[Editor’s Note : Every week we will be publishing one chapter from Ansh Das’s book, The Memory Of A Face. Needless to say, we are super excited! Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8, Chapter 9, Chapter 10, Chapter 11, Chapter 12, Chapter 13, Chapter 14, Chapter 15, Chapter 16, Chapter 17, Chapter 18, Chapter 19 & Chapter 20]
The story of Nyle
Diano took a deep breath before he spoke again.
“I met him at a public pool. It was a long summer and I’d enrolled in a swimming course to beat the heat.”
“What did he look like?” Andy asked.
“Although he was seventeen, he looked younger with his long hair and a beautiful smile on his baby face. How can I ever forget that face?”
“Must’ve been a very special one.” Andy smiled.
“We were in separate classes and practiced with our teams at opposite ends of the pool. But once we got started talking to each other, we met outside for basketball, karaoke and dinner.”
Diano shifted into a more comfortable position on the bed.
“One evening, we planned to meet for drinks at Lan Kwai Fong. Instead of the usual basketball shorts, he turned up in shirt, trousers, and a blue silk tie. His hair was neatly gelled, in complete contrast to the unkempt look he wore all the time. I couldn’t recognize him at first. After a vodka, he went red in the face and started grinning like a monkey.”
“After that evening, he’d often come over to my place for drinks. You see, he loved vodka, but he was underaged. He couldn’t buy alcohol.” Diano laughed. “We’d watch concert DVDs and invite friends over for mah jong. His amiable nature made him an instant hit with my friends.”
“He had problems at home. When we were alone, he’d cry about how he was being ill-treated by his parents. They had no confidence in him. They didn’t allow him to do things his friends normally did, like play TV games. They wouldn’t give him money when he needed some. They were very strict.”
“Er… Doesn’t that sound like all parents in general?”
“Well, they were funny alright. They played their strange games on me too. When I’d call him, on one day they’d talk to me, but on another day they’d act as if they didn’t recognize me.”
“Yes. It was frustrating and confusing. So I tried to be an elder brother to him.”
“Yes. I know. Well, it started off as that anyway.
“What’s his name?”
“I like that name,” said Andy. “So when did brotherhood turn into love?”
“I think it was on a trip to Thailand.” Diano smiled as he thought about that trip.
“Ooh. I’ve always wanted to go there,” Andy said. “Sorry, go on.”
“It was a short one to Bangkok and Pattaya. The plan was to eat, shop and play.”
“That’s nice.” Andy said. “And romantic.”
“Yes.” Diano let out a small sigh. “He wanted to walk on the sea bed. So we got onto this boat that took us out to a bigger vessel, anchored about 2 km off one of the islands, where we put on huge helmets that had breathing apparatuses attached to them. He looked scared, excited and happy at the same time. Ha-ha.”
“I went down the rungs one after another until the water rose up to take me in. It was dark and murky. Daylight was too weak to reach the ocean floor.”
“That’s scary. I’m not sure I can handle that in real life.”
“It’s not that bad.” Diano laughed. “Anybody can do it. I’m sure you can too.”
“I hope so. What happened next?”
“When he entered the water and reached the ocean bed, he reached out to me. I’d never held his hand before. If felt strange yet romantic. We walked along the ocean floor, staying well within the roped area.”
“How was it?”
“Amazing. Hundreds of fishes gathered around us as we fed them bread crumbs. They swam next to our visors and brushed against our bare bodies. It was fun to be close to them.”
“I’d like to try that some day.” Andy smiled.
“Yes, you must! It’s fun.”
“Sorry, I keep interrupting you. Carry on.”
“Then I tried to kiss a fish through my visor. Nyle thought I was blowing a kiss at him. So he blew a kiss at me!”
“It was a funny scene. We were playing like two schoolgirls trying to kiss each other on the mouth through the visors that separated us. I’d forgotten we were in Thailand. One of the guides used sign language to ask us if we were lovers. I said no! Then he signaled that we looked good together. I remember blushing. But Nyle smiled mischievously.”
“He climbed out of the water first. I followed behind, rung for rung. He was on his school football and basketball teams, so I was surprised to see him gasp for breath. He wanted to throw up. I looked around desperately but couldn’t locate the washroom. So I took him out to the starboard and asked him to throw over the side. I held him back from behind while he threw up. After he was done, I held his spent, fragile, young body. I sat him up on a chair and washed him.”
“Sea-sickness?” Andy asked.
“Yes. The weather turned bad and the ride back to the main pier was bumpy. He held on to my hand and rested his head on my shoulder. Back at the hotel, that night, he told me that he loved me very much, almost like a brother.”
“Yes. He was more sweet towards me after that day.”
“Who wouldn’t be?” Andy smiled. “So, did anything special happen on that trip?”
“On another evening in Bangkok, a cabbie drove us to the outskirts instead of heading downtown. When I asked him to turn back he started shouting back in Thai. We were surprised. Thai people are so polite, but this guy was a nightmare.”
“God knows what he had in mind for us. It took me some time to convince him that I was going to call the police if he didn’t turn back. He did and we escaped unharmed.”
“Thanks. Ha-ha. Nyle asked me later if I was afraid. I told him I was afraid because he was with me and that I’d be very sad if he were hurt.”
“Aw. That’s sweet of you.”