It’s summer time and when Gulf’s friends are taking vacation overseas, he reluctantly agrees to help Mild’s cousin coffee shop near Chulalangkorn University. At first he thought maybe it will be better to help his TA’s thesis— you know, for experience and all for his CV. But to think about it, Mild’s cousin, P’Tong, gives him better salary offers, and so here they are. In the midst of Bangkok’s undeniably hot summer, waiting for customers who are mostly lecturers and students who takes summer courses.
Mild is talking endlessly about how his roommate, Kaownah, finally found his soulmate after questioning what the hell is his soulmate’s tattoos means are for years. Not that Gulf really care, though, because he doesn’t really believe in the concept of tattooed soulmate. Like, if you like a person, then so be it, why do you have to find a connection through a non-sense tattoo?
“And so, Kaownah told me that it turned out that Turbo is his junior in Junior High or something, like, why on earth they just meet last week?? They could meet a long time ago, you know??” Mild talking non-stop without even taking a breath when finally the door’s chime is ringing.
“Welcome, may I help you?” Gulf gives his customary smile to the customer who just come.
“Uh, one Hot Latte with double shot espresso please, no sugar.” He said without taking a glance at the menu. Gulf is sure that either he is a regular in this coffee shop, or simply a heavy coffee drinker.
“That would be 100 baht, please. Thank you.” And the guy simply swipe his card to the EDC. Oh . A regular, it is. “Thank you, please wait at this side for a sec,” Gulf said as he quickly brewed the coffee and frothed the milk.
“Mew! You’re done for the day?” P’Tong casually greets him.
“Ah hey, I still need to use the lab for my final report the next couple of hours, unfortunately. That is why I need extra caffeine today,” The customer, Mew, said as he put down his heavy books to the nearest table.
“Still far from finishing your final project, then?” Tong snickered. Well, they must be close, Gulf thought as he put the latte in the take out paper cups, and said, “Here is your order, Sir.” In which Mew take with a quiet thank you and continue to talk with P’Tong regarding his final project.
Gulf is cleaning the espresso machine when Mild keep elbowing him. Gulf couldn’t take it anymore when he mouthing what to Mild, his brows furrowed in annoyance.
“He’s totally your type, you know,”
“So what,” Gulf rolled his eyes and keep focusing in cleaning the milk jug.
“You know, it’s been 6 months since you breaking up with your ex. I think it’s time to move on already?”
Gulf sighed, “It’s not that I haven’t moved on, maybe I just want to take a break in relationship in general? It’s tiring, you know, to look after people, worry about them, and all. I only want to lessen my burden, you know.”
Mild gives him the most annoying looks ever, complete with his signature smirk and knowing looks that if not for the several customers in the coffee shop, Gulf’s swear to God that he want to smashes Mild’s annoying head.
When the Mew guy move to the table near the window and open his laptop, Mild immediately asking about Mew to his cousin.
“What? Are you interested in him? I don’t think you have the chance, though?” P’Tong said nonchalantly and Gulf couldn’t help but snickered in the other side of the counter table.
“I don’t think that he’s currently in relationship since he’s busy to finish his Phd and he’s currently working as TA for his faculty, too, you know. But, well... He’s just a regular here. So I don’t really know about his personal life,” P’Tong said as he greets the new customer who just comes. Mild is oddly disappointed because he couldn’t take more information from his older cousin.
Well, Phd? TA? What a brain . Gulf silently think.
The next day went as usual, but Gulf already gets his own pace, he’s no longer awkward moving around the coffee machines and cashier, though P’Tong is basically laidback about this because the coffee shop is not as busy as usual in summer break.
Mild taking his day off today because he has to picking up his mother from the airport. But it’s not something that they couldn’t handle anyway because today is a pretty slow day. Gulf is currently practicing to brew chai latte when the bells chimes.
“Oh, welcome, Phi. Same order as yesterday?” Gulf asked politely. Knowing that Mew is a regular and pretty close to P’Tong, Gulf knew that he’d better treat Mew better than other customer.
“Oh, no. Actually I want to have turmeric latte today, please,” Gulf starting to get familiar with his voice.
“Thank you, it will be 120 baht please,” as Mew quickly swipe his credit card to the EDC by himself.
Wearing oversize white shirt with red graphic print on the right side bottom of the shirt that tucked in his black jeans, Mew looked more relaxed than he was yesterday.
“Are you sick by any chance, Phi?” The café is pretty much empty and P’Tong is on call in the back room, so Gulf has no choice but to talk to him to ease the silence. Mew furrowing his eyebrow in confusion and Gulf decided to add, “Uh, you know, your order. It’s pretty rare for people to order Turmeric Latte.” Gulf said as he brew the beverage.
“Oh, no, no, I’m not sick, it’s just I’ve been sleep deprived and highly caffeinated for the entire week because of deadlines, and it’s finally Friday, I just want to sleep through the weekend.”
Gulf simply nods in acknowledgment, “Here is your order, Phi.”
“Thank you,” Mew smiles, and here when Gulf notices that Mew have a familiar tattoo in his collarbone that Gulf’s swears he knows by heart since the day where he was born.
The thing with this soulmate tattoo is, it’s different with a lot of people. Some gets it by the time they are 17 years old, some since they was born, some appears when they are much older. It’s just so random and absurd hence the reason why Gulf never really believe about it.
When his friends, particularly the girls are obsessed with this soulmate tattoo, Gulf really don’t want to think about it. He already see several dramas unfolded within his eyes with these tattoos. First, his auntie divorced with her so-called ‘ soulmate ’, and then his childhood friend met with his soulmate in a literal tragedy, where he met his soulmate in an ICU room, realizing that the patient is a car crash victim and her body was in a helpless state, full of blood and wounds, and his cousins’ heart breaks because she couldn’t even see him for the first and the last time.
Therefore, to Gulf Kanawut, meeting his soulmate doesn’t equal a happy ending. If possible he really want to avoid meeting his soulmate until the day he dies. For him, soulmate is a curse, not a blessing. Not to mention that his ex-girlfriend broke up with him because she’s met with her so-called ‘ soulmate ’.
That was the reason why Gulf hide his upper arm tattoo most of the time. Because soulmate tattoos are identical between the couple. And you could easily detect your soulmate because they have similar tattoo with yours. Gulf often preferred to wear long sleeve shirts, and tucked it to his elbow at maximum, because his tattoo is at the inside of the bend of his right elbow.
The tattoo consist of a word of number that he personally don’t bother try to understand or research.
[ NINE ]
Now that he know who the hell is his soulmate he really don’t know what to do.
He want to avoid this Mew guy for the rest of his life, but it’s not possible to resign from his summer job right away because he already signed a contract with P’Tong. Fuck. Now he regretted why he didn’t take the job for his TA’s thesis instead. Also, he really don’t want to talk about it with Mild, he already could imagine how annoying and satisfied he will be because his childhood friend knew that he hates and never believe the concept of ‘soulmate’.
2 months to go, Gulf Kanawut, susu na for yourself, he desperately chanting to himself. You can do it, you can do it, you can do it.
“Welcome!” Gulf cheers before he tries to held back his disappointment when he sees who is the first customer of the day. How to keep your face straight knowing that something is wrong but you don’t want it to show?
“Hello, I want to have large Ice Americano today, please. I’ve brought my own tumbler.” He smiles too brightly for Monday morning, it hurts. It’s also not that attractive whatsoever.
“It will be 90 baht, Phi, thank you.” Gulf tried really hard to smile politely.
He swiped his card through the EDC machine, and wait for his order on the waiting isle. Gulf hates the fact that Mew is very familiar with this café more-so than himself.
“Is Tong coming late today?”
Shit why he has to start a conversation. Gulf thinks.
“Actually it’s his day off. He went to Cebu with his girlfriend since last Saturday. He will be back today’s afternoon, actually.” Gulf tried really hard to speak nicely.
“Ah, I see, are you by any chance his relative or something? Because I never see Tong trusted his coffee shop with his employees before.” Mew genuinely looked curious, he leaned his head towards the wall near the counter as he is waiting for his order.
“Um— actually my friend, Mild, is his cousin, the one that you’ve met during our first encounter, if you remember? He will be coming in the afternoon.” Gulf said as he close down the lid of the tumbler. “Anyway, this is your Ice Americano, Phi.”
“Ah, thank you— Gulf isn’t it? We never really introduce each other before.” He locked his eyes with Gulf.
Shit , Gulf gulped.
“Mew Suppasit,” The older guy offered his hand first. He really want to avoid this guy but he really don’t want to be an ass to a regular of the café, so Gulf really have no choice but to shake those veiny hands reluctantly and put his customary smile, “Gulf Kanawut.”
Today he could see the collarbone tattoo as well.
Why on earth he like to unbuttoned his shirt up to 3 to 4 buttons????
Why the hell Gulf counts in the first place anyway???
“Gulf???? Gulf!!!!” Mild silently shouts at his direction, and Gulf just realized that there’s a new customer in front of him. “Ah, I’m really sorry, how may I help you, miss?”
As Gulf finished the payment, he makes the Green Tea Latte that the girl ordered and quickly give it to the customer.
“What the hell is wrong with you lately? Don’t tell me you messed up the orders before I come here in the afternoon? P’Tong will be really mad if you messed up especially with the cashier, you know?!” Mild looked furious but also concerned at him.
“No, I haven’t messed up with anything, really. It’s just— I have a lot to think about lately.” Gulf scratched the back of his hair.
“What is it? Is your ex bumped into you early in the morning? Is your auntie fighting again with his ex-husband?” Mild looked genuinely worried. This is why he didn’t want to talk to Mild about the fact the he already met his soulmate. He knows too much about him, and he would totally make a big deal towards this brand new information.
“No, neither of them. Maybe I’m just tired because I haven’t take a day off since the first day I’ve started working at here. Can I leave earlier today? I really want to take a rest,” Well, he’s not exactly lying. He’s probably just way too tired and overworked so that the simple matter could take a lot of space inside his head. Ugh .
“Yeah, sure. Do you bring your bike? I think you’d better take a bus or train because I’m afraid that you’re not focus enough to drive on your own?”
“I don’t bring it today, I will take bus, I think. Please tell sorry to P’Tong, Mild. Thank you so much.” Gulf said as he removes his apron and going to the backroom to take his backpack.
“Yeah, yeah, please take care on your way home? Call me when you arrived safely at home!!!” He screams when Gulf went to the entrance door. “Okay, mom...” Gulf laughs seeing his friends’ antics.
When he leaning his head on the bus stop’s sign, he didn’t expect that someone will tapped his shoulder. “Gulf? Are you coming back home?” Mew asked, bringing his thick books and laptop as usual.
Gulf and his luck, really — out of all people that he could bumped into...
“Yes, P’Mew, I will be taking the next bus. Do you taking the bus as well?”
“Actually I bring my own car, I parked right there,” He pointed out the parking lot in front of the bus stop.
“Ah, I see, well, have a nice day, Khun Phi, please be careful on your way back.” At this point Gulf is dead tired to fake his smile. Why couldn’t this Mew Suppasit be gone already.
Mew looked a little bit hesitant and he suddenly grabbed Gulf’s right elbow, which surprised him. A lot. Did he see the freaking tattoo?
“Actually, Gulf, I really don’t mind to take you home. You looked really tired, you know. I’m afraid that something will be happening on your way back.”
Oh God please if you hear me, just let him know by himself that his existence is the reason why I am this dead tired.
And that’s when Gulf Kanawut just realized that you couldn’t say “No” to Mew Suppasit. After he fabricates 1001 non-sense reasons insisting that he could go home on his own, he ended up sitting in the passenger seat of his Audi anyway.
Not that Gulf really cares.
“I’m really sorry, it’s just I’m really concern with you, Gulf.” Mew said as he buckled his seatbelt.
Gulf desperately want to sigh heavily. Please be done with it. Take your car to my home so that I could get away as soon possible from you, freaking Mew Suppasit. Pretty please.
“It’s okay, Khun Phi,” It’s for P’Tong, It’s for P’Tong, It’s for P’Tong, It’s for P’Tong—
“If you really tired you could sleep on our way, you know, just put your address in the GPS and I will wake you up when we arrive,” Mew said as he set up his GPS. Gulf put his address to the GPS but decided to say, “Here is my address Phi, but I don’t think that I will be asleep, it’s very impolite of me.”
Mew just smiled and finally took the car out of the parking lot. Gulf leaning towards the car’s window and staring at the street lamps are blurring within his vision. Mew asked about what is his major in college and other basic questions, and at this point Gulf just surrender with the current situation for his own sanity.
He just thanked the universe when he sees that they finally turned into the corner right before his house. “Okay, this is my house, P’Mew. Thank you so much once again for taking me back home.” Gulf sounds a little bit too cheerful because he finally will be out of this entire awkwardness.
However, as he getting out of the car, to his horror, suddenly Mew grabbed his right arm and pulled up his sleeves. “I wasn’t mistakenly saw it before...” He mumbled to himself before he looked up to Gulf’s shock face, “Anything for you, my soulmate.”
Mew Suppasit always been waiting for his soulmate. Growing up with the family full of love, seeing that his own mother and father, a soulmate through and through, love each other and growing old together beautifully really makes him want to meet his soulmate. Not to mention that his grandma and grandpa also a soulmate as well. Will he get to meet his own’s soulmate?
He knew that he could live without one. A lot of his relatives ended up not marrying their soulmates, and they also have happy families. However, whenever he sees his friends being able to meet their soulmates, he couldn’t help but being very envious.
Of course in his 29 years of life, there is no way that he didn’t try to have several relationships, because patiently waiting for the right one is apparently tiring. Nevertheless, he always feel that something not “quite right” after all. It’s not just because of the twin tattoos, he just knew that there must be a special connection, a spark, something that he could see in his own parents’.
As tiring as it is, despite his good looks and the long number of girls and boys queueing for him, he finally decided to stop to try dating for the past 2 years. Instead, he’s focusing on his Phd, and he decided to take TA jobs to keep him busy. That’s when he becomes a regular in Tong’s coffee shop. His coffee shop opened right at the time when Mew took his teaching job. As he needed to take the extra caffeine everyday, and apparently Tong’s coffee shop suited Mew’s taste rather than the other coffee shops around the campus.
This summer though, when Mew think that he could take a break and going to vacation with his sister, suddenly his Professor demands him to send his first draft of thesis within the summer break, which requires him to go back and forth to the lab at the summer. Great. His Professor also demand him to give extra class to graduate students who didn’t passed the class last semester while the Professor himself going to vacation with his family. Oh, the live of a Teaching Assistant. Sometimes in the middle of the night in the laboratories, he questioned himself why he needed to take this Phd degree anyway.
The first week of the summer break is pretty insane, Mew literally don’t have time to take his proper coffee from Tong’s café. Instead, he’d been living out of the shitty instant coffee from the Lecturer’s Room. Oh, how he have been missing for the proper taste of coffee...
When Mew entering the coffee shop, he sees two unfamiliar faces that he haven’t see before. Tong must be hiring college students for the summer breaks. He ordered Latte with two extra shots since he has to get back to the lab within the next hours.
He catching up with Tong because it’s been a while since they talk to each other, but he couldn’t help but catching a few glances towards Tong’s new hire, the taller one. He don’t know, but something from him seems familiar. However, he couldn’t trust his restless, sleep deprived brain anyways, so he decided to not to think more about it and focusing on his work instead.
But as Mew put back his book and laptop to his bag and preparing to get back to the lab, he sees it. The boy that Tong’s newly hired is cleaning the table next to Mew. He’s pulling up his sleeves to make his movement easier to take the multiple dirty cups, plates, and cutleries into the tray as he politely asked Mew if he want to throw away his paper cups or not.
There it is: he could see it real close. The same tattoo that he also have all his life in his collarbone.
Is he imagining things?
Is the double shot caffeine and the 3 hours of sleep per day doing things to his head?
It’s finally Friday and he decided to dresses more casual than usual. He wears his favorite oversized white shirt with graphic detail and a pair of black skinny jeans. And he ordered non caffeinated beverage at Tong’s café because he really needed to sleep his weekend away.
Talk about his lucky day, today Gulf wearing a simple T-shirt that he layered with his barista aprons. There it is, the tattoo. So he really didn’t imagining things. Judging from his polite attitude, Mew is guessing that he haven't realizing yet that Mew also have a similar tattoo. Maybe because he is wearing turtle neck yesterday. Well, Mew decided to give the boy a little time before he decided to start push things forward the next Monday.
However, as the moment comes when he had the opportunity to take Gulf back to his home, he never expect that Gulf is horrified when Mew said that he knows that Gulf is his soulmate. Gulf quickly retracted his right arm from Mew’s grasps and banged the his car’s door, and quickly running towards the home. Mew’s heart dropped in major disappointment and confusion.
“P’Mew? P’Mew? Here’s your order. P’Mew?” Mew realized his head is wondering somewhere else when Tong’s cousin been calling for him.
“Oh yeah, thank you, I’m sorry,” He decided to take a sip of his Caramel Macchiato right away. “Is it Gulf’s day off? Is he still sick?” Mew could see Mild’s face turned into confusion.
“How do you know that Gulf is sick, Mew?” He could hear Tong’s voice from his behind.
“Ah, yesterday I saw him at the bus stop and he looked unwell, so I asked him if I could take him back home since I bring my own car.” The looks from the cousins were quite the opposite, where Tong is genuinely confused, and Mild is trying to hold down his giddiness.
“But, anyways, I really want to asked directly here— since I am really confuse with the entire thing, and I know that you are really close to Gulf— is he never believe in the concept of soulmate?”
Gulf hears the familiar repetitive knock before Mild suddenly barging into his room, “GULF KANAWUT?!?! WHAT THE HELL?!?!?! MEW SUPPASIT IS YOUR FREAKING SOULMATE?!?!?”
Gulf angrily throws his pillows at Mild’s direction, “SHUT UP BEFORE MY ENTIRE FAMILY HEAR ABOUT THIS MILD SUTTINUT!!!!!”
Mild catches the pillow and move closer to Gulf in giddiness like a school girl, “But why??? What???? How???? How could you never tell me?!?!”
“Because I knew that you will act like this, you ass!!” Gulf’s throwing another pillow to Mild’s face.
Mild catches his breath, “But why you reject him? He’s really disappointed you know, he came to the café earlier, searching for you...”
Gulf just staring at his best friend, biting his lower lip, “Mild, you out of all people know how I feel about soulmate, right?”
“But—but, you never really know before you try? P’Tong said he’s a good person, Gulf, he is totally in contrast to your exes. You could feel it by how he acted around you, right?”
Gulf avoiding Mild’s stare right now, choosing to staring at his hands instead, still biting his lower lip.
“He genuinely worry about you and asked if you never believe the concept of soulmate earlier, you know.” Since Gulf is still keeping his silence, Mild continue to talk, “And— he talk about how he have been waiting to meet you for all his lives. He even decided to quit trying to dating other person than his actual soulmate a couple of years ago... Really, Gulf, is it really bad to give him a chance?” Mild sighed desperately.
Gulf furrowing his eyebrow even further and decided to close his eyes.
Wednesday is come and Gulf cannot take more day-offs, so he decided to work as per usual, decided to make it as if nothing is happening. P’Tong only give him understanding looks whereas his cousins downright eyeing him with disappointment. What a drama queen, Mild Suttinut.
When he cleaning the table near the window, he could whiffed the familiar scent that he wished he could avoid forever. Staring at the older’s eyes, he only feel apologetic, “I’m— I’m sorry, Phi.”
“Gulf, don’t you think that we need to talk?”
“Please give me a week, I just— I really don’t know how to feel right know, Phi.”
Mew sighed and decided to take away his coffee instead of finish it at the coffee shop as usual.
“Mom, how do you know that Dad is the one?” Gulf knew that his parents is not a soulmate, which is one of the reason why he keeps insisting that he really didn’t need one when his parents love each other for years without even the soulmate bounds, anyway.
“Well, I think we already telling you the story over and over again? Your father catches my heart since high school. We’re a high school sweet heart, darling.” His mom laughed easily, Gulf could see her eyes reminiscing the memories fondly.
“I know—but I don’t think that you ever told me..,” Gulf bites his lips, afraid that his mom would take his words differently. “What if—what if— you ever met your soulmate? And dad met his, too?”
Her mom stunned a bit. She then took a deep breath, and Gulf could see that it’s not the first time where she get asked the same thing. Probably from his grandma, or his aunties, “You see, my son, I believe that God already wrote our path in his own ways. There’s definitely a reason for everything. There’s must be a reason why both me and your father never have the chance to meet our soulmates, there’s a reason why your aunty get divorced with her soulmates, and there must be a reason why your grandma and grandpa worked out as a soulmate as well.” He ruffles Gulf’s hair, “I know that you never believe the concept of soulmates, but let me tell you something my darling.” She kissed her son’s forehead and leaned their foreheads together.
“Once you meet the one, whether they are your soulmates or not, you will know, your heart will know the sign. Just please, please, don’t ignore it.”
Gulf bite his lower lip in uncertainty.
“I couldn’t say that every relationship is smooth sailing, even if you meet the one, you have seen me fight with your dad right? Your auntie and your grandparents as well? Every relationship will take a lot of effort and work, be it between soulmates or not. However, at the end of the day, it will be worth it, I promise.” She kissed his son’s forehead once again.
By the sixth week of the summer class, Mew’s been working his way through the halfway of his first draft. He’s quite satisfied with his work even though he ended up have to spend his weekend in the laboratories. What he never expect, is the fact that Gulf be waiting for him next to his car, where he usually parked.
“P’Mew, how are you?” He greeted Mew hesitantly.
“Gulf... Hi,” Mew literally lost at words. He really don’t know on what to come. Another rejection, probably? Gulf’s wish to not seeing him forever?
“I think we should talk? It’s already more than a week that I’ve asked from you. I haven’t see you in weeks, Phi.”
“Oh yeah,” Mew scratches his head, “I’m sorry, I’ve been focusing on working through my first draft of thesis— I really don’t have the time to take my coffee from Tong’s café.”
Gulf nods in acknowledgment, and take a breather, “P’Mew, are you really sure about this?” Gulf vaguely move his hands towards the both of them. “Do you think that it will be working out?”
“I—,” Mew started. “I always believe that I would find my true love if I get to meet my soulmate, Gulf.”
“I know that you don’t feel the same way as me, but I hope— I hope someday you will feel the same thing as me.” He stared at Gulf’s eyes. “Do you ever feel the connection between us? Like, we’ve meant for each other?”
He gulped and try not to avoid Mew’s stares. He simply nods. “The thing is P’Mew, I already being skeptical with this thing almost all my life. I’m afraid if I will disappoint you with my doubts in the future. I— I really don’t know what will be happening...”
“That’s the thing Gulf,” Mew try to intertwined his fingers with Gulf’s. “We really don’t know what will happened in the future. You don’t know what will be happening if you don’t try.” Mew squeezes his hands, trying to reassure him.
Gulf stare into Mew’s brown orbs, “Okay then, let’s try.”
It’s the middle of the new semester where Gulf and Mild finally no longer have to work at P’Tong’s coffee shop, though they occasionally stopping by because the coffee is good according do Gulf, which makes Mild rolling his eyes quite hard and snickers, “ Coffee, he said.”
Other than that Gulf also in need of help from his free tutor —que another Mild’s voice, “ Tutor, righhhht ”— who gladly teach him about certain subjects because his P’Mew is practically a genius.
Gulf never really expect that they could walk into each other’s life quite smoothly, though, especially given that they study in different campus and all. But it feels like they are together for years already. “You guys really like an old married couple, you know.” Mild said exaggeratedly whenever he sees them clingy towards each other, as if he’s not the one that rooting for them from day 1.
“So, I’ve been meaning to ask you guys for a while now,” Mild said as P’Mew explaining a certain Physics formula for Gulf’s midterm. Their eyes moving towards Mild since it’s been a while since he’s in his serious mode.
“What is ‘nine’ stands for?”
“Well.. we really don’t know the true meaning of it since it’s God must be the only one who knows about it, but.. in general the number ‘nine’ symbolizes love, eternity, and faith. And we really like all of the meanings of it, so we would like to believe that it’s the meaning of our tattoos.” Mew said as he smiles towards Gulf, in which he reciprocate with his gummy smile, intertwining their hands together.
“N’Gulf, do you believe in the concept of soulmates now?” P’Tong said as he serves their beverages, with their quite ‘thank you’s.
“I think..,” He tightened his holds with Mew’s hands. “I’m starting to believe it as for now.”