me. And he does. In his own way. Which if it were anyone else would drive me crazy. But because it is Noom, it just makes me love the dude even more. So we watch out for each other. Which is how it should be. And have never had a fight. Nor have ever again traded blows. Kind of. ‘Cuz there was still some payback to be dealt with.

One night later in that trip, back in the hotel after a long day filled with strenuous exercise, I got a leg cramp. When that happens I usually just walk it off, grimacing in pain. On the rare occasion it has happened with Noom in the room, he insists on massaging the cramp away. As he did this night. The boy’s muscles aren’t jut for looks, he’s got some real strength in his arms. When directed at a muscle cramp, it doesn’t stand a chance. While he massages my leg he coos, “Relaxt, relaxt.” I’m never sure if that is directed at me or at the knotted muscle. That night he kneaded my cramp a bit until it wisely gave up. And then beat it into further submission with a powerful punch, muttering, “Puntch like a girl, ha!”

The little bastard.

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