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    Since returning from Rome, I’ve had three days off. During that time, I received three calls from Han Jae-yi. Just before I boarded the plane, right after I went through immigration, and on the bus back home. He kept asking the same things. Did you sleep well? Did you eat? Are you tired? These questions, which were once mere pleasantries, now held genuine concern and curiosity.

    Are you doing well over there? Are you okay without me?

    As I gradually adjusted to our changed relationship, I received a message from Alain. He sent a photo of the familiar Incheon Airport on SNS with the message “Seoul now.” He mentioned he had a reason to visit Japan, and it seemed he had dropped by as casually as if visiting a neighbor.

    I pressed the call button. He answered almost immediately, as if he had been waiting.

    -Maxie, I’m already in love with Seoul.

    “Where are you?”

    -Here at Ahcha Mountain, Acha Mountain? (Pierre, what was this place called again? Ah, right.) I’m at a hotel near Achasan. We’re having lunch with the staff, and the food is amazing. Plus, dishes we didn’t even order keep coming out. Everyone is so friendly. I understand why you came to Korea.

    I laughed, picturing Alain sitting in a traditional Korean restaurant, enjoying a 7-dish meal.

    “How long are you staying?”

    -About three days. Let’s meet today or tomorrow if you don’t have a flight.”

    “No, I don’t have one. Tonight works, and all day tomorrow is fine too.”

    -So let’s have a drink tonight and go sightseeing all day tomorrow. You speak Korean.

    “I can speak Korean, but my knowledge is similar to yours.”

    -Perfect. It’ll be fun to wander around together.

    With that, I hung up the phone and searched the internet for the words ‘Seoul tourism’. I marked a few places Alain might like, then sighed. I’m not confident in such things. Leaving the high-risk Seoul tour aside, I opened my messaging app. He might be awake by now.

    [Alain is in Seoul, and I don’t know where to take him]

    After sending the message, I went to the bathroom. While showering, I thought about Han Jae-yi. His eyes swaying with intoxication and the passionate kiss without any regard for the consequences. We lived our lives thousands of kilometers apart, but I hoped he thought about me several times a day. I wished he would think about us up until yesterday when he woke up in the morning.

    When I got out of the shower, there was a missed call from him. I dried my hair, put it on speaker, and dialed.

    “Good morning.”

    -Good morning, no, you must be in the afternoon

    Han Jae-yi’s voice came through, sounding slightly awake.

    “Are you ready for work yet?”

    -No, just being lazy. But waking up to your voice is great

    The image of Han Jae-yi with his disheveled hair and face buried in a large pillow came to mind. I couldn’t help but smile.

    “Did you see the message? Alain is in Seoul.”

    -Yeah, I saw it. Just take him to a Hanok Village or something. He likes that kind of stuff. Or maybe a club in Itaewon, no, don’t go there. Anyway, if he suggests doing something weird, don’t go along with it. Just leave him be. He can actually entertain himself quite well.

    “Okay. We’ll just drink tonight and go to the Hanok Village tomorrow.”

    -Don’t drink too much

    “I got this.”

    -Alright. I should get up now. Message me when you get home later

    “Okay, get ready for work.”

    -Yeah. Bye

    Our conversations didn’t change. But now I could call him without a reason and ask him to contact me for no reason. When I think about the relationships I’ve had with people over the course of my thirty years, I think that’s usually the case. Once the call ended, that was it. But now, it left me feeling a bit unsatisfied and wanting more.

    * * *

    I headed to the hotel where Alain was staying. Located on a mountainside, it had a separate walking trail, making it a good retreat. Since he suggested drinking, I left my car behind. I asked the hotel staff who opened the taxi door for directions to the bar.

    “I have someone waiting for me, Alain Guion… Ah, there he is.”

    While scanning the reservation list with the bar manager, I spotted Alain waving at me from a window seat. He was wearing a striped shirt and a pair of comically large glasses. As the manager set up the table, we greeted each other with a warm hug. Alain made a show of loudly kissing the air near my cheeks.

    “It’s great to see you here, Maxi.”

    “Why are you wearing those ridiculous glasses?”


    Alain took off the glasses, which had a spinning pattern on them, ran his hand through his blond hair and smiled.

    “Tokyo has the most amazing gadgets. Isn’t it cute? Everyone stares when I wear it out. What do you want to drink? It’s on me.”

    “Really? Then I’ll have the most expensive one.”

    Alain laughed at my joke and called over the server. He ordered the most expensive cocktail for me and a straight bourbon for himself.

    “Why am I having a cocktail?”

    “A certain someone told me not to let you drink too much.”

    Alain waved his cell phone in front of me. Han Jae-yi must have called.

    “I heard Jae-yi called off the wedding. Isn’t he crazy?”

    I didn’t know where he was going with this, so I kept my mouth shut for now. Alain was talking to himself. It didn’t seem like we were on a call, just a short message conversation where he asked me all sorts of hypothetical questions.

    I didn’t know how much he had told Alain, so I kept quiet. Alain kept talking. It didn’t seem like they had talked much, just exchanged a few messages, but he had already come up with several theories to ask me about.

    “Did he cheat?”


    “Is there a kid involved?”

    “Whose kid?”

    “How would I know? You should have tried to stop him.”

    “There wasn’t really an opportunity. Anyway, it’s not really my place to say.”

    “Not your place? Jae-yi told me to get the whole story from you.”

    I hesitated, looking at Alain. If Jae-yi told him to hear it from me, does that mean he wanted me to explain. Just then, the cocktails and bourbon we’d ordered arrived. Alain popped a raisin into his mouth and gave me a curious look.

    “There’s something, isn’t there?”

    Whatever Jae-yi’s intention was, there was no reason to hide it from Alain. I briefly explained the situation. I kept it as objective and factual as possible, avoiding any blame or pity. Alain stared at me, his mouth hanging open.

    Contrary to my expectation that he’d take it in stride, he’s been repeating the phrase “Are you serious?” for nearly a minute now. I sipped my cocktail.

    “Are you that surprised?”

    “Yes! I’m incredibly surprised. Incredibly! If it was like that, why didn’t you two date earlier?”

    “I never thought it was a possibility.”

    “Damn. This is even more annoying than when he said he was marrying Gisella Weber. That jerk.”

    It didn’t work. No matter how objectively he tried to explain it, Han Jae-yi was being criticized.

    “He’s the biggest idiot in the universe. That jerk.”

    I smiled and raised my glass. I toasted him as Han Jae-yi has now been promoted to the biggest idiot in the universe.

    “I’m going to have to beat him up when I see him later. What do you like about him so much? Don’t talk about his looks, it’s meaningless.”

    It was true. I wondered what was so good about Han Jae-yi, what made him so good that I fell in love with a face I’d seen since I was an adolescent. Had I thought of him as more than a friend from the beginning, as Gisella had said, and if so, was it love at first sight? I realized that human emotions are more complicated than rocket science.

    “I just like him. He makes me feel comfortable. If he hadn’t mentioned getting married, we might have stayed friends forever.”

    “That’s nonsense. It would’ve blown up eventually. Who else knows about this?”

    “No one. You’re the first.”

    “I’m honored.”

    He put his hand on my chest and bowed his head to thank me. Then, he pulled out his phone and put his arm around me unexpectedly, snapping a picture. Returning to his seat, Alain tapped on his phone with a grin. I asked what he was doing.

    “I sent a picture to make Jae-yi jealous.”

    “He doesn’t get jealous. Besides, it’s you.”

    “Exactly, that’ll irritate him more. It’s always fun to tease Jae-yi, no matter how many years pass.”

    Alain drained his bourbon glass and ordered the same thing again.Then, with a smug look, he waved his vibrating phone at me. I sighed as he answered the call with a triumphant expression.

    “Oh, hey, friend. Are you worried about your lover?”

    He acted like he had gained some huge advantage. Both of them were still ridiculous.

    Han Jae-yi and Alain conversed in French. Moving to Germany at 15 and becoming a lawyer wasn’t easy. It showed Han Jae-yi’s linguistic genius. His decision to take a summer course in Paris was probably backed by this ability..

    I can understand about 70% of the conversation they’re having now, and it’s childish. I raised my hand and called for a server to bring me a beer. Bored with Alain on the phone, I picked up his ridiculous glasses.

    Having good eyesight, I had never worn glasses. As I put them on, I met the bartender’s eyes. His expression suggested I should stop. I set the glasses down, and Alain handed me the phone, indicating I should take the call.


    -Just keep him entertained and head home. He’ll probably suggest going to a club.

    I heard Han Jae-yi’s voice, his tone much more elevated than the morning call.

    “Maybe I’ll go, too. I’ve never been to a club in Korea, so I’m curious.”

    -It’s not fun. It’s only for people with a purpose.

    “You talk like you’ve been there.”

    -Not interested anymore. Did you bring your car?

    “No, I took a taxi. Aren’t you at work?”

    -Yeah, I should get back, call me when you get home.


    I handed the phone back to Alain. He had a very interesting look on his face.

    “Maxi, your Korean is so sexy. You sound like a real Korean.”

    “I’m Korean.”

    “Yeah, I saw that today.”

    At that moment, the beer we ordered arrived. Seeing me drink the hefeweizen (a German yeast beer) from the long glass, Alain laughed.

    “No way, you’re a perfect German.”

    Even I had to laugh at that, because it was true to some extent.

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