Straight to voicemail. Dammit, Grace.
I placed my phone on top of the side table in the living room and quickly took off my glasses to rub the bridge of my nose. I should be heading to bed; it’s nearly midnight and I have a long day ahead of me at the office. My head is pounding and I’m instantly regretting the drinks I had with the guys earlier tonight. Anything to get Grace off my mind for at least one night. Shawn and Kevin knew something was wrong. Our nights out are usually fun and enjoyable. Tonight there was just a lot of understandable silence.
Shawn and Kevin have been two of my closest friends for the last decade. I met them in law school; I’m still shocked that Shawn graduated to this day; Kevin was that one friend that stayed to himself and although he was the youngest, he only spoke when it was important and it was always something that needed to be said.
So when he told me tonight to try and call Grace after her best friend told me to do so, it was only right to at least try. Alas, she didn’t answer, as I assumed she wouldn’t, because I know her.
I know Grace Ashmore. She was spunky and feisty and confident; she knew what she was doing most of the time and she was not a person you messed with, but she also was really small. When life got to her and she was stressed and overwhelmed, she was just this immensely small person in my arms, while she cried herself until she would fall asleep in my lap. Those were the nights I hated the most; seeing Grace upset like that. I would have never thought that the person I met in the cafe during the summer was as small and fragile as she is, but I feel like that makes her so much more human. Grace tries to be perfect, and when she can’t, she becomes human. I appreciate that she trusted me enough to see that human side of her.
The morning I got to the airport, Shawn and Kevin were waiting at our gate, and they instantly knew. They knew I spent my last night with her, into the early morning, and that I had no real sleep before our 14-hour flight. My hair was unkempt, I threw on anything I could find and then threw everything else in my suitcases, and the bags under my eyes told them otherwise.
Just hours before my flight, I laid on Grace’s bed under her, kissing her lips and her body while watching her freckles pop out as she blushed. Just hours before, my hands were tangled in her auburn hair. Just hours before, Grace and I…
Get it together, Jamie. It probably didn’t mean anything anyway.
Once she drove me back to my apartment in the early hours of that morning, she handed me her gray scarf and told me that it was going to be really cold when i leave for the airport in a couple of hours. I didn’t protest, but I know she knew I had a scarf of my own in my apartment. I said nothing of it. I took it and thanked her. A part of me thinks she gave me her scarf as a reminder that she was real. She was in my life. She didn’t want to be forgotten. How could I ever forget a woman like Grace.
I got up from the couch and walked to the cabinet in the kitchen; I know I shouldn’t add on to the alcohol already in my system, but I know I won’t get any sleep if I don’t drink to the point where I pass out. I took the bottle of Makgeolli out of the fridge and twisted the bottle open. I waited to take the first sip of the wine.
“Jamie, Makgeolli is disgusting; how do you even keep it down?”
Seohyun used to tease me about my liking of the off-white colored rice wine when we were in our early 20’s. Every Friday after my classes, we would go out for drinks in the city and enjoy the beginning of our weekends together. She was studying to be a nurse, so our schedules during the week always clashed. Our Fridays used to be my favorite part of the week. We’d go and get drinks, then go back to my apartment while she spent the night. Seohyun was my girlfriend, the woman I thought I would marry, the woman I thought I would come home to when we started a family. My family loved Seohyun and her values. Sometimes I wonder what went wrong for us. She just stopped coming over on Friday nights, stopped calling me, and eventually stopped seeing me. I want to believe it was something other than my job, but I knew better than anyone else we broke up because I loved my job more than her. Our break up messed with my head, and life just felt not worth waking up to every day.
So maybe that’s what Kevin meant that night back in America. Don’t fuck this up like you did with your past. Maybe he had a feeling Grace was just not some American girl keeping me company during my stay there. Grace was different. Grace was the woman I fell in love with. Grace was the woman that instantly can calm me down just by the scent on her gray scarf. It was her. It was something sweet; her scent.
Night like this make me wonder what am I even doing back here. Why am I back in my apartment in Seoul, 14 hours ahead from the person I love, who just so happens to live in New York City? What is keeping me here? My job? My family? My heritage? My life?
My mother always expected me to do better and be better. Growing up as the only boy in my family, my mother expected me to be nothing but the best. Be the best man, the most successful man, the most respected man. I remember crying endlessly to my mother, frustrated learning English in an after-school program wondering why my sisters were allowed to opt out. My sisters, being in their teenager years when I was still in grade school, knew the paths of life they wanted to be in. My mother wanted more for me. She was the one to tell me that I would be the one that would see the world outside of the country, outside from our hometown in Gyeongju. And I did. Numerous of times.
What if Seoul just isn’t home anymore? Would you even consider–
My phone rings and vibrates on the side table in the living room. I quickly walk over to it to see if maybe, just maybe, it was Grace. Nope.
“Mina?” I answered the phone. It’s never a good sign when your sister calls you this late into the night.
“Are you still coming down for mom’s birthday?” Fuck. That really is this weekend.
“Yeah, tell Mom to stop worrying. I’m coming to see you guys.” I rubbed my eyes together in exhaustion; the lack of sleep is catching up to me.
“Okay, just making sure because we haven’t heard from you since you’ve been back! See you then, little brother!”
Mina hangs up the phone before I can even let out a goodbye. That’s Mina for you.
I walk to my bedroom, finally getting ready for bed. I place my phone on my bedside table and go under the covers. I toss and turn in the bed, trying to get comfortable. This bed doesn’t even feel the same anymore. I close my eyes briefly before I shoot up open again.
I sit up in bed and take a deep sigh. I take my phone from the table once more and click over to Grace’s text messages. The last thing she texted me was that she won her case. That was over three weeks ago. I don’t know what came over me that night, but I suddenly got extremely angry. What did I do to Grace that she just didn’t want to talk to me anymore? Did she regret our last night together? Did she just not feel the same way as I did? I just want to know if you and little bean are okay, Gracie.
I don’t know what came over me, but I’m now pressing the record button on our messages and the word-vomit comes pouring out.
“Hey Gracie. I hope you’re doing okay and that you and the little bean are doing okay. I…
Just say it.
I miss you. It’s definitely been weird not having you by my side at every moment of the day. That was possibly the best thing about our time together; you being near me. I miss you.”
I stop talking and immediately delete the voice message. It was now or never.
I press the record button once again.
“I love you. Call me when you’re ready.”