“I’ll definitely go to your next performance.”
Gyunglim and Gwangseok left the lecture room after saying their goodbyes. As for Sungjae, he exchanged a few words with Sooil before quietly leaving through the door.
“Thank you for the meal,” Maru said as he put the last piece of sushi in his mouth.
“You can take this one as well.”
Sooil pointed at the remaining crêpe as he spoke.
“What happened to you? Yielding food to someone else like that.”
“I ate quite a lot of it during the past few days, so I’m a bit fed up with it.”
“Wait, you had these for days?”
“Yeah. It’s hard to get your hands on if you don’t get them now.”
“Do you think crêpes are some seasonal fruits or something?”
“The one that makes them is quite busy. It’s hard to get your hands on them.”
“He’s a famous patissier. He came to the country for just a while, so you can’t get them otherwise. If you want them, you’d have to travel all the way to France.”
“You’re quite capable, having connections like that.”
“Well, I do know a lot of people.”
Sooil spoke in a joking tone as he cleaned up the trash. He gathered the plastics on one side, divided paper with food on it and paper without food, and put them in separate bags.
“Your future wife will love you if you do that.”
“That’s precisely why I’m doing this.”
“Do you act like this at home as well?”
“That depends on the case.”
Seeing the neatly cleaned trash made Maru want to clap. He might as well receive the recycling award of the year.
“Since I’m full, I’ll feel awesome if I just went straight to bed like this.”
Miso kicked Ganghwan, who was about to lie down on the floor.
“Why is a soon-to-be-newlywed so violent.”
“Shut up, and we need to empty this place, so be quick if you want to say anything. I’m going to visit the principal before going home. Maru, don’t forget to turn the lights off. The principal is s.e.n.s.i.t.i.v.e to things like that even though he earns a lot of money. See you next time, Sooil.”
Miso waved her hand and left. As soon as Miso left, Ganghwan laid down on the floor. His ability to lie down regardless of the time, place, or occasion had to be acquired from when he was living as a homeless man. Maru asked Ganghwan who just blankly stared at the ceiling.
“You shouldn’t be here just to bring the sushi. What is it?”
“I’m just here to see my disciple’s face though.”
“Then I’m leaving.”
Just as he was about to get his bag and leave, Ganghwan quickly changed his words.
“I heard that your movie was over.”
“Do you have any fixed schedule other than Miso’s classes?”
“Not immediately, no.”
“That’s good. I’m going to ask senior Junmin to pull you out.”
Ganghwan pointed at Maru’s face and spoke.
“I think I’ll have you do some plays.”
* * *
“Then see you in Anyang. How about you, Sooil?”
“I’ll go home after hanging out with him for a while.”
Maru shook off Sooil’s hand that was placed on his shoulder.
“What do you mean hang out? It’s nearly ten.”
“Just hang out with me for a while. I don’t have a place I can spend time in. Senior, be careful on your way home!”
Ganghwan waved from inside the car before driving off. After watching the car turn on the left blinkers and disappear to the other side of the road, he looked at Sooil.
“Go home now. It’s way past sunset.”
“Hang out with me for a while here. Just until 11.”
“Did you cause an accident?”
“What makes you say that all of a sudden?”
“It’s because you don’t want to go home.”
“The atmosphere at home right now is a little… you know. If I go back now, I’ll have to put myself in a corner of my room and act like I don’t exist, but I don’t really want to do that.”
Sooil answered with a depressed face. Maru sighed.
“Do you want to go to a PC-bang or something?”
“Sounds good. But don’t we have to leave after 10?”
There was no suitable place they could go to as high school students. This was why some high school students gathered in the neighborhood playgrounds with some soju they bought in secret. Maru clicked his tongue as he looked around. There wasn’t a suitable place they could go to.
“Maru, you good at billiards?”
On the 2nd floor of the building Sooil was pointing at, there was a billiard hall. Billiards, huh. It was one of the places he practically lived in when ‘Maru’ was young, along with the PC-bang.
“Do you know how to play?”
“Me? Of course I do.”
“Then let’s go. It should be better than standing outside like this.”
They entered the billiard hall. Near the counter, girls who seemed to be students like them were playing pocket ball. Maru expected this place to be filled with smoke from cigarettes, but it was actually quite clean. The part timer even brought them drinks.
“This place is different from my area.”
“Looks like this is the trend these days. I see a lot of them pop up.”
“Seoul has it pretty good alright. What’s your score?”
“I can do three.”
The confidence of a kid who could only play 50. Maru released three balls onto the table.
“Let’s not do anything strange. The table is expensive.”
“I don’t do stuff like that.”
Maru was about to use the scoreboard but decided not to, thinking that they would only stay here for a short while. Sooil wandered around the table while holding the cue. He clearly looked like he hadn’t played many times. Maru felt the smooth texture of the cue he hadn’t held for a long time before speaking.
“What’s your relationship with Gyunglim-noona?”
Gyunglim, who rejoiced so much when she saw Ganghwan, froze up after seeing Sooil. It was the same as the last time. As Gyunglim drove off with Sooil, she made a crying face as though she was a cow being dragged to a butchery. It didn’t look like she didn’t like it. She just looked to be at a loss on what to do.
“She’s just a cute noona.”
“Yea? Gyunglim-noona’s pretty cute. The way she says everything without filtering first is cute, and the way she instantly regrets it afterward is also cute.”
“You got to know her through this work?”
“No, we’ve known each other since we were young. But why do you ask about her? Are you perhaps interested?”
“It’s because she’s interesting. That’s why.”
Sooil pushed the ball with the cue.
“She’s a kind noona. She’s the type of person who’d make a lot of losses because of her kindness. When I look at her, I want to do more for her.”
“That sounds kinda suspicious.”
“I’m talking about in a humanitarian way, so don’t misunderstand. Rather than that, how many scores are you going to play?”
“Let’s just play and chat about something.”
Playing seriously was only done when there was a ten thousand won bill on the table, or when the number of the Chinese food delivery service was preset in the phone. He drank a little before speaking again.
“But I thought you don’t have experience doing plays.”
Sooil, who was estimating the distance with the cue, raised his head.
“Yeah, not on an official stage. You said you do, right?”
“Just a couple of times to help out. But are you okay with that? I mean, you have a busy schedule.”
Maru looked at the counter as he spoke. The female part timer as well as the high school girls that showed no interest at the beginning thinking that they were just customers, were now stealing glances at them. They probably recognized who Sooil was.
“I wanted to learn what plays are like. They do say there’s no better place than a stage to hone your acting skills. Dramas are good as well, but right now, I want to try out a lot of things.”
“So a famous star is famous for a reason.”
“Who’s famous. Rather than that… I think there’s a bigger reason than skill.”
Sooil made a strange smile as he spoke.
“But what’s senior Ganghwan’s style like? I never acted with him before.”
Hearing Sooil’s question, he thought back to the days when he went to the practice room in Anyang. The atmosphere there could be summed up with the slogan on their wall. The quality of a line uttered a hundred times is different from the quality of a line uttered once. He told Sooil that line.
“Just hearing that makes me feel tired already.”
“He’s just an average neighborhood Joe usually, but he completely changes when it comes to things related to plays. It was hard practicing for a short skit before the preparations for the stage, and if you want to stand on the stage properly, I can’t even imagine how far you’d have to go to do that.”
“Ah, maybe I should’ve said no?”
“From his expression, it looked like he had already settled the deal with the president. At the bottom of the ladder, I do what I’m told. Ah, I guess you’re higher up in the ranks?”
“I don’t know either. Rather than that, I’ll be playing first then.”
“Alright. Go ahead.”
Sooil collected the trash gathered next to the billiard table as well as the empty cups before bringing them to the counter. There was a small commotion there. It seemed that they confirmed that he was the person they were thinking of.
After being held by the ladies for a few minutes, Sooil returned with some snacks in his hands. It seemed that the high school girls gave it to him.
“Is that your way of managing your image?”
“It is a habit of sorts, but you’re not wrong. I can’t let people find faults with me.”
“It’s hard being a celebrity.”
“It’s not entirely because I’m a celebrity, you know?”
Sooil chuckled before standing next to the billiard table with the cue.
“It’s a bit boring to play just like this. So let’s make a bet.”
“Just play. You’ll be crying later.”
“Even a simple one is fine.”
Maru sighed with a smile.
“Fine, do whatever you want. What do you wanna bet? We have drinks already.”
“The winner can ask the loser to do one thing.”
“What? That’s such a grandiose condition.”
“Nothing hard though. Something that you can do.”
Maru stared at Sooil, who had a smile on his face, for a while before nodding.
“Fine, let’s do it. But since we’re betting, I’m playing this properly as well.”
“Please go easy on me.”
Sooil smiled and got into position.
* * *
When he looked at the symbol for the billiard hall outside the window, he thought back to what happened an hour ago. He had to notice it when he saw that guy push his b.u.t.t right out and measure the angle. He didn’t realize that he’d be watching for the entirety of 30 minutes.
‘If that’s fifty, I’m just one, goddammit. Seoul players go too hard.’
Even on Jeju island, and in Incheon, where it was known to be hard to get scores, Sooil’s self-proclaimed ‘fifty points’ would be way understated.
-You’ll have to listen to a request from me in the future then.
He flicked away the words that echoed in his mind with a laugh. He was the first one to look down on him, so he couldn’t make any excuses either. Even if he did play first, he wouldn’t have been able to finish the game in one go, making it Sooil’s turn, and that would mean game over for him. It was impossible to win against him anyway.
Beep, the buzzer rang. Maru got off the bus and opened his phone. Ganghwan sent him the date and place of the appointment through text.
“Plays are good.”
He would have to see for himself what he was going to do and with what kind of people, but the fact that he was going to stand on stage made him feel excited already. Plays and dramas. The two were similar in the aspect that they both required acting, but they were two totally different things when you dug deep enough.
Acting was supposed to be done live. Just because they made a mistake, it wasn’t possible to shout cut and start over. Mistakes just happened and they would have to continue the play regardless. The actor would grow amidst those big and small accidents. This was why he agreed with the words that actors had to try out plays in order to gain a variety of acting experiences.
His palms heated up. The nervousness he couldn’t feel from dramas could be felt even now. Maru smiled as he started walking. The date was this Friday. He didn’t have to wait long.