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Tuesday, 13 November 2012

#14: Just the Khue of Us: Part Three

Khue was fairly self-sufficient. He had his own car and, once every two months or so, would make the four-hour drive back to see his family (I found out one of his brothers was a lawyer – so being silent couldn’t have run throughout the family). However, Khue clearly needed someone to help him, if only to get him out of the house and encourage him to make a few friends. How he was going to do this without speaking, I’d yet to figure out.

The lengths to which he’d go to avoid any kind of human interaction were perfectly summed up by a habit he developed towards the end of our house-share. The corridor from the main living area to Khue’s bedroom was perhaps only five metres long – but he began jogging that short distance back to his room, seemingly to avoid the chance of bumping into me. Inspired by the fear of being made to mop up his own pee again, presumably. Or maybe these shuttle runs were part of a new fitness regime? The health benefit of a five-metre jog was going to be minimal; though if he was doing it 20 times a day, it would start to add up.

Despite our ‘distance’, there were moments when we really connected. When, on one occasion, I found blood-soaked tissues floating helplessly in the toilet bowl, I felt the urge to check Khue was alright. I suggested a trip to the doctor, but Khue assured me he was OK, thanking me for my concern (in the form of: “But thanks.”). Within a few days he seemed back to normal – I was tidying up after him like his mother again – but now I didn’t have it in me to get mad. I just felt sorry for him and wanted to help.

A few days later came my chance to try and help trigger Khue’s re-emergence from his shell – like Godzilla from the ocean. I learned the university was going to screen Terminator 3 one evening and decided to invite Khue along. I guessed the last time he’d engaged in social activity was quite possibly when mobile phones were the size of bricks. Surprisingly, he agreed to come.

The flick was a good crack and Khue seemed to enjoy it. He left the lecture theatre before me – I let someone else go ahead – but, I presumed, would be waiting for me in the corridor. I was wrong. Khue had apparently vanished into thin air. Had the TX (female Terminator and star of the franchise's third helping) got him? I walked along the short corridor and turned onto the long one... whereupon I clapped eyes on Khue about 100 yards ahead, shuttle-running towards the main exit.
The cinema incident taught me a lot about the bond (or lack of one) I had with Khue. No matter how hard I tried, there was only so far an amateur psychologist like myself was going to get, in terms of aiding his transformation into a social animal.

However, as the winter semester and our time together drew to a close, I reflected on the fact we'd actually made quite a bit of progress. Khue continued to go about his business, leaving a trail of mess in his wake; and I went about mine, vacuuming up after him. But we’d grown to accept each other – and shared a kind of unspoken mutual respect.

Maybe Khue would sink back into his shell without an English guy to nag him from time-to-time; or maybe he’d continue to take baby steps towards reclaiming a life in the outside world. But, however our futures were destined to unfold, we had surely both learned something from our experience together; something to help us embrace uncertainty with just a tad more confidence.

As the Chicago-bound coach swung out of the university drive, I caught a glimpse of Khue through our house’s kitchen window (our place was opposite the main campus). I could have sworn he aimed a wink in my direction (or maybe it was a nervous twitch). Then within seconds, he was out of sight. In my mind’s eye, I pictured him shuttle-running from the sink to the microwave to rescue a fresh batch of exploding cheese-and-vegetable ravioli.
Living with Khue taught me a lot. Parenting skills. The power of compromise. And how to efficiently deplaster the inner walls of a microwave.

But those 3.something months also taught me I was more patient than I thought. They made me realize I could tolerate more crazy stuff (at least in my own mind) than I'd imagined possible. And they'd added flesh to the bones of that old chestnut of wisdom: 'don't judge a book by its cover'.

Inside Khue's 'book', the few chapters I witnessed revealed elements of a compelling story; one brimming with intrigue, a plethora of mysterious plot-lines, and offering a healthy twist in the tail (/tale).

Hanging out with Khue (in a house-sharing capacity) may have taken my anal obsession for cleanliness (especially in bathrooms) to a whole new level. And put me off cheese & vegetable ravioli for life. But, when all's said (even if only a word or two) and done (however messily), it made me a better person.

Here's to you, Khue. Thanks for the memories. And did you ever make it through that epic bag of rice?


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