I laughed out loud watching Shawn and Kevin bring out the birthday cake from the kitchen. The birthday cake had cute tiny teddy bears on it; the cake was suitable for a 12-year-old child more than a 32-year-old man. I smile though, watching my two friends carry this cake to the table and sing happy birthday to me.
I can’t believe another year has passed by. It was not too long ago when I even turned 30, yet here I am, two years into these 30’s. Things have been strangely different these last couple of months. For one. Spring has begun, and the leaves on the trees are starting to show on the branches. The flowers are blooming in every grassy area in the city, and I’ve been back in Korea for about 3 months now. Speaking nothing but Korean for the last couple of months has made me worried that perhaps my English isn’t so good anymore. Every now and then, I try to talk English to those around me, even though they don’t understand what I am saying. The firm’s been good. Minor cases here and there for the most part; I’m glad that they’ve been this way. I’m starting to realize that I’ve been a prosecutor for almost a decade and while I enjoy it and love my job, I can feel myself getting tired and burned out. Men my age have families, wives, lives that they help take care of. Men who are lawyers seem to not have that, or maybe it’s just me.
Shawn will probably never have a serious girlfriend; he gets too distracted and his attention span is pretty much non-existent. Shawn, while great at keeping focused on his job and able to crack the cases in his unique way, seems to think life is about just living it for yourself. His ideology is his own, and as a friend, I have to respect it. Kevin on the other hand is currently in a relationship. She’s a program manager for a small company in Incheon; whenever Kevin isn’t in Seoul, he pretty much spends his time with her. I’m glad though; someone was able to finally get Kevin to let loose a little and settle with a woman.
As for me, I’ve been keeping myself busy being with my family on most of my off-days. My eldest sister, Mina, is pregnant with her third child; her husband is hoping this one is a boy after having two girls, my nieces Aerin and Aejeong. Lia is prepping her wedding with her fiance, which is exciting for my sisters and mother. For me, I just tag along to these wine tastings since Lia knows I know my wine quite well… although there were times my face turned as red as a tomato afterward. My family seemed happy that I was back home. They felt like I was more a part of the family than I have been in the last couple of years. I guess that really put a toll on my family; not having their youngest brother and only son in the same country with them for months on end.
“Hyung, blow out the candles! They’re melting!” Shawn shouted. I snapped back to reality and blew out the candles on the cake. They placed the cake on the table and clapped their hands in celebration.
“Ya, you guys didn’t have to do this,” I humbly stated. Shawn and Kevin both sucked their teeth, not wanting to hear what I had to say.
“Birthdays are important, hyung, we aren’t getting any younger,” Kevin stated. I side-eyed him when he said that. This is coming from the 28-year-old himself. I nodded my head, agreeing with what he said.
“Well nevertheless, I appreciate you guys going through this trouble,” I said. Shawn and Kevin don’t say or do anything. They just look at each other with their hands crossed behind their backs. I raised an eyebrow. “Is there something else you need to tell me?” I said, now curious. Shawn grinned from ear-to-ear, wanting to spill whatever he was hiding from me, but Kevin kept shushing him and calming him down. Kevin was the one to finally speak up.
“Hyung and I got you a gift,” Kevin stated. I didn’t understand what the fuss was about for a gift. I look at them both, waiting for one of them to say more.
“We figured another blazer wouldn’t cut it,” Shawn said as he reached for his bag.
“Ah, thank you for sparing me another blazer in my closet,” I teased. Kevin rolled his eyes and looked at Shawn, who finally skips over with the gift in his hand. He hands it to me and before I could even open up the envelope, Shawn stops me.
“Ah, hyung! We hope you really like this!” Shawn said; the grin never leaving his face. I open the envelope and pull out a little booklet. I open it up to see boarding passes. I look up to the guys, confused and concerned.
“What? What is this?” I asked. I read the ticket in which said “Incheon, SK -> Santa Monica, California (USA)” I widen my eyes and looked back up at Shawn and Kevin.
“Surprise! We’re going to California!” both Shawn and Kevin said. I was so confused. I didn’t have any words to say.
“We wanted to take the summer off and do a guy’s trip to America,” Kevin started. “We picked California because, well, you went on vacation there once anyway–“
“And it’s not New York,” Shawn added. Kevin gives Shawn the side-eye; I already knew why.
“Ya, this is a great gift, but…” I begin to say. To be honest, I was nervous about going back to America. Sure, this time I would be as far away from New York City as possible, but something felt weird about this vacation. “… I don’t know if going to America is a good idea.”
“What” Shawn responded first. Kevin quickly did afterward.
“Hyung, this is a vacation in a place where you haven’t been in years. This isn’t business, and this isn’t a situation where you’ll be staying in America. We’re just going for the summer.”
“And you’re just willing to leave your girlfriend in Korea for the summer?” I asked Kevin. He looked nervous, but of course, he had an answer.
“She’s actually spending the summer with my family,” I widened my eyes in shock; so did Shawn.
“You know that’s pretty much like a marriage, right?” Shawn said. Kevin smiled and then immediately gained his composure. He brought the attention back to me.
“Hyung,” Kevin started. “I think this would be a great trip for us. I think this really might be one of the last trips we get to take before… well before things change.” I didn’t know what he meant by that, but perhaps he meant that he was going to take the relationship to another level with his girlfriend. I couldn’t help but smile, but still ponder the possibility of going back to America. But, maybe this is what I needed to fall in love with the country once again. Maybe this is what I need to explore and have fun for the first time in a long time. My family was doing alright, and like Kevin said: it’s a vacation, which means we’ll come back home.
I took a deep breath and looked at the guys. “Well,” I started to say. “I guess we’re going to America this summer.”