"David, dude!" Charley waves his hand in front David's eyes trying to get him to snap out of his day dreaming.
"Sorry, I was thinking about something at work." David blushes a little and starts scratching his left eye brow unconsciously.
"Man, don't live to work, work to live." Mike says while looking at him caringly.
"Yeah, if it is worth living that is." David thinks to himself, while looking outside of the window to patches of dead lotus leaves floating lifelessly next to the bridge.
(End of Chapter 3)
"Holy shit! How the hell you expect to live off one carry-on of clothes for a year?!" David asks incredulously while staring at this shabby looking "large" carry-on luggage bag at the foot of Charley's bed.
"So what? I don't like baggage" Charley shrugs. And then he throws himself backward onto one of the queen size beds in his soon to give-up room. A series of terrible squeaking sound pierce out of the mattress as if to further dramatize Charley's landing and subsequent bouncing.
"I think the university administration uses these high-tech mattresses to prevent students from having sex on the school premise." Charley puts on this fake thinking face with his hands behind his head. "Thank god I'm moving out voluntarily. Otherwise, with my sexual appeal, I'd be kicked out of the dorm tomorrow."
"No wonder you travel light. You'd need all your check-in weight for your ego." David shakes his head and moves closer to the window. The room is on the top floor next to a typical university street. It is lined up with book stores and cheap restaurants. At the side of the street, cart-full after cart-full of boot-legged DVDs being sold at $1 per piece. The local students and the foreign ones alike love the convenience of these mobile "Blockbusters".
"Why do you have to be such a smart ass all the time?" Charley admonishes David jokingly with a smirk, "Ah I see. You do have a fairly smart bubble butt."
David can't help himself but blushing two shades of red. To recover, he picks up a cup on the desk to fake a throw at Charley. Charley puts up both his hands and dodges to the right instinctively. Too bad for him, he over rotates and falls off the bed comically.
A glaring siren blasts through the window. David looks outside to see a squad of Police cars come down the street in an apparent attempt to arrest those illegal DVD vendors. However, the vendors are not easy prey of such raid. They kick off the breaks on the carts and push them down the street. With an ant like orderliness and speed, they recede into the small lane (another typical Shanghai scene, lots of mid-to-low income families live in the numerous narrow lanes that carve up most of the residential street blocks into smaller living quarters and mazes. They are usually not admissible to vehicles) openings along the street. The Police don't seem to mind that though. It is probably just a nice power trip and the last thing on their daily rounds.
David felt Charley's presence behind him. "Are the Police coming to rescue me from your second attempt to murder me?" Charley asks sarcastically while rubbing this minor bump on his forehead. "See this is how Concussion disfigures people!"
David turns around and finds him face-to-face with Charley and staring into his bottomless pools of green. As much as he wanted to doll out some quick come-back. It's like he's utterly outwitted. He felt this tightness in his chest. Not from the tongue-tying but from what it reminds him.
It was the second year into his high school. Mike arranged a hiking trip in the French Savoyan Alps across the lake at Evian-les-Bains, the little town where the famous bottled water originated. Unlike Mike, David was not an outdoorsy kind of person. He always used his mother's motto to defend himself "I don't go to place that doesn't have a Four Seasons hotel." But he simply could not say no to Mike. Besides, it was only to be a day trip. So lack of indoor plumbing should probably not be a major issue. So they took off around 7am in the morning.
Two and half hours into the trip ¡
"I hate you! I hate you! I hate you!" David looked up hopelessly to the steep grassy slope Mike picked for them and his extended hand to help David with the "hike". Worst of all, the weather had not been kind. A thick layer of fog had surrounded them for the most of their ascension so far.
"This is freaking climbing!" David held onto Mike's hand while spat out angrily. "I did not sign up for this!"
"Come on, we are almost there." Mike said with encouragement mixed with a trace of amusement.
"You said that an hour and half ago!" All David could think of was in how many ways he could just choke Mike to death on the spot.
"Well I was kind of lost for a bit, the fog's a pain¡" Mike never had any problem admitting he was at fault.
"And now we are on the right track?" That comment apparently did little to easy David's frustration. "Oh, pardon my stupidity, there's no track here! Instead of hiking like human, we are climbing like two baboons"
"Are you jealous of my new magenta Aussiebum?" Mike smacked his strapping derriere, "Sorry buddy, we share almost everything, this is where I have to draw the line!" He has this uncanny ability of turning every David's sarcastic comments right back at him.
"First of all, why a rugby player would order pink undy online is entirely beyond me. And why I am still your friend knowing that you like to prance up-and-down field smashing into men wearing tidy-pinkies eludes me even more." David always resorted to over-eloquence to hide his embarrassment.
"Don't think your snappy wit could hide your jealousy. Your blush tells me all." Mike knew David too well to start argue with him. "And I can make you blush even more."
With that, he chucked his shorts right there and started wiggling his pink muscular ass at David. Of course, David's flawed blushing gene kicked into the high gear. He just couldn't help himself. Mike's ass was probably his best asset. It's unusually defined. It was devoid of any trace of fat, you could see the precise shape of every single muscle in there. With his evenly tanned skin and impossibly hugging designed Aussiebum, pink looked mighty good on him. All David wanted was to reach out and ¡
A sudden wind blew over where they were and parted the thick fog that surrounded them ever since they got to Evian. Looking up, David could see a tall wooden cross at the top of the mountain not too far from where they were[i]. Mike pulled up his shorts and climbed up towards the summit. "Come, there's a meadow up there. We could have our lunch."
David gladly followed, since it not only broke his very awkward trance but also was elated to the prospect of finally sitting down.
By the time they got to the top, the fog was completely gone. The meadow was well grazed and there were some wind eroded smooth stones here and there to sit on. The view was priceless. The emerald Swiss Alps mountain range shimmered under the morning sun with this layer of cloud/fog laced around half way between the peak and the foot. You could see all the towns of Swiss Riviera at the bottom next to the Lake Geneva, Montreux, Vevey, Lutry and Lausanne in the distance. Other European countries always make fun of how slow Swiss are at times (except Belgian, for the reason I would not elaborate here :P). Even Swiss admit to it some time. They have a saying in Swiss French, "There is no fire on the lake." (so what's the rush). But you really can't blame them for it. If you live in the Paradise, speed is really a sin.
"I gotta pee!" Mike stood up and looked around. Having trouble sitting still, He always had reasons to move around.
"But where? I've wanted to go about half hour ago, it's not like there's a bathroom around here." David shrugged and looked around as well.
"Err, like all the other real men would do in the wild, you just let it out and pee." Mike's matter-of-fact tone with his comical gestures mimicking what he was just saying brought David the first laugh of the day.
"Look down there, a little spring, we could just go there." Mike took off without waiting for David.
"But people could be drinking this downstream!" David followed Mike but still thought it would be such a scandalous thing to do.
"Not just anybody, but everybody around the world!" Mike has already started peeing.
David joined him and looked at him with a puzzled look.
With a devious look and a wink, Mike asked. "What water do you think Evian uses?"
"Oh my god!" It's too late for David to stop now. All he could do was veering away from the spring and in the process peed all over his shoes. Also, as a side note, he would never drink Evian after that day[ii].
"Mike, you bastard! The shit you got me into!" David scolded Mike as he was trying to clean up.
"Here some Evian, maybe you want to wash your shoes with." Mike pulled out a bottle of Evian and threw over to David, while trying very hard not to laugh out loud in the whole process.
David caught the water and hurled it right back at Mike aiming at his head. As any good rugby player, he never missed an opportunity to catch a hard throw. Because of the wind, the bottle was flying at a tangent left away from him. He casted himself sideway and caught the bottle with athletic grace and youthful playfulness.
"Ouch!" Mike landed right where they were sitting and his head hit the stone pretty hard.
"Are you all right?" David rushed over and held Mike's face up.
"Emmm, never been better!" With this painfully fake lopsided grin, Mike rubbed his forehead.
David moved his hands away and looked at this pretty angry red bump. Another wind blew over them. Fresh smell of grass mixed with this distinctive smell of Mike after workout engulfed David. Light goat-like musk with this herbal conditioner he used from Provence. It's a mixture of Angelica, Lavender and Geranium essences and smelled truly like what an angel should be. Mike's dark blond hair was blown toward one side and the lighter roots gleamed under the sun. His angular face dirtied slightly during the climb with those permanent dimples that just never quit. There and then, it became agonizingly clear to David that he was in love with his best friend.
David felt a hand on his cheek and was sap back to the reality.
"David, you've got to stop spacing out on me." Charley says quietly with a concerned look on his face.
David moved Charley's hand away and sat down on the edge of the window. "Charley, I've got to tell you something before you go and give up the room."
Charley was wise enough not to make some joke about it as he sense how serious David is.
"I am gay." David says it without much difficulty. "And I just want you to know that before you truly make up your mind."
"So? Big deal, one of my brothers is gay, Mark." Charley answers while still rubbing his forehead. "And we had to share a room before I went to college, so I know all the etiquettes. Such as never dig into your porn stash or use words starts with ¡®V'."
"So long you are cool with my frequent bringing new chick home. I'm cool with your nightly boy toys." Charley says with a smirk that somehow manifests sincerity. "Besides, who says I won't want to experiment." He moves his right eyebrow teasingly after that comment.
"I might be out and gay, but don't equate that with easiness." David pretends that he is taking offense, "I only grant homosexual experimentation when the individual is at least 7 out of 10 when it comes to look."
"Wow, and I'm not?" Charley plays along.
"Well, let me work on my scale. Never had to use negative number you know." With that David bursts out laughing.
"Really, I thought with your Asian half, you had to equip that on your scale." Charley shoots back without batting his eyes.
"Ehmm, why?" David doesn't get it.
"How else would you measure your private part then?" Now it's Charley's turn to laugh.
"Man, good one!" David is really happy that Charley is so open minded and equally sharp witted. He really starts to enjoy their verbal repartee.