"So... you guys wanted to produce a new series which told a love story in niche ways á la ‘500 days of summer’ with nostalgic elements and oldies songs like that K-Drama ‘Reply’ series? Won’t it be sounds like, I don’t know ‘50 First Dates’ or ‘Begin Again’?”
“Right, Khun Phi, but we will make it in our own ways, with local nostalgic songs...”
“Forget it already, our competitors already made it that way with ‘Secret Seven’.”
“However, I don’t think that it’s good enough, Khun Phi—,”
“Who are you to judge, N’Gulf?” The middle age executive producer to Gulf’s previous series slide his rough script on top of the low table in the middle of them. “It was produced by one of the most renowned director nowadays. It was one of his debut work, so no matter how imperfect it was, people will still deemed his work as the original one.”
The meeting room’s air was pretty intense so that the leader of the project, Mew Suppasit Jongcheveevat, just had to cough lightly to lightened up the room. When every eyes turned to him, he just put his best smile to the investor and asked him, “Therefore Khun Phi... do you have any suggestion for us to improve our project to be an acceptable one for you?”
The middle age man just leaned back to his sofa seat and hummed, “You see, guys, I only give this input just because I knew the result of your team’s work as we previously already working together and I would deemed that it was pretty successful.”
Gulf’s mood just went slightly better before the investor continue, “However, realistically speaking, it would be much safer for both of us if you just join the second season our our previous project. First, our first season already have a settled fanbase, therefore we don’t need to start from zero again. Second one, I’m sorry N’Gulf, but I trusted more on Mame’s script rather than yours. Moreover, Mame herself already have her own huge following behind her works. It would be much riskier if we go with your ideas. Why don’t you think it over, regarding our offer that you already rejected to develop the second season of 'How to Secretly'? I seriously think that it's the best options for both of us right now.”
Mew take a look slightly on his left side, knowing that the younger film director would be in rage because of what the investors were saying. However, before he could hold the other one to put his stupid, reckless outrage, of course Gulf Kanawut just had to defend his own pride by practically threw a sarcastic response to the investor’s face, “Sir, with my utmost respect, I have to apologize that I have to reject that project once again. I want to educate the younger generation with my works. Well, yes, Y-series indeed help on filled up my savings as well as boosting up my fame as a director. However, I wanted to be known as someone that put a high quality and critically acclaimed works upon me. Not just being known as a famous Y-series’ director.”
“High quality according to whom, N’Gulf?” The middle age investor snorted darkly at Gulf and move his gaze to Mew instead, “Here, as the older one, and clearly the wiser one in the room, I would like to give both of you time to think it over for the last time. Well, we will move on with or without you guys, regardless of what your decision is. However, I’m sure that N’Mew would realize as the producer of the project that there’s so much of being idealistic in this industry. And it certainly wouldn’t making as much money rather than continuing our previous project.”
Before Mew could put his wisest reply, of course Gulf already reached his boiling point and went outside by slamming the door until the sound of it filled the entire room. Mew just smiled apologetically at the respected investor and wai him before he followed the younger one outside.
“Ai’Gulf..... why don’t you just tell him the truth...”
Gulf just frowned at his childhood friend, brushed off his hand, and sighed deeply as he move forward and walk even faster, as if he didn't want to stepped on this particular office any longer.
The young film director was just so goddamn tired of explaining himself. Well, despite his own ego, his friend for years only a few people that knew that his own idealistic for creating a critically acclaimed movie wasn’t his only reason to rejected the offer to direct the second season of ‘How to Secretly’, which called ‘How to Change’. He honestly never expected that he would ended up directing a Y-series. However, since P’Mew offered him this project because apparently the writer of the novel impressed by his final project in college, he thought that, eh, it wouldn’t be bad to try since he was a broke fresh graduate — well not that he was a well off one now, but still — and it's not everyone that would have the privilege to direct a commercial work right away after they were graduated. Usually for director, he initially had to settle with assisting the director or other minor production roles for the first few years. But alas, maybe the fortune goddess apparently really turned to him back then.
However, despite the commercial success, honestly he had a few personal conflict with the series. Particularly, with the problematic storyline itself. He never realized how problematic the storyline was until a few weeks after he signed the contract. He never have a problem with the gay relationship to begin with, however it irked him with the way Kengkla pursuing Techno. No matter how at the ending he could prove how his love for Techno was real and sincere, should the story happened in real life, there is no way that people would approving their relationship, since their relationship was started of off without consent and lies upon lies.
When he got offered to direct the second season which focusing on Techno’s little brother Technic... he downright rejecting it because he already knew how the second book was even more problematic, with the way they romanticized stalking. No matter how naive teenage girls that read it see it as a romantic thing, Gulf wouldn’t be sold with the idea, especially when he personally already had a few experiences when it comes to being stalked. No matter how 'good looking', ‘sweet’ or ‘nice’ the person that stalked you, it was never a nice feeling to be stalked. Not until you personally had an experience on it, you wouldn’t know how scary it was to be stalked at. It is disturbing in any way.
He never had a personal issue with P’Mame herself, and he understand that maybe she wanted to wrote different and unique storyline with other BL novel out there in the market that mostly only wrote about puppy love. He also didn’t have personal issue with the whole cast, but to Gulf himself, it would be better if he stay away with from the story that he personally disagree to begin with, and let other people work for it. Especially when he also ended up having minor issues with the intern production staff... that he decided to let it go because he thought that it would be better if he himself that quits, since he could find a better job whileast he didn’t know if the intern staff would find a better job or find a job at all should he decided that he’s the one that stays. Well, all in all, for Gulf personally, it will be better if he moved on from this project to a new project which suited himself more.
“Phi—, you know how I feel about this,” Gulf leaned back at the car seat and sighed.
“I know — but you could’ve just told P’Mame? Regarding the script, it’s already controversial between the fans itself, so she must be realized that she had to makes a few alteration here and there if she wanted the public to receieved it well in the second season. And regarding your problem with the intern — you know you are the priority in all of this, Ai’Nong...”
Gulf just stayed silent and played with his own fingers stubbornly, which only makes the older one sighed in defeat.
“All right, all right, you don’t want to make him get blacklisted from the industry. But you have to realized by yourself, Gulf, most likely those kind of people will get outed by themselves. You do realized that sometimes giving a second chance to those kind of people are not even worth it, right?”
“Phi, where are you headed to?” The younger one suddenly talk about a whole different matters, confused Mew that currently on his steering wheel, driving ahead somewhere.
“To Mai’s office, what’s wrong? She just texted me that her campaign photoshoot was done already and she wanted to have lunch with us.”
Upon the mention of Mew’s long time girlfriend, Gulf trying hard not to sigh outwardly and instead trying to stay calm and asked the older one, “Could you just drop me at the next BTS station, Phi? I think I needed some time to calm myself down by walking on my own. I guess my head always been in a mess lately.”
Mew wanted to insisted that Gulf should just join him and his girlfriend on having lunch together, but he knew that the younger one will keep making excuses to bailed on the plan, and he just sighed in defeat because he also think that the younger boy also need a time for himself, “Fine... just be careful, okay? I’m just one call away if you needed me.”
“I’m not a freaking child, Phi.”
Mew just raised his left eyebrows, thinking to himself, ‘Well, but you surely acted like one.’
Instead of taking the next train right away, Gulf just leaned back as he took a seat at one of the bench inside the BTS station. Sigh. He really didn’t need to meet P’Mai in person with his current chaotic mood. Without meeting her in person, wherever Gulf could see, be it billboard to LED ads inside the station, TV, internet, oh really, it was literally everywhere, all he could see was her face. Really, who doesn’t know about her? The ever so pretty Mai Davika Hoorne — the top model and actress across the Southeast Asia, not just in Thailand. Gulf personally always love to see her bubbly and quirky personality whenever they talk to each other, it was just unfortunate that she was also a girlfriend to his unrequited first love.
P’Mew met her during his earliest work as a producer, right after he graduated from bachelor degree, which coincidently also her debut work as an actress. Given their suitable age that were not far from each other, the way they both were highly ambitious with their work, and their God-sent visual that maybe will beat the nation’s couple Nadech and Yaya, everyone in the country always adore both of them. Well, they never really made their relationship a secret, though they never confirmed it to the media either. However, everyone in entertainment industry knew that they were a thing, even before they made it in the industry itself.
Gulf himself never really quite understand regarding his own feelings. The days where he had a girlfriend himself, he never really give much a thought regarding his childhood friend’s relationship, he even befriended the adorable P’Mai. However there were also a day where he could only stare at her with full of envy because at the end of the day, she would be P’Mew’s priority. He was trying hard not to think about it, anyway, and deep inside, he just think that, maybe those sayings were true. A person could never really get over from their unrequited first love no matter how hard they tried.
The next day at their humble and small production house office, he feels fortunate that at least some of his trusted partner like P’Mew and P’Tong joined him and most importantly, they always believe in his crazy ideas. P’Tong, as a novel writer and scriptwriter himself, could only frowned at him when Gulf was trying hard to explained his crazy ideas from scratch, hoping that the older one would help him to develop his scratch of ideas and turned it into a well written script.
“So... you want to create a story regarding a long lost childhood sweetheart that suddenly meet each other, and by the time they meet each other, all of their memories were coming through, which all includes all of the nostalgic songs from their childhood...,” P’Tong put his chin on top of his left palm whilst he wrote the scratch of ideas on his notes.
“How do you want the character development turning out to be in the middle of series? I mean — wouldn’t be super cliché if we write that the both of characters already in love with each other from the start? Moreover it would be painstakingly slow burn if we want to make it as a series, 2 hours movie would be enough for this kind of story to be developed,” The older scriptwriter continue, not even bothered to fixed his glasses.
Gulf nodded slightly, “Phi, I know it’s pretty hard to wrapped it out without being cliché, that’s the point of ‘mutual pining’ on our prior keywords. They unknowingly liking each other but both of them never realized their own feelings, but fate ended up making them meet each other again after years. Something like 'Love, Rosie', I guess, but more in twisted way?” The younger one pouted slightly as he thinks deeply.
“For God sake, Ai’Gulf... interpreting your story is much harder rather than writing original story by my own,” P’Tong released a long sigh.
The younger one chuckled slightly, “You love my ideas, anyway, Phi. That’s why we always ended up working with each other.” Which only replied by a raised of eyebrows from the older one.
“Honestly speaking...,” Mew said as he turned his sight from his laptop, “As a producer point of view, there’s always a spot for romantic comedy, despite the trend forecast. Especially when everyone always love any kind of stories regarding childhood sweetheart after all.”
“Of course I already knew about that, Phi. That’s why I really want to go with this idea,” Gulf rolled his eyes.
“However... it’s one of the common story in the market. Therefore, we definitely have to wrapped it up with something different. There are thousands of titles out there. What make us any different than any other romcoms out there?”
“That’s my point, Phi. That was the reason why I really want us to focusing on developing the vibes and the chemistry from the old song itself. I want to make it that each of every episode in the story have an oldies song in the title, and if possible, that song would be the focus on each episodes.”
“You really are serious with that idea aren’t you? Gulf, while I always put my 100% trust with your work, you guys have to make sure to have a proper research will you guys? While everyone have soft spot for nostalgic songs... it’s also a sensitive content. Should we pick a specific song and interpret it differently with public’s views... we are totally screwed, we could get a backlash.”
“I know, Phi. Yesterday I have the guts to give just a scratch idea to P’Golf because he was the investor to our previous work. Now that we should search for another investor... I really have to tidy up and develop the script really well beforehand. I think we even had to make a short pilot episode first or something like short teaser trailer so that our future investor would get sure with our work.”
Mew chuckled as he stands up from his seat and ruffled through Gulf’s soft hair, “I’m sure you can do it, Nong.” He smiles gently at the younger one. “Your work together with Tong always comes out as the best. I’ll always believe in you, guys.”
He takes his bag and laptop with him and said, “I will go for first, okay?”
“Where are you going, Phi?” Gulf asked him curiously.
“P’Mame asked to meet me. I don’t know... perhaps she will be asking us if we want to work with them for the second season...,” He sighed. “Let me go on my own, okay? I’m afraid that you will be feeling uneasy again and ended up exploded again like with P’Golf yesterday. I will find excuse for her, okay? See you, guys.” He closed the door without even giving a time for Gulf to reply.
Gulf keep silently staring at the wooden door before suddenly he heard P’Tong speak, “Sometimes I wonder, for someone like P’Mew that basically already have a settle job in this industry with or without us, why he insisted on joining our team? I wonder if your friendship with him is that strong, even to the point where you guys really had to work with each other?" He raised both of his eyebrows,"I mean... if it’s about making money, P’Mew must be prefer to go with P’Mame as the second season already have an investor and it already have a huge fanbase following.”
Gulf was just staying silent as he continue to writing the draft of the script trying not to giving any care to P’Tong’s words, though in fact it keeps repeated in his head over and over again. Not that P’Tong was wrong, though. If P’Mew wanted to join P’Mame’s project, he really couldn’t forbid him. It won’t be risking their long-time friendship, though, even if the older one decided to leave their small production house. The fact that honestly P’Mew already have a lot of projects outside their production house... the truth is, it was Gulf that couldn’t live without him. It hurts him that both in professional life and his personal life, he would be nothing without the older one, and no matter how he needed him in his life... Gulf basically couldn’t call out for him once he already way out of his reach. He didn’t realize that all of these thinkings makes his eyes burned. Especially when he saw that in P’Mew recent Instagram updates, he took a picture together with P’Mame. He gulped down his emotions as he turned off his phone.
“Gulf... you do know that you could come back anytime, right...” Mild asking him with pleading voice through his lunch.
Mild was originally the assistant director to Gulf on the first season. Being his friend from high school, he practically one of his best friend aside of P’Mew. Gulf understand that he need to stay on the project since he had to support his family financially and couldn’t afford to living a start up life together with Gulf and P’Mew. Therefore, they had no hard feelings when they had to parted ways, and still remained a good friend.
“We still haven’t casted the new cast, let alone having workshop or filming, you literally still have time to think it over...” The slightly older one still trying hard to coaxed the younger one.
“It’s okay, Phi. Thank you for your concern, but I’m not that desperate to make money.” Gulf still haven't look up from his lunch.
“I’m not saying that you’re desperate to make money. You do realize that you’re the priority on this project rather than that messed up staff, you know? If only you said it to the others aside of me and P’Mew...” He insisted.
“P'Mild...” Gulf sighed and he stopped chewing his lunch. He lost all of his appetite by this time.
“Ok, ok, I know that you don’t want to ruined somebody’s future, yadda, yadda, but when will you be prioritizing your own life rather than thinking about others, even the most disgusting one, Gulf?” He keep pusing Gulf. “Sooner or later you have to think about yourself rather than keeping it all to yourself, Ai’Gulf.”
Gulf keep thinking over P'Mild and P’Tong’s words over and over again as he mindlessly walking to his house, not realizing that a familiar person already waiting for him in front of his gate. Sometimes he forgot that all of these problems were starting from the fact that he was neighbors with the handsome man that coincidently were his first love, the friend that practically know almost everything about him except for his true feelings, as well as his colleagues. Sometimes, Gulf wondered why he didn’t expand his circle of friends so that he would stop meeting this particular guy over and over again.
“Phi... what are you doing here?” Gulf asked tiredly as he was trying to search for his key on his duffle bag.
“I really need your help, Nong,” The older one pouted at him. “Help me, pretty, please?”
“What help, Phi?” He asked confusedly, his eyebrow furrowed. “You do realize that most of the time I’m the one who needed your help, right?”
“But, right now I freaking need your help, please accompany me tomorrow, nong? Please?”
“What?” Gulf furrows went even deeper. “What are you asking actually, Phi? I really don’t understand?”
“Actually,” He licked his lips and bite it nervously. “I’m thinking of asking Mai to take the next step?”
“Huh?” Gulf stunned. Please don’t be.
“I’m thinking of asking her to marry me?” He raised one of his eyebrows, unsurely. In the long years of their friendship, this was the first time that he saw the older one to be this nervous. Usually he never hesitated with something, even with big decision such as taking a risky projects, or when he decided to took different major than the one that his parents asked him to take back in the college years. To see him in his purest and his most raw emotion breaks the younger’s heart even before he could hear what are the next question that P’Mew asking to him. “Please help me to find a ring for my proposal?”
Gulf could feel his eyes burned and he was trying hard not to avoid P’Mew’s eyes even though he desperately wanted to do it. Not trusting his own voice because chances are, it would be totally break, he just nodded slightly and suddenly the older one put him into his warm embrace and kissed his crown of head as if it was totally normal between childhood friends.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! I really don’t know who else I could trust enough to help me with this,” Mew’s voice sounds way too excited for his own liking.
God, is it possible to mend a broken heart that already breaks over and over again?
Gulf was trying hard to pull the best smile that he could pulled off though it was apparent that it was really forced, and pushed the older one softly, “See you tomorrow, Phi. I’m sorry but I really need to sleep early tonight.”
“Ah! I’m sorry for keeping you!” He smiled apologetically. “Sleep well, okay? You don’t have to drive or taking bus tomorrow, I will pick you up with my car, since we will be also coming home together, anyway.”
Gulf just nodded tiredly and he quickly unlocked his family house’s padlock, “See you tomorrow, Phi.”
He released a long breath that he didn’t realize that he hold the moment he arrived at his room. God, do he really need to cry helplessly under the shower like those drama character heroines? Sometimes he was asking himself, what did he expected from his unrequited feelings, anyway? Maybe because before P’Mai, P’Mew’s relationship never been that serious, since most of his relationship usually only lasted for a couple of years at maximum, and at least he never really serious enough with his relationship to the point where he wanted to tie a knot with his girlfriend.
He should have seen all the signs. The fact that they were in fact already going through the 6th years of their relationship, the fact that P’Mai already befriended all of P’Mew’s family and closest friends, the fact that they already really comfortable with each other to the point where they already attending each other’s family gatherings and trying to make time for each other no matter how busy they were, the fact that aunty Jongcheveevat herself is really fond of her super-pretty-and-talented-in-everything future daughter-in-law that seems like never lacked at something...
Should he just completely give up with his own feelings? Gulf took a deep sighed and burying his head on his folded arms. If it was that easy, he already ended it more than a decade ago. He knows it better than anyone else since he already trying hard to do this over and over again without any success. He took another deep sigh. The burned in his eyes maybe already gone, and he might be didn’t feel like crying all that much, but there were enough of unshed dried up tears, cracked voice, and tiredness from the past years that already making up for his broken pieces tonight. Maybe somewhere in the corner of his brain, he already seen it coming. It’s just hard to admit about unspoken truth because he didn’t want his heart to be broken in pieces over and over again.
“P’Tong, it seems like lately the dystopian theme is really trending, should we just change our main theme to that instead? I don’t feel like developing a love story this time around...” Gulf rambled through his plastic cup of ice tea.
The older scriptwriter that was busy typing on his laptop, while also writing a jumbled of things on his notes suddenly looked up at him and frowned slightly, “Nong... what are you saying this time around....?”
“I said... we should just stopped to develop this non-sense and hard-to-work-with romcoms,” He slurped his ice tea lightly as it was nothing.
Tong tear off a few papers from his notebook, crumbled it into ball with his hand and quickly throw it to the younger one’s head, “It is you who was freaking hard to work with!!!”
The younger one dared to feel as if the papers was hurting him, which only makes the older scriptwriter rolled his eyes even further. “P’Mew!!!! P’Tong is hurting me!!!”
“Your P'Mew was still receiving calls with one of his clients outside, he couldn’t hear you, you know!” P’Tong leaned back and sighed at the younger one’s odd act and shakes his head tiredly, “N’Gulf... you know that I’m usually, like, super chill and calm, right? Now that you see me this irked by your act... Don’t you think that it is you that’s been testing out my patience?” Which only replied by exaggerate pout by the younger one.
“What’s wrong, Ai’Gulf?” The older one closed his laptop this time and sighed heavily at the younger one. “I may not that close to you as a friend, but you know that you could tell me everything, right?”
“I just didn’t feel like continuing this stupid romcoms, Phi...” Gulf avoid P’Tong’s stare and instead playing with his plastic straws.
“Not this again—,” The older one sighed again. “What’s wrong? Are you messing up with your love life or something?” Tong tried again. When he see the younger one keep avoiding his stare, he just snorted darkly, “Gulf... you shouldn’t make your personal problem ruined your professionalism at work...”
“I’m just tired, Phi,” This time, the younger one that sighed tiredly.
“So what if your love life a mess? You could make a better ending by yourself with this series,” The older one shrugged his shoulder. “More often than not, a masterpiece work comes from a brokenhearted mind and soul. Just check it on the internet. Most of legendary songs and movies were like that, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was one of them. It’s not impossible to create something from a broken mind and soul, it won’t be easy, but it would be certainly worth it, Nong.” P’Tong pushed his glasses slightly, “Maybe it won’t receive any awards... or any public’s recognition... but at least it would help you forget about the bitter reality.”
“What if it’s impossible to forget about the bitter reality, Phi?”
“Well, as a human, we might be could never avoid being hurted, but the wound wouldn’t be staying forever, isn’t it? It will heal with time.” He smiled at the younger one with reassurance. “You’re not the only one that went through a broken heart, Nong. It is probably not your first time, either. I’ve been there, too. Most of people in the planet also been there, too. While they could coping up with their life, and instead levelled up their life and find someone better, why couldn’t you?”
“What if no matter how pretty, kind, and perfect a person that would come long after, no one could never replace that someone, Phi?”
“You’re definitely deeply in love with this someone, aren’t you?” P’Tong was smiling sadly at him. “Well... since I knew that somewhere in your absurd idea of a story for our series was partly inspired by your personal life...” When Gulf wanted to protest, the older one just put him into silence with his glare. “I’m not stupid, Nong, I could read through someone’s emotions and sometimes, with their minds as well — which is why I always enjoy writing myself... Well, anyway, why don’t we just put your broken heart story into the script? Won’t it be more interesting? Since no one would love to watch a series without any conflicts.” The older one that was wearing a black cotton shirt over ripped jeans today said it like a matter of factly.
“Phi— are you crazy...,” Gulf staring at Tong as if he was out of his mind.
“Well...,” P’Tong shrugged his shoulder lightly. “It could ended up as a silent confession from you for that ‘someone’.”
Suddenly, the door creaks and the tall producer peaking through it, “Guys, I will be away first to have meetings with our future sponsors, okay?” After Gulf and Tong nodded understandingly, he moves his gaze to Gulf’s, “I will picked you up later after working hours, okay? Don’t forget with our appointment together!” The older one winked and closed the wooden door, which stared by the youngest one in the room with an exasperated, longing look.
Of course this wouldn’t go out of the Tong Thanayut’s sharp eyes. The older scriptwriter just shakes his head slightly at the younger one and asked him one more time. “So? What do you think of my idea? Do you want to make this script as a platform to mend your broken heart or not?”
The younger one just sighed heavily at him and nodded his head tiredly, "Fine, whatever you say, Phi."