Life, Once Again!

After Story 19

After Story 19

Maru straightened his shoulders and left the set partition. His shoulders were aching as he had stayed shriveled up for so long. He grabbed a staff member passing in front of him. It was the props manager that gave him a file.

“Where should I put this?”

“You can give it to me. The clothes were yours, right?”

“Yes, they’re mine.”

After receiving the file, the staff member quickly left. When they moved to the indoor set, the props people became very busy.

Maru turned around and looked at the interview room. The lights from above were shining down on the actors. As though it was an important scene, the rehearsal lasted for a long time. He wanted to just have a look at the atmosphere and get some pay, but he was lucky enough to appear on the screen. The line he said in front of the camera after all this time deeply resonated and knocked on his heart. He almost ended up staring at the camera in a daze. Despite knowing that the camera wasn’t pointing at him, he felt greedy; he wanted to stand in the center of it all.

“Mr. Maru.” Junghyuk waved at him. He had been wearing a bitter expression on his face ever since the director snapped out at him in Gapyeong, but now he was smiling as though he had gotten over it.

Next to him was a woman in office clothes. It didn’t take long for Maru to recognize who she was. It was the woman who got an earful from the director during the jogging scene.

“You got a line. I’m envious,” Junghyuk said.

“Having an ordinary appearance helps out at a time like this. I have a perfect face that can be placed in the background.”

“What are you saying? It doesn’t matter how you look. The director chose you because you were doing well. Didn’t he say anything else?”

“Nothing much. Anyways, I don’t see others around.”

“Other than a few people, everyone went home. It looks like the shoot will end here today.”

As the part-time work was outsourced, their pay would be transferred today or at the latest, in three days. Maru would be able to resolve the rent for this month if he got back the money he lent his college senior and got the payment from this job.

He could last this month like that, but what about next month? Continuing the background actor job was inefficient. What he needed now was to do a predetermined amount of hours of labor to produce a stable income. Naturally, the background actor part-time job was not an option due to its irregular schedule.

He thought about other part-time jobs that college students often did, but those didn’t yield enough money. He had to have money in order for the scale weighing dreams and reality to stay balanced. He did not have a shred of resolution to suck on his thumb to continue acting with the so-called ‘hunger fuels motivation.’

Ultimately, it would come down to chance whether he succeeded or failed, but the progress of reaching that result had to be extremely smooth. His bank balance would equal his health and willpower. He had to have solid supplies to have a long-term battle.

“It’s interesting. The same guy who got annoyed at me is all smiles right now,” the woman said as she looked at the director. She did not hide her vexation, which was not surprising.

It was natural for her to hate the director, since he snapped out at her, who almost fell over while running, despite her not being an actress.

“Doesn’t he have anything to say now?” the woman asked him. She seemed to want to share their frustration.

“He seems okay now.”

“Really? I don’t know why I have to be insulted like that in a part-time job I tried out for fun. It still makes me mad.”

“Don’t mind it too much. He said it before too, didn’t he? That you shouldn’t mind him because a crazy guy said crazy things. It’s a job that comes with a lot of stress, so maybe he’s got that personality because of that.”

“I guess anyone would go out of their mind if they have to shoot under the scorching sun like that for days in a row.” The woman faintly smiled.

They moved places. The few background actors still left were waiting at the rest area near the entrance. From how there weren’t any additional announcements, it seemed that things would end like this.

“Anyone going home separately?” asked the leader as he came in.

Two men raised their hands. They seemed to live near Namyangju.

“Those going home separately should go, and your payment will be transferred tomorrow at noon, so check that. Oh, there’s no one who didn’t write in the log, right? If you didn’t write your name on it, you won’t get paid, so tell me now.”

There was no one who didn’t write. The leader left, telling them to wait a bit. People started packing up their stuff. As this job required them to carry around clothes and even shoes, everyone had heavy bags. Maru went to the bathroom to change into casual clothes.

“I saw you acting,” Minyoung spoke to him.

She seemed to be one of the interviewees, as she was wearing a clean gray suit.

“The director told me to try.”

“Wasn’t it unnerving? I was just sitting among all those people, but it still made me nervous.”

“It made me feel less nervous when I thought about how it isn’t me being shot.”

“I think I’d still shake a lot if there’s a camera right in front of me. Oh, you’ve seen Lee Junho and Lee Ahyoung up close, right?”

“Yes. I have.”

“How were they? I was too far away from the actors when we were outside and inside, so I haven’t gotten a close look at them.”

“They really are different in real life. Their heads are really small, and their proportions are great. Above all, their skin is totally different from ordinary people.”

“I want to look at them from up close too. I’m not sure about anyone else, but I really like Ahyoung. She’s around the same age as me, but she’s freakishly good at acting. It’s like she was born to be an actress.”

“I think you can do it too, if you try.”

Minyoung took out the smile she showed in Gapyeong again. It was a smile of politeness, and also a sign of refusal.

“I told you. I only managed to get to this point after trying really hard to look extroverted. How could I possibly do something that will make me smile or cry in front of so many people?”

“You never know.”

“What part about me did you see that makes you say that anyways? I thought you were joking during the day, but I don’t think you’re joking right now.”

“Your expressions,” he replied curtly.

Minyoung’s lips twitched. Following her lips, her facial muscles from her cheeks all the way to her eyebrows displayed significant movements.

“I’ve never heard that before. You’re teasing me, aren’t you?”

“I’m not sociable enough to tease someone I met for the first time this morning. I’m just telling you my honest opinion. It’s not that I know a lot about actors, but don’t you think a sponge is better than a wooden log? I think there’s no better material than a face that can move so flexibly.”

Maru picked up his messenger bag. He nodded to Minyoung, who stood still, and walked to the set.

“Han Maru,” someone called his name. When he turned around, he saw the leader moving around and shouting names.

Maru looked at him, wondering what was happening. Having made eye contact, the leader quickly rushed over.

“Where are you going?”

“I’m done here, so I’m going home.”

“Who’s done here? Aren’t you going to earn money? You have more to shoot.”

“You said we were done before….”

“That applies to other people. You, and also you.” After looking around, he pointed at Minyoung and Junghyuk. “The three of you have more to shoot, so stay behind.”

After saying what he wanted, the leader went elsewhere, putting his phone against his ear. Maru looked at the two people standing not too far away. Like him, the two of them had gotten ready to go home.

“Looks like we’ll be getting night shift pay.” He smiled and returned to the rest area. He put down his bag and pulled a chair over before sitting on it.

Minyoung and Junghyuk also sat next to him. While the two of them introduced themselves to one another, he called Haneul.

-Yes, sweetie.

“Today’s really hot.”

-We’re at a shaved ice store right now. It’s hot by the sea too. The wind feels like it has been heated.

“You should walk around when the sun goes down and it becomes a little cooler.”

-We really should.

Haneul had gone to Jeongdongjin with mother-in-law. It was a consolation trip to soothe mother-in-law who must have been mentally shocked after she declared she was dropping out of college.

“How’s your mother?”

-She’s overjoyed. She still looked mad back when I told her I booked the train tickets, but she’s all smiles now. I was worried since it was my first trip with her as mother and daughter, but it’s great that mom’s enjoying it.

“You should take a lot of photos and send them to your father as well. According to statistics, he really liked it when you did.”

-I’ve already taken a bunch and sent them to him. He’s really expressing his good mood right now.

“Looks like both of them have gentle natures in this life.”

-I’m glad that they are. But when I look back, I don’t think we were ever in a bad relationship. It was just always me who forgot to look after them. We’ve repeated so many lives, but there wasn’t a big change. In this sense, I guess fate is quite scary.

“This is really the last time, so you should look after them more.”

-I’ll take care of my own parents, so why don’t you go act cute to your own? You’re hiding the fact that you’ve dropped out, and if you don’t contact them frequently, that’s being unfilial.

“Yes, ma’am. I’ll take care.”

She hung up, saying that the shaved ice was out. Not long later, he got a photo of her and her mother smiling brightly with the shaved ice between them. She was no longer the daughter that made her parents worry, but an amicable one they didn’t have to worry about.

Maru looked at her in the photo for a long while. Although her smile wasn’t polished, it looked prettier to him than anyone else’s in the world. Her expression might look stiff now, but the charm that lay below it was extraordinary. She would one day polish and train herself to express all of her charms, and he would be there to capture it before anyone else.

Seeing the smile that captivated the men of South Korea, thousands, if not tens of thousands of times first was a privilege that only he could enjoy.

“Your girlfriend?” Junghyuk spoke.

He nodded and put his phone in his pocket.

“Your eyes are practically dripping sugar right now,” Minyoung added.

The two of them seemed to have decided to drop the honorifics already as they smiled at each other. Maru and Junghyuk decided to do the same.

Minyoung and Junghyuk were twenty-four, and he was twenty-two. Naturally, the two became noona and hyung.

“I’ll have to agree with Maru. Your expressions are really vivid.”

What Maru brought up before was the topic: Minyoung was trying out new things, so how about an actress?

Minyoung waved her hand in the air in dismissal.

“Forget it. I’m satisfied with doing this once. The two of you said you wanted to become actors, right? You two should try hard. Personally though, I think Junghyuk has more potential.”

“I guess he really does look the part.”

When they chatted, they ended up exchanging contact info as well. Junghyuk urged that they should do so, saying that this was a form of fate. Before he knew it, a group chat had formed as well.

“I’ll put up a pinned message. If you ever become successful, don’t ignore others and treat them to food. This is a very important message, okay?” Junghyuk emphasized.

That was a message he really wanted to upkeep. If he was successful, a meal was nothing. He could borrow a hotel buffet for an entire week.

“You should have dinner.” A staff member opened the door to the rest area. It was 6 p.m. They left the set.

Despite it being the evening, the sun was still above their heads, and the ground was still boiling. The staff were walking like zombies with the lunchboxes in hand. They seemed to need more sleep than food.

After receiving the lunchboxes, he went to a shade behind the building. Despite everyone’s fatigue, laughter could still be heard throughout since it was mealtime.

Junghyuk and Minyoung also followed him after getting theirs. The lunchbox was the same as what they ate for lunch, with the only different menu being the soup and a single side dish.

Just as he was about to split the braised mackerel in half and eat it, he saw an elderly man in a suit looking around before approaching where he sat. He was the actor who was inside the interview room. He couldn’t remember the name. He was a veteran actor he knew the face of, but not the name.

Maybe he had some business in the parking lot. Maru looked away from him and picked up his chopsticks.

However, he could not eat. The elderly man stopped right in front of him.

“It’s you, isn’t it?” said the elderly man.

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