Geunseok’s phone went off again, causing Yurim to bite down on her fork a bit harder than she intended. Her front teeth were throbbing slightly in pain. Already, Geunseok’s stared at his phone four times throughout their date. He just told her he was talking with his coach whenever she asked about it. She wanted to ask what the coach was like, but she lacked the courage each time. The boy already looked annoyed by her. He would hate her for sure if she overstepped her boundaries. So instead, Yurim handed him a piece of a fried dumpling.
“Try this, it’s good.”
Right then, his phone vibrated again. Geunseok put down his fork with a smile. Yurim felt like she was choking.
“That dumpling’s tasty.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“You’re not going to eat it?”
“I will, after this.”
“If it cools down...”
Geunseok raised his hand with an annoyed expression. That face didn’t last long though. After just a second, he had a smile on his face again.
“I’ll eat it on my own time. You should eat it too.”
Geunseok went back to reading his phone. The boy had an incredibly energetic look on his face as he read. Yurim looked at him dumbly before putting a piece of tteokbokki in her mouth. It was sweet. Salty. Spicy. No, it didn’t taste like anything. Since when was this dish so bland? The sticky rice cake felt awful in her mouth. She rolled it in her mouth as she chewed and ended up biting her tongue. She let out a slight moan in pain, but at least with this, she might be able to get Geunseok’s attention…
Geunseok was laughing while looking at his phone. Yurim tasted blood in her mouth. She thought back to that woman named Suyeon in Geunseok’s phone, that was probably his coach. She looked down slightly. She tried hard to look good with her beige pants, so why did she feel so out of style right now? Also, since when was she so fat? Her hips felt like they were about to explode.
She looked a little further upwards. She could see her stomach. She touched the skin hidden under her shirt, she could feel the fat underneath. The woman in the picture probably didn’t have anything like this. Lastly, her chest. Why was she so small? Her chest hurt a little, so she tapped it a few times with her fist. Even then she was looking at Geunseok. Maybe he’d ask her if she was hurting anywhere?
“This sis is just…” Geunseok said.
He probably didn’t mean to say it out loud. Unfortunately, Yurim heard everything. Geunseok looked up, seemingly realizing his loud voice. Yurim quickly stretched to grab a tissue.
“...I spilled something,” she said, trying her best to hide the fact she heard him.
Geunseok clicked his tongue in disapproval.
“You should be careful. So unladylike.”
Yurim smiled as she wiped down the already clean table, this was the first time their eyes met since they started eating.
“Do you… have anything that’s been bothering you recently?”
“What are you talking about all of a sudden?”
“No, just… I wanted you to know that I’m always here to help you. Just like last time.”
She barely managed to squeeze the words out of her. That’s right, the two of them had a bond that no one could break. Geunseok was relying on her. Speaking the words out loud calmed her down significantly. Surely the boy would come to her if hard times fell on him.
“Like last time?”
Geunseok responded coldly at her words, cold enough to make her flinch. Yurim was afraid of Geunseok’s glare, so she could only stutter out a response.
“Explain what you meant by ‘last time’?”
“No, I spoke wrongly.”
Geunseok leaned forward, casting a shadow over his face. Yurim felt afraid, his pressuring gaze made her heart tremble. At the same time, she felt oddly comforted. At least he wasn’t looking at his phone anymore, he wasn’t giving that woman any more attention. His eyes were on her and her alone.
She had to suppress a twisted smile appearing on her face. Yurim looked around carefully. She’d be losing to that woman if she didn’t reign in this opportunity. She organized her thoughts before opening her mouth again.
“You know what happened last time. When Maru said those things about you. You were… crying a lot.”
She looked straight down, she could just imagine what kind of a face Geunseok had on him right now. His gaze felt pretty hot on her, but the fact that she could control his emotions made her feel a little bit excited. She knew well that she couldn’t take back the words that she said. She continued talking regardless.
“You remember how I hugged you last time? You looked really sad. You cried a lot in my arms. I still remember you from then. You told me that I was of help to you. That you felt happy when you were with me. Right? I’m… always on your side.”
She looked back up with that. Surely he was fuming now, but at least he’d be looking at her.
A moan crawled out of her mouth. Geunseok wasn’t looking at her anymore. He was staring at his phone with a smile on his face.
“Did you hear me?”
“Yeah. Sort of.”
Sort of. Yurim felt a chill run down her neck, she wanted to throw up. She put a hand over her mouth as she stared at Geunseok. How could he be smiling so happily like that? Come to think of, when was the last time he smiled at her like that? She couldn’t remember. She was at a loss. It felt like her precious treasure was slipping out of her fingertips like sand. She tried her best to keep it together in her hands, but her efforts were futile.
Her voice was like that of a mosquito. She could only hope that Geunseok would reply regardless.
He still didn’t respond.
“Hey, Geunseok. Geunseok?”
She was losing the energy to even talk now. Geunseok was moving further away from her. Upon that realization, she found it increasingly difficult to breathe. There were girls talking around her. Couples looking at each other. Boys loudly talking behind her. All of their words were fusing together into one incoherent mess. Suddenly, the calm atmosphere of the restaurant was spiralling into something more chaotic.
“Hah, hah, hah.“
She started huffing. Did Geunseok no longer need her anymore? She was starting to suffocate under a feeling of loss and nervousness. She became strong for Geunseok. She was cowardly and weak, but she was ready to stand up whenever Geunseok needed her. Suddenly, the boy didn’t need her anymore. He wasn’t looking at her anymore.
‘Phone, phone, phone.’
She started digging her bag in a hurry. Her old flip phone quickly came into her vision. She used to have it in her hands all the time, but she started not needing it when she was with Geunseok. In the corner of her mind, she could hear the honks of a car. The laughter of unfamiliar men rang in her ears as well.
- Can you tell us the way to the nearby elementary school?
‘No, I don’t know.’
- Don’t be like that.
The group of men in black shirts started walking towards her. Yurim gripped her phone tightly. She knew all this was in the past. That didn’t make it any less scary though. Her consciousness started to fade away into darkness.
“Are you sick?”
Suddenly, a hand came over her forehead. She let out a sigh as she raised her hand. Geunseok was looking at her worriedly.
“Did you choke on some food?”
“No, it’s nothing. Nothing at all.”
The grip on her phone loosened. She’s realized. She needed Geunseok in order to survive. So then… how could she make the boy look at her again?
‘Maybe… I could be his support once he gets in trouble again.’
A smile came over her face. Geunseok just needs to experience another tragedy. The boy would look for support and she could come over to help him. Her heart trembled with joy. She was getting excited all over again.
‘I wonder what I’ll need to do to make him hurt.’
It didn’t matter if these were twisted thoughts. She would help him keep going anyhow.
“Is there anything you’re concerned about now?”
“...What is it, all of a sudden?”
She smiled lightly. Geunseok put the phone down on the table for now.
“Right now? Plays.”
“Plays must be pretty precious to you.”
“Well, isn’t it obvious?”
“In what way, though?”
She looked at Geunseok with curious eyes. The boy liked being praised. He enjoyed people’s attention to him. Indeed, he smiled as he started talking.
“Because it brought me a lot of change. I’d be living a boring life if I didn’t act right now.”
“You said you were going to go into college for movie acting, right?”
“Yeah. I know it sounds odd for me to say, but there’s more than just a few people who recognize my talent. The person who assigned a coach to me also promised me scholarship money. Did I tell you about that already?”
“Yeah, you did.”
“That’s why the prelims are important. Because they’re pretty strict. He might lose interest in me if I don’t give him results. My acting doesn’t matter, of course. You saw how everyone was praising me, right?”
“Of course. You’re perfect, Geunseok.”
“That is… true.”
“We just need to do better.”
“That’s the issue. You guys need to support me well. As long as you don’t make mistakes, we should be able to get through easily.”
“So I just need to trust you?”
Fun. Talking with him was fun. No one was interrupting them at this moment.
But the vibrations from Geunseok’s phone made Yurim clench her hands. The boy was looking at his phone again. She hated that phone. She wanted to break it. She gripped her fork tightly. Would the phone break if she stabbed the phone with it? No, Geunseok would be mad at her if she did it. That couldn’t happen. She needed to push him over the edge without his knowledge.
Yurim looked down at her own phone. She got a text. She checked the message with a dumb look.
[Do you have time tomorrow? Want to buy clothes together?]
It was Soyeon. She felt tempted for a second, but she remembered them having fun without her at Iseul’s place last time. Traitor. They were all traitors.
She closed her phone. As long as Geunseok was with her, she didn’t feel nervous. She didn’t need her phone when Geunseok was with her.
‘That’s why the prelims are important.’
The sentence reverberated inside her head. Right then, she thought of the wall in the auditorium. That black corner of the room. Fire. Burnt costumes and props. The seniors who weren’t even able to get to the prelims.
She let out a small laugh.
“It’s nothing. Nothing at all.”
It’s that. She could use that to break Geunseok. Surely she could use this to get his attention again.
‘You can cry whenever you want. I’ll always be ready.’
She didn’t ever want to return to her old self again.
‘I’m not weak. I can help other people. I can be his support.’
She became calm again. She was happy.
* * *
“Method acting isn’t anything special. You just need to completely immerse in a character. The problem is, the better you get at acting, the better you get at erasing yourself. In the end, you might erase yourself for good. If things get really bad, your actual personality might permanently change. Some people even end up having to get treatment because of it.”
“That actually happens?”
“You ever saw a pathological liar?”
“From a TV a few times.”
“That’s kind of similar to what method acting’s like. Pathological lying starts to turn into reality for a person. If things get bad, you might even start trying to turn that lie into reality. There’s an actor in France who assumed the role of a father that lost his son. Things got so bad for him that he started forgetting his own son.”
Maru nodded at Ganghwan. It was an interesting story. To think immersive acting can actually ruin a person…
“Acting’s complicated, isn’t it?”
“That it is.”
Ganghwan pressed on the pedal with a sigh.Previous Chapter Next Chapter