“Unni! Give us some fried rice here! Two, no, three portions!” Hanna shouted as she waved her spoon above her head.
It seemed that 6 portions of pork belly and a bowl of cold noodles weren’t enough for her.
“Hey, he’s grabbing the glass again,” Ganghwan said as he pointed at Sooil.
Maru picked up his chopsticks and slapped Sooil’s hand. Sooil looked at him for a while before grabbing the glass again.
“Who do you think you’re trying to annoy again?”
Maru took the glass away from him. Sooil had drunk 2 glasses already. From his red face, he seemed to have reached his limits already, but he kept looking for more alcohol.
“I’m not drunk.”
“That’s what they all say. Shut up and drink some water.”
Maru poured some water into the beer glass and handed it back.
It was Friday night. It had been an hour since they came to the pork belly restaurant after practice. Unlike their original intentions of having a quick meal and going home, they were now somehow ordering more and more portions of pork belly and alcoholic drinks.
“Looks like my daily expenses are getting buried here today.”
Ganghwan looked at Hanna with tears as Hanna made another ssam to eat. Hanna’s appetite was not ordinary, and Sooil also kept picking up pieces of meat without end, so the total amount they ate kept increasing. Since Hanna just ordered fried rice, it might be the end, but from how she still kept staring at the menu on the wall of the restaurant, perhaps she wasn’t satisfied just yet.
“Did Hanna-noona always eat that much?” Maru quietly asked Ganghwan.
“She’s the type of person to eat when she feels stressed. She’s always like that when she’s starting off a play. Rather than that, you don’t get drunk easily. Didn’t you just empty two bottles?”
“You’re right. Looks like I’m quite good with alcohol. Since we’re at it, here, I’ll pour a glass of rice wine for you.”
Maru poured a glass full of rice wine. After toasting, he drank the rice wine with some kimchi. The taste of rice wine that hit the back of his throat made him smile.
“Are you greedy about acting these days?”
For a brief moment, the noise around him didn’t enter his ears.
Greed, huh. He twirled the glass once before drinking some rice wine again. Ganghwan, who asked the question, also turned away from him and ate a piece of meat.
The shout of a man saying that he’ll treat the group because he just got his salary, the sound of sizzling meat, and the crisp clanging of the chopsticks that fell on the floor became vivid again.
“I do feel greedy.”
During a conversation he had with Ganghwan a long time ago, he was asked a similar question. Back then, Maru replied that he wasn’t greedy. The reason he chose the path of acting was strictly for money. He only chose acting as the method to get a huge profit, so there was no reason for him to be greedy about it. The process was just the process. The only thing he looked forward to was the quality of the result, not the perfection of the process.
However, a lot of things had changed now. Although he still put importance on results, he now became greedy about the process as well. Not only did he start finding interest in acting itself, but he also took a step further and started wanting to become a good actor. Rather than an actor liked by the viewers or the audience, he wanted to climb to the level where the actors that acted in tandem with him would say that he was a decent actor.
The feeling he got when the other party received every last bit of emotion that he gave off, and responded with his or her own feeling filled with emotion was an indescribable feeling of joy. It was like that with the single cut - that single exchange in conversation - that he shot with the elder during the movie, and more recently, it was like that with his act with Joohyun. He felt that he was lacking, but at the same time, he smiled because he was joyful.
He wanted to continue experiencing such acting.
That sentence took place in a corner of his heart.
“You started on the path of pain, what a pitiful guy.”
Ganghwan poured some rice wine into his glass. Maru received the rice wine with a smile.
“Geunsoo probably said this before, that it’s an incredibly difficult thing for an actor to make a living out of acting. When I saw you before, I didn’t have any worries at all. You didn’t look like you were someone who’d make the wrong decisions. You looked like you’d immediately step out once you felt that it was no good. I’m not saying that you lacked effort or tenacity. I’m just saying that you’re quick at making and cutting connections when necessary.”
“Even now, I’m still going to find something else to do if things go wrong. I need to earn money. After all, a lot of money makes me happy.”
At that moment, Sooil, who had his head lowered, spoke,
“A lot of money doesn’t necessarily equal being happy, I mean it.”
After saying those words, his head swayed around as though he was dizzy before he smacked his head on the table. The shock made the things on the table shudder.
“Looks like that guy is completely done for. Anyway, right now, you don’t look like that, Maru. When you practiced with me a year ago, I could tell that you just memorized the theories and applied them to your acting, but you aren’t like that now. You’re enjoying it.”
“You can tell things like that?”
“I can. How many people do you think I’ve seen until now?”
They toasted again. Meanwhile, Hanna was conquering the fried rice all by herself. It looked as though she was going to finish it soon since Sooil joined her, albeit drunk.
“Enjoy yourself. To the point that even if you turn away after all the frustration, you won’t have any regrets.”
“You’re talking about regrets to a junior with a bright future?”
“Regrets are better the earlier you get them. Rather than regretting past the point of no return, it’s better to regret while you still have options.”
“But you’re going to keep doing this, aren’t you, senior?”
“Me? As for me, I’m good at it. I have the confidence that there’s no one better than me at acting on stage. I’m someone who will do well. I can say that with confidence.”
If a nameless drunkard said those words, Maru would’ve just laughed, but as Maru knew the future of this man, it sounded like the ambitions of a great man. You will really become like that, senior Ganghwan - he thought to himself.
Hearing the crisp voice, Maru turned around. Hanna was shouting as she raised her hand above her.
Ganghwan, who was looking at the empty grill with sad eyes, sighed after hearing those words. Maru poured him a glass of rice wine in consolation.
“Ah, right. Sir Yoon told me that he wants to see me next week. I heard that you were the one who talked about it.”
“Yes. I told the elder that I’ll bring some meat.”
“And that idol-whoever is coming as well?”
“Yes. The elder permitted.”
“Then I guess I don’t need to worry about it. Looks like I’ll be eating until my nose is red huh. Sir Yoon is someone that ends what he started. Is the fella coming with you good at drinking?”
“We did drink together before, and he didn’t act weird.”
“That’s good. But hey, you sound like you’re drinking here and there.”
“It’s one of my few hobbies.”
“Hey, hey, don’t regret it when you’re older and drink moderately. You’ll get a fat liver.”
“I could say the same thing to you.”
While they were chatting, the new portions of pork belly came.
“Well, let’s eat for now. Before Hanna-noona finishes them by herself.”
“Yeah, we should.”
The two picked up their chopsticks.
* * *
“I’ll bring this kid home. I have business in Seoul.”
Hanna piggy-backed Sooil, who was practically limp, and started walking.
“Hanna sure is strong.”
“It’s cold. Let’s go home as well.”
The high street of Anyang on Friday night was bright as though it was day. It wasn’t just because of the lights from street signs, but also because of the red glow from the faces of those in the streets. They left the high street.
“You didn’t bring your car, did you?”
“Of course. I’m going to sleep in the jjimjilbang nearby.”
“You live in Seoul, right?”
“Yeah. You live in Suwon so I guess it won’t take long by bus. You should go home quickly. You might make your parents worried. Ah, won’t they say something if you smell like alcohol when you go home?”
“They think that freedom is the best way to raise children. They won’t say anything as long as I don’t cause trouble.”
“Splendid parents you have there.”
“Indeed. You don’t have anyone you’re in a relationship with?”
“If I did, I’d be telling everyone around me already. Maybe because I'm busy, but I don’t see a good woman.”
“Why don’t you try going on TV? People around you will set up meetings for you.”
“Acting in front of a camera just isn’t for me.”
“You’re not interested in movies either?”
“Well, if I become poor, I will do anything it takes to get me back on my feet, but for now, I want to focus on plays. Acting has its times, you know? A stage you can digest while you’re thirty-three is different from the stage you can digest when you’re thirty-four. The stage is where one year makes a big difference.”
“But you should really accept it when people scout you.”
“I’ll do it if our dear president Lee Junmin tells me to, but there’s no way he’d have me do something recklessly. Wait, why are we talking about money when we were supposed to be talking about love? Since we’re at it, why don’t you introduce me to a good person?”
“It’s a crime.”
“Age is nothing in front of love.”
“Maybe, but there’s something called shame as well.”
“Dammit, forget about it. You young kids can play with other young kids all day long for all I care. This old man is going to die a lonely death.”
Ganghwan exaggerated his actions as though he was acting in a play. Thanks to that, he attracted attention from people around them. Maru tried to step away from him, but Ganghwan’s arm hooked around his neck.
“Treat her well. Love at your age makes you think and feel about a lot of things.”
“Don’t worry about that. I’m doing plenty well.”
“Yeah, yeah. Sure. Because it’s you. But what do kids do these days?”
“It hasn’t changed. Watching movies, eating out, and talking.”
“Dammit, kid. At your age, you're supposed to be more passionate, and immature in your love. What is that old-fashioned setting?”
“Liking someone is old fashioned in itself.”
“Urgh. I wonder what she saw in a guy like this. This guy should be as interesting as a grey wall to girls her age. It’s such a curious thing.”
Maru shrugged as he spoke,
“My girlfriend isn’t that girly.”
“Is she like you and her mental age is actually really old?”
“I’m saying that she is not childish.”
“What does that entail?”
“We don’t have to talk to each other to know and understand each other. You know, things like that.”
At that moment, the lights changed. Ganghwan let go of his neck. At the same time, he said this,
“It’s normally not like that. The girl that was my student last winter, at least, wasn’t like that. Well, she is your girlfriend, so you must know better, but when I looked at her, she didn’t seem so strong-minded.”
Ganghwan tapped Maru’s forehead.
“Engrave the words this love-expert is telling you. The way you see her might be different from the way she actually is.”
“...You’re drunk, aren’t you?”
“I was found out? Pftt. Hahahaha.”
Ganghwan crossed the street as he waved his hand. Maru looked at his back for a while before turning around.
 Calling the waitress.
 Vegetable wrap
 Pork belly(samgyeopsal) fried with gochujang(chilly paste)
Are Ganghwan's words foreshadowing something?
"Age is just a number"
"And so is your criminal record"
Almost tempted to write that.
His character growth is amazing when u compare him to the beginning of the novel.