Changed, huh. Maru thought about it as he looked at Dongho, who was acting. The words he didn’t think much about during lunch kept reverberating inside his mind. He felt unpleasant as though he was watching his room being messed up. The negative emotions he didn’t know the reason for did not become bigger or smaller. They just exuded their presence as though to prove that they were there, sitting on one corner of the desk in his mind. He tried meditating in order to clean up the desk in his mind, but that minute displeasure did not disappear. Even when he looked at the script, it kept bugging his mind as though someone was calling out to him softly from behind.
Change. In retrospect, it was the thing he wanted the most. Escaping the death of a miserable middle-aged man and creating an environment without any deficiencies, even if it did not look beautiful was far better. Although he maintained passiveness until now, it was still a series of challenges for him, and some of his choices were bold to the point that they could be considered reckless. As a result of them, however, he was where he was right now. He was steadily gaining career experience and connections. There were no problems anywhere. He even managed to play a supporting character in a public TV program before he was even twenty. It wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that he got on the elevator that led to success. It was a series of contradictions where he chose to escape being ordinary to live an ordinary life, but the result was golden, so he could say that there were no worries.
Then why - Maru pressed his fingers between his eyes. It wasn’t that he was tired. He didn’t have a headache either. He needed some pain. Usually, he would’ve stopped thinking about trivial things like that due to the pain. Maru sighed softly when he felt the unpleasant sensation that kept sticking to him. Was it because he didn’t get enough sleep recently due to watching all those videotapes? He glared at the innocent Dongho before picking up his script. The camera did not care about whether he was in a good condition or not. It was crucial for an actor to display their full capabilities no matter the time. He repeated the few lines he had several times to wait out the waiting time. He could feel a part of him still concerned about the word ‘change’ in a corner of his mind, but he intentionally ignored it. It would negatively affect the shoot if he kept thinking about it. It would be enough to think about it after the shoot.
“Han Maru, get ready!”
He put down the script and entered the camera frame. As soon as he saw the black camera and the transparent lens, he calmed down as though he had never had any of those thoughts. Regardless of the characteristics of the space, he liked stages.
“We’re starting the shoot. Joomin, come a little more inside. Jichan, make sure you make your movements clear. Three, two, one, cue!”
* * *
“What were you thinking about so deeply before?” Joomin asked Maru after finishing the shoot.
This was the first time she saw Maru thinking about something instead of looking at the script during waiting time. He had looked up at the sky, then looked at the ground, shook his legs before calming down again. She found it so unusual that she glanced at him during the shoot as well.
“There was something I needed to think about.”
“Is it something serious? It might be just me, but you looked a little uneasy.”
“I did? Was I that strange?”
“You were. I was even wondering what you were thinking about that it made you like that. But you look okay now. Did you get it cleared up?”
“When I thought about it for a while, I found myself rather pathetic for worrying about such a trivial thing. So I just shook it off.”
“That’s good. I was slightly worried thinking that it was something big.”
“Well, what kind of big things would I be worried about at my age? I just thought about whether changing is a good thing or a bad thing. Earlier, I felt like it was a complex problem that made my head hurt, but from some time onwards, I started thinking that it didn’t matter. It’s not like clinging onto such a useless topic is productive either.”
“Is it because of what Dongho and I said to you before? If it’s like that, you don’t need to mind it. I was just joking. Dongho probably didn’t mean anything much either. We did that because you were just slightly different from usual.”
“So I was different from usual?”
Joomin looked at Maru’s eyes. For some reason, she felt that this boy’s eyes, which contained no hesitation before, seemed to be wavering and unable to find the right direction to go. She thought that this was the moment for her to set him straight as a senior.
“It’s not like that. It’s not like we meant anything much when we said it. If you’re still worried about what we said, then just forget about it. You haven’t changed. Of course, you’re changing in the sense that your skills are improving to the point that I can’t find any flaws, but your personality is still the same. I’m saying that you’re good. You treat us well. Dongho was just playing a joke on you when he said that you were coldhearted. Try grabbing anyone here and ask if you are a coldhearted person or not. You’re a good guy, so don’t worry about such things.”
She felt a little proud after saying those words. Maru was always the reliable sort, so it was rather refreshing to see his feeble side like this. Joomin smiled as she looked at Maru.
“Right? It’s not like a person’s nature would change that easily. Thank you, noona. I think you cleared my head up a little.”
“Nah. I am still a senior who has lived a few years more than you. I can tell you things like this anytime. I’ve once worried about the same thing after all.”
“I’ll come to you for consultation from time to time then. Oh, it’s our scene this time. Let’s get ready.”
Maru walked forward with his usual faint smile.
“But he really is different from usual,” Joomin said to herself as she looked at Maru getting farther away.
The Maru she knew was proficient in everything which was unlike a high school student. He was someone who sometimes reacted a little too well that it made her feel slightly scared. She never thought that someone like that would have such worries just because he was told that he was ‘different from usual’. Was it because of his age?
In any case, it did look like things went well, so Joomin followed Maru.
* * *
“Thanks for your work. See you next week!”
“Yes, please have a safe trip home.”
Dongho and Joomin waved their hands as they got in the taxi. Maru watched the taxi drive off and turn at a junction before starting to walk. It was 3 p.m. Unlike the main actors, who had shoots until late into the night, the supporting characters had finished all their scenes. Although the shoot ended earlier than usual, Maru felt that today was longer than any other day. It was because of the train of thought that he had.
Fortunately, he no longer had a headache now since he got things cleared up, but until just an hour ago, numerous thoughts filled his head to the point that he was worried about his brain melting from overloading.
Thousands of thoughts popped up into his mind without any commonalities before disappearing at once. As though to reply to the topic of ‘change’, his current and past memories branched out infinitely and brushed past each other at crossroads. In that process, he embraced the excitement of a new challenge that he had forgotten about, tasted the infinite possibilities of youth, and saw the goodness of mankind.
It was to the point that he felt strange for being so cautious when he approached the world until now. Was there a need to draw such a clear line? Why did he suspect people first without first treating them with an act of goodwill? A stable future was good and all, but since he only had one life, shouldn’t he have been more proactive about what he did?
It was the same for interacting with those around him as well. Couldn’t he have talked to them more? Why did he not tell his juniors his own experiences and knowledge? What was he so afraid of; what scared him so much that he ended up drawing a line between him and others, and staying away from approaching them more than necessary?
It was a foolish thing to not approach people because of worries of being injured by them. It was fine to hit a wall and break. It didn’t matter if people made him disappointed. Why? Because he was still young. While it might not be infinite, he still had a lot of time ahead of him. He could try sidetracking and escaping from ordinary life for a little. Wouldn’t it be fine to experience the numerous things he couldn’t in his previous life?
Maru clenched his teeth. He put his hand against the wall of the building right next to him before smashing his head against it. A sharp pain arose. The vortex of thoughts broke apart and his mind became empty.
He leaned against the wall and slid down.
“Just what’s the problem?”
Treat others with goodwill? Love challenges and escape the highway to experience many things? What kind of nonsense was that? Those were the kind of thoughts that could only stem from naïvety.
Challenge was a privilege for those that had a place to return, and goodwill was something given when a person had the power to endure betrayal. Didn’t he choose to try acting because there was a 300 million won condition to act as a safety device? Why was he trying to package that as a beautiful challenge and induce himself to try out more challenges?
He felt like his head was about to burst. A ‘Maru’ that he didn’t know about kept whispering to him. Return to your pure youth, back to the days when you were a student without any knowledge, back to the days where you enjoyed yourself. And then, withdraw yourself.
Maru closed his eyes and took out his phone. He then deeply pressed his shortcut number. The signal to Gaeul rang inside his ears.
The signal sounded especially long today.
* * *
Gaeul picked up the call with a smile. A call on the weekend. It seemed that his shoot ended early.
-I was just wondering what you were up to.
“I’m just resting at home of course. My lessons start on Monday.”
-Yeah, I guess you should be. You’re going to get busy starting Monday.
“Yeah, I will. Anyway, it seems like the shoot ended early for you, huh?”
-Yeah, it did.
After that, Maru didn’t say anything for a while. He was probably waiting to play a prank on her again.
“Since you finished early, should we meet up?”
-No, it’s fine.
“Really? What’s gotten into you? You used to be naggy about definitely having to meet up on weekends.”
-Sometimes, we need some time by ourselves. Oh, the bus is here. I’m hanging up then.
“What the heck? That was boring.”
-I had a lot to say before I made the call, but strangely, I now can’t find anything to say.
“What happened to you? That was unexpected.”
-It’s not that surprising, is it…? Anyway, get some good rest.
“Okay, uhm…. What the. Did he just hang up?”
Gaeul quietly stared at her phone. She felt strange since the boy who would never hang up on his own accord ended the call just like that.
“...He must have done it to get on the bus.”
It wasn’t anything much, but it strangely nagged her mind for some reason.
Gaeul grabbed onto her phone for a long time. She thought about texting him, but she felt like she was getting fussed up over something trivial so she decided not to.
“Why must I care about this? Gosh, I’ll forget about it.”
It was a problem that she kept adding meaning to everything related to Maru.
Gaeul lay down on the sofa, thinking that she was overthinking things.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
I don't think I like where this is going....
"Gaeul lay down on the sofa, thinking that she was overthinking things."
Wow. I've never seen such a big red flag in this novel. The foreshadowing from a few chapters ago is coming....
Also, "Challenge was a privilege for those that had a place to return, and goodwill was something given when a person had the power to endure betrayal." another amazing quote.