Tharn Thara Kirigun
That was a boy’s name curling on his left shoulder blade. He could only see it from the corner of his eye. His mum had taken a photo for him so that he could see clearly without twisting around or using a mirror.
Kohm also had a boy’s name on his arm. Their parents had joked they were destined to be friends as much as they were destined to meet Tharn and Som.
Type was so happy. His soulmate was another boy. They’ll play football together all day long. When they’ll be tired, they’ll go back home and stay up till late to try the latest video games. Type wouldn’t have to care about the latest hot music band or who the prettiest actors were, which seemed to be the hottest topics with the girls at school. Other boys in his class were so envious.
Even though his soulmate was a man, he was still going to treat him nicely. His dad was always kind with his mum. They’ve been together for the past 13 years, but his dad still prepared the shellfish nicely for her, removing all the hard bits and bitter parts, leaving her only the best. Type had asked why once, trying to explain patiently to his father that his mother was a grown lady that could take care of her own food. He’d laughed and ruffled his hair. He explained that he didn’t want the smell of fish to linger on her fingers. He said he loved her so much he didn’t want her to have to take care of herself, he wanted to do it instead. And his mum was just kind enough to let him. He said that he’d better treat Tharn nicely, and maybe his soulmate would let him help with his food.
So Type learned. After a couple of years, he could handle pretty much anything: shrimps, sea urchins, clams, mussels, crabs, scallops. He could remove fish bones in record time. Tharn will be so impressed with him.
He wondered if they’ll meet on the island. That’s how his parents had met. She had come with friends during a school trip from the mainland. They met on the beach. He bended over backward to impress her and show her all the best authentic spots around. She fell in love with the island along with the island boy. As soon as she graduated university, she moved her whole life here. ‘For the view’ she had said when he’d come to pick her up at the airport. To which he’d replied ‘It’s not the island, the view is wherever you’re standing’. That made Type laugh each time they were retelling the story. It was such a silly thing to say. His mum had laughed as well. It really was silly. She was destined to spend her life with a silly man. She spent so many years laughing with him.
Was Tharn a silly boy? Was he going to make him laugh? Was he serious? Kohm’s mother was a very serious lady. Very smart. She took them out regularly during the summer to go and see the stars high up in the dark sky. Will Tharn show him the stars too?
Type spent hours trying to imagine what Tharn would look like. The name was Thai, so surely a man with dark hair and dark eyes. Probably smaller than him. His Nan kept on saying how tall he was for his age, so surely he’ll be the big and tall one. Tharn could be the cute one. Type would protect him.
During the summer, when his parents forced him to help out at the resort, he demanded to work at the register, religiously asking for everybody’s name, pouting a little bit each time ‘Tharn’ wasn’t the answer. He’d asked Kohm to do the same at his parent’s ressort in exchange for some of his mother’s sweets. Same for Song’s little family hotel.
Summer after summer, Tharn didn’t come to visit him. Did the other boy think of Type as much as Type thought of him? Did he want to meet? What if he didn’t? Type cried so hard his parents were convinced he broke a bone.
For his tenth birthday, his Nan had given him the official governmental paperwork to register at the Soulmate databank.
“It’s a bit early, but here for you. When you’re 16, you can bring this to city hall. If Tharn registered, they will match you and tell you where he is.”
Type had never claimed to be a patient boy. That night, he completed the form as best he could -what was a social security number even supposed to be?-. The following day, he ditched football practice and took the bus to the city center of the island. The employees of city hall gave him curious looks as he entered the large glass building. He walked up to the reception and wai-ed at the man behind the desk.
“If it isn’t the little Phawattakun boy! How are your parents, son?”
“They’re busy but fine, thank you.”
“What are you doing here anyway, you’re far from home.”
“I would just like to give this,” he explained, sliding the paper over to the man. He took it and raised an eyebrow upon reading it.
He looked him up and asked:
“Tell me son, how old are you?”
Type was prepared for the trick question.
The man laughed out loud.
“Is that so?”
“Yes, my birthday was yesterday,” he explained, pointing at the paper. The civil servant looked once again at the paper and nodded.
“Ah I see! Well, I”ll need some ID. Maybe your motorcycle licence?”
An ID? He wasn’t prepared for that. He didn’t even know if he had an ID. He couldn’t let that spoil his plans.
“I don’t have it. I… I forgot it in my other jacket. I have my library card if you want, uncle.”
The man laughed again, louder this time. Type offered his best pout, the one that was sure to guarantee him some desert even when his mum shouted after him all day.
“Come on boy, let’s bring you back home.”
The man excused himself toward his colleagues, assuring them he’ll be back soon. The ride back wasn’t too long, the city hall employee greeted his parents, explained the situation and gave them back his form.
They scolded him, for lying, and laughed at him, for having so much nerves.
“You need to be patient, Type,” they said. “It’ll happen when you least expect it.”
Which was not a satisfactory answer.
He wanted to meet Tharn. He wanted to show him the island, to bring him swimming in the sea. He wanted to build sand castles together. He wanted to build some forts in his room. He wanted to introduce him to Kohm. He wanted to bring him in the forest and climb trees so high their parents wouldn’t catch them.
But then he met a man. A boogie man with the face of a person that promised him a field full of footballs to replace his old one.
Attached to that chair, body stripped of his clothes, the man had touched his shoulder, tracing the name written there with the tip of a finger.
“That’s the name of a man. You’re lucky. I’ll show you how to please one. You’re going to like it.”
He would never forget that day, no matter how much he wanted, no matter how much he prayed for it.
The spot on his shoulder scratched him, he could still feel a phantom touch that made him sick to the stomach. He had a man’s name on his body. One day, that man would want to do to him what that other man already did. He’ll touch him, he’ll hurt him.
If that’s what being with a man was like, he never wanted to meet Tharn. He wouldn’t prepare seafood for him. He wouldn’t show him around the island. He wouldn’t play football with him. He wouldn’t introduce him to Kohm.
Kohm, who also had a man’s name on his body.
Type didn’t know how to protect his friend. He didn’t know how to protect himself from him either. So he stopped talking to Kohm. And after some weeks, Kohm finally stopped trying to talk to him. It wasn’t hard to ignore the boy, it’s not like Type went out much anymore.
In the months it took Type to finally leave the house, the boy grew angry and bitter. He stopped talking about Tharn. Stopped talking of soulmates altogether, so his parents did too. He threw the registration papers in the trash.
For his 16th birthday, he didn’t register himself at city hall. Instead, he boarded a boat to go and live with his aunt in the city.
In the city, he could pretend everything was fine. No one knew him as that kid. School was easy, as always, and there he met Techno, who seemed one of the rare people that actually managed to handle him. They played football together, which was the only way Type could somewhat keep his temper in check.
There were girls as well, who had the amazing advantage of not being men. So he dated some, never allowing anyone to look at his bare shoulder.
Type and Techno graduated, already planning to join the faculty of sports together. Type could pretend all was fine, all was normal.
Until he received his dorm welcome package. Whatever illusion of normality he had managed to build shattered and reality came back to kick him in the teeth.
Welcome, we’re very proud you decided to join our University… blahblahblah... All students must be back before… blahblahblah... shared dorm… blahblahblah… assigned roommate: Tharn Kirigun.
He didn’t need a soulmate to survive, he had managed just fine -anger issues, homophobia, PTSD- by himself. He didn’t need Tharn Thara Kirigun.
“Hey No. I thought about it. I think we should get that condo in the city together. I just need to chat with my mum, she’ll change my dad’s mind about the dorm.”