He drank the first glass in one go. He thought that it would be bitter like the soju he first had at Suyeon’s house, but a faint peach fragrance spread inside his throat instead. He thought it would be a strong alcohol, but maybe it was fruit juice?
“Phew, that makes me feel better. Toilet, toilet….”
The two ladies sitting on the other side immediately left the room after emptying their glasses. Daemyung grabbed the drink bottle that was standing on one side of the table. It was the drink he just had now. 2% alcohol content. It seemed to be a Japanese alcoholic drink but he could not read anything else on it.
“Hyung-nim, isn’t this just juice?”
Gwak Joon also picked up the bottle before he asked. Pilhyun spoke, his breath smelling like alcohol,
“Don’t you start. This is our 3rd round. We’re drinking that to sober up.”
“You people are amazing. But who were the two women?”
“Scary women I got to know through work. It’s been about 15 years since I got to know them, I think?”
“So they are writers.”
“Joon, your personal network is too narrow. You would’ve known them if you came to the writers’ meetings when I told you to.”
“You know my personality. I’m gloomy.”
Daemyung nodded when he heard Gwak Joon say that he was gloomy. It wasn’t just his impression. His style was like a crow as well. Black glasses, a black t-shirt, and even the strap on his watch was black. When he first looked at Gwak Joon’s car, he even asked why the car was grey without thinking. At that time, Gwak Joon said that he didn’t like black with his own mouth. That didn’t sound believable at all.
“I’ll be going to the toilet too then.”
Gwak Joon left as well. Daemyung looked at the sighing Pilhyun before picking up his chopsticks. He thought that it should be okay to eat. First, he picked up a piece of fried chicken. Even though he hadn’t put it in his mouth yet, he felt like he could taste it. Just as he was about to put it in his mouth as his starved stomach cheered gleefully,
“Hey, did you ride Joon’s car?”
“Eh? Ah, yes,” he replied as he watched the fried chicken stop 5cm in front of him. He felt as though he was going to start drooling.
“I’m surprised you’re still alive. Didn’t he drive like he was on the motorway?”
“I panicked and stopped him after I saw him go up to 140.”
“Well done. Joon, that guy kinda gets weird when he can’t write. It’s fine on empty roads, but he starts getting hysterical once he goes somewhere crowded. You have to especially watch out for him if he drives in the middle of the city. If he ever says that he’s frustrated because he’s stuck in his writing, open the door and jump out of the car. One mishap and you’ll be shaking hands with the grim reaper. I mean, I have experience with him.”
“I’ll bear that in mind.”
It definitely was dangerous. He decided that he should watch out the next time he rode Gwak Joon’s car. Daemyung looked at Pilhyun before moving his chopsticks again. Gulp - his mouth was more than ready to accept the food. He opened his mouth and put the fried chicken about halfway in. Just as he was about to bite down expecting to hear the crunchy sound of the fried batter breaking, he heard a voice call out to him again.
The meat juice flowed out, but he had to take it back out.
“Why do chickens have two legs?”
It began again. Moreover, it was a topic he had talked about before. Daemyung knew that this conversation would branch out and they would eventually talk about the cosmos. Food was cooling, but Pilhyun was looking at him seriously. In the end, Daemyung put down his chopsticks.
Just as he was about to step down the path leading to the unknown, the door opened and the two ladies that went to the bathroom came back. Pilhyun’s attention turned towards them.
“Of course it does. Why don’t you do it too?”
Daemyung thought that the lady with the short hair had a rather… incredible mouth. He knew instantly that she was close to Pilhyun. Pilhyun faintly smiled before standing up. This was his opportunity. He picked up his chopsticks again and reached for the fried chicken that he had half-bitten into.
“Looks like you’re about the same age as my child,” the short-haired lady noted.
Daemyung raised his head. The lady rested her chin on her hands and stared at him. Her eyes were saying: ‘play with me’.
Although he thought that his personality had changed quite a bit, it wasn’t that he was better around strangers. Now that Pilhyun and Gwak Joon weren’t here, Daemyung looked at the two ladies with a racing heart. Their status as writers made him even more nervous. Things like ‘are they famous?’, ‘what if they ask about my writing?’, and ‘what am I supposed to say?’ riddled his mind.
Daemyung’s only option was to look at the door. He hoped for Gwak Joon and Pilhyun to come back quickly, but unfortunately, the door didn’t budge.
“Can I ask how old you are?”
The short-haired lady had a potty mouth when talking to Pilhyun, but she unexpectedly used a calm speech tone. Daemyung could feel that she wasn’t treating him like a child. An adult - that was the word that flashed past Daemyung’s head.
“I’m in my 3rd year of high school.”
“Oh, you’re actually the same age as my daughter. But that makes me curious. Bro Ahn, ah, I mean, how did you get to know writer Ahn Pilhyun? He’s the type of guy who’d rather smoke at his house instead of going around meeting people. Especially not young fellows like you.”
“I got to know him through someone else. Through the introduction of a friend of mine, I got to know Gwak Joon-hyung, and I got to know the writer through him.”
“Really? You have a good friend then.”
“Yes, he’s a good friend.”
Daemyung looked at the short-haired lady in detail again. Those round eyes, he felt like he had seen them somewhere.
“Are you perhaps an aspiring creative writing department student?”
“No, I plan to major in philosophy.”
“Philosophy? Now you’re someone I haven’t seen in a long time. You want to learn philosophy?”
“N-no. I want to write. My ultimate goal is to direct a film though.”
“Then you should come to the creative writing department.”
“I’m thinking that I should learn more about people. I do want to write, but as I told you before… my ultimate goal is to become a director.”
“I see. You feel a little strange because a woman you’ve never seen before is asking too much about yourself, don’t you?”
“N-no. It’s not like that.”
“You’re a good boy. I can see that at a glance.”
The lady hummed for a while then grabbed the drink bottle before giving him a glance. Daemyung immediately picked up his glass.
“This place will go out of business if law enforcement shows up.”
“Then I won’t drink.”
“I’m joking. Those people don’t come here. But are you okay with alcohol? This might not have a lot of alcohol in it, but it’s still an alcoholic drink.”
“I’ll be fine if it’s just a little.”
“Then this must be fate so have a drink. We might see each other again once you start writing properly.”
When the glass was half-filled, the short-haired lady exclaimed a little.
“You said you wanted to become a director, right? For a movie? Or for a drama?”
“If possible, I want to try both of them.”
“Then you should try talking to this girl. She’s famous in the industry.”
The short-haired lady pointed at the lady sitting next to him. That lady had long, silky hair as though she managed it well, and the clothes she was wearing looked very expensive to Daemyung as well. The way she opened her eyes made him think that she was high-class which made it hard for him to talk to her. The lady with the blue shawl chuckled before drinking.
“There you go, acting heavy again. It’s really a habit of yours, isn’t it? I thought you had a hard time because of that. Why are you doing that again? Lee Hanmi, get yourself together, will you?”
“Haesoo-unni, it hurts!”
The short-haired lady seemed to be named Haesoo, while the unapproachable lady with the blue shawl was named Lee Hanmi.
After the two wrestled it out for a while, the two giggled and raised their glasses. Hanmi, who had been acting heavily until just moments ago, laughed like an idiot before starting to speak.
“Hey, kid. What’s your name?”
“Yes, you! Who else is here?”
“My name is Park Daemyung.”
“Daemyung? Hey, Daemyung. My name is Lee Hanmi, do you know who I am?”
“Then what about this unni? She’s called Choi Haesoo.”
“Sorry. I’m not too knowledgeable about writers.”
When he said that, Hanmi laughed as she mercilessly slapped Haesoo’s arm.
“Unni, unni! He doesn’t know us. I’m not a famous writer after all, right?”
“It’s natural for him to not know me, and it’s not that surprising that he doesn’t know you either. So stop making a fuss about it.”
“Goddammit, no one knows me anyway. Should I just write whatever I want? Even if I go through the pains of writing, I see the same stuff on the internet all the time.”
“There you go again.”
Haesoo hugged Hanmi and patted her back. Looking at the immature sides of the people who seemed at least double his age, Daemyung realized that this was an opportunity. He picked up his chopsticks and decided to stuff the chicken in his mouth before anyone interrupted him.
He moved the quickest he had this whole year. He picked up the fried chicken with his chopsticks and put it in his mouth. The rendezvous he had been looking forward to so much began, and just as he was about to let the two sides of his mouth say their goodbyes, a hand appeared out of nowhere and grabbed his chopsticks. The chicken that shook at the end of his chopsticks fell on the ground like a dried out leaf.
“Hey. Listen to me. Why are the kids on the internet all like that these days? Hey? You’re that Gen X or whatever. Explain to me, hey? Just what is there to dislike about my writing?”
Hanmi said that with a crying face. Daemyung couldn’t hear her voice. His mind was wholeheartedly focused on the piece of fried chicken that fell on the floor.
He didn’t know why, but he felt like crying.
“Can I say it after I eat this?”
* * *
Haesoo smiled in satisfaction as she watched Daemyung eat. After watching her daughter eat practically nothing for a while because of her diet, it felt rather refreshing to see someone devour food using both of his hands.
“My, good boy. Eat this as well.”
There was a bright smile on his face. It made her happy just seeing that expression. Haesoo turned around to look at Hanmi. Even she, who had been complaining the whole day, was smiling as she looked at Daemyung eating.
“He eats so nicely, doesn’t he?”
“Yeah, that’s right. Daemyung, eat this as well.”
Hanmi placed the fried udon in front of Daemyung. Daemyung’s eyes shone before he started eating the udon with glee. The noodles were sucked into his mouth endlessly at an incredible speed.
“Take it slow. You might upset your stomach.”
After taking a deep breath, Daemyung moved his chopsticks again. Since it was their third round of drinking, they only ordered some light snacks to go with their drink, but it seemed that they had to order some proper food.
“Bro Ahn is the one paying. But what are those two doing? Why aren’t they coming back?”
“I saw them smoking outside.”
“They’ll rot their lungs soon enough.”
They called the waiter and ordered a few more dishes. Daemyung refused, saying that he was okay, but he quietened down when he was asked if it was really okay. He was unexpectedly cute for his size.
“Hey, do you know about ‘New Semester’?” Hanmi asked.
Haesoo almost spat out what she was drinking. What was this girl going to talk about in front of a kid. She tried to stop her, but Daemyung showed interest instead.
“New Semester? I do know about it. You’re referring to the drama, right?”
“Yeah, yeah. How is it? Do you watch it?”
“Yes. I watch it every week.”
“Every week? I heard it wasn’t popular with the boys though.”
“I find it fun though.”
“Really? Uhm, Daemyung. Can I ask you something?”
Haesoo signalled her not to with her eyes, but Hanmi ignored her.
“What do you think it’ll be like if two of the characters started dating?”
“I think it’ll be interesting.”
“Right? Everyone’s at that age where they’re curious about love. Okay then. Who do you think fits Yeseul?”
“I think Giwoo would suit her.”
“Right? The two of them suit each other. Then, what do you think about Giwoo doing the confession?”
“I don’t think that’s too bad. He is a little embarrassed, but I don’t think it will be too disconcerting.”
“Eh? Giwoo is that kind of character after all, at least from what I saw until now. Yeseul is clueless about love, and while Giwoo does know about dating, he’s embarrassed about it.”
“...Then what if someone bridged the two of them? For example, Lee Chan.”
“Lee Chan? Sounds good. He’s a real prankster. I also like Lee Chan.”
Haesoo blinked several times as she listened to the conversation. Didn’t boys usually like girl characters from fiction? And yet he liked Lee Chan? She decided to tell Maru that he had a male fan when she saw him next time.
“I see. So it’s good… of course it is. So internet authors are much better than me after all….”
Hanmi lowered her head while laughing like an idiot. Haesoo sighed. She fell into that rabbit hole of guilt all over again. Just as Daemyung was looking at both of them due to the weird atmosphere, saviors appeared. The door opened and the two men came back.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
In case you forgot:
Ahn Pilhyun: a friend of Bae Chulho, who Daemyung got to know through Gwak Joon. Was also a judge for the summer acting competition.
Choi Haesoo: Bunbun's mother. The 'short-haired lady' in this chapter.
Lee Hanmi: script writer for 'New Semester'. Also Haesoo's junior in college. 'the lady with the blue shawl' in this chapter.
Ok, but who just grabs the chopsticks of someone who's eating. That's so rude and it doesn't seem like she's that drunk.