TRACKSIDED

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We walk inside, and as always, Young-Ae is the first to greet us, “omo, omona, halemeoni come quickly.”

“Young Ae, I told you don’t scream likeㅡ.”

My gran stops. Jane, as always, is looking around, unaware of the situation as usual.

Gran approaches, “Tae Won-ah, is thisㅡ.”

“Yes, I told you I’d bring her.”

Jane’s focus is back, and she stares surprised at the grin my gran is giving her.

“Jane, meet my grandmother. Halmeoni, this is Jane, my girlfriend.”

As I see how red Jane becomes, I regret not telling her who she would meet. I mentally punch myself when I watch her face turn ghost white.

“Helㅡlo,” gran says.

“Jane speaks Korean grandma.”

Both my gran and young Ae place a hand on their heart in relief.

“Nice to meet you; my name is Hong Yun Hye,” grandma says.

“Nice to meet you. I’m Jane.”

Some customers look at the scene smile.

“Oh, don’t stay there, come and sit down, ichuguru [this way], Young-Ae.”

“Arayo [I know],” she says, entering the kitchen.

“Gran, can I take a shower? We were at the seaㅡ.”

“Yes, you can go up.”

I turn, “Jane, come up to the apartment.”

Without a word, she follows. She seems uncomfortable. Once upstairs, I take Jane to the living room; she looks mesmerized by the walls.

“Oh, yeah, there are a lot of photos.”

Jane approaches the walls; she seems to be in a trance.

“Jane, is everything alright? I’m sorry about not telling you. I was afraid you’d say no, and I wanted-. I mean, I met your parents in tricky circumstances, but still, I met them, my gran is dear to me, and I wished to present her another special person. I promise we won’t stay long.”

Jane remains silent; the shock must be tremendous than I thought.

“It’s okay,” Jane says as she takes a seat on the couch.

“Okay, I’m going to take my shower. I won’t be long.”

What have I done?

When I come back, I find Jane sobbing in my gran’s arms.

“Jane, what’s the matter?” I say, kneeling before her.

“Aigoo, Tae Won-Ah, I found her crying like this, she hasn’t stopped, and she hasn’t said anything,” my gran says.

My gran seems more worried than astonished by Jane’s behavior.

“Jane, Jane.”

My gran slips out of the room so we can talk.

Jane is pale, as she whispers, “Tae Wonㅡ.”

“I’m sorry, I did wrong. I shouldn’t have broughtㅡ.”

I hate myself.

“It’s not you, I’m-I’m- your gran, she must thinkㅡ.”

“She doesn’t think anything, okay, Jane, she worried that’s all. Tell me what’s wrong.”

“I can’tㅡ.”

All I want to do is to pull Jane in a hug, and I do so, “it’s okay, Jane, don’t worry.”

Whatever is eating Jane up isn’t ready to come out in words. I can wait, and when the time comes, I’ll help her.

We go back down and find a big table filled with dishes; there are only seafood dishes. I doubt Jane will eat grilled food. I see her face scrunching up at the smell.

Jane isn’t fussy, but I know the food is a complicated issue. I want to tell my gran, but I don’t want her to start getting ideas about Jane.

“Just eat what you like, okay,” I whisper in Jane’s ear.

It’s a good thing I swam; I’ll be able to compensate for her lack of appetite.

My gran sits down to watch; she urges Jane to eat, “mani beogeot [ eat a lot, bonne appetite] when the heart is hurting there’s nothing better than eating to calm the soul. Aigoo, she truly broke my heart earlier, Tae Won-ah.”

“It’s okay, gran, it’s just the emotion of meeting you. I didn’t tell her we would see you.”

“Omo, Tae Won, how you could do that to her.”

“Nappeunomi [evil man],” Young-Ae says as she passes with dishes. No, seriously, what kind of ears does she have?

“Oh, mani dulraeta [you must be surprised]”

Jane speaks up to my surprise in her shy Korean,” I feel bad I didn’t even bring you a present to thank you for the rice cakes, ”

“Omo, qwenchana, you are making uri Tae Won smile. It’s a great enough gift,” gran says as she leans to pat Jane on the head.

We eat, and Jane relaxes a little, there are quite a few customers, and gran can’t stay with us.

“Your gran is very brave.”

“Yeah, she’s the strongest woman I know.”

Jane seems lost in translation. I sit and watch her gaze follow gran, wondering why she cried earlier. I hate seeing her suffer; I wish I could kill the source of Jane’s pain and free her.

The smell of food is getting stronger as all the tables find themselves filled with customers. Jane seems on the verge of fainting.

“Have you finished? Tae Won take Jane outside. She looks like she needs some fresh air,” gran says.

We go out, and we walk hand in hand.

“I’m sorry.”

I stop in my stride, “about what?”

“Crying and spoiling everything.”

“It’s okay; it’s already forgotten.”

We find a bench and sit down.

“I love this place; you’re lucky to have grown up here. I wish I did too.”

“You could live here,” I say, turning my head to face her.

Jane smiles, “what would I do? sell mandos [dumplings] on the beach?”

“It’s a start.”

“I could become a swimming teacher, and we couldㅡ.”

What I’m I saying? Tae Won micheosseo [are you crazy]?

We haven’t even passed the 100th day anniversary that I’m making plans on comets, and I’m almost proposing. I wonder how Jane perceives what I said?

Tears are rolling down her eyes, “if only it were possible.”

I don’t know if she’s talking to herself or me; all I know at this instant is that I love her.

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