TRACKSIDED

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바다

TAEWON

I promised I’d come back with Jane, and so here we are heading for Pusan.

Jane is unaware of the reason why I brought her here. For Jane, it’s just an outing at the seaside. For me, it’sㅡI don’t know something other.

Soo Ae met my whole family, and I regret Jane won’t have that chance.

Sometimes I imagine how it would be if she did meet them, but then I think if they were there, she wouldn’t be there. Strangely, I can’t think of a present with all the people I love in the same vision.

In reality, it’s logical; their death is what led me to cross paths with Jane. If they were alive, that route would remain closed.

Dreadful thoughts creep into my head at times when I ask myself the question, if I could choose, what would I decide?

Would I accept the present I’m living in or save my parents and erase everything that happened?

When I look at Jane, I sometimes don’t know what to think, and I hate myself because the choice should be simple. Instantly I feel like an unworthy son and brother.

The train will stop in ten minutes, for the moment I watch Jane sleep; her hair is very red now. I didn’t know she had her hair dyed. I was convinced she was a blonde.

This feature makes her face more exceptional, I mean, blonde with blue eyes is common, and yes, I know a redhead with blue eyes common for westerners though there aren’t many. For most Koreans and me, it’s unique.

Jane is beautiful in her unique way.

I wouldn’t have said this three months ago; Jane hasn’t changed. It’s my image of her, which has evolved for the better.

Here I realize her face has shrunk a lot; her hands are skinny. Jane never wears tight clothes or exposes her body to me; the most I saw of it was in the pool, and her t-shirt became seethrough for the rest she had her jeans. The only thing I noticed was an impressive scar on her right arm.

I hope she’s eating well since I’m aware of her passive with food. I try to be cautious about making her eat without seeming like a bossy ahjumma, but I’m not with her all the time.

Jane’s sleep is troubled; she moves a lot, mumbles, and even shakes.

There are still so many things I don’t know about her. What I’m sure of is there are a lot more explanations surrounding her phobias and other pathologies.

If there is something about Jane, which would have worried my parents, it would be her mental health.

Unlike in Western cultures, people aren’t diligent about sicknesses like depression. Once diagnosed, people here will hide, not wanting to be ostracized. I know it’s the same in some countries, but I just think Westerners are more relaxed about it.

My parents were open-minded, but I doubt they would be happy knowing the person I desire to be with is prone to depression.

It’s only now I’m able to admit I was depressed since my family perished.

I feel as though I’m pulling through, and it bothers me to think I can’t help Jane the way she helped me.

“Jane, Jane, we’ve arrived,” I say as I shake her shoulder.

Her eyes shine like headlights when she opens them.

“Did I drool?”

I ruffle her hair, “is that all you are worried about?”

We get up; no one stares at us. Pusan is a very cosmopolitan city people mingle effortlessly. Of course, you can’t avoid the gaping mouth of a little child who has never seen a traveler.

“Min Ju, close your mouth; it’s rude to stare,” the child’s mother says while giving me a small bow of apology. Like always, Jane doesn’t notice.

“Where are we going?”

“To the sea andㅡ.”

I stop. I have to tell Jane now, I can’t leave her in the dark, but I don’t want to stress her either.

“And I want us to eat at a restaurant?”

Jane smiles; she’s nervous, but replies, “okay, let’s go.”

We’re almost in November. The weather seems beautiful to me, and Jane shivers a little.

As soon as we arrive at the beach and we find a spot, I’m undressing.

“Oh, my goodness, Tae Won, calm down,” Jane grins as she watches at what speed I’m taking off my clothes and rush to the sea.

The waves come and crash on me as I run to the water. I feel as though it’s a welcome hug.

Jane takes her time to take off her shoes before approaching to let the waves hit her bare feet.

I do a few strokes. The sensation is something else; being in the water is the closest thing to anything divine. Swimming in a pool is so limited; I can benefit from the full experience when I’m here. I’m glad, I want to share this; I turn.

“Come.”

“No, Tae Won, you go.”

“I know, brought you a swimming suit.”

Jane shakes her head, “still, I won’t swim.”

“I know you can’t swim, and I don’t want you to seeㅡ.”

Jane’s face becomes awkward, as though she wants to say something, but she doesn’t know how to express it.

“ㅡMy body isn’t nice.”

I step out of the water and sweep my hair back as I walk to her, “I’m sorry; I didn’t mean.”

“It’s okay; it’s me. I’m still learning to live with this body. Don’t worry about me, swim. If you don’t do it, I’ll feel bad. Please.”

I return to the water, and Jane sits down and watches me. After a while, I come out and sit next to her.

“You need a good shower.”

“No, worries, my I mean, the restaurant isn’t far.”

Jane’s stare sweeps the shore, “so this is where you grew up?”

“Yep, I came here every day before and after school. Friends at school used to call me a fish tank; they said my head was filled with water.”

“It must have been horrible to stop your career.”

“I didn’t have the mental state to carry on, but now I want to try again.”

We sit and gaze at the sea in absolute silence.

With only the sound of the waves, a few passers nod in greeting when they see me.

“You’re famous even here.”

“Everyone knows my gran and that I’m her grandson.

Jane’s shuffles; it’s like she can’t find a comfortable position to sit. Her stomach grumbles.

“Perhaps we should go and eat.”

She nods.

“I know an excellent restaurant; you’ll love it.”

As we walk to the restaurant, I pray Jane doesn’t take it badly, I feel I should have told her, but something tells me to leave things the way they are.

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