Studying, chatting, and then going home . Occasionally visiting PC bangs and bathhouses with friends before coming back home to study . By the time Maru was done with his studies it was already 11 at night . He would blog a little, surf the web for a few minutes before going to sleep at midnight . He could hear his computer’s fan whirling in the background .
Maru stared blankly at his monitor for a second before pulling out a book . It was something he borrowed from a nearby library . He tried to find a few “self-improvement” books, but couldn’t find many of them . Come to think of it, there was no such thing during this time .
From the time Maru started working in a company all the way to becoming a bus driver, he had read a pile of books as high as him . Reading this many self improvement books lead him to one conclusion .
Self improvement books were just books about successful people reminiscing about their past .
“But I keep reading them again and again for some reason . ”
One of the books he remembered most had a Japanese author: The Morning Person . The trend of this era was being active in the morning . The idea that the early birds would succeed was the prevalent thing in this time . Maru turned the page . He knew every word the author would say after each page, but still read it anyway .
It was 1am by the time he finished the book . He set it next to his bed before falling asleep . Today was a productive day . So why…
“Why did it feel so unfulfilling?”
It feels like he was on a highway with nothing around it . He knew he wouldn’t be taking any detours as long as he was on this highway . Despite that, he couldn’t help but look at people driving on the twisty local roads . At the people who were enjoying the scenery to the fullest, going on an adventure following where the road was taking them .
Being late to their destination didn’t matter, as long as they managed to arrive in the end . The only problem is…
“When you run out of fuel . ”
Having to watch other people zoom by you as you sit on the road completely out of fuel . Maru closed his eyes again, this time accompanied with a bitter smile . Today, too, he realized living again wasn’t such an easy thing after all . A quiet air descended down on his room .
Time passed quickly . The entire class was used to school life by now . None of their previous confusion was here now . Everyone was in a friend group of their own, friend groups that’s been around long enough to last the entire year now .
It was currently the end of April . Maru looked out at the window as his two friends sat next to him, with bread in one hand and chips on the other . Countless students approached them asking for a bite, but Dojin shooed them all away .
“I asked for this burger from the guy at the store . Ugh, you beautiful little thing, you . ”
Dojin offered Maru half of the burger with a grin . Maru accepted with a quick thank you .
“This guy needs to lose weight . At least, according to instructor Miso . ”
“Just a little more, she says . Ugh . ”
Daemyung sipped on water sadly . They both seemed to be working at the club well . Dojin and Daemyung both became actors . According to them, Miso told them to practice the characters they wanted to play . They both tried for the more important side characters, but failed just like that . In the end, they ended up becoming passenger 1 and co .
“I have no idea why I can’t even memorize such simple things . ”
“My head is still drawing a blank in front of the teach . I can’t do anything . ”
Teach, huh . They seemed to have gotten closer to her . Then again, it was pretty inevitable with them getting together almost every day . Sometimes they would get together for lunch as well . Of course, Maru had no idea what they were doing . He usually just showed up on Saturdays to read a few lines and make a few props .
[You can leave now, Maru . ]
That was the most he would ever get out of Miso . 5 o’clock on full school days, and 3 o’clock during half days . Miso would always tell him that when the clock reached that time . At that point, Maru would grab his bag and just leave . There were other things happening in the auditorium, but Maru has never bothered to stay .
“Is it alright?”
That was the only thing he found himself saying because of that . Is it alright? There was not much else he could ask, since he had no idea what was going on behind the stage .
“I’m dying, man . ”
The response from his friends were always the same as well . Always a variant of “I’m tired” . But Maru could tell that their expressions had changed . They were definitely experiencing progress . Maru took a big bite out of his burger . He’s regretted deciding to stay on the sidelines a few times after that day . Especially whenever he looked at his club members laugh about a script he knew nothing about . Then his regret would multiply even more .
But he was fine now, having gotten used to it .
“Work hard, alright? There’s only a month left, right?”
“Yeah, just about a month,” Dojin responded, sucking away at his fingers .
“Man, I’m so nervous . I hope we get into at least 8th place . ”
Maru already knew about the story as well . In the city-wide competitions, 16 teams out of 80 schools would qualify for the regionals . The first and second place in the regionals would then be able to move onto nationals . It was a pretty tight schedule, especially with 11 club members and a single helper .
They might be able to take care of the costumes with the ones made by their seniors, but the props had to be made from scratch .
“Class is about to begin, man . ”
“Here, have some of this, Maru . ”
Maru slipped the bag of chips Daemyung gave him under his desk . To think the kid was able to control himself… He must be quite motivated .
‘They’re all doing very well . ’
Again, that slight feeling of loneliness came over Maru . Though, having a few of the chips did help get rid of it .
‘I should just stick to doing what I can . ’
He’s already made his decision a month ago . Thinking about it any further was just unhealthy .
“Yo Dowook, I need my notebook back . ”
“Sure . ”
Maru turned to look at where the voices came from . He could see Dowook give back a notebook to a friend . He’s melded into the class very well since then . He got mad every once in a while, but nothing big .
Dowook would look away whenever their eyes met . He seemed like he wanted to say something, but refused to say it himself . What a complicated kid .
The class door opened with a creak, and the teacher finally walked in .
“Hard at work, huh?”
Mom walked in with a smile . For the last two months, Maru was living by the same pattern over and over again . School, library, gym, study . It was no surprise that his mom would say something like this to him at this point .
“But… there’s nothing happening, is there?”
“Mom’s happy that you’ve matured, but you know… It’s a bit sudden . ”
Mom put down a bag of chips on Maru’s desk . He looked up at his mother, who gave him a slightly awkward smile .
“Just talk to me if there’s something going on, okay?”
“Alright . ”
“Good . ”
Mom closed the door quietly on the way out . By the time she was halfway through closing, she called out to him .
“I’ll knock from now on . ”
“It’s whatever . ”
Maru exclaimed at amazement inside . His parents were very perceptive about how he changed . Then again, he was the same with his daughter . It would actually be strange if they didn’t notice something . Mom probably thought that Maru just matured all of the sudden . It probably felt surprising to her .
Well, equal parts surprising and disappointing . Maru was well acquainted with the feeling of watching a child leave their parent’s grasps . That feeling of learning that their children didn’t need them anymore .
“I… should treat them well . ”
Thousands of thoughts passed by in his head . He didn’t really feel like studying anymore today . He closed the textbook and laid down on the bed with a new book . This one was an autobiography written by an actor . The man was apparently famous, but Maru had no clue of who he was . He just picked it up because it was in the recommended section .
Maru started turning the page . After a while of it, he turned off the lights . Today was also a good day . Probably…
The weather was warm enough for Maru to bike without gloves today . It’s been awhile since he last did it . He could feel the rubber rub at his palms .
The weather was much better now . It will be May soon . People were starting to dress lighter outside . It really was the season when people started transitioning back into their usual jackets .
The bike chains rattled under him . Maru pedaled wondering if he needed to oil the damn thing today . Speaking of which, today was a day for the students to spend on their clubs . The acting club, too, was gathered completely on the 5th floor auditorium .
The two things he had on him were book he was reading last night, as well as a bottle of water . Not much has changed for Maru despite the lack of classes . Most of the props were done now, and all there was left to do was to practice acting . Maru parked the bike at the school and started up the stairs . He could hear the soccer club shouting amongst themselves outside .
They probably bet a lot of money on the oncoming match .
He could hear singing as he came up to the 5th floor . The music club, no doubt . Right next to it, he could hear the toy club mess around with a bunch of things in their room . The entire floor was loud . Only by the time he came to the middle of the floor could he finally starting to hear the acting club .
“Stretches first, and then we’ll start . ”
He could hear the students talking brightly behind the door . The club was supposed to meet at 9am . Maru took out his phone to make sure one more time . 8:50am . Everyone was trying very hard in the club .
Maru opened the door with a strange sense of nervousness .