CHAPTER 61: SIXES AND SEVENS
We begin our journey at 8:30 am. The train isn't late...but Palm is. (Who does he think he is?!) The train is already moving when he jumps inside. (This isn't a school fence, damn.) The employee yells at him so loudly that we wish we could pretend like he isn't actually a friend of ours. -*-
As expected, he receives a punishment for humiliating us. Once he climbs his way inside the train, the same seniors who made me sniff my own armpit (there's no need to relive that, it's best you forget it ever happened) begin to form a circle around Palm right away.
"Front! Back! Front! Back! Front! Back! Front! Back! Front! Back! Ahahahaha!" All of our voices cheer Palm on as his punishment continues for a considerable amount of time. This is beyond funny. We're literally rolling on the floor laughing inside the train. The seniors are singing and Palm is supposed to move his hip in the same direction as the lyrics but they're only repeating front and back so he's basically humping the air in front of this huge ladyboy senior. Ahahahaha! This is just too much! Palm looks like he's about to cry, especially when said ladyboy begins to move closer to him. I feel bad for him but this is hilarious! Ahahahaha! More! More!
"Front! Back! Front! Back! Front! Back!" And they still keep going. Hahahaha. Palm begins to make his escape as we continue to clap and cheer him on. (Ahahahaha.) He runs away from the huge sissy senior to the back of the car where the rest of us are, probably for help. Naturally, good friends like us split up and dash off in different directions. (We're awesome friends.) Palm curses at us unintelligibly, but he's loud enough for everyone in the train car to hear him. (Hahaha.) While he looks for a way to escape, that gigantic senior pounces on...
Ahahahahahahahaha! I wish you guys can see Phun's shocked expression! I can't even describe it. Hahahaha! The 8 of us (including Palm who escaped with his life) are on the floor cracking up once more. There are screams coming from other staff members (mostly about how they wish it were them instead).
"I'd rather sway my hips with this guy!" The older ladyboy requests as Phun quickly shakes his head. He is being tightly embraced while looking utterly pitiful. We all burst into another round of laughter and the rest of the staff, who likely feel sorry for Phun, rush over to pry the older ladyboy away from him with much difficulty. (Ha, that was too close.)
Phun immediately runs to the farthest seat possible once he has been given his freedom, probably out of fear of an aftershock. Pong and I offer to help Palm (the other survivor) put his things away in the top compartment. That is when I find out that Yuri and a couple of her friends are in the same train car as we are. This is not surprising by any means considering how the staff has paid for the entire train car for the campers so we can make our way from Bangkok to Khon Kaen together. I take a peek at the smiling face which I'm too familiar with. She's chatting with her friends while munching on her snacks. I can't help but smile along with her. Bags and bags of snacks are all around her, that much hasn't changed. No, what has changed is how she will never look at me with those big round eyes ever again.
I shake my head to get rid of those crazy thoughts which I know will only bother me. Then, I help Palm throw his bag into an empty space in the overhead compartment and return to my seat. Not long after that, young master Pong pulls out slices of bread and pineapple jam to make a sandwich. -_- Is he serious? He's planning to make sandwiches while the train is speeding down the tracks? I let out a weary sigh because I'd rather have blueberry jam. (Ha...) But that's okay. At this point, I'll eat just about anything since I haven't had anything to eat this morning yet. I'm starving. We hold a crazy fun sandwich party in the back of the train car before a senior, who is a staff member, walks over with a lottery box in hand.
What is that for? I think to myself as I stick my hand inside the box. The senior makes sure to let me know that I shouldn't tell others what I get and keep it a secret. Hm, maybe it's one of those buddy games they play during camping trip? I guess silently as I open up the piece of paper which has "Villager" written on it.
There's someone named "Villager" in this camping trip? I'm confused.
In the end, I realize I misunderstood. This isn't a buddy system but rather a game called Vampires. This sounds super creepy but I don't have a choice but to participate. Y_Y Here are the rules. You are discouraged from walking around by yourself during this camping trip since whoever picked the "Vampire" ticket is allowed to rip the corner of a camper's name tag who happens to be a villager (like me, for example). This can occur if you choose to go off on your own (or if luck would have it, you partner up with a vampire and walk around together). The seniors call this an act of execution. (Wah, too scary.) A villager with a ripped name tag is considered dead. Y_Y Will I make out of this camp alive? And I'm just a villager too?! However, vampires don't get off that easily since there are "Slayers" as well. Slayers can kill vampires if they're off by themselves. Heh heh. I wonder who the slayers are. I'm gonna stick to them like glue! Thinking that, I turn to look at Phun with high hopes.
"Phun, what did you get?"
"Heh heh..." His chuckle is rather unnerving. I look at his suspicious eyes, feeling apprehensive.
"What the fuck did you get? I promise I'm not gonna tell anyone." At the very least, I'd feel somewhat safe if he were a villager like I am. If he's a vampire then I'm staying the hell away from him. But if he's a slayer...?
I'll love him to death.
"Not telling ya!" Ugh, we're going on a camping trip and he's still acting like he's working for the student council. How long is he gonna keep being such a goody two shoes and following every rule to the letter? I glance at his smug face. It seems it really won't tell me.
"You're a vampire for sure. I won't be hanging around you."
"Heh. And you think you'll be safe with someone else?" Oh, he's right. I furrow my brows as I contemplate on whether I should jump out of the train right here and now. This is such a creepy game to play. To be honest, I think I'll be just fine if I do jump considering how this train is going at about 180km per 3 months. Why is this thing so slow anyway? Is it relying on the wind like a sail boat?
"Yo, yo, yo! What'd you guys get?! Lemme see!" Having this jerk around just makes things even more unnerving. I turn to see Ohm as climbs over the seat from behind. I quickly crumble up the paper in my hand and toss it out of the window.
"Like hell I'd tell you! You ass!" I'm not stupid.
However, Ohm simply chuckles before he puts a sly expression on his face. "Okay, then. You better not let me find out though. Heh heh heh." Fuck.
Sometimes it's a lot more exhausting having Ohm as friend than I think it should be.
The staff and the rest of the campers has been having a world class conversation (their words, not mine) this entire train ride. After a long (and I mean long) while, the conversation is still not dying down. It's to the point where I begin to wonder if it isn't just water in that cooler but it's actually gallons and gallons of Red Bull. Eventually they tell us that we can finally split up and go do our own things. Yay! (Seriously, I thought they'd never tire themselves out.) But don't think for a second that we'd get to rest with Ohm here on this trip. Because when the staff barely turned their backs he...
…pulls out of deck of cards!
Oh, come on! He wants us to play cards even when we're on a train?! I smack him in the head once before I begin dealing the cards myself (ha...). I had to! Ohm is rotten to the core! If he's deals the cards everybody is definitely gonna lose to him.
We're being really noisy while seemingly mocking the laws. This is mainly because Palm tells us that we can't get arrested for gambling because we're on a moving train. By the time the police catches up to us, we'd be in a different jurisdiction. Yep, that is my friend's logic. He's filled with the most idiotic kind of valuable experiences.
We're playing all kinds of card games we could in the tiny space we have. Those include poker, blackjack, rummy and even a drinking game we came up with where if you're left without a pair when you'd have to drink a whole bottle of water. The last game is the funniest though, considering what poor Earn has to go through. He keeps losing which means he needs to keep drinking water. It's to the point where he's about to pee his pants since all the restrooms are full. He ends up peeing by the train door. Hahaha!
Fortunately, we're passing through vast fields and not a crowded market or neighborhood. Otherwise, several people would've been graced with a spitting worm before them. Haha.
Pong and Nunt, who walk over to join Earn, come to his rescue by stating that it isn't a spitting worm but rather a fire-breathing dragon instead. Whoa! For real?! My eagerly curious expression ends with a double smack in the head from Phun. (Fuck!) Why did he only hit me?! Ohm, Palm and Joke all look curious as well!
We spend quite a long time hanging out with students from other schools until the train reaches its destination in Khon Kaen. By now, it is nearly 5 pm.
The staff gather all the campers together in front of the train station, then they load us in a couple of mini-buses that will head to the school where we will be staying for 2 nights and 3 days. That's right, you heard it correctly. We'll be staying in a school instead of a hotel. Y___Y
But it's not that horrible or anything. Sure, this school's mattresses aren't as fancy as the ones the schools in Bangkok use (especially ones provided by our private school) but they're not too shabby. At the very least, there's running water and electricity. There's also cell service so we can call our parents back home. (Speaking of which, where the heck are we gonna take a shower...?)
At any rate, this school is so goddamn far from the station. By the time we arrive, it's almost 8 pm. Even so, the many residents are here to welcome us warmly. Ohm, who's not exactly known for his politeness, ends up keeping his mouth tightly shut after he has been complaining about his achy back all the way here when he meets these nice people. After all, they have been waiting here, in the midst of bugs and mosquitoes, to welcome us even though the sun has already set long ago.
The residents have prepared hot rice porridge with extra, extra pork. (No restaurants in Bangkok would ever do such a thing.) Each of us finishes off no less than two big bowl portions, then the staff members tell us to put our bags away so that we can start an activity together. (It's nearly 10 pm, we're still gonna do stuff?!)
We drag our huge bellies (because of the porridge, not that we were cursed or anything) and head toward the second floor of the school building which has been magically transformed into bedrooms. (Their school building only has two floors...and it's a wooden building.) The girls' bedroom and the boys' bedroom are clearly marked. As I drag my legs past the girls' bedroom, I notice Yuri unpacking her things inside. She doesn't return my gaze, unlike her classmate (whose name I can't recall, I only vaguely remember that she's in the convent's music club) who's grinning so widely that I have no choice but acknowledge her by giving her a small nod.
I let out a huge sigh as I arrive to the boys' bedroom which is right next door. I drop the bag from my shoulder and put it right next to Ohm's bag which has our school emblem on it. His bag looks awfully vacant.
"The fuck?! Did you even bring anything?!"
He simply shrugs at me while looking obnoxiously relaxed. "Clothes, duh? Enough for two nights and three days so that's four shirts and two pants. I can just wear them again, heh heh." Fucking disgusting! But that's not even the problem!
"What about your towel?"
"Well...I'll just use yours. Ahahahahaha!" Bastard! Damn him and his laziness! He did the same thing when we went to Ko Chang. He didn't bother bringing a towel and decided to use mine. The worse part? He used it before me and left me with a wet towel to use! He's an asshole!
"Bastard. Then I'm gonna take showers before you this time around! Did you bring anything else?"
"Aw. Come on, of course I bought my toothbrush. Hehe." And the rest? You'll just use my stuff too, won't you? I am about to smack him square in the head when my friends stop me.
"Yo! Why are you two trying to bite each other head's off this time around?! Get your asses downstairs already. They called for us." The hell? I'm not a dog, I'm not biting anyone or anything! I growl at Pong and Nunt who came over to break up the fighting. Meanwhile, Phun and the rest are already waiting outside. (I guess they got sick of us...)
Ohm grabs his cellphone from his backpack before he turns to reply. "Fine, I'm coming. Do I need to wear this godforsaken name tag? I wanna throw this away every time I see this color!" Ahahaha! The guys break into satisfying laughter. Ohm is destined to wear that hot pink name tag. It must be the gayest thing in the entire world.
Palm, who gets to wear a blue name tag, takes advantage of the situation. "Yeah! Bring it with you so they'd know which one's the gay one! Hahaha!" I wish you guys could see the look on Ohm's face right now. He can't even control his expression. He looks so guilty that I can hardly describe it!
We gleefully applaud Ohm's gay name tag as we make our way down the stairs. We should know better than to believe that he'd admit defeat. "Yeah. Men can wear pink. Red's questionable. Gotcha." There he goes again. I wasn't the one making comments, dude!
I shrug at him before responding. "Fuck you, why'd you come for Earn?"
"That was meant for you! You're the one bringing him into this." Oh, really?! Hahaha. I rub the spot where Ohm hit me before we loudly laugh our way to the school's multi-purpose gazebo.
The gazebo is made of concrete. There's a roof but no walls. It's a total 'open house' feel, which means it's open for mosquitoes. I'm already feeling itchy.
"Alright! Please split into your colors, thank you! Yellow team over here. Pink team over there. Purple team can sit right here. Blue team, please sit next to the yellow team. Can you see them? Red team, go sit in front of the stage to the right!" Okay...that was confusing. -_-... I scratch my head a couple of times before I spot my red shirt...uh, I mean red team members. (That almost got political.) They're sitting in a corner. I suppose it's time I split up with my group of friends.
"See ya." Ohm says before he walks toward his hot pink team. (That one girl from the convent's music club whose name I can't recall is sitting among the other pink team members.) Pong and Nunt leave for their purple team. Palm and Joke are with the rest of the blue team.
"Okay. I gottta go. Take care of yourself, alright?" says Phun. He's been hanging around me and hesitating to move. He turns to whisper his goodbye. He seems rather regretful. With a small smile to Earn, he leaves with Pete and heads to where the yellow team is. Yuri is already sitting with other yellow team members.
It's a reminder of how uncomfortable she must feel being around us.
I let out a huge sigh before I drag my feet and follow earn to the red zone. I'm in a daze, mainly because I don't really know anyone here. I apparently underestimated my situation since I've forgotten who else is in the red team. (Ha...)
Who else could it be other than the captain of the cheer team named Earn? It only took a second before all the girls say hello to get his attention. Most of them went to the soccer tournament last year. So this guy's pretty popular on his own, eh? This actually annoys me. It was Earn's first time as the captain. I've been a part of the marching band for years but nobody bothers to remember or even care. They're all screaming for that overly tanned cheer team captain. I won't forget this!
We introduce ourselves and exchange a few polite words (which is how I find out that there are 12 guys, 6 ladyboys, and 12 girls. Such pretty numbers). As expected, out team leader is none other than the cheer team captain who is supposedly a great leader. (At least that is what all the girls say. Pfft. He's nothing compared to this music club president. Haha.) The staff members then ask the leader of each team to introduce themselves. This is when I learn that our school—in fact—has great students running the place. Not only the captain of the cheer team is the red team's leader, the student council secretary is also yellow team's leader. (Look, I know you used your good looks to get where you are. I know it, just admit this.)
Now that the teams have established their leaders, the games slowly begin. I've played most of these games before. There's Red Rover (where two opposing teams create a wall and attempt to breach said wall and whichever team breaches the most wins), Follow the Leader (where you copy the dance of the person in front of the line. Who the hell made the decision to put that ladyboy there anyway? All his moves were so nasty. It was so embarrassing), Amoeba Rock Paper Scissors (it's basically a rock-paper-scissors with evolution. Whoever loses become a rabbit and the winner evolves into a chicken, a monkey, a human, a superman and so on. That means if you're already a rabbit and you keep losing then you'd regress into an amoeba. Guess who became one? None other than me, of course. That sure was a quick guess. Y_Y. Talk about having a shitty luck! After we finished the game, they made me dance in front of everybody because they said I made a cute amoeba. -_-" Come on! I may be shameless but I can get embarrassed too, ya know! Now everyone at the camp calls me Noh-moeba. Goddamn it. It's just Noh, please understand!). Aside from those games, there were several more. I can't talk about all of them. All I know is that I'm exhausted. Seriously. I was literally out of breath by the end of these games. (For real, it was as bad as when I trained for JROTC.) Finally, the staff members ask us to sit with our respective color. I thought that they were going to let us go to bed. Boy, was I wrong. One of the male seniors tell us that there's one last game!
"Alright! Everyone must be exhausted by now, right?! ("Yes!" everyone yells at the top of their lungs) But I'm not letting you off that easily. (Ah...) Have no fear, though! I'll only ask for two participants from each team for this game. How about the leaders and a member of their team?"
Uh...the leader of my team...that's Earn. It's no surprise that he's...choosing...me. Goddamn it. -_- Didn't I suffer enough with that amoeba rock paper scissors? I've carried enough shame to last generations. He still wants to put me up for more humiliation?! I scratch my head as I follow Earn to the middle of the circle. I'm clearly not interested to participate in this game, but then I see Phun and a member of his team. (Who the heck is that? I don't know him. Why didn't he bring Pete? We're from the same school. Oh...that's why. Pete's passed out by the wall over there. Damn.) Eh, what was I talking about in the parenthesis again? Ugh, never mind. I see Phun and his buddy and it's enough to bring myself up for another challenge. Here goes nothing! I want to duke it out with the student council member for once. I'm not as good at him when it comes to school but I'm a god when it comes to these stupid ass games! I cock my brow at Phum once. He simply shrugs at me and walks by as though I'm not a worthy opponent of his.
Just you wait! I'll show you!
"The rule is simple. Each pair must use a body part to carry a ping pong ball from these baskets right here to the dude wearing glasses over there. You guys got that? To keep things fair, you'll be assigned the body part based on a random draw."
I slap my arm to kill a mosquito as he finishes his explanation. By the time I look up, I see a box in front of me. (It's the same box they used when we drew papers for the vampire game. I got goosebumps the second I saw it.) The blue team will use their forehead. The pink team will use their cheeks. The yellow team (Phun's) will use the side of their body. (That'll be tough.) The purple team will use their shoulder. (This is tough too...) The last paper in the box belongs to our team. I'm getting real nervous because I'm afraid we'd get something tough like Phun's team or the purple team. However, we'll get to use...
Yay! It'll be so easy! I throw a fist into the air. "Yes!" I cry out happily. However, Earn seems to be in a bit of a shock.
"What's the matter?" Maybe he's tired?
"Oh, nothing." Earn tells me as he wipes the sweat off of his forehead. Why is he sweating? It's night now and it's actually pretty cold. "You're happy about this?" And why is he asking me such a weird question?
"Yeah, of course! It'll be so much easier to play using our mouth compared to what the yellow team and the purple team will be doing. Unless you don't agree?" I'm starting to feel uncertain. Perhaps I'm wrong about this? Maybe that's why Earn has that disturbed expression on his face? However, Earn shakes his head in response. "N...no. I agree with you, if you think so. Haha..." What a weirdo. I furrow my brows and stare at him. Unfortunately, there's no time to think since they're about to blow the whistle to start the game.
The crowd erupts into a roar when the whistle is blown. It motivates me into picking up the ping pong ball with my mouth even faster. Earn is on the other side doing the same. Slowly, we make our way toward the basket located about 20 meters away.
At any rate, why are those girls screaming so loudly?! They get especially loud when Earn and I try to keep our balance. The high pitch screams actually hurt my ears. -_-" What on earth? These girls really need to get their mind out of the gutter. They were the ones who came up with this game. How dare they treat this as something dirty and perverted? Ugh! I'm slightly annoyed by this and I exchange glances with Earn. We both find humor in our current situation as we continue to do our best with the game.
"Time's running out! Ten! Nine! Eight! Seven!"
What the heck? Our team has it easier compared to Phun's team. So how come there are way more ping pong balls inside the yellow basket than the red basket? This won't do! We won't lose! Both Earn and I are afraid that Phun will rub his victory in our faces so we speed up. We compete against the time as the staff continues counting down. Our hearts are beating out of our chest.
Go faster! Earn and I haul our asses with the ping pong ball between us. We're rushing so much that the ball is at an awkward angle which put our lips even closer than before.
We're so close. Almost...almost...almost! Bingo! Earn and I quickly drop the last ping pong ball into the basket right as the whistle is blown. His lips and mine briefly brush against one another.
We stand still and stare at each other in silence now that the game has ended. It's chaotic all around us, too chaotic for anyone else to notice what had happened between Earn and me. They were all focused on cheering their own team. They cheered when the game ended. Let's be honest here, I'm a little startled by the accident but if you were to ask me whether I care or not, I can confidently say that I don't. There's something else that is capturing my attention.
"First place goes to the pink team! Follow by the red team and the yellow team!" This is what is capturing my attention! I jump up and down like a monkey along with our teammates who are cheering as loud as the large speakers. They even go as far as running up to other teams and rub our win in their faces! Haha! Aren't we something?
I jump and run to my teammates to join the celebration. (It feels as though Thailand won the World Cup or something.) Everyone continues to shout loudly for a little while. Eventually I notice that Earn has gone quiet. He may smiling to our friends but there's something strange inside his eyes.
"What's the matter, Earn?! Aren't you happy?!" I tear myself away from the big group (who started dancing their butts off before heading off to bed once again) and lightly touch Earn on his shoulder. He responds by jerking body out of surprise as though his mind has been elsewhere this entire time.
"Uh, Noh...I'm sorry. I didn't mean for that to happen." Huh...? What is he on about? Oh...that...
I must admit, I almost forgot what had happened because I didn't think it was a big deal. I know that accidents happen. Plus, it really was a non-issue as long as it wasn't done on purpose.
"What?! You're still worried about that? I'm not a chick, ya know. Damn, I didn't even think anything of it. Forget it, okay? Go on. Go dance with Charlie. He'd be so lonely dancing without you. Hahaha." I mention a ladyboy from our team who has a crush on Earn. His name is Charlie. (Legal name, Suchat.) He also attends an all-boys school like me but his uniform is a pair of brown shorts instead of blue. Charlie has such a huge crush on Earn that whenever he needs to eat, piss or take a shit he always need our team leader's attention and help. (Even though Charlie is bigger and seems even tougher than Earn.) Sometimes Earn would avoid Charlie but Charlie is actually pretty funny. We like to joke around with him.
Usually, when I get smart with Earn, he'd return the favor by smacking me in the head out of shyness. (I assume, haha.) However, this time he is completely quiet. He stares at me so hard with those sharp eyes of his that I can't even avert his gaze.
"You might not care but I do. You know how I feel about you." He reminds me quietly, and yet I can sense how serious he is. And honestly, I would've forgotten everything by now if he hadn't brought this up. Why is he even talking about this again? What does he mean? I meet his eyes and he still seems serious. I can't help but exhale sharply.
"Earn...I still think of you the same way as the first day I met you. I still think of you as my friend. And I will always continue to think of you as my friend." I know those words probably won't make him to feel any better but this is how I really feel about him. I quickly grin wide and hit his shoulder rather hard a couple of times like I usually do.
"Why are you making that face? Come on, it's better being friends. It's a lot more fun! And if it were someone else then I would've punched their face in. But you're my friend! So I'm telling you, don't worry about it! Just take it easy. And really, no matter how many times you kiss me, I'd still feel the same about you. I'm not mad at you. I don't hate you or anything. You got that?"
I joke around with him but at the same time I'm being serious. I can't explain it but I feel a sudden chill down my spine. I furrow my brows as I finish talking before I turn around to see...
...Phun Phumipat standing still. He looks at Earn and me with anger in his eyes before he leaves.
Hold on! Were you even here for the entire conversation?!