Tum wakes up even earlier than usual, bright-eyed. She has waited a long time for this day. Desire aches in her limbs and holds like firm hands her bare thighs now resting on the cool bed sheet.
What would Phong be doing now this early? Perhaps showering, cool water glistening down the muscles of this back, over his skinny bum and thin legs.
As usual Tum’s fingers go straight to their groove between her legs. This has become their way of waking up, and going to sleep for that matter. It’s just about Tum’s only pleasures in life just now.
This morning they are more energetic, getting ready for a special day. They grab, poke and rub so expertly that Tum is very soon tossing about, legs kicking apart and shuddering. Her strange noises rise to the dirty ceiling, to celebrate another day on this earth.
Through the open window of her room on the third floor of a grimy shophouse, the usual traffic noise hammers in and is getting louder. A blue haze rises from the narrow dividing street in front of the dirty wall and the shuttered window of the shophouse opposite, a very toxic good-morning greeting.
Water from the big earthenware urn is icy against her skin. Oye splashes it down her front, a loud breath escaping her mouth. She wants to be extra clean today.
Standing defiantly naked, she pauses for a long while admiring her pale and neglected body. This is your day, body. She splashes her favourite cologne on her cool skin before dressing, stretching out the pleasure of moment.
Tum steps quietly downstairs. Her mother is probably up but has not come out of her room, this being Sunday.
With the door of the shophouse shut behind her, Tum walks quickly with an extra lightness in her steps. The street is busy already.
Phong is waiting at the bus stop, his helmet on his head, and he cradles an extra one in his arms for her. He still wears his numbered orange sleeveless vest that motorcyclists do for identification when they work to cut passengers through busy traffic. A typically thoughtful precaution, just in case someone that she knows sees them.
Tum is quickly astride the pillion having worn a tight-fitting pair of cool trousers for the occasion. As soon as they speed away on the wide road out of town, she hugs Phong around his thin waist, pressing her small breasts on his hard muscular back and moves forward to tighten her thighs on either side of his bottom. The front of her body is already sweaty.
She looks for the potholes and bumps in the road, riding them for the pleasure that they give. One bad stretch actually sends her off, Tum biting her lips and burying her head into Phong’s back. She knows that Phong is enjoying it all too as she clings tighter to his back.
True to its role as the working people’s beach, Cha-um was as usual full of noisy faces enjoying the sea. Phong boldly holds her hand as they march up to the little counter.
The woman owner yawns and smiles while studying them carefully as Phong asks the prices of the rooms. He bravely chooses a more expensive one with air-conditioning in the front from which you can see the muddy waves through the fir trees.
Tum opens a window, sits on the end of the bed and takes deep breaths of the sea breeze. The smell of smoky grilled meat floats up with the street noises. Phong comes to stand right behind her, so that he presses against her back.
With his surprisingly strong hands, he massages her shoulders around her neck, relaxing her whole body. One of his hands, then both, move down to hold her small hard breasts which fitted snugly in the cupped palms. Then he squeezes them, at first gently then harder. Tum can’t help moaning, leaning her head back on him, her eyes closed.
The afternoon sun is shining in through curtains but the air-conditioner blows cold draughts at the ceiling and the double bed. The scene that Tum frequently imagines late in the night in her lonely bedroom is happening right now in broad daylight.
Like honeymooners, they nervously undress each other, standing up in the middle of the room, glancing down at the big bed. The flush of embarrassment of her full nakedness is soon replaced by the joy of seeing Phong’s sensitive body now as bare as hers. But it all seems so very natural, like her dancing in the bathroom that morning.
They hug each other, spin and tumble onto the bouncy bed, giggling. When their skins touch in an embrace that she has dreamed of many times, nothing else in the world matters.
As Phong kneels above her, Tum opens her legs wide and holds her breath. She feels Phong’s hard penis on her opening. She has been practicing for this moment.
It’s an eternity but the plunge finally comes. It is tight and as painful as she had feared. But she holds his penis now in its now home in which it is welcome anytime.
Tum wakes up with a start. She doesn’t know how long she has been asleep but the pink tint in the slanting sunlight tells her that it is about sunset. Her searching hands finds only creased bed sheet . He has probably gone out for some drinks and snacks to bring back.
But there is commotion in the street. Cars beep, people are shouting, a siren wails.
Still naked, Tum approaches the window to see a large crowd on the esplanade road to the right. In a rising panic, Tum dresses hurriedly, still wet between her legs, and runs downstairs. She runs as fast as she can to the crowd, pushing roughly to get through.
A big truck stands sideways, blocking traffic. Underneath its huge front tire is a motorcycle on its side, badly-crushed so that only an intact rear wheel shows from under it. Not far a helmet rests on the bitumen.
Then Tum sees the motorcyclists’ legs arranged in a weird angle under the truck.
“He’s dead for sure, the motorcye,” says an old man next to her, meaning that the victim was a taxi motorcyclist. Tum holds on to someone’s arm.
“Make room for the ambulance,” yells a policeman as he pushes people aside. Tum pushes herself forward and looks down. The motorcyclist’s orange jacket had been turned dark-red by his blood which was still forming an expanding pool on the street.
Ambulance men are struggling now to put the man on their stretcher with his helmet still fastened on his head. They lifted him into the ambulance. Tum pushes blindly forward but was stopped from getting into the vehicle.
“But it’s Phong …!” she shouts uselessly as the ambulance moves off, its sharp siren cutting a path before it.
Tum stumbles into the darkness. When her feet sink into sand, she slumps onto it feeling the cool sand on her face. She sees a Buddhist temple in the countryside, grey smoke blowing from its tall narrow cremation tower through the ornate top into the evening sky. People in black, like so many crows, move solemnly in front of it as monks chant.
It’s the end of her world. Her life is worth nothing now.
A salty sea breeze tries to dry her tears. A figure moves in the deepening shadows between the dark columns of coconut trees.
Phong stands some way off, smiling at her.
His face floats before the starry sky when Tum comes to again, having fainted.
“I’m not a ghost yet,” he says quietly and holds her hard. “Poor you. I realized after a while what had happened, and what you may have thought. I was buying beer at 7-11. “
The lovers cuddle on the sand a long time, tiptoeing later up to their room where they open the curtain and lay naked on the bed. The night, now quiet and still, enfolds them like dark purple silk. Their bodies rejoin again repeatedly the rest of the night until the sun comes out of the sea and gazes on two bare bodies.
Tum’s parents must have noticed a change in their daughter. They work her harder now, cooking noodles and serving steaming bowls after bowls to customers and not letting her go out.
But late at night, after a cleansing shower, Tum lays down again, naked to the ceiling, her legs defiantly spread apart, reliving her afternoon of freedom in all its brightly-lit details.
She holds on to her seaside day and night and sleeps with her arms and legs wrapped around it. No one can take that from her.
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