I sit on the train to Gyeonggi, looking down at my phone. I haven’t heard from Grace for the past week; she’s either busy, too tired, or with little bean. I respect her space, but, she is my girlfriend, and I would love to actually talk with her.
I don’t like this feeling that something is just not being spoken about. I trust Grace, but perhaps I trust her too much. Would she actually hide something from me? That’s not like Grace. She’s never came across as being one of those women.
The last time I loved a woman, I was young and naive. I was so in love with her, and she knew that I did. So when she stopped talking to me out of the blue when I was in law school, I knew she made her mind up. She didn’t bother to break up with me, she just declared it when she stopped responding to me.
My phone vibrates in my hand; it’s Mina.
“yeoboseyo?” I answered.
“Jaemin-ah,” Mina said. “Are you close by? I’m close to the train station.”
“I should be there in 45 minutes, Nonna,” I responded. I looked out to the city turning into rural. The sun was surprisingly bright on this February day.
“Okay, see you soon!” Mina said and the phone went dead. I rested my head on the seat and shut my eyes. Jagiya, what’s going on with you?
I get off the train and walked towards the exit. I see Mina parked in front. I hopped into her car.
“Hey, noona,” I greeted. Mina smiled and waited until I was ready to go.
“Eomma is excited to see you,” Mina started off the conversation. Mina has always been the closest to our mom. Perhaps it’s just the duty of being the eldest sibling in a family. If I need to ever find out how mom was, I could always rely on Mina.
“Yeah, it’s good to be home for a bit,” I responded.
“You mean for good,” Mina corrected. I looked over to her as she looked forward to drive. I knew where that comment came from.
“I mean in Gyeonggi,” I said. Mina chuckled and brushed it off. She knows what I meant.
“So, you’ve been adjusting back to life alright? Have you’ve become butter?” Mina teased. I rolled my eyes at the comment. She asked if I was now “too American” for Korean life.
“Very funny,” I deadpanned. “I’m adjusting just fine.” I looked out the window. Home, huh?
“You know,” Mina began. I looked at her as she spoke. “I know you liked it in America, but, I don’t know, it’s just not what I thought it was going to be.”
“We’re different people, noona,” I responded. “I enjoyed my time there.”
“Well,” Mina sighed. “I don’t know. I just felt like you do so much better in Korea. You live your own life, not under the roof of some random American girl–“
“Grace.” I corrected. “Her name is Grace.”
“Yeah, her.” Mina replied.
“You know she’s my girlfriend, right?” I said. Mina quickly looked at me and then back on the road. I could tell she was trying to keep her composure.
“Why don’t we know about this?” Mina asked. She’s right. Why doesn’t my own family know that Grace and I are a couple? Why doesn’t it feel like Grace and I are a couple? Before I could answer, I heard Mina sigh.
“Jaemin-ah,” Mina started. “I only want what’s best for you. We all do. I know you care about this girl a lot, but maybe it’s time to face the fact that it wasn’t meant to last. She may have been great company for you in America, but there’s just no way to make a long-distance relationship like this work.”
I didn’t say anything back. I didn’t want to talk about it anymore.
Eomma was happy to see me. She gave me the tightest hug when I entered the house. I think this was the one thing I missed about Korea; seeing the smile on my mother’s face when she saw all her kids under the same roof.
“Jaemin,” my mom greeted me.
“Hi, eomma,” I smiled back and greeted her. “How have you’ve been? You’re okay?”
“Nonsense! I’m okay, don’t worry about me,” my mom protested. Lia came into the room to greet me as well as Mina’s children. I picked up the youngest little girl, my niece, who just recently turned two years old.
“Aejeongie,” I cooed. She smiled and giggled, in which Mina widen her eyes in shock.
“I’m shocked she didn’t cry out,” Mina explained.
“I’m her uncle, noona, of course she’s going to know me,” I responded.
“Yeah, but you’ve been America for a year!” Mina coughed out. I looked at Mina, annoyed. I look at Lia, who looks just as shocked at Mina’s response.
I placed Aejeong back on the floor, where she walked towards her older sister.
“Jaemin-ah, can you help me set up for dinner?” Lia asked. I nodded my head and walked with Lia into the kitchen.
“Dinner was delicious,” Mina said to our mom. Eomma smiled and held her heart.
“I’m glad all of my children are here with me,” Mom responded.
Lia and I got up to gather the plates and dishes and brought them into the kitchen.
“Jaemin-ah, are you okay?” Lia asked. I looked over at her as she was washing the dishes.
“Yeah, I’m okay. Why?” I wondered. Lia didn’t say anything; she just sighed.
“I know Mina is being tough on you about the whole America thing,” Lia confessed. “She just wants what’s best for you. You know how noona is.”
“I just don’t like how she’s been talking about it,” I said. “Making everything as this joke. My time there was not a joke,” I began to get angry. Lia quickly noticed.
“Ya,” Lia stated. “You know she doesn’t mean it.”
“Minji-noona,” I pleaded. “I don’t like how she talks about Grace.” I could see Lia looking at me while cleaning the dishes. “Has she spoke about Grace to you?”
“Jaemin-ah,” Lia sighed. “I don’t want to spread gossip round.”
“Grace is my girlfriend.” I finally said out loud. Lia stopped what she was doing to look at me. She apparently didn’t have any idea either.
“Mwo? But she’s across the world,” Lia stated. I looked at her and rubbed the back of my neck. I felt my ears getting hot and red.
“I… I love her, noona,” I confessed to my sister. Lia, although closer to Mina for obvious reasons, was always easy to tell personal things to. She wasn’t as judgmental as Mina, but I know this information will go back to Mina when I’m not around.
“She’s a sweet person,” Lia started. She looked perplexed. I don’t blame her for being so. “But,” Lia tried to piece together her train of thought. “What are the odds you guys can actually be together? She can’t drop her life in America to come here with you, and you can’t keep spending millions of won to America.” She finally turned the faucet off and dried her hands with the hand towel. She finally turned to look at me.
“Have you spoken to her since you’ve been back?” Lia asked. I wanted to lie. I wanted to play it off like we’re both just carrying our lives as smooth and positive as possible. But Lia knows when I’m lying, so why bother?
“I haven’t spoken to her recently.” I faintly said.
“Jaemin-ah!” Lia shouted. “Why haven’t you called her?”
“That’s the thing,” I responded. “I’ve been trying to get in contact with her for the last week and a half. She’s not answering me or something.” Lia looked more panicked than me. Maybe I was just used to the silence on the other end of the phone whenever I tried to call Grace.
“Minji-noona?” I asked. Lia looked at me. “Do you think she’s hiding something?” Lia didn’t answer right away. She didn’t need to.
“A long-distance relationship isn’t the easiest thing to obtain,” Lia finally said. “I mean, you and Seohyun-ah lived in different areas and it was still–“
“Grace is not Seohyun,” I interrupted. “Grace is different.”
“Then what are you going to do about her not answering your calls? Go back to America?” Lia said, now annoyed at the conversation. I left the kitchen and grabbed my phone from the counter, walking passed Mina and my mom in the dining area, towards the front door. It’s about 7:30 in America; she still has to be up.
I called her phone and it rings. Nothing. I hung up, dialed again, and the phone rings. Nothing.
“Aigoo, answer me or something!” I shouted on the phone while it continued to ring. I hung up the phone and placed the phone in my pocket. Why would Grace ignore me? What the hell are we even? I look up towards the sunset and took a deep breath.
Maybe it was time we break up.