Sunday, April 20th, 2014
Wandering the empty streets of Macau next to Noah felt like a surreal experience to Theo. As they left the Nam Van Lake area and headed towards the bright lights of the Grand Emperor Hotel, Noah asked Theo, “Do you want to head to Circle K to get some more drinks and maybe something to eat? I’m feeling a bit hungry...”
“Sure, sounds like a good idea,” Theo responded giving Noah a small smile.
They walked along the quiet streets to the convenience store that was located on a corner at Avenida D. João VI. Theo enjoyed walking around the city at night and getting lost in the lights of all of the luxurious and opulent hotels, but he’d never explored the historic town center at that time of the night. Macau was such a densely populated city, which had an altogether different charm in the dead of the night when its streets were bare of the crowds. In the city center, it almost felt like a picturesque little town with its blend of pastel-colored colonial buildings and old worn-out Chinese residential buildings, modern skyscrapers looming in the background. The streets of the small gambling metropolis were adorned with Portuguese pavement, showing traces of Macau’s not so distant Portuguese history. The occasional encounter with a small Chinese temple reminds you once again of its Chinese roots.
Once inside the small Circle K, Noah headed straight for the refrigerated section to check the drinks out. “What do you want to drink? My treat,” he offered.
“I’ll just have a bottle of water,” Noah raised his eyebrow, “Fine, I’ll have one of those Mandarin teas.”
“Good choice, I’ll have one too,” Noah smiled at Theo, “I don’t drink them often, but I do have a sweet tooth.” Noah grabbed two more beers as well as a pack of chips from the shelf before heading to the cashier. Theo grabbed a pack of chips for himself and asked the cashier for a pack of Winston Blue cigarettes as he waited for Noah to finish paying before paying for his own purchases.
“I see you like spicy food,” Noah mentioned, looking at the pack Theo had just bought. He handed a Mandarin tea and a bottle of water over to Theo.
“Yeah, how about you? And thanks for the drinks, by the way,” Theo and Noah walked out of the convenience store and started walking aimlessly, heading towards the S. Francisco Garden.
“No problem and well, I lived in Thailand for a couple of years and my mom’s family is from the South of Thailand, so I grew up eating particularly spicy food,” Noah bragged, smirking at Theo.
“The real question is: can you cook Thai food?” Theo raised a challenging eyebrow at Noah.
“I’ve been helping my grandma and my mom cook ever since I could walk. I also missed Thai food while I was living in Germany so I had to hone my cooking skills. My housemates loved it when I cooked meals for them, but I had to tone the spice levels down a bit.”
“I actually love Thai food,” Theo mentioned as they crossed the street to the other side, where the Garden was located.
“Well, maybe one day you can come over to taste some authentic gaeng tai pla,” Noah smiled mischievously at Theo. Theo found it incredibly attractive when Noah spoke in Thai. He wondered what he sounded like when he spoke in German... “I can’t promise mine will be as good as my grandma’s or even my mom’s, but I can tone down the spice levels for your sake,” Noah teased Theo.
“Is it spicier than tom yum goong?”
Noah guffawed at Theo’s question before responding with a shake of his head, ”Tom yum goong is not even that spicy, but we can start easy with a green curry, if you want,” Noah retorted, a hint of amusement in his voice.
“I do love green curry... It’s probably my second favorite Thai dish,” both men climbed up the stairs to enter the Garden, before walking up the ramp, heading towards the outdoor exercise area.
“What’s your favorite Thai dish?” Noah asked curiously.
“That stir fry with chilies and basil... I don’t really know how to pronounce it... ” Theo rubbed the back of his neck.
“Ah! Pad ka prao! I can cook that too. I would need to pick up some holy basil from my mom. She plants it at home.”
“Oh, that’s pretty cool! Does she grow other things or just the basil?”
“Well, she also grows chilies and a couple of other herbs,” Noah added nonchalantly, “My parents have a pretty big balcony that gets a lot of sunlight, so they can plant some things. I can’t really do that at my apartment. It is quite small and I share it with a friend.”
The two men sat down on the ledge around the outdoor exercise area and Theo handed Noah his keychain so that Noah could open his bottle of beer. “Thanks, I usually come prepared for these improvised drinking sessions, but I forgot my bottle opener and lighter at home today,” Noah took two big gulps of his beer, drinking half of it in one go.
“Wow, you drank that pretty fast,” Theo chuckled a bit at Noah’s impatient drinking.
“I was thirsty and I did live in Germany for 6 years. My tolerance is pretty high,” Noah smiled at Theo, as he fished a cigarette from his pack as well as a newly bought lighter. He must’ve bought that at Circle K, Theo thought. Theo followed Noah’s example and lit one of his own cigarettes.
“What was living in Germany like?” Theo poked the straw through the hole of his drink to be able to drink it.
“Well, I really liked it, even though the weather in Berlin isn’t always amazing. It can get pretty cold and rainy in the winter. The people there are pretty chill though and the beer is good. It’s also really nice in the Wintertime because of the Christmas markets. Have you ever been to a Christmas market?” Theo shook his head, “Oh, you really should go! Glühwein is really nice when it’s cold outside. It’s like this warm wine with spices and other liqueurs if you want to add, and it just warms you right up. Oh! And don’t get me started on Turkish food!”
Noah rambled on a bit about the döners, lahmacuns, pides, baklavas and böreks, and how delicious everything was. Theo just listened, feeling completely immersed in the picture Noah was painting of his time in Germany.
“You’re making me hungry!” Theo groaned, imagining the food Noah was describing in his mind.
“Luckily we bought some chips! There’s also a 24 hour McDonald’s if we’re still hungry later on,” Noah mentioned as he placed his bottles of beer next to him on the ledge and opened up his packet of chips, “Want some?”
“Sure, are those the shrimp flavored chips?” Theo asked as Noah ate a handful of them.
“Yeah, I was craving these after work,” Theo grabbed a couple of pieces.
“Cheers for these! You can have some of mine once I open my pack,” Theo offered.
“Will do. Want some beer, by the way?” Noah nodded at the bottles on his left.
“I’m good for now. Might take you up on the offer later, but I want to sober up a bit for now,” Theo chewed on his chips and took a long sip from his tea.
“I’m keeping mine for later, maybe for when I head home,” Noah picked his bottle of beer up and downed another big gulp, before taking a hit of his cigarette and stubbing it out on the ledge.
“Why did you come back from Germany?” Theo didn’t understand why Noah had returned. He seemed to enjoy life in Germany.
“To be honest, I missed my family. One of my best friends from school was also opening a dance studio and asked me if I wanted to be an instructor for contemporary dance, so I thought, fuck it! Why not?” Theo chuckled at Noah’s approach to decision-making. “What about you? Why did you stay in Macau? Why didn’t you move to the US?”
“I mean, it’s nice to visit, but I grew up here and my parents and friends are here. I feel more at home here. When I graduated high school, my then-boyfriend was also here, so I kind of just stayed,” Theo had never considered moving abroad. He didn’t enjoy drastic changes in his life and was used to the convenience and pace of the Asian lifestyle. Whenever he visited the US, he would become aware of how small Macau truly is and how long drives can be. He found the landscapes and nature beautiful, but he never pictured himself living there. His sister had felt differently. She enjoyed the constant change and had always felt claustrophobic in the small special administrative region of China.
“Would you ever consider moving elsewhere?” Noah took a sip of his beer.
“I don’t know actually... I’ve never thought about it. I guess I wouldn’t say it’s completely off the table, but it’s also never been a priority. Does that make sense?” Theo felt like he was rambling.
“I kind of get you. I was a bit more like your sister. But after trying to live in different places, I wound up back here. It was never my plan, but I kind of missed it here and I missed my family,” Noah grinned softly at Theo before asking, “By the way, have you ever been to the Saint Paul Ruins at this time of the night?” Theo thought for a second but ended up shaking his head. Noah’s eyes went wide and his jaw dropped and he said, “Really? It’s the best time to go there. It’s completely empty. Wanna go there?”
As Theo gazed at Noah’s eyes shimmering with childlike wonder, he smiled and nodded at the man sitting beside him, feeling positively bewitched by those chestnut eyes with a joyful glimmer. “Lead the way,” Theo said as he got off the ledge. Noah finished his first beer before following after Theo, holding on to his other beer, and placing the bottle of beer and the empty pack of chips into the first trash can he saw. Theo walked alongside Noah as they left the garden and headed towards the overpass on Rua do Campo. On the way, they walked past Cineteatro, one of the older cinemas in Macau, which was already closed at that time of the night.
“What kind of movies do you like?” Theo asked the other man.
“Hmmm, well I don’t think I have a type. If the movie is good, it’s good. Sometimes it can also be so bad it’s good,” Theo laughed as he shook his head at Noah’s final remark. “I like movies that keep me wondering, that aren’t predictable, so movies like Fight Club and Memento. I also like some classics like Citizen Kane, but if my friends want to watch a blockbuster hit, I also don’t mind. Oh! And I’m a sucker for Thai horror movies. What about you?” Theo truly enjoyed watching Noah’s eyes sparkle as he talked about movies.
The two boys climbed up the stairs of the overpass as Theo thought about his answer, “I guess I like movies with a positive message... Something that makes me think about the world in a different light and has an uplifting plot. Ever heard of an Indian movie called 3 Idiots?”
“3 Idiots? Is that the one about the three engineering students and one of them challenges the education system at the university?” Noah asked.
“Yeah! Oh man, that movie is so good! My housemate, Alice, made me watch it with her one day when she was going through a Bollywood phase and it was one of the best movies I have ever seen!” Noah chuckled at Theo’s enthusiasm.
“It was definitely a great movie. I randomly stumbled upon it on Reddit once when I was bored at university. My housemates and I laughed a lot.”
“I see you are a fellow movie buff,” Theo playfully nudged Noah, who grinned at the man walking beside him. The two men exchanged more impressions on different movies as they reached the bottom step of the overpass and made their way up the street heading towards Rua de Pedro Nolasco da Silva. As the night progressed, Theo felt that his attraction to the dancer was increasing with everything he was learning about the man he had been longing for in his imagination, falling deeper with no means of turning back.
“I don’t think I’ve ever walked around these streets this late at night,” Theo noted as he looked at the empty historic center. They turned right at the end of the road and wandered around a usually packed street, where several watch and accessory shops could be found.
“It’s the best time to walk around this part of town. Way less packed, but also you can’t really buy anything, which could be a pro or a con, depending on how you look at it,” Noah tilted his head to the side a little bit, an inquiring look on his face, making Theo chuckle.
“I spend more time around Taipa, so I don’t really walk around this area much. Do you wander around here often?”
“Do you see those stairs going up over there?” Noah pointed to a small entrance in between two shops, “The book store I work at is over there. Just go up the stairs and it will be right in front of you. I also don’t live too far away from here, so I’ve gotten to know these streets, both during the day as well as during the night. But I go to Taipa often to visit family and some of my friends also live there.”
“That’s cool. Maybe we could meet up sometime in Taipa,” Theo looked at Noah with a hopeful gaze, his eyes briefly wandering down to the other man’s lips.
“Are you asking me out?” Noah smirked at Theo.
“Well, erm... yeah. Is this weird? I mean we’ve just met-” Theo started rambling before Noah interrupted him.
“Yes, I’d like to meet up with you,” Noah grinned at Theo.
Both men were walking up the narrow alley, heading all the way up to the most famous monument in the city, the Saint Paul Ruins, the remnants of a church that was destroyed by a fire during a typhoon in the nineteenth century and only one of the façades remained. It was lit up with some yellow spotlights, bathing the monument in a golden hue. They stopped in front of the monument at the bottom of the stairs and sat down on a concrete bench.
“Do you want to share this last beer with me?” Noah asked Theo, who nodded and handed his keychain to the man sitting beside him.
“And I can share my chips with you, but first, I’ll have a cigarette,” Theo fished a cigarette out of his pocket and Noah followed after him.
“Good idea,” they lit their cigarettes up and Noah took a sip from the beer before passing it to Theo, who drank a bit as well.
“By the way, can I get your number or social media account? Whichever you prefer using...” Theo timidly asked.
“Sure, give me your phone,” Theo handed his phone to Noah, who searched his name on Facebook.
Noah Eichwald. Theo liked the sound of Noah’s name, even though he didn’t know how to pronounce the surname.
“Noah Eish...wald?” Theo was pretty sure he’d butchered the pronunciation.
"Eichwald. The ‘w’ has a ‘v’ sound in German. It means oak forest,” Noah explained as sent himself a friend request and then he went onto the phone app and typed out his phone number, “Added you on Facebook, which is what I use the most, but here is my number as well if you want to call or text me.”
Theo saved Noah’s number before dialing it and hanging up once he heard Noah’s phone ring, “And now you have my number.”
“Cool. I’ll accept your friend request when I get home. I’m out of data and I forgot to buy extra data today.” Noah shrugged his shoulders, accepting the bottle of beer back from Theo.
“That’s fine. I’ve never been here at night. It’s actually really nice,” Theo felt at peace in a usually crowded and chaotic place. He had no idea Macau could be such a calm place, but as he looked at the streets bare of any tourists and hectic shoppers, he grew a newfound appreciation for the place he’d called home most of his life, “I’m glad you’ve shown me a side of Macau I hadn’t explored yet.”
“I can’t believe you haven’t. You’ve lived here longer than I have,” Theo rolled his eyes at that remark, as Noah passed him the bottle of beer again.
“Don’t judge me! I only started going out more at night a couple of years ago. I didn’t really explore much out of my bubble when I was growing up,” Theo explained, before taking a gulp from the beer and passing it back to Noah
“I mean, I get it,” Noah drank some of the alcoholic beverage, “Before living in Germany, I kind of took Macau for granted as well, but living abroad and discovering a new city with fresh eyes and all of the possibilities was something I enjoyed about living in Germany, especially in Berlin. Berlin was... like a whole world in one city. I was never bored in Berlin,” Noah smiled as he recalled his time in the European country.
“When I came back,” he added, “I was feeling a bit sad because I missed Berlin and finding another job to do alongside my dance classes was a bit hard. So, I decided to approach Macau differently, just like I did in Berlin.”
“So, you’ve been discovering these hidden gems of Macau?” Theo wondered out loud.
“Yeah, and I made some friends in the meantime. I ended up getting the dance gig at D2 through a friend I met in one of my adventures,” Noah gave Theo a small smile.
“Was it hard coming back here? Wouldn’t it have been easier in Berlin to find work?”
“It would,” Noah admitted as he stubbed out his cigarette, “But I hadn’t really spent much time with my family in the last six years. And then my mom had a health scare shortly after I started looking for work in Germany. It kinda put some things into perspective. She’s fine now, but at the time I felt like I really needed to come back and spend time with my parents. I’m their only son after all... And... I don’t know, Berlin is such a big city with an established and ever-changing scene. I just kind of thought it would be nice to develop the dance scene here even further with the stuff I’ve learned.”
“Glad to hear your mom is doing fine,” Theo gave Noah an understanding smile as he stepped on the cigarette butt after taking one last drag, “I think that’s actually a smart idea. How do you plan on doing that?” Theo was genuinely interested in listening to Noah’s hopes and dreams.
“I didn’t mention this a while ago, but part of the reason I am working three jobs is that I want to save up enough to open my own dance studio someday,” Noah added almost hesitantly, “I know it will be difficult, but it has always been my dream to open a dance studio. I wasn’t picturing myself opening one here in Macau, but I’ve kind of warmed up to the city in the last year I’ve worked here.”
Theo smiled at Noah. It was strange - Theo had spent years with Jason and had never felt the same deep connection he was feeling to the individual sitting beside him. Almost as if he had been a wandering lost spirit the entire time before he met Noah. However, although Theo felt like he could bare his soul to the other man, he could also see the secrets that lingered deep in Noah’s eyes. Secrets that Theo wanted to unearth, but he knew it would take more than one evening.
“I really hope your dream comes true. And if it does, I’ll gladly join a class. I can’t promise my dancing to be as flawless as yours. It will probably be a bit shit, to be honest,” Noah chuckled at Theo’s compliment as the latter man grinned back at the dancer.
“I highly doubt it,” Noah said and Theo couldn’t help but notice the sincerity conveyed in the dancer’s tone of voice.
“You clearly haven’t seen me dance,” Theo looked away, lightly shaking his head, before turning back to Noah, admiring the other man’s side profile as he gazed up at the few stars in the sky with a grin on his face, “By the way, thank you for hanging out with me tonight.”
Noah shook his head with a small smile on his face. “Thank you for inviting me,” Noah took a hit from his cigarette, “You know... that night I actually saw you dancing a bit before I went on stage... I thought you were really hot,” Noah paused and looked at a slightly dumbfounded Theo, who could feel his heartbeat accelerate a bit at the other man’s admission, “I secretly hoped you’d visit again so I could talk to you but I haven’t seen you since that evening, so tonight was kind of a fun coincidence,” Noah added as he chuckled.
With that revelation, it felt like the tone of the night had shifted and sexual tension was thick in the air. Both men were gazing at each other’s eyes, certain that there were still a plethora of hidden layers not uncovered after only one interaction, but also drowning in the desire to further explore that undeniable connection. Theo watched as the sky behind Noah turned into a spectrum of purple and pink hues, the dark shadows of the night bidding the two men adieu, and he couldn’t help but wonder how magical the whole nocturnal stroll had been.
And just as the sun was about to rise, Theo gazed at Noah’s eyes for a long minute and then gazed at his lips, before gazing back up again at Noah’s eyes, catching the other man mimicking his eye movements. Slowly, just like two magnets with opposite poles, their two lips met in a shy and gentle kiss.
As Theo backed away a bit to smile at Noah, Noah grabbed the back of Theo’s neck and crushed his lips onto Theo’s, ardently kissing the ash brown-haired man in that empty square in front of the ruins, ignoring the rest of the world for just one moment, before it woke up and put an end to that bewitching encounter. For a brief moment, Theo got lost in Noah’s luscious and soft lips, tasting a hint of beer and tobacco, but Theo didn’t mind.
If the whole night had been a mere dream, Theo hoped with everything in his soul that he would never wake up. I sure hope this is still real when I wake up, Theo thought as the two lips parted, both men smiling breathlessly at one another before giggling a bit, as they attempted to bring themselves back down to earth.
Some elderly ladies were starting to walk onto the square to perform their daily tai chi routines, looking at the two flustered men with a suspicious gaze, as if they knew of the lewd thoughts running through their minds after that spellbinding kiss. The two men looked at each other with a knowing grin before bursting into laughter.
This is what I have always been searching for, Theo thought as he looked at Noah giving him a relaxed and completely blissful smile.
It was the dawn of a new day and perhaps the dawn of something special.