For once, I feel like a foreigner in this city.
I’m able to give directions like I’ve lived here my entire life. I’m able to go to the good spots in the city to grab lunch or something. I used to have a favorite spot in the city. To be quite honest, I haven’t been back since I got back to America.
I thought the city is forever changing. I thought things disappear and reappear as something new every other month. But, to my surprise, some of the things that were here before are still here, surviving like it doesn’t hold some of the most painful memories this city has on me.
“Hyung!” I turned around to see Shawn and Kevin walking out of the building our law firm is using for this new case. I was tired of the travels, to be honest. To know that I can sit in my apartment in Incheon one night, and then fly across the world to live in a NYC apartment for a couple of months was starting to wear me out. I was turning 30 in April, and this back and forth for the job isn’t something I enjoy doing anymore. Besides this case, there’s really no reason for me to be here.
“Mwo?” I responded.
“Lunch is on Kevin; wanna join?” Shawn said. Kevin hits Shawn’s arm, clearly not aware he was paying today. I laughed; if there’s anything I’m happy about is that the firm put Shawn and Kevin on this case with me. Some sort of distraction while I’m here.
“Sure, you have a place in mind?” I questioned. They both looked clueless. I couldn’t help but laugh; in the year that I did live in America, Shawn and Kevin came to visit for the holidays. I was surprised they were able to get back to their hotel in one piece after the nights we would go out for dinner and drinks. Those were the good times.
“How about the cafe? They used to serve a lot of good food there,” Kevin insisted. I looked at Kevin intently; it felt like he was up to something.
“You guys should want to try other food that isn’t the cafe,” I protested.
“Listen, their bagel sandwiches are some of the best things I’ve ever had. I don’t know what’s in their bread, but it’s too good to pass,” Kevin explained. He then smirked. Kevin…
“Plus, I’m paying, so it’s my choice of where we’re going,” Kevin declared. Clearly, I wasn’t happy. I didn’t want to go to the cafe. I didn’t want to walk in there and be reminded of my past. The smells, the atmosphere; it’s just something I didn’t feel like reliving.
“Let’s go then, I’m freezing,” Shawn said as he zipped up his coat up to his neck. There wasn’t that much snow on the ground, but it was cold enough for that snow to stay longer than it should. Was it always this cold in NYC?
“Oh, hyung,” Kevin started. “They wanted me to had you over the case folder.” I looked at the literal novel in Kevin’s hands. Aigoo.
“Is that all?” I said, sarcastically. Kevin deadpanned as I smiled to my own joke.
“So, Shawn wants a hot chocolate, and I want that bagel sandwich,” Kevin listed.
“Are you not going to order?” I asked.
“Well…” Kevin dragged. Kevin, a man in his late 20’s, would still feel incredibly shy making orders for himself. He didn’t do it in Korea, so what made me think he would do it in a country where he doesn’t fully speak the preferred language?
“I’ll order for us,” I finally gave in. Kevin smiled and handed over his wallet to me. He walked out of the line and left me there. The line was longer than usual today.
There were about 2 people in the entire cafe this morning. We walked into it, assuming they had just opened for the day or something. She sat at our usual table as I ordered our usual; a cappuccino with a shot of expresso for me; an iced Americano for her.
I walked back to our table and placed the drinks down first before placing the brown bag on the table. She looked up at me as I sat down across from her.
“Cookies,” I said. “I know you were going to ask for them. She smiled. I liked knowing that our routine was like this on most days; simple.
“Thanks,” she said. She’s been under the weather lately, and I hate to see her so miserable. I was hoping that some cookies would help cheer her up. I made a goofy smile which made her laugh. She was so simple to make feel better, which I was happy about. My phone vibrated in my pocket, so I decided to check it when Grace was eating her cookies. It was an voicemail from the South Korea Embassy. I put my phone in my pocket and put my attention back onto her. Jagiya. Grace.
“So, I was thinking,” I started off. Grace looked up from her cookie to listen to me speak. “Maybe we can go for a mini vacation sometime soon. You, me, Little Bean,” I was a little nervous to throw something so random like this out there. Grace raised her eyebrows, visibly shocked.
“You want to go away with both me and Willow?” Grace asked.
“Yeah,” I didn’t hesitate to answer. I wanted to show Grace that I was here, with her, and if everything goes as planned, I’ll–
“That’s very sweet of you, Jamie, but–” Grace started to say. “I just don’t feel right taking Willow away from Max with…” She couldn’t finish the sentence. She didn’t have to.
I nodded my head and let it go. I didn’t want to stress Grace out more than she has been lately. She already looked like she wanted to apologize, so instead I just smiled. I didn’t want to her to worry she had said or done the wrong thing.
I didn’t realize my papers had fallen on the floor until I felt the impact of a person rushing by me. I quickly bent down to the ground to gather them up. Whoever this was was in a hurry.
“Omg, I’m so sorry!” the person said. I stopped picking up the papers and looked back. The front door to the cafe was swung open. Shawn and Kevin came by to help pick up the rest of the file from the cafe floor.
I just froze. It was like my body didn’t know how to react, or to react at all. Maybe I’m just imagining things. Maybe I’m just so in my own head that I didn’t realize I was just imagining things. It wasn’t long until Shawn and Kevin looked up at me and snapped their fingers in front of my face. I blinked, now focused on them.
“Are you alright, hyung?” Kevin immediately asked.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” I looked back down to the ground and picked up the remaining papers from the file. We all got back up from the floor and Shawn followed Kevin back to the table where they were. I immediately turned around when I heard the barista call for the next person. Maybe it was just in my head, Maybe it was just something from my past that I need to forget.