“What are you staring at?” Knott asks as he sits down next to me.
“Pictures from the Freshy Games,” I answer, changing the picture away from the one of N’Wad that I had come across. I hadn’t realized I had taken one of him during the games.
“I saw you were talking with N’Wad at the pharmacy,” Tutah puts in, sitting across from me. “It was nice to see you not trying to kill him for once.”
Bright and Tutah are like effing ninjas. They pop up out of thin air. I can’t believe Tutah saw me talking to N’Wad.
“Really?” Bright mumbles around a bite of food. “When did you two become chummy?”
I don’t know if anyone knows about the Economics Basketball team being a bunch of sore losers and attacking one of our players. If I tell my friends now, there will be hell to pay for not saying anything before.
“After Freshy Games,” I shrug. “I know I was an ass. I am just trying not to be one now and to be a good senior.” A good senior is all I am trying to be. What else could I be?
“Good senior?” Arthit repeats, “Are you feeling ok? Did someone drop you on your head?” He feels my forehead before he smacks me on the back of the head. “Come on, why are you playing nice, senior?”
“I don’t know,” I smirk, “Why are you playing nice senior with 0062?”
“Who the hell said I am playing nice senior?” Arthit growls, “When have I been nice to him?”
“You did say not to underestimate him the other day,” Bright mentions, rubbing his chin. “You know, the day we were saying he wouldn’t win Campus Moon.”
“You are taking things out of context,” Arthit grumbles, grabbing his things and getting up.
“Hey, where are you going?” Knott asks. “We just got here.”
“Forgot something at my dorm,” Arthit calls over his shoulder.
“Something is up with him,” Tutah says, watching Arthit walk away.
I don’t want to say anything. Not like I want them to remember this whole conversation started with them questioning me about N’Wad.
“Look,” Bright kicks me under the table, “There is your nong.”
“Fvck, Ai’Bright.” I snarl, “That hurt, and he is not MY nong.” Tutah and Bright laugh at this, and Knott only looks on thoughtfully.
I try to look to where N’Wad is sitting without any of my friends noticing. Why is he by himself? Does he not have friends? I wonder how I can talk to him again without people asking stupid questions. I look at my friends. Somewhere they won’t see, that is for sure. I would never live it down, and Knott would be pissed if I actually killed Bright and Tutah.
I would never live it down, and Knott would be pissed if I actually killed Bright and Tutah.
Not in the library. Not in the canteen. Where next? I sit on a bench in front of our faculty and think of where else I can look for him. I am running out of places. We ran into each other at the pharmacy that night, so that means he must live near there. How bad would it look if I stalked the streets around there? Would it look suspicious to him?
“Sawasdee Khrap,” N’Kongpop says as he passes by me.
“Sawasdee Khrap,” I reply, not thinking. N’Kongpop. Wonder if he would know? Would it be weird to ask him? Fvck it.
“0062,” I call out.
“Yes, P’Prem,” N’Kongpop answers, turning back to me.
“I need to find N’Wad,” I begin, hoping he won’t find it strange for me to ask, “Do you know where he could be?”
N’Kongpop looks at his watch. “I think he would be at the basketball court at this time. He is usually there.” He tilts his head, looking at me. It seems like he wants to say more, but he just continues to look at me.
“Thanks,” I smile and start heading for the court.
“P’Prem,” N’Kongop shouts, and I look back at him. When he doesn’t continue, I walk back to him.
“What?” I question, trying not to sound harsh. “If you are worried I am going to hurt him or be mean, I am not. I just want to talk to him. I noticed he was sitting alone at lunch, and I am trying to be a good senior.”
“Thanks, P’Prem,” N’Kongpop smiles, “I am glad a senior is being nice to him. I have to go.” He walks away, and I turn toward the court. I don’t get very far when he shouts back, “Good luck!”
“Good luck?” I grumble. What the hell is up with that nong? Why does he wish me luck?
Walking up to the court, I can see N’Wad playing one-on-one with another student. I hang back and watch him play. When we went to see the final game, I didn’t get to see him play much since he was injured. But watching him now, I know why our team advanced to the finals. He is good.
Taking a seat on a bench on the opposite side of the court where he is playing, I smile when he makes a 3-pointer fall in effortlessly. After it goes in, he turns, and my breath catches. I don’t think I have ever seen him smile like that. On the court, it is like all the weight he carries on his shoulders disappears. I watch him win each game easily against the nong he is playing.
I flinch when I see he has spotted me on the bench. Do I get up and leave or do I wait and see if he comes over? Crap! Why didn’t I think this out?
“P’Prem,” N’Wad says, running over, “I haven’t seen you here before.”
“I was walking by,” I explain. “I saw you were playing, so I stopped to watch.” Nice save. “Have you had any more trouble from those guys?”
“No,” N’Wad tells me, using a towel to wipe down. “I don’t think they will do anything more. The games are already over.”
“I hope not,” I agree. “If they do, you will tell me, right?”
N’Wad pauses and looks at me. “Sure, P’Prem,” he replies hesitantly, ’I will tell you.”
“You play well,” I remark, trying to avert the sudden awkwardness. “I was impressed. I see why we made it to the finals with you on our team.”
“Thanks, but it wasn’t just me. Everyone was good,” N’Wad says. “Do you play?”
“Not since high school,” I answer. “I was never as good as you, though. I have the height, but not the skills.”
“I am sure you are better than you are saying,” N’Wad grins. “You want to play some one-on-one?”
I look down at what I am wearing. “Not today,” I tell him, “I don’t think I am dressed for it.”
“How about tomorrow after class?” N’Wad presses, “Come on, P’.”
“You’re on,” I smile. “What are you doing now? Still going to play?”
“No, I am done for the day.” N’Wad starts to walk to a bag on the bench. “I need to eat and work on some assignments.”
Before my brain can stop me, I hear, “You want to eat with me?” What the holy hell, Prem? You just asked him out to eat.
“Sure,” N’Wad shrugs, picking up his bag.
OK. N’Wad agreeing was not something I thought would happen. Now what?
“Where do you want to eat, P’Prem,” N’Wad asks expectantly.
“Let’s go to a stall near the pharmacy we met at,” I think quickly, “Is that near your dorm?”
“Yes,” N’Wad starts walking, “I eat there often. It is quite good.”
I noticed when P’Prem came to the court. I thought he came to talk to me, but maybe he was just passing by and stopped. His being here is making it hard for me to concentrate on the game. I have missed three shots, and Dee is about to catch up with me. Focus Wad! I block out that P’Prem has just sat down and begin to sink my shots again. I got a 3 pointer and won the game.
“Nice game,” Dee says as he claps me on the back. “I am going to go. We have that stupid calculus assignment to finish. See you next week for another game.”
“Ok, thanks,” I say, grabbing a towel. “I have to finish that assignment too. See you next week.” I look over at P’Prem to see that he is still sitting there. Did he jump when I looked at him? I should talk to him.
“P’Prem,” I say, running over, “I haven’t seen you here before.”
“I was walking by,” P’Prem explains, rubbing the back of his neck. “I saw you were playing, so I stopped to watch. Have you had any more trouble from those guys?”
“No,” I reply, using a towel to wipe down. “I don’t think they will do anything more. The games are already over.” I watch his reaction. Is he really concerned about them? Or about me? Stop thinking stupid shit, Wad.
“I hope not,” P’Prem agrees. “If they do, you will tell me, right?”
Tell him. Not tell my seniors, but tell him. Does he realize how he phrased that? “Sure, P’Prem,” I say hesitantly, “I will tell you.”
“You play well,” P’Prem comments, looking awkward at complimenting me. “I was impressed. I see why we made it to the finals with you on our team.”
“Thanks, but it wasn’t just me. Everyone was good,” I nod, thinking it is nice to be praised by him. “Do you play?”
“Not since high school. I was never as good as you though,” P’Prem fidgets, “I have the height, but not the skills.” He is tall. Is he just being shy about his skills?
“I am sure you are better than you are saying,” I grin. “You want to play some one-on-one?” What the hell am I saying? I have never talked this much with a senior, and here I went and asked him to play basketball with me.
I notice he is looking at his clothes. “Not today,” P’Prem answers, “I don’t think I am dressed for it.”
He is right; he isn’t, but he still looks nice in his hazer jacket. Did I just think he looked nice? Stop it, Wad. What are you thinking?
“How about tomorrow after class?” I ask, “Come on, P’.” Ok, my brain has officially been taken over by something. Why do I keep asking him to do stuff with me?
“You’re on,” P’Prem smiles, “What are you doing now? Still going to play?”
Did he agree? Does he want to play a game with me? I would have never thought we would be talking, much less play basketball together.
“No, I am done for the day,” I say offhandedly as I start to walk to my bag on the bench. “I need to eat and work on some assignments.”
“You want to eat with me?” P’Prem asks me, and I stop for a moment, thinking. What could it hurt?
“Sure,” I turn toward him as I pick up my bag. “Where do you want to eat, P’Prem?”
“Let’s go to a stall near the pharmacy we met at,” P’Prem decides, “Is that near your dorm?” He remembers the pharmacy.
“Yes,” I answer, “I eat there often. It is quite good.”
Walking into the stall, I look around to see if I know anyone. I don’t know why I am scared of someone seeing me with P’Prem. It is not like we are . . . What are we? I know we were at each other’s throats just a little over a week ago, but when he helped me with that fight, something changed.
I remember that awkward moment when we ran into each other at the pharmacy. I think that was the first time I felt like a senior here cared about me. That hasn’t happened in a long time.
“That table is empty,” P’Prem says, pointing at a table that was just cleared near the back.
“Works for me.” I agree and walk over to the table. Sitting, I look over at P’Prem. He seems a little uncomfortable.
“If you don’t want to . . .” I began only to be cut off by P’Prem.
“If I hadn’t wanted to, I wouldn’t have asked you to eat with me,” P’Prem tells me. “I am embarrassed to say this, but I was looking for Ai’Bright and Ai’Tutah. They pop up at the worst times.”
“You are not concerned about P’Knott or P’Arthit?” I question, confused as to why it was only those two he was worried about.
“Not worried about those two,” P’Prem snorts, “It is the two I mentioned that would make my life hell. Have you decided on what you want?”
I grab the pad, write down my order, and hand it to P’Prem. “What do you want to drink?” I ask, standing up.
“Just water for me,” P’Prem answers, not looking up from the pad. I smile at his serious face. You are just ordering dinner, not deciding your future.
“Ok, I will go get it,” I tell him, walking over to the drink stall. “Two glasses of water, please.”
“Here,” I hand him the water when I get back to the table. “How much do I owe you?”
“Owe me for what?” P’Prem looks up, confused.
“You paid for the meal,” I state as I reach for my wallet.
“I am your senior,” P’Prem stops me, “You owe me nothing. Let’s just enjoy a meal together.”
“Whatever you say, P’,” I nod. “Thank you for the meal.”
I am floored. P’Prem just bought me supper. Why do I feel like I won the lottery?