As I entered the main building, things seem a bit different in the halls of Swinburne. There were people dressed in full black. Some I recognized and some I have seen before. They're all distributing fliers and talking to people. Like they have an opinion to share and they put in more effort than typing it as a status update on Facebook. I don't know whether I should be impressed or worried.
Cassandra, the girl who usually dresses like she dug her grandmother's curtains from the storeroom to make into a dress was in the full black attire handing out fliers.
'Cassandra, what's going on?' I asked.
'Oh, didn't you know?' she said in a tone that I'm sure was half shocked and half condescending. 'There's been another death.'
'When?' I asked.
'This morning,' she replied.
'Who?' I asked.
'Josephine Chung. They found her ditched by the side of the road.'
'That's the fourth death this month,' I replied.
'I know and it's the first case here as well. We and a few of the other unis are organizing a rally at about seven-thirty on Friday at Padang Merdeka. A few local MPs will be giving speeches. We'll also hold a multi-faith prayer and hope that this nightmare will stop,' she said while handing me a flyer. 'You'll be there right?
It's all the rage in the local media recently. It's been a few months now and all the victims have synthetic prosthetics or SP. When their bodies are found, however, the prosthetics are gone. Like cars being stripped for parts. So far no suspects, no leads and more than thirty dead. People are getting anxious and rightfully so.
'Count me in,' I said. As much as I hated speeches from boring local MPs and the weird multi-faith prayer thing, I wanted to be there to show my support.
Just then, Lance appeared. Dressed in an overtly exposed tank top and regular shorts with Converse flat tops. The look is completed with a cap worn backwards and a large black gym bag. He's practically shirtless from the side. He exudes masculinity or douchebaggery. I prefer the latter for unintelligent meatheads like him.
'Hey Kayden. Hello Cassandra,' he said.
'Hi Lance,' Cassandra said. She looked like she wanted to drop her pants right then and declare that she wants to have his babies.
'Hi, Lance,' I murmured.
'Will you come to Padang Merdeka at seven-thirty on Friday night for a rally to condemn against the recent murders?' she asked. 'It would be really great for you to come since you have an SP as well and everyone looks up to you. So it'll be great to have a guy like you to lead our student body. You'll be a great example for everyone, ' said a very earnest and enamored Cassandra.
'Not interested,' he said.
'I think you should come to support. I know that this is a tough time...' Cassandra said
'Not interested and I'm busy,' he said.
'Can you just fuck off Cassandra? I'm not interested in your stupid fucking rally alright?'
He turned and walked away. I decided to stand in front of him.
'Can you at least give her a reason?' I asked.
'I got gym later,' he said.
'Are you seriously blowing a rally created essentially for you because you need to work on your abs?' I asked.
'Yup. It's no big deal anyway,' he said.
'People are being killed and then ripped apart with their limbs being sold as scrap metal. You're a potential target and all you can say is no big deal?' I asked. 'Shouldn't you of all people be affected by this?'
'What's your problem?' he said. He walked towards me till our nose practically touch. His eyes were glaring at me and I could feel his nostrils flaring. I glared at him back.
'She politely asked you to support her cause. You could've at least given some sort of effort to decline her invitation,' I said.
'Fine. Cassandra, I am sorry but I am not able to make it to the rally although I do indeed fully support what you and your fellow friends are organizing. Being a person who has an SP, it really touches my heart that you care for people like me so much and for that I thank you. However, I must respectfully decline your invitation as I feel that I need to show my support my own way since it is such a deep and personal issue for me,' he replied.
'Oh, it's alright. Can you sign the petition to show your support?'
He signed the petition and then left in a huff but not before bumping my shoulder.
'Kayden, why are you so rude?' yelled Beverly from the corner. 'Don't you know that he has an SP and that we should treat him with respect since it's such a sensitive issue?'
'Last time I checked, he has a synthetic prosthetic arm not an excuse to treat others like crap!'
'Kayden, it's okay,' she said.
'No, it's not. I understand that this is a very tough time for him since he's walking around with a target on his back and even if he maybe the only person we know who has this condition, there're plenty of others that are just like him and I bet most if not all them aren't as rude or as obnoxious that he is. Don't get me wrong because we should be supportive but he doesn't have the right to treat each and everyone of us like we're nothing!'.
Everyone went silent. I turned my heels and headed to class.
'Congrats. Your little scene has caused a twitter war. Team Kayden or Team Lance?' Amirul asked while checking Twitter. We're heading towards the cafeteria for lunch. The food's terrible but parking space trumps need for good food.
I scrolled my phone. People have been sending me hate mails throughout the day. Some threaten to go to the local newspaper to expose me, some threaten to smash my car and some just blatantly told me to go kill myself. It wasn't all bad though. Some people are on my side. They are however, just as bad as their counterparts.
'Ugh, this has gotta stop,' Anna said. 'This is just ridiculous.'
'Are you kidding me? Let's drag this shit for a good while. There hasn't been any drama in this godforsaken place since that psycho girl claimed that she got pregnant by the white guy and turns out it was the janitor's baby. And that was like a semester ago,' Amirul said.
'Yeah I knew it wasn't true when I first heard it anyway. She wasn't that hot,' Cassandra quipped.
'I knew it wasn't true too. I slept with him,' Anna laughed.
'Says you and every other woman in this uni,' I retorted. We laughed.
As we walked in to the cafeteria, I can feel people just staring at us. Some weren't as friendly as the others. As we took our seats, Amirul looked at me and said, 'Dude, I think the both of you just divided the whole student body. Do you know what this means?'
'No, rul. What does this mean?'
'It means you're like influential now. Like Lance-level influential,' Amirul. His eyes had a slight spark when Lance's name was said.
'Yeah like you're now as popular as Lance. Oh my god, I'm with a popular kid! Which means I'm like part of the in crowd. That's so awesome!'
'Please tell me that he's just being sarcastic because it felt so real that I wanted to bash him in the head then and there,' said Anna.
'I don't think he is,' Cassandra observed.
We finished lunch and then we went our separate ways. My classes are done for the day and considering the amount of drama I had for today, I decided to head home.
I headed towards the car park. Keys in my hand, bag on my shoulder. I was looking forward to end this day with something a bit more peaceful like hacking zombies or uniting China via a woman who beats people with a flute.
As I opened my door, I felt someone tapping me on the shoulder. I turned around and I saw three hulking black guys standing in front of me. They already look rather intimidating individually but together well, let's put it this way. Some people will see this as a sexual fantasy. As for me, no. Just no.
'We didn't like the way that you spoke to Lance today,' said the middle one
'We want you to issue an official apology,' said the left one.
'Or else,' said the right one.
'Wow, impressive coordination. How many years did it take you all to rehearse that?' I quipped.
The middle one grabbed me by the shoulders and pulled me close against him.
'Apologize or else.'
'Is there a problem here?' yelled a voice.
He immediately let go of me.
'Lance,' said the middle guy and his demeanor flipped like a coin from menacing and scary to friendly and rather charming. He walked up to him to shake his hand but Lance wouldn't have any of it.
'I saw what you did. I took a video so unless you apologize and promise to stay away from him, I will upload it and send it to the school board.'
'We are sorry,' they murmured and left all the while staring at me.
'Wanna grab something to drink?' he said to me.
The Not Just Coffee
We drove all the way to this little cafe in town. The ambiance reeked of pretentious hipster coffee with it's exposed concrete walls, bright natural lighting and wooden furniture. One of the few places that Anna, Amirul and I swore that we would never go to. Yet, there I was sitting on an armchair with Lance on the opposite end. Between us sat a wooden stump table. On it are two cappuccinos. Both of which are paid by Lance.
'Look, after you saved me there. I believe that I should at least pay for this,' I said.
'Dude, chill. Don't worry about it,' he said.
We have been arguing about this ever since he slammed a fifty on the counter when we were paying for our drinks. I've even shoved money at him and he shoved it right back at me. 'I need the change,' he explained.
'You were right. I shouldn't have been so rude to Cassandra,' he started after some moments of awkward silence.
'Damn right you were,' I said.
He laughed. 'You're honest. I like that.'
For some reason I felt rather delighted at his compliment.
'So tell me, why don't you want to come to the rally?'
'I'm just not interested. I rather live my life normally, you know?'
'"Fuck off, Cassandra" tells me that there's something a lot deeper than what you're letting,' I said.
'Just having a bad day, that's all,'
'Right. With women sympathizing you and throwing themselves at you. Certainly that must be really bad,' I replied.
'What you want women throwing themselves at you? Well, brother, after today, you probably will,' he said and gestured to my left.
A few girls I recognized from foundation are waving their hands at me while one of them took a photo of us.
'So that's how being sexually objectified feels like,' I said.
'You probably would know how it feels like if you just decide to wear something a little more exposed. I know you work out. You got great guns and nice legs, why don't you show it off once in a while?'
'I must be imagining things but were you checking me out?'
'So what if I am?' he said. I was speechless.
Suddenly he laughed.
'You're blushing,' he said.
I turn to one of the mirrors and my face was flushed. 'It's just that I'm kinda surprised that's all, I mean don't you have a girlfriend?'
'Why should I?'
'Well, shouldn't you? Women are lining themselves out for you, just pick one. Am sure any one of them would make you happy,' I said.
'But none of them are as honest and adorable as you,' he said.
'This isn't just coffee isn't it?' I said. I tried to keep a straight face but my insides are hyperventilating. As much as he's a douchebag and as much as I hated myself for this, I do have a thing for Lance just like every other girl, gay and sexually curious boy in the university.
'It really depends of what you make it,' he said.
'I don't get it,'
'There's nothing to get,' he said. His eyes twinkled in mischief and my insides suddenly felt very imbalanced.
'I bet you that to all the ladies huh?' I said.
'Do what?' he asked.
'That thing with your eye, that twinkling thing,' I said.
'Didn't realize that I have a twinkling thing,' he said. He reached out and grabbed his coffee, being all smug and cocky and all.
'Wait a minute,' I said. Suddenly realizing something and it clicked. 'You're into me,'
He accidentally spilled a little coffee on his shirt. Realizing the chance, I quickly grabbed a napkin and rubbed his chest. As I was dabbing his shirt, he didn't let go and he just let me clean him.
'You're into me,' I said with more conviction. I reached in till our nose were practically touching. 'Admit it.'
I headed back to my seat but not without some extra torso rubbing. I sat on my chair. I caught my reflection. I was beaming ear to ear. On the opposite end, Lance seemed tense and my smile went upside down. He looked at me with those eyes and I heard a small yes.
My eyes went wide, my mind was blown. My mouth was wide open.
'Took you long enough,' he said while sipping his cappuccino like it was nothing.
'Wait, how do I know that you're not playing me,' I said.
'You don't but I do know that I like you and I like you a lot. I wanna give it a shot,' he said.
'So this isn't just coffee.' I said again.
'It isn't,' he said with a smile.
'Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, oh my god,' yelped an extremely hyper Amirul. 'You're like dating him!'
'Chill, it's just coffee,' I said as I tried to navigate my car through the haphazardly parked cars that unnecessarily made the already narrow street even more narrower and the throngs of people who walk as if a car isn't right in front of them.
'But it's not just coffee,' he said. 'It's coffee with a possibility of hot dirty sex.'
I ignored him. I contemplated parking the car at the furthest end of the road but the long walk is staggeringly long and I don't have the patience to walk that far. In the end, I gave up and parked it all the way at the end.
'Well?' Amirul asked once I've parked the car.
'Have you seen it?'
'You know... it,'
'Mohammad Amirul Bin Mohammad Adnan, if your definition of "it" is what I think "it" is, then no, I haven't even felt or seen a glimpse of it!' I snapped.
'No, not it "it". I mean it as in him without his prosthetic,'
'Oh..., um isn't it sewn to his body?'
'I don't know, that's why I'm asking you,' he said.
'How should I know?'
'Why don't you ask him?'
'Why don't you?'
'You're dating him,'
'I'm not dating him. It's just coffee,'
'But it's not just coffee,' he said, wiggling his eyebrows. 'Besides, why would you think that I wanted to know what his penis looks like?'
I just looked at him.
'Oh right,' he said. 'Let's hope his thing is you know not...'
'Amirul!' I yelled.
My phone beeped and it's Lance. Asking me out for a movie. I declined.
'Is that who I think it is?' said Amirul as he peered from my shoulder.
'Yes and he's asking me out for a movie,' I said.
'But Cassandra's rally's tonight...' began Amirul.
'And that's why I had to reject.' I said. 'Besides, we're already here.'
'Honestly, I don't know how the hell can you reject him because he's you know like so dreamy and hot and dreamy and hot and hot and dreamy and dreamy hot and hot dreamy,' he cooed. I rolled my eyes as he and I headed out of the car and began making our way to the field.
'Huge turnout,' Amirul noted as we made our way through the throngs of people gathering at the park. Usually it's untouched and barren but tonight it's filled with people. Tents were being set up, there were seats for those who were honored, the elderly and the speakers. Signs were brought. People are selling stuff. The energy was high.
'I just realized something,' Amirul said as we made our way through the crowds.
'What?' I said while waving to a few of my classmates from my accounting class.
'Forty-eight hours ago, it was Team Kayden vs Team Lance,' he said. 'Now it's Lanceden or Kayance! Oh my god, you guys are like a gay rom com!'
I rolled my eyes.
'This is a multi-faith prayer not a festival carnival,' complained Douglas to Cassandra. We knew him from school. He's a part of the Buddhist society in Kuching.
'This isn't just a multi-faith prayer. It's a statement,' explained Cassandra.
'Do we need flashing hovering L.E.D. headbands to make a statement? Do glow sticks some how ward off the people who are stripping people off like a Proton being left alone at Travillion in the middle of the night? This is prayer to honor the dead as well and I'm not sure about you but glowing Minnie Mouse headbands doesn't exactly "honor" the dead!'
'I see this is going extremely well,' interjected Amirul as we walked towards them.
'Kayden. Amirul. Do you agree that people selling glowing pieces of plastics on a multi-faith prayer is extremely wrong?' asked Douglas.
'It's not like we can shoo them away,' explained Cassandra.
'Not our problem,' we both replied simultaneously and quickly left to look for other people we know.
'Is Anna coming?' Amirul asked.
I showed him my phone. It read, please tell me you all are not at that stupid rally. We posed for a selfie, uploaded it to our respective instagrams and tagged Anna.
I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned around. It's Lance
'What are you doing here?' I asked.
'I wonder if some weird crazy chick has already made a bad fanfic about you two fighting over her or you two in a whirlwind romance,' Amirul said.
'Is he always like that?' Lance asked.
'You'll get used to it. What are you doing here? You don't need to come. I know it makes you uncomfortable,' I said.
'I didn't come to stay, I came to get you,' he said.
'Persistent, I like,' Amirul noted with a huge grin.
'It hasn't even started,' I said. People are just gathering together in small groups, chatting while waiting for it to begin.
'You're telling me that you rather stay here and listen to bunch of stupid politicians talk like they know what's going on? We all know they don't and some useless prayer crap isn't going to stop those people from killing people and ripping them apart.'
'So what's the other alternative?'
'Movie. Maybe some coffee later with me?' he asked.
'You're unbelievable,' I said as I rolled my eyes.
'No, you're unbelievable. How can you not go out with him?' Amirul interrupted.
'He's right, you know. Come with me,' he said, reaching out his hand.
'Oh my god, this is like a total rom com moment!' he squealed again.
I paused and just looked at him. His hand extended, his palm open and his lips curved into a smile but his eyes were different. Like it's anticipating rejection but full of hope. My instincts wanted to challenge him, telling him that why should I just follow him on the whim like some stupid cliche but something said I shouldn't. I just stared at him.
'Go you idiot! Go! I'll take care of your car! Just go! I'll explain to Cassandra!' Amirul yelled.
'Kayden, please,' he said. His eyes were practically begging. I have known the guy for less than two days and I felt like running off with him like a Disney movie.
I reached out mine and took his while I could hear Amirul squealing from the background like some fanboy. As I tossed him my keys and waved him goodbye, I turned my attention to Lance. As we're walking, I felt that my hands were sweaty but his felt dry. It was weird, I felt skin but it's dry like it doesn't sweat.
As we walked up the hill hand in hand, I saw a lot of people staring at us. It wasn't long until a few people walked up to him and started talking to him. As if by instinct, I switched to his other hand and gave him a squeeze. He squeezed back. This hand felt sweaty and warm, I realized that it's his real hand.
'You're dating now?' exclaimed a shocked Beverly.
'Looks like I win bitch,' I smiled smugly. I always wanted to say that.
'Lance, thanks for coming man,' said Jonathan, who I knew was the student council president for UNIMAS.
'No problem, but I have to go now,' he said.
'Why? We haven't even started,' he said.
'Well, I'm going to take someone special to the movies tonight,' he said while giving my hand a squeeze and looking at me when he said the words someone special.
He glanced at me for a second and redirected his attention back to Lance. 'Dude, I think you can go any other night la right?' he said. I saw some disapproving looks thrown at me.
'You've something against us dating?' I said, throwing a look at a particular girl.
'Especially on a night like this, yes. Why are you so selfish?' she asked.
'Let me make it clear. He actually came to support this crap. I am here to get him out,' he said.
Gasp, shocked expressions and little conversations suddenly broke out.
'Why? Bro, we're doing this to support you. We are doing this for your community. Just come, take a seat and pray together,' said Jonathan.
'Who says I wanted to be a part of that community? I never was nor will I ever be a part of that community! Look you people can pray, condemn, criticize all the fuck you want but that's not going to bring any of those people back, it's not going to bring my hand back and it's not going to stop those people from killing. Now can you just get out of my fucking way so that I can leave your shitty rally!'
The sea of people that crowded us broke in two. I can feel his hands shaking as he gripped my hand harder as people saw us walk together, leaving the park.
'So are we dating?' he asked as he took a swig from his bottle.
'After all that, you wanted to ask whether or not we're dating?' I asked. After the whole debacle, we didn't feel like going for a movie so I suggested some place quiet so that we could talk. The aforementioned place is a tiny apartment in Batu Kawa that my great grandparents bought as an investment but currently being used by me and my brothers as a place to hold barbecues and parties.
'Yeah, cannot meh?' he said.
'I don't know you well enough. Plus we have to wait like six months to make it official,' I said.
'Well, let's get one problem out of the equation then,' he said. 'What you wanna know?'
I looked at him and thought about it for a while then I asked him. 'Tell me about your prosthetic.'
'Well...,' he said and he took of his shirt.
'Whoa whoa whoa, hold it hombre. I said tell me about your prosthetic, not show me your abs,' I said. Although I didn't actually mind that.
'If you would just shut up and trust me? I'll explain everything,' he said. 'I'm guessing you know which is the real hand.'
'The sweaty one,' I said while pointing to his left.
'Correct,' he said. 'Can you feel or see which part of my hand is real?' He put my hand on to his right forearm, moving it up and down.
'Honestly, I can't tell the difference but I know at least your forearm isn't real,' I said.
'Now before you ask, I can't take it off. It's kinda attached to my body,' he said.
'Why is that so?' I asked.
'Well, to put it in layman's terms. Some people even though their limbs are amputated, their nerves are still functioning. These are the lucky ones because they can just get a normal one where it scans the nerves and the hand functions as normal. I'm not that fortunate. My nerves are fried from the accident and they have to form an alternative route that connects it from here,' he explained as he put my hands under his elbow where a small weird bump can be found. He guided my hands under his tricep, past his shoulder blades, up his neck and ended on a metal thing behind his ear. 'To here.'
I felt the metal thing. It's like an earring that curves behind his ear and I touched his hair. I stared into his eyes and we just lingered there for a moment. 'Are you scared?' I asked.
'Every fucking day. I was just want to be normal again. Where people see me as Lance, the alpha male and not Lance, the cripple who's probably going to end up dead on a ditch with his arm ripped off any day,' he said. 'And you, Kayden. I've always known that you see it like it is and that's what I like about you a lot. You see past other people and look at them for who they truly are.'
'I think you're saying all of this because you're trying to kiss me,' I said.
'Is it working?' he grinned as he leaned in. I felt his lips, I felt his tongue trying to get into my mouth. He took my shirt off and I let him. He just stared at me.
'Wow,' he said as he hungrily admired my body. It's not as impressive as his but the fact that it turned him on turned me on. He plunged back in and I felt his mouth on my neck and I groaned. Fuck. He found the sweet spot. He rose up and saw my face. He was grinning with mischief, wiggling his eyebrows. I stared at him in great fear because there'll probably be a mark on my neck that will raise questions the very next morning.
He plunged back in and attacked my neck like a vampire. Sucking it and licking it. As I realized that he was trying to unbutton my pants, I immediately jolted from the couch. 'Whoa, whoa, whoa,' I said as. He was breathing heavily and I was breathing heavily.
'We shouldn't do this. We shouldn't let our erections detect our actions,' I said as I tried in my dazed state to search for my shirt somewhere on the floor. 'I mean we haven't even had a third date yet and don't you think it's going too fast?'
'Date one: coffee. Date two: rally, Date three: just now. Are you a virgin?' he asked.
'No,' I said.
'So why not? I dunno about you but I've been wanting to do this for quite a while now so what say you?' He asked.
'I've been wanting to do this for quite a while too,' I said. 'But not like this.'
'Then how?' he asked.
'Like this,' I said. I turned him so that I am on top.
'I could get used to this,' he said.
'Shut up,' I said and resumed kissing him.