“Could you… Look in front of you, miss?”
“I’m looking very well.”
“No, not me. The front.”
Moonjoong pointed in front of him with a small smile, the light was turning green. Miso bowed apologetically before stepping on the pedal.
“Do I really look that interesting?”
“Well, it’s just… No, I know this is really rude to say, but yes. Also, please speak casually to me. You’re a senior.”
“But this is our first time meeting.”
“It’s fine, really.”
“...Alright, fine then.”
Moonjoong looked at the books, notes, and scripts strewn about inside the car. He used to put all sorts of stuff in his car at some point as well, for the sake of conserving time. He started sleeping in his car instead when he realized that proper rest was also a part of his work.
“Can I look at these?”
Miso was a very energetic woman. Most men probably can’t assert themselves in front of her. Moonjoong picked up a script and slowly started reading from it. Scripts were essentially a notebook of an actor’s life experience, it was a valuable source that told him about an actor’s personality. The cover was a little wrinkled and quite dirty, but the script inside looked brand new. She didn’t seem to have taken notes in it. Moonjoong noticed a notebook next to where the script used to be, she seemed to have written her thoughts over there.
“You throw your script against the wall when you can’t memorize your lines?”
Miso smiled awkwardly.
“I used to do that a lot myself, especially when I practiced accents. I used to throw my script at something almost daily. It really annoyed me. I could never get the little nuances right, no matter how hard I tried.”
“You have experiences like that as well, sir?”
“I wasn’t always good at acting, after all. Not that I’m good now.”
“Please don’t say that. If you’re not good at acting, then what does that make me?”
“Acting changes and evolves over time, like anything else in the world. Looking at the actors nowadays always astonishes me.”
“No, that’s not it at all.”
Miso looked a little angry. How funny. He was thankful that she thought of him that way.
“Isn’t teaching the kids difficult?”
“Sometimes, yes. The club exists only for a student’s enjoyment, but there are also kids whose enjoyment depends on results. If I can’t bring results to those kids, then… I can’t help but feel a little useless. Ah, not that results are everything, but...”
“Most of the times, it is.”
“It looks like there’s something going on.”
“...I have a very big worry, at least for myself. It’s not a very big problem, but my pride is at stake.”
“Could you tell me about it, if you don’t mind?”
“Mm, putting it simply, the club I’m working with is about to lose their practice room because we lack the results.”
“This is also the club I spent my high school years as well.”
“Ah, I heard about that from Geunsoo. You graduated from here?”
“Yes. Eh, you know Geunsoo?”
“Of course, I’m working on a play with him.”
This was news to her. Moonjoong smiled lightly.
“Could it be, the Myungdong Art Theater reopening...”
“Oh, so you knew.”
“Really? I’m so sorry. I would’ve gone to see you if I knew.”
“No need to be sorry. Don’t try to come when you’re so busy either. It looks like you’re doing a lot of things other than teaching anyhow.”
The back seat was littered with all sorts of costumes. That probably meant that she was about to perform in a play. Teaching and acting… Two very hard things to do at once.
“No, not at all. I’ll come this, no, next week.”
“We’re going to hold the play until the end of January, so take your time.”
Hearing from others that they would come to see his play always brought joy to him. It also shouldered him with the responsibility of making the play a success, to a degree.
“How did it feel to pick up acting again?”
What did this energetic woman want to hear from him? Moonjoong put on a wide smile when he came up with an answer.
“It’s fun but difficult. Sometimes I want to give up, but I also want to keep doing this. You know the drill.”
Miso grinned in satisfaction.
* * *
Miso returned with Moonjoong by the time they were about to go into their second practice. The club members all tensed up as they saw an old man enter the auditorium.
“I’m sorry for interrupting you all.”
“Interrupting? There’s no way, sir.”
Miso tried to line up the kids, but Moonjoong stopped her.
“Just keep going with practice as if I am not here.”
Maru brought Moonjoong a chair.
The man sat down next to Miso. The club members still looked a tad confused, at least until Miso opened her mouth.
It was just a single audience member, but according to Miso, this old man was someone extraordinary. The club members all looked a little nervous because of it. Maru, too, could feel himself tense up a little bit. They were acting in front of an old school legend right now. The president thought a little about whether they wanted to start from where they left off, or start from the very beginning. In the end, they decided to start all over again.
* * *
“How are they?”
“Very good. The young ones are good at acting like I first thought.”
The man might’ve just been saying things to be polite, but it was good to hear nonetheless. Miso brought out the tea and the yokan she prepared for him.
“I’ll have some after I finish watching them.”
A very clear, and yet soft, refusal. Miso didn’t ask twice and put the snacks elsewhere. The man was watching the kids very carefully, he wasn’t just skimming them over. Because of it, Miso was even more on edge than the kids. What would he say after this? Eventually, the run ended and the kids looked their way.
A short applause came from Moonjoong. Miso felt proud, as if she was the one who was praised.
“This is too good to be a free play.”
Moonjoong stood up from his seat.
“I don’t have much to say. I feel like I just wasted your time. I’m sorry about that.”
Miso stood up as well.
“The kids would only feel uncomfortable if I stay, so I should take my leave.”
“They’re good kids, so I don’t have much to say. Especially when they already have such a good teacher.”
“Please don’t worry about me.”
Miso quickly called over the club members. Moonjoong tried to stop her, but she couldn’t allow him to leave like this. She didn’t know when she’d even be able to see him next time.
“Please, sir. I’m still very lacking. I have a lot of things I would like to do for these children, but I’m lacking. You’re different.”
“I’m not someone that amazing either.”
“But you’re still much better than me. Please don’t deny it.”
That was how Miso felt. Even now, she referenced a lot of Moonjoong’s works when she practiced. Everything from his black and white films, to colored ones. Hearing advice from a living legend like him would surely help the kids greatly.
Moonjoong smiled awkwardly. Did he have other arrangements he needed to attend to?
“Are you busy, by any...”
“No, not that. It’s just… haha.”
“Sir, could you just give us small advice, like something you’d tell your grandson?”
It was Maru, Moonjoong thought for a second before sitting back down. Miso threw the boy a thumbs up. What a good kid.
“I can’t give you advice as an actor, since I’m too old for the industry now, but… If it’s just simple advice, then I can give you something. Would it be alright for me to take some of your time?”
Moonjoong looked at the club members carefully.
“Thank you,” Maru said, taking a seat.
The other kids followed suit, things were a lot less awkward once Maru got involved.
“You probably wouldn’t know me very well. I’m just an old man who chased after acting all my life because I happened to like it. Are there any of you that are considering taking up acting seriously?”
Three kids raised their hands at that: Maru, Daemyung, and Geunseok.
“So the rest of you are doing it as a hobby.”
Moonjoong closed his eyes for a moment. His wrinkled eyes were trembling. Everyone became silent as they watched the man reminiscing about the past.
“Acting… was my life. It was how I made my living, it was how I raised my child, and it was how I prepared for my retirement. There were a lot of tiring moments, but I also had a lot of fun doing it. I wanted to give up at certain points and I was sometimes relieved that I decided to take up acting. That’s why I always want to say two things when I look at kids like yourself. First, to keep on practicing. Second, there are quite a lot of good things that will happen to you in the industry, no matter how bad things may seem.”
Moonjoong tapped his knees a few times.
“If you take up acting as a hobby, there probably won’t be a more fun one for you. You’ll be able to meet a lot of interesting people and become a handful of interesting characters. Your life would be full of excitement and smiles. That’s why I would like to tell you, the hobbyists, to continue on with acting for as long as you can.”
Most of the kids nodded. Miso noted that the three that said they would take up acting as a career weren’t nodding at all.
“For those who want to make a living out of acting… I want to tell you to be afraid of yourself the most. You’ll experience a lot of things as you act. You’ll experience bitter failure, and sweet success. It’ll help you all grow for sure and your skills would improve along with it. But I want to tell you that having good acting skills is not paramount for success.”
Bitter words, but these were words that the three of them needed to hear the most.
“If, by some chance, you end up getting popular, you will need to constantly take time to reflect on yourself. What’s more dangerous than other people’s tongue is your own and your eyes are more dangerous than that of the others. The moment you get swallowed by your own pride, then you’ll instantly turn from a popular actor to a mere pebble in the road. And...”
Moonjoong stood up again. This time, Miso wasn’t able to stop him. The amount of force that came out of him was incredibly intimidating.
“I always tell this to the kids who ask me to teach them. Always endure when you want to give up. Leave when you feel like you’ve done enough. That’s the best way to not get swallowed up by your own pride and money.”
* * *
Moonjoong looked up at the fifth floor as he exited the school.
He wanted to say a lot of things, but he came out in a hurry. It wasn’t that he was busy or that he didn’t like the atmosphere. He was just too excited. Watching the kids act in such joy made him want to act as well. He just said what he wanted to tell them before walking straight out.
“I guess I’m an actor no matter what I do.”
Moonjoong smiled as he walked out of the school entrance. He couldn’t wait to lay his hands on his new script.Previous Chapter Next Chapter