I texted Hamiz, telling him about the Economics professor that gave me head in his office, in the restroom and in his car between breaks during the program. It wasn’t merely texting but more like bragging. Our kind of friendship was based on mutual interest and mean remarks, but never cruel intention.
“Why are you angry, Hamiz?” I’d been waiting for his confirmation that he liked me, maybe more than a friend. It wasn’t possible, almost certainly, but it might have been that way the first time we talked on Youtube chat.
“I’m not. I’m just wondering what you’re here for.”
And Hamiz has always been the wise one. Alan used to tell me that Muslim people, they did give lots of thoughts and consideration, and generally wiser than us.
Apart from the bjs here and there, or more like almost everyday, in that campus, there was a guy in the program whose eyes I caught a bit more than regularly. Yi Jian, Chinese origin. He was unsual, partly long hair falling in front of his face, wearing sleeveless jacket in such heat, thin lips and tall forehead. He was a part-time researcher, in his 30 already, and quite vocal in opinion. Again, most of the people there were. They were all smart, PhD candidates, or doing things in social services, writing op-eds.
He saw me. I saw him. We were on that bus. He took sneaky photos of me, catching me off guard. I found myself talking non sense when he was around. Sometimes it was intentional. I didn’t know why I did that, acting silly, like the surrounding environment was a sitcom set and those small careless lines would be followed by a round of applause, all aimed to create a fond memory of the main observer. I remember doing that with Ben, a lot.
There was the night when he initiated the idea of movie night. A fund raising event for a museum established in honor of Jasmine, a seemingly legendary LGBT actor in Malaysia who had already passed away. I asked to join.
It was my last night before Brunei. I was sitting next to him, in his car, while he was driving. The girls were all in the back, one of them was somehow aware of what was going on with my mind in the front and gigling slyly all the way. She did the same thing when Yi Jian hold a heart-shaped candy in front of me in proposing position saying (which I was sure was a joke): “Will you take my heart?” Blushing. It hadn’t come to me in a long time, ever since I decided to play that role of a dominant man.
The movie was good, not to say great. It’s called “Talentime” and touched upon race and gender issue. The room was pitched dark, only with the light from the screen or sometimes, his phone. We were all lying on colorful cushions laid all over the floor. The girls might have done it on purpose, leaving me and him alone in a separate one. He was eating chips. My heart was missing its beat each time he passed the chips to me, took a breath or made a physical movement.
I didn’t see him in the new few days when I was in Brunei. But the night Hamiz brought me home for the family dinner before I left, we found out that Yi Jian actually lived right in the area. He asked to see me in a place called Q Bistro right across the street. Hamiz found the idea distasteful and declined right away upon my asking. “Your flight is in 5 hours.”
Of course, my stubborness always won. I didn’t know why, for so many times I let him down, he still considered me his friend. I left Hamiz that night, saying he was unreasonable for impeding me from seeing a friend one last time to say a proper goodbye. “It is a gay place, Q Bistro,” Hamiz told me before I headed out of his cozy place, where his family was all asleep.
It was indeed a gay place. The gayness there, in total contrast with the sexually suppressed daily scene, came to live. And it wasn’t even a club, just a small mamak. He was there looking out for me, still dressing in strange clothing seemingly a cross of a stylish bookworm and an intellectual from the past. We sat down and had a talk. This time, we were able to be alone, to mention subjects that were more personal.
I didn’t come out to Ben, which was always one of the biggest regrets. So I was going to tell Yi Jian. But at that very moment when we were reviewing the whole program together, when he finally spoke out what was on his mind regarding the participants, how it was organized, how he didn’t actually benefit anything off of 2 weeks, how supposed social science presentations turned into something more of a set of performances (he actually emphasized ‘performances’) and how his group should have won a sideline prize, the whole impression of him that I was blushing spending time around with was gone.
“Excuse me, that group that won that prize whom you just put down is my group.”
I told him that, along with other things to counter all of his arguments, especially to point out that friendship and personal relationships like this were the most valuable thing, more than any practical knowledge, that could be achieved from programs like this.
And I told myself to finally acknowledge the truth: when he was taking sneaky photos of me, he actually did it with everyone in order to create an album collection. When he was giving me the heart-shaped candies, it was the one left over from the piles of candies he gave his group mates. And when he was moving silently next to me in the dark screening room, he was checking Tinder matches with ladies in that area.
I came home to Hamiz sleeping, or pretending to sleep already. He was actually worried about me getting lost (which did happen). He still left space for me in the bed that barely accommodate guy his size, just like 3 years ago. He was one of the few people I told myself to never let go.