For a small town boy Thailand was a huge country. Having barely made it past the boundaries of his village in the past, by this point in his trip Lek qualified as a world traveler. He was excited, but a bit nervous too. And hungry. Although he was worried if he tried to eat something it might not stay down. He’d managed to sleep a bit, hours ago, but as the train approached Bangkok his excitement grew and he found it difficult to sit still.
Two days ago, he’d finally heard from his sister Noi, giving him the nod to move to Bangkok and stay with her and her husband So. As long as he got a job and contributed toward household expenses. Noi had mentioned that twice. But that was Noi. And Lek did plan on finding work quickly. He already had his dream job picked out. And figured the first place he applied to would do the trick. So, no problem. Provided he could find Noi at the train station. They’d just pulled in to Hua Lamphong and the place looked humongous. Big enough to fit his entire village in.
Lek grabbed his bag and followed the flow of passengers off the train, then quickened his pace to catch up to the crowd worried that he would otherwise get lost in the expanse of trains, tracks, and milling crowds busily arriving and departing. Stepping inside Hua Lamphong he was confused for a moment, wondering where he should go. Above, a cavernous jigsaw puzzle of iron beams soared upwards, blanketing the heavens . It made him dizzy. Like when he’d stretch out on the ground and stare up into the sky back home; the heavens would keep growing in breadth and depth the more he stared while he grew smaller and smaller until he was lost in its expanse. Succumbing to an urge, Lek slowly began turning in circles, his eyes fixed on the capacious building’s heights, his rotation quickening with the smile it plastered on his face until he felt himself bump into the broad chest of . . . the most beautiful man he’d ever seen.
“Whoa little brother,” the god brought to life spoke. “You need to be careful taking off like that, you never know where you’ll land,” he said with a sly wink. All Lek could do was stare, his mouth hanging open, thrilled, awed, and excited that this beautiful creature was actually talking to him. Maybe even flirting with him.
“Sorry,” Lek mumbled, finally remembering his manners. And how to speak. Then, embarrassed that that was the best he could come up with added an unnecessary excuse. ” I’m waiting for someone.”
Arrgh! How lame! But the god seemed not to notice. “For someone?” he teased. ” I’m a someone. How do you know you’re not waiting for me?”
I’ve been waiting for you my entire life, Lek thought. Then hoped he hadn’t said that out loud. Wishing he’d gone with something witty instead, before he could come up with a good rejoinder his mouth took over,”My family is supposed to be meeting me.”
“I know little brother,” Wit laughed, ending the charade. “I’m Wit, So’s friend. He asked me to meet you. And since So is my brother that makes you my little brother. Sawadee kap! Welcome to Krung Thep!”
While his mind contemplated if that would still count as incest, Lek greeted his newest family member with a deep wai. And then felt guilty at his reaction to Wit’s flat stomach and prodigious bulge, two glorious sights that his eyes could not help but take in. Fortunately the god didn’t seem to notice, and picked up Lek’s bag instead before heading off towards the exit.
Outside the station the world seemed to explode. The crowd was as massive as inside, but now loosened, with people moving everywhere like marbles rolling in all directions. The morning sun snuck in low over the city, briefly turning the gray welter of buildings a pale shade of rose. Its rays hit, burnishing the windows of ten thousand buildings in a temporary sparkle, as if washing the city new in heat and light. In front of the station a steady parade of cars caromed down the road as though hurled by a belligerent god. Trying to take it all in Lek almost tripped over a blissed out dude with long hair and Star Trek eyes sitting on a blanket spread across the cement, a backpacker jet-lagged from time travel with a pharmacological smile buzzing across his face. He felt a hand grab his shoulder, looked up into Wit’s eyes, and then was pulled into the backseat of a taxi where Wit immediately hogged the blast of cold air gushing out of the air conditioner.
“So crouching tiger, you come to Bangkok to show the girls your hidden dragon?”
Oh geeze, Lek thought. Face of a dear, heart of a tiger. And corny too. But there was no denying how attractive this wolf in sheep’s clothing was. If only he’d keep his mouth shut. “Where’s Noi?” he asked, desperately trying to change the subject.
“What, you think your arrival in Krung Thep is worthy of declaring a national holiday? Noi is at work where she’s supposed to be.”
“What about So? Noi said she or So would meet me.”
“So? Uh, So caught a long shift at his job and is working too.” That morning So had called in a panic. He’d booked a customer the night before for what was supposed to be a short-time off that had extended itself into a long-time one. That was the problem with So. He never seemed to be able to tell a customer no. Not that Lek needed to know what So was up to. Yet. Nor did Wit feel obligated to explain what he and So did for a living. Fortunately, Lek was captivated by the city’s sights, immersed in the display of urban life on display through the taxi’s windows as it slowly plodded through the traffic. Wit settled back into his seat, nodding off to catch up on the sleep he’d missed from his own booking the night before. He smiled at the memory of the farang he’d spent part of the night with, a first-time visitor to Thailand who’d already booked Wit for a second go.
Pulling up in front of their building, Wit paid the taxi driver, glad he was spending So’s money and not his own. He ushered Lek up the flight of stairs and into their home, dropped Lek’s bag on the floor and nodded towards the couch. “That’s you,” he said. “So and Noi are in there,” he added, his chin pointing towards a small closet-like space off the main room. Pulling off his shirt Wit plopped himself down, stretching out across what he’d just identified as Lek’s sleeping space. The deafening silence and lack of movement caused one of his eyes to pop back open and he noticed Lek’s face turning a delightful shade of red. “Don’t worry, I work nights,” he laughed. “You’ll sleep while I’m at work, it’ll all work out.”
Relieved, and a bit disappointed too, Lek wandered around the small apartment, checking out his new home. He moved out onto a small balcony with a view of the neighboring building just an arm’s length away. By the time he walked back inside, Wit was sound asleep. Lek was mesmerized, watching Wit’s chest slowly rise and fall, the light sprinkling of hair trailing downwards to hide itself in his jeans glistened in a small pool of sunlight sneaking in through the balcony doors. Lek sighed. Home had never been like this before. He imagined himself stretched out on top of Wit, decided that may not be the best way to start off his new life, and leaned back against the wall instead, sliding down into a sitting position where his day’s journey finally caught up with him.
Hours later when Lek awoke his panic set in anew; the couch was empty, Wit was gone. But a noise from the other room quickly dissolved itself into a vision of his sister Noi, who appeared with a wide, warm smile on her face. They hugged, happy to be reunited and Noi asked about his trip, ignoring his tale to quickly segue into her plan for his employment. So much for a holiday, he thought as she blabbered on. Something about the food cart she worked and increasing business by Lek selling her barbeque to drivers stuck in Bangkok’s parking lot-like traffic. That wasn’t what Lek had in mind for his new career. But he didn’t want to start an argument having just arrived so he let her chatter fill the room on its own accord. Luckily, before he was forced to respond So came home, quickly followed by the reappearance of Wit, who was literally bouncing with excitement.
“Get dressed little brother!” Wit exclaimed. “So is taking us out for dinner to celebrate your arrival!” The sound of Noi’s disapproving tsk at the unnecessary expenditure did little to dampen Wit’s excitement. And So’s beaming face was encouraging too. Lek stood looking from one of his new roommates to the other, then grabbed his bag, heading into the other room to dress for the night having made his decision. The swat on his butt that Wit landed as he passed by gave him a small thrill. And a much needed dose of encouragement.
Lek was nervous as he carefully laid out his clothes, not sure if his timing was right. His hands trembled as he undressed himself. But he was in Bangkok. And was ready to begin his new life. This, he thought, was why he’d come. He just hoped that Noi and So would understand. And Wit . . . Lek giggled, full of nervous energy thinking of how Wit might respond. Which for now was a constant barrage of instructions floating in from the other room, urging him to hurry because Wit was starving.
Wanting to get it right, Lek eyeballed the line of clothing hanging in the room. He borrowed a piece, tried it on, then discarded it in favor for another before returning to his own array of clothes and slipping them on. Using the mirror hanging on the cinder block wall to make a few final adjustments to his face, Lek took a deep breath and stepped back out to where his family waited.
To complete silence. Total and utter silence. A void of noise and emotion. A black hole of quietness, punctured only by the sound of Lek’s rapidly beating heart and offset by three shocked faces, a deepening sense of doom that was finally broken by Wit’s braying laughter. “Oh no! Little brother is a little sister!”
Lek wanted to curl up and die. Or at least run away. But before he could escape, Noi – ever the realist – joined in. “Is that my favorite bra?”
Wit laughed even harder, holding his stomach and curling up in a ball on the floor where he totally lost it. Noi did not think it was funny. “He’s wearing my best bra!” she complained to So, who so far hadn’t made a sound. “My tits don’t hang right, one is bigger than the other and causes a separation problem,” she angrily explained. “That’s my only bra that fits right!”
Barely able to get the words out through his laughter, Wit joined back in. “One of my balls is bigger than the other and I don’t have a favorite pair of underwear!”
“That’s because you can’t keep your underwear on!” scowled Noi, the truth of which caused Wit to dissolve back into a blubbering ball of giggles.
So, noticing the crestfallen look on Lek’s face finally spoke up. “You look beautiful Lek,” he said. And she did. Her slender build and boyish face transformed her into a beguiling looking young woman. Noi, he thought, might be just a bit jealous. Katoeys were a fact of life in Thailand, especially in Bangkok, and So had become used to the ladyboys working at his bar. He just hadn’t expected Lek to be one. Or in this case, trying to be one.
“Noi, help your brother, um sister, with her make-up,” he told his wife. “Her inexperience is showing,” he added nodding towards Lek’s mascara that made her look like a slow loris. Noi grabbed Lek’s hand, pulling her back into the room with a mirror while grumbling that Lek had better not start stealing her lipstick and had better find a job quickly so she could afford her own undergarments. Lek threw So a grateful smile over her shoulder. And then caught a wink from Wit that caused her heart to flutter.
It hadn’t been the response Lek had hoped for, but all things considered it looked like things would turn out all right. She decided her decision to separate herself from village life had been a good one. Bangkok was where she belonged. Lek was finally free to be who he was. And that wink from Wit, Lek thought, held a lot of promise too.
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