Inho hoped he hadn’t mentioned kissing Nathan in the last night's black-out phone call to Jamie. He wasn’t sure yet how to bring it up, or if he even should. He was pretty sure they were broken up. "A break", she'd said. Surely that meant a break-up? He took a deep drag on his cigarette. The cherry glowed too close to his fingers, and he rubbed it on the ground.
What about Nathan? What about kissing male Nathan who’s a man?
His mind wasn’t going to let that part go, not after Jasmine’s prodding. He sighed resentfully. Nathan was attractive, sure. He was taller than Inho, with a handsome face and muscular arms. He was calm and mature too. He ran his restaurant with an unobtrusive confidence that left an appealing impression.
He’s just cool, okay? It’s not like I want to be with him, I just...admire him. I was flattered by his attention and...a part of me just wanted to do something self-destructive? maybe?
Beyond that, he didn’t believe Jasmine’s words about drunk actions being some revelation of your sober desires. Drunk is just drunk, he reassured himself, and the best way to clear his head of these problems was to focus on Jamie. They were over, but maybe they could get back together.
That's a thing people do.
Just then, his phone started ringing, and Jamie’s name popped up on the screen. But before he could answer, a dark figure in a uniform walked up, heavy boots crunching on the gravel path loud enough for Inho to hear over his music. He pulled his headphones out quickly.
“Hey, you. You can’t drink here. Can I see some ID?”
Inho’s eyes flicked between the phone screen with Jamie’s name on it and the policeman staring down at him as he hesitated.
“You can’t smoke in a public park either, sir. Put the phone down and show me some identification."
“Right, just a sec.” Inho put his phone on the bench and stood up to tug his wallet out of his back pocket. When he moved, his phone slipped off the bench and landed with a loud crack. “– FUCK!” He exclaimed as he dove for it too late.
The cop watched his struggle indifferently and pulled out a little flashlight when Inho finally passed him his ID. The legal drinking age was 19 here, right? Inho started to sweat even though he was years past that.
Inho had no idea these things were illegal. “I’m sorry, officer, I didn’t know. I’ll stop.”
The officer didn’t raise his head from his notebook but did give him a hard look from under heavy brows. “Ignorance of the law is not a valid excuse, sir.”
After a moment, the officer relented. Inho must have looked extra pathetic, now shivering slightly as a chill wind swept through the park. “Alright, I won’t ticket you for the drinking, just don’t do it again. But, smoking in the park is a problem – don’t you know about the wildfires we’re having?” He finished filling out the small form and passed the ticket to Inho. “Go home now.”
“Yes sir, of course.” Inho sagged with released tension and crouched to grab his phone as the officer turned and left.
He heard the cop mutter, “Fucking tourists.” under his breath as he walked away.
Inho’s phone was still working but the screen was shattered. Little bits of loose glass stuck out of the cracks. Goddammit, he thought, then looked at the ticket. $115 fine for a bylaw violation. Godfuckingdammit. This was going to hit his money situation in a way he couldn’t afford.
Despair crept in and, as if to set the tone for his mood, it started to rain again. It rained in this city constantly, an ambient drizzle that never seemed to fully stop. He gathered his empty cans to toss out and was walking back to his hostel when his phone rang again. Right! Jamie!
He took a deep breath to make sure his voice was steady before he answered, “Jamie? Hey...you called.”
“Hey, yeah, how are you feeling today?” Jamie’s familiar voice warmed him despite his now damp clothes.
“I’m good!” he lied. “Are you at home?”
“Yep. You’re really ok? You sounded like a real mess last night.” Jamie didn’t sound angry, so he decided to play it cool.
“Yeah, I was a little hungover, but I’m okay now. Sorry to bother you last night. I bet I was annoying.”
“Nah, I was at work, and you were fine.” She laughed a little, “You were so excited to hear from me, but you were slurring so bad.”
“Yeah, that’s embarrassing…” He didn’t know what to say next.
“Listen Inho, about the other day. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be so hard on you. I’m just really stressed lately.” She went silent and the sounds of her youngest brother having a crying tantrum in the background drifted into the phone. Inho took a deep slow breath, feeling hopeful.
“It’s ok, I’m totally fine. Can I see you tomorrow? On your lunch break maybe?”
He stopped in the street, locked in place while he waited for her reply. He heard the quiet distracted sounds of Jamie soothing her little brother before she spoke again, “Sure, come by my office? I’ll text you tomorrow – I gotta go Inho, Eli’s getting fussy. I love you.”
Inho said goodbye, and she hung up. He grinned for the rest of the walk to the hostel, feeling as if the weight and stress of the last few days had vanished. “I love you” she had said. He felt as light as a feather.