[This post contains adult material and if you’re below 16 and/or prudish—please read no further. Thank you.]
Jun’s new co-worker, Heng, was young, an easy and natural guy—and gay. She liked him like a little brother and took him under her wings.
The other office staff discreetly shied away but she did not see Heng as dangerous—until one day at lunch, he casually picked a piece of bean curd by his chopsticks and dropped it into her bowl of soup.
‘Try this,’ said Heng, ‘you’ll like the filling.’
Ordinarily, it was Jun who switched to the mother role and piled his plate with morsels from her lunch. This was the first time he had returned the favour and her features morphed. She quickly recovered and continued eating but was careful to avoid the bowl of soup.
‘Is something wrong?’ asked Heng.
‘No,’ said Jun, but her face flushed as she kept her head down and focussed on the food. As the awkward silence seeped in, Heng’s face betrayed disappointment.
‘I get it,’ he said softly, ‘you’re afraid I might have AIDS or something.’
‘No, nothing like that.’ Jun swallowed dry air.
‘You can be straight with me, you know,’ said Heng, and smirked at his feeble pun. He continued in a remarkably mature voice, one that he had not used before. ‘Perhaps it’s about time we recognised the elephant sitting between us.’
‘I’m sorry, Heng, you’re a sweet man and all, but I’ve responsibilities to my family, my children, and my husband.’
‘I don’t indulge in anal sex, you know.’
‘I beg your pardon!’ His words were totally unexpected and shocked. She threw glances here and there but thankfully the cafeteria was noisy with people talking over one another.
‘I said, I don’t indulge in—,’ said Heng, and he leaned in close.
‘I heard you,’ she said through gritted teeth and sat back. With a leaf of tissue paper, she dabbed the water stains on the table, as she always cleaned up after herself.
‘You see, according to a recent survey,’ said Heng, now speaking fast and earnest, ‘thirty percent of married couples, heterosexuals, had at one time or another indulged in anal sex.’
‘Another word about sex and I’m leaving.’
‘Thirty percent, Jun, and in a conservative Asian society like Singapore,’ he said, tilting his head from side to side to emphasize the last few words. ‘And even the survey noted the real figure is probably much higher.’ His voice grew hoarse and conspiratorial. ‘But society ostracizes and the law singles out and punishes the gay.’
‘But you love your boyfriend,’ said Jun, with a hint of an unintended accusation in her voice.
‘Of course, I love Ouyang and that’s why I’ll never hurt him, you know,’ said Heng, ‘and he’ll never hurt me, and we behave like regular people. We are regular people.’ He paused, as if rehearsing something, and finally said,
‘You can say Ouyang and I are glassblowers and clay moulders, you know, we work with our lips and hands but we never—.’
‘Okay, Heng, I get it,’ said Jun. She took a moment to let seep the full import of his words.
The sudden scraping of chairs heralded the end of lunch and the crowd began to dissipate as quickly as it had converged. Seeing the people vacate the place as if on cue, brought a smile to Jun, and Heng understood and shared the humour.
‘Are you done?’ said Jun, and pointed at his glass of unfinished soda.
‘Yes,’ replied Heng, ‘I suppose we should be getting back too.’
She reached for his drink and, before he could react, gulped it down.
‘I’m done too,’ said Jun airily, as if nothing had happened, and took off, leaving a full faced smile on Heng.
*** Copyright @ Eric Alagan, 2017 ***
Such a great portrait of two friends and their developing relationship. A lovely metaphor of a title, and uplifting piece.
Thank you, Sarah, for your visit and comment.
I believe ignorance and stereotyping causes untold misery to people who are different from us.
P/s I spotted and corrected another typo in my story – rehearsing and not rehearing 🙂
Those typos get everywhere!
I too generalize and form first impression until I get to know better. For me, I see it as self preservation, safer to take precaution. In time, all will be good when the air is clear.
As usual, Eric, we should not read your post by your title. A trick specialty of yours and I meant it in a complimentary way.
Most ‘straight’ people have preconceived ideas about LGBHTs – born out of ignorance. They are quick to point fingers while they themselves indulge in gross behaviour.
In Singapore, sex between men is criminalized – no thanks to laws handed down by navel gazing colonial puritans. Our clowns in cabinet have yet to get around to putting matters right.
All good wishes for a great week ahead,
M,y my! Heng is a naughty boy isn’t he?
LOL! I suppose that’s makes us all a tad naughty too 🙂
Thank you, Ian, for your visit and comment. All good wishes,
I enjoyed this post’s conclusion; and, as usual, the dialogue hums!
Thank you for your visit and kind words.
I’ll share a little thought – this piece did not come out as I envisaged. It needs some polish to add tone and music. For now, it reads like a first draft – which it is. But – and this is important – the message came through, I reckon.
All good wishes for now and the week ahead,
Clever title, cleverly written, Eric. 🙂
Thank you, Lauren,
I had a risque title but decided against that and used this instead.