After Story 247
“Pile up the sacks neatly and organize the wooden planks.”
Bangjoo sat down as he rolled up the sleeves of his work outfit. The only downside to this work was that he couldn’t roll up his sleeves no matter how hot the weather was. Although sweating was much better than scraping his skin, on a hot steamy day like this, he wanted to forget about safety and throw everything away.
“Hey, let’s go eat.”
He put on his trainers, which had lost their color, and went to the cheap restaurant in front of the construction site. The technicians sat separately, while the temporary workers sat at one table.
“There are a lot of young people these days. Are you in college?”
When a man in his forties asked, Bangjoo replied yes.
“Is it for tuition?”
“Something like that.”
“Then work moderately. Don’t overwork yourself and get injured. I saw that you were working too hard. It’s your loss if you get hurt.”
Another man sitting next to him agreed to that. For a while, the men talked about how they got injured during construction work.
The stories included things like how someone’s construction helmet got smashed by a steel beam, how a pile of construction materials fell over, or how a truck went over them. It was a miracle that they were still alive.
After the meal, they left. The workers went into the shade.
There were some who slept with a sitting mat as a pillow, some who curled up and used their phones, and some who looked up at the sky while swearing.
“Today’s really hot.”
Bangjoo looked next to him. He was a man who quietly ate next to him during the meal. They seemed to be around the same age.
“I originally wanted to switch to something more comfortable after earning enough money for academies, but when I actually worked, I couldn’t find anywhere that’s as comfortable as this. I thought manual labor was always really dangerous and taxing, but they keep having me clean stuff and carry stuff instead.”
“It’ll be big trouble if some accident occurs while doing that.”
The man rested his head against his hands locked behind him.
“I wondered if this is the right job for me, but then I think that it isn’t something you can do all your life. I went to a drawing school because I didn’t have any of the basics down while preparing to become a webtoon artist, but there are middle schoolers and high schoolers everywhere. They’re all better at drawing than me too.”
Rather than someone to talk to, he seemed like he needed someone to listen to him.
“If I had some leeway, I would be drawing sketches all day and coming up with stories, but I need money if I want to breathe and eat.”
“That’s how it is with everyone.”
The man sat up with a laugh. He went into the convenience store nearby before coming out with a can of coffee in each hand.
“Sorry for talking to you like that all of a sudden. I haven’t been meeting anyone these days, so I haven’t had anyone to talk to which is why I ended up telling you all sorts of things. Actually, it’s hard to tell your close friends this. It’s like talking into the bamboo forest about how the king has donkey ears.”
Bangjoo stared at the coffee before accepting it. He was no longer afraid of accepting food and drinks from others. Ever since he talked it out with his sister, his fears had subsided completely.
“Anyway, thanks for listening.”
The man turned around.
Bangjoo looked at the coffee the man gave him. If he had some leeway, he would be drawing sketches all day and coming up with stories: those words kept reverberating in his ears.
The work resumed. He kept doing menial labor while people sometimes told him to take it easy.
Veteran workers started cleaning away the equipment. It was time to finish up the job.
He took off his work outfit and changed into his jersey. Just as he was about to look into the bus schedule to go home, he thought about the shoot.
There was a shoot today too. He got on the bus that led to the shooting location. It wasn’t that he had anything to do there, but his thoughts kept leading there.
After getting off the bus, he entered the familiar alley. Although the entrance was dark, the middle was bright with lights. There were many people gathered around as well.
Ever since his sister made a visit last week, there were many people who visited the set. Even though all she did was post a photo on social media saying that she came to visit her brother’s shoot, her fans used the map service of internet portals to find the location of the shoot. Their persistence and interest were incredible.
He could see a jimmy jib at the set. From what he heard, it cost 300 thousand won per day to rent it. It got a better hourly wage than a person.
The lighting was also different from the usual color. It was a pale blue light.
He saw senior Maru sitting down in front of the store on a seat. As everyone around was following the staff controlling them, there seemed to be no difficulties with the shoot.
“I thought you were going to work today.”
The lighting director, who discovered him, came over and spoke to him.
“This place crossed my mind when I finished work, so I came over.”
“You should’ve gone home if you finished work.”
“That was the plan, but something kept pulling me here, so I came.”
“Something pulled you here? What did?”
“Actually, I don’t know either. I don’t know what I’m so concerned about.”
Bangjoo faintly smiled before looking at Maru. He went through the script with director Lee and talked to him about something.
The shooting location became quiet. Moon Sukjin came over to Maru as he sat under the lighting. In his hand was a cigarette. Sukjin spoke while slowly exhaling some smoke. Although Bangjoo couldn’t hear anything because he was too far away, he knew what it was about.
This was the scene where Sukjin said farewell after pulling out of his store.
Although the original owners of the stores along the street had been running their business for the longest time, they were helplessly chased out when they were told to.
“This place was really good. I’d hold out just a little more if I had some more money in my bank account.”
He could hear Sukjin’s line like it was aimed at his ears.
“You should hold out as much as possible.”
“Do you think I can?”
Maru stayed silent. Sukjin puffed deeply before throwing the cigarette butt on the ground. The cigarette butt glowed orange on top of the asphalt before dimming.
Sukjin didn’t say anything and turned around. It was just as the script was written.
After Sukjin disappeared, Maru picked up his chair and went inside the store. When the lights in the store turned off, the lighting fixtures also dimmed. It felt like the entire street had sunken into darkness all of a sudden.
“Okay, let’s stop there. We’ll go to the insert shot right away. Jiseon, you told the other store owners, right?”
“Yeah. I told them to turn off the lights for just a moment. I’ll go tell them now.”
Bangjoo saw Jiseon go to the nearby stores. A moment later, not to mention the lights around the store, all the stores in front of the camera had their lights turned off.
The jimmy jib looked down at the street from above, shooting the intermittent street lights.
For a moment, all the occasional noise in the set, the weight of the work outfit in his hands, his exhaustion… all the sense inside and outside his body disappeared.
Why am I here?: he stayed until the end of the shoot amidst the staff members. He tried to help them put away the light fixtures, but the lighting director stopped him.
“Don’t stand there like some anxious dog and go home and sleep. When you feel complicated, the best thing you can do is to sleep.”
That seemed to be correct. Also, he had to sleep in order to work tomorrow. Just as he was about to go home with his luggage,
“Ahn Bangjoo,” Maru called out to him.
“Director Yoon told me you were here. Aren’t you off-shoot today?”
“This place came to my mind after I finished work.”
Bangjoo lifted the shopping bag that had his work outfit.
“Manual labor. I do menial chores at a construction site.”
“Really? That must’ve been hard. Today was pretty hot too.”
“I got used to the work after working for a while.”
He could see Yoonseok approaching behind Maru. It seemed he had something to talk about with Maru.
When Yoonseok came closer, he tried to say goodbye and leave.
“Yoonseok, give me a moment. I’ll talk to Bangjoo for a bit.”
Maru sent Yoonseok back. Talk?: as he stood in a daze, Maru called out to him. He followed Maru to the back of the store.
He gulped down the drink that Maru gave him in one go. Now that he thought about it, he hadn’t had any water for hours since he came here. He could feel that his thirst was quenched.
“You look like you have something to say.”
“You don’t? Then forget it. You looked stifled, so I thought you had some worries or something.”
“Do I look like that?”
“From how director Yoon thinks the same as me, I can be sure that you’re different from usual.”
Bangjoo wordlessly looked at the shopping bag in his hands.
“When did you start that work?”
“Right after I left the military. I couldn’t do part-time jobs with set schedules, so I continued doing it.”
“So that you can earn living expenses and tuition?”
“Yes. I don’t want to rely on my parents.”
While he spoke, his frustration became increasingly worse. The words he heard during the day kept echoing in his mind: I would have done the things I wanted if I had the leeway.
“I think that your acting isn’t bad. But it’s not on the level of good either. For action work, you’re doing really well, but when it comes to lines, it feels like you just got the hang of it.”
“I know I’m insufficient. I also know that I was really bad during the first shoot.”
“Haven’t you ever thought about learning?”
“I think about it all the time. I’m lacking after all.”
“How much do you work in a week?”
“It’s not a live-in work so there’s no set schedule, but I do it about four days a week. It’s the holidays after all.”
“Adding the shoot on top of that, I guess you have a really busy week. If you meet up with others during breaks, you really won’t have any rest.”
Maru tossed the empty can in the trash and spoke,
“It’s not easy to go to academies to learn while doing manual labor. No matter how good you become, it’s something that taxes your body. If you want to go to acting classes after that at night, ordinary mental power won’t cut it. Even if you do, it’ll be hard to keep that up in the long run.”
Bangjoo wordlessly nodded.
“Moreover, if you want to go to a decent acting school, the money you’ll have to spend won’t be small either. It’ll be difficult to take care of your living expenses, tuition, and acting school fees at the same time, right?”
“Definitely. I won’t be working all the time.”
“So why aren’t you reaching out to your sister for help?”
The moment he heard those words, his chest tightened before loosening again. He felt like he finally knew why the words he heard during the day kept echoing in his mind.
“It’s good to do everything by yourself. If you are up to the task, then I’d recommend that too. But you aren’t, are you? Then reach out for help. Ask your sister to help you out a little.”
“If you don’t have any regrets or have attachments to your current lifestyle, then forget what I said. Being an actor isn’t a sprint. But if you feel like you’re lacking something, if you have the desire to learn something, then quit your work.”
“I feel like it’s not good to do things like that. People work hard to take care of themselves.”
“I understand how independent you want to be, and how upright of a person you are. I understand that fully too. But not everyone starts on the same starting point. If you can receive support, then get it. That’s not an embarrassing thing to do.”
Maru tapped on his shoulder before turning around. Bangjoo sighed after looking at the work outfit in his hand. He did need some time, time to consolidate his foundations.
Just learning from college was not enough. There was a reason why many of his colleagues went to acting schools or participated in extracurricular acting activities.
If it was before, he wouldn’t have even imagined reaching out to his sister for help.
He hesitated before taking out his phone. He was about to make a phone call, but he eventually left behind a text instead. It was the first time he sent a long message to his sister.
He sighed after sending it. It felt like he kept receiving help from senior Maru.
Just as he shook off his complicated feelings and left the alley, he heard a notification from the banking app. It indicated that someone deposited money into his account. There was no way he was paid for his work earlier today already, so he opened the banking app wondering what it was.
“Oh geez, isn’t that too much?”
There was enough money to pay for ten years worth of acting lessons.