Chapter 93

The man opened his eyes with a fluttering chest. He has a date today, a date with a girl one year his junior, they were going to watch a play today. He chose a play since he heard recently that movies were getting a bit bland. Indeed, the girl seemed pretty happy with his decision when he told her about it.

He put on his nicest clothes and met the girl at the second exit of Hyehwa station. Despite it being winter, she came in pretty, nice clothing. Just looking at her was making him feel excited.

“What kind of a play is it?”

“Mm, an erotic romance?”

“Erotic?”

She wrapped her arm around his with a smile on her face. The two of them liked to exchange lewd jokes casually, so he could choose a play like this with no problem. They had a light meal before heading to the ‘Sky Theater’. This particular play debuted around a week ago but was already very popular. Since it was apparently good for an adult couple, he didn’t hesitate in buying tickets and handing them to the woman at the entrance.

“E14 and 15. You can head to the second floor. It’s fine to bring drinks for the play, but please refrain from eating food.”

They headed to the second floor where they had a view of the hundred seats in the theater. The lights on stage were constantly changing as if they were doing light checks.

“Oh, they must be the actors,” the girl pointed.

Two couples were standing on stage, talking to the audience. He probably should’ve gotten the front seats… Looking at the sight made him feel a bit of regret.

“Thank you for coming to see our play. We did notice recently that a lot of people were talking about it.”

“You guys all came by word of mouth, yes?”

The audience answered ‘yes’ at the actors’ question. The girl next to him answered quietly as well.

“Before we begin, we need to tell you a few things. First of all, you are very welcome to take photos of our amazingly handsome actors. But please refrain from doing so during the actual play. We will have a photo session after the play, so you can take your pictures then.”

The female actor left after speaking, a male actor with a deep voice spoke next.

“Excuse me, you aren’t going to eat that piece of bread now, are you? Of course, you can eat it, but we will take it from you if we see it during the play, so please be careful! We’d be grateful if you could eat after the play.”

The male actor left as well. Now, there was only a single couple left on the stage. The female one left after imploring everyone to, “Enjoy the play!”. The male actor was the only one left now.

“Before we begin, I wanted to introduce a young friend to all of you. We have exactly ten minutes before our actual play starts. Until that time, I would appreciate it if you could watch this friend’s solo play. He just started acting, so he might be a bit awkward, but please don’t think too badly of him.”

The last actor on stage left as well. The stage became dark. At the same time, a boy came out from the left side of the stage. He seemed to be in… high school, at best? The boy bowed to the audience on the first floor first, and then waved to the second floor next. The girl the man came with waved back happily.

“I wonder what he’s going to do?”

“Who knows.”

A spotlight turned on, lighting up the boy. He casually walked to the other end of the stage and dragged out a chair. He put it in the middle, and sat down. After a small breath, he closed his eyes and opened it again.

He stretched his hand out and pretended to hold something. Something circular. Perhaps the wheel of a car?

“He must be driving.”

“Yeah, seems like it.”

As the two of them expected, the boy started driving with a hum. He stepped on the invisible clutch and raised the gear of his vehicle.

“Hello. Yes, hello. A student? Yes, yes, grandmother. Oh, you should take the change. Yes, yes.”

The boy seemed to be a bus driver. As a matter of fact, the boy seemed like he had a lot of experience.

‘Though that’s impossible, of course,’ the man thought.

Experience driving a bus? From a boy too young to even get a license? In any case, the boy continued to hum as he drove.

“Where are you going, ma’am?”

The boy asked one of the women sitting right in front of him. The man peeked down to the first floor. The woman the boy was talking to seemed to have come with her daughter.

“Me?” the woman asked.

“Yes, customer. Who else is on this bus other than you right now? Where are you going?”

“Mm, oh my, stuff like this embarrasses me...”

When the woman hesitated, the daughter responded for her.

“We’re going to Busan.”

“Busan? This bus goes to Seoul, though.”

“Can’t you make an exception?”

The daughter was getting along well. The boy laughed and pretended to turn the bus around completely. His body leaned sideways due to the laws of inertia.

“The bus is turning. You guys know it’s dangerous to sit straight like that, right?”

Most of the audience in the first floor laughed at the boy’s words and leaned as well.

“We should join!” the girl said.

“Eh? Yeah.”

The man’s date clearly enjoyed participating, he leaned slightly to the left with her. The boy looked up to where they were before saying ‘How did you know this was a two-story bus?’ Half of the audience smiled at his comment.

“Busan, huh. It’s a nice place. It’s warm, and the sound of the ocean is very nice. Lots of men, lots of women, too. You must be going with your boyfriend?”

Despite the boy’s youthful face, he spoke like an old man. That smile of his, especially, made him seem more like an old man than a high schooler. The daughter awkwardly started glancing at her mother, unable to answer.

“Boo, there’s nothing wrong with dating someone. Isn’t that right, miss?”

“I’m not going to let my daughter date anyone short of Brad Pitt.”

“Wow! Brad Pitt? Then again, your daughter IS very pretty. Ah, we’ve arrived at Busan, I see. Please get off, the two of you.”

The boy stood up from his chair, and gestured for the two of them to get off.

“Please, I need to get the next customers in the bus.”

The daughter ran up to the stage, and ran back down again with embarrassment on her face. The boy clapped, making the rest of the audience follow suit.

“He’s good, not awkward at all,” the girl commented.

“Yeah.”

The boy sat back down on his chair and pretended to drive again.

“I’ll talk about myself, now.”

Background music started playing. A calm, slow one.

“You see, I got married. I had a beautiful wife, and I had a daughter who was more precious to me than anything else. Precious enough that it wouldn’t hurt even if I put her in my eye. I used to think ‘Why wouldn’t putting a human in your eye be painful’, but I understood when she was born. It really wouldn’t hurt even if I had to dig out a hole to fit my baby in.”

The boy smiled sadly, that smile made the man shudder a little. Not because it was scary, but because of how realistic it seemed. The girl holding his arm tightened her grip as well.

“One day, at dawn, I heard someone moaning in pain. I thought it might be my wife, but she was fast asleep. I realized who was moaning right then. I jumped up and opened the door to the small room, where our daughter was. She was curled up in the bed, shivering. I could quite literally feel my heart drop to the floor.”

The boy was looking forward, but he didn’t seem to be looking at the audience, his eyes wandered past the seats. The man got chills looking at this. The boy wasn’t cute at all, much unlike what the actor in the beginning said. He looked at the girl next to him. She was looking at the boy with a stiff expression, she was immersed with the act.

“I brought my kid to a hospital, I was never more thankful of the fact that there was a hospital next to my house. The place looked very foreign to me at dawn. The light hurt my eyes, and the oddly quiet building made me incredibly nervous.”

The boy sighed before continuing.

“Thankfully, my daughter had no problems. She actually recovered right away when she laid down on the hospital bed. That’s when I realized. Ahh, when this girl goes off to marry… I’m definitely going to be crying.”

The boy stepped on the breaks after turning a few times.

“This is the final stop. Thank you for listening to this old man’s boring story. There’s just one thing that I wanted to say today. The closer someone is to you, the more you should treat them with care. So that you don’t have any regrets when they suddenly leave your side.”

The boy smiled sadly again before standing up and bowing.

A short silence.

Then, applause.

“Wow, he was good.”

“I think so too.”

In that short ten minutes, the boy became a bus driver who was sharing his life story. Were all actors his age like this? It was quite amazing. The boy bowed again towards the first and the second floor.

“They say sweet things taste sweeter after tasting something bitter. The story that’s about to unfold in front of you is sweet, sour, and sometimes very refined and deep, like a fine wine. I wouldn’t be able to watch it, unfortunately. I’m not of age, after all. There isn't anyone else that’s my age in the audience, are there? Remember, this play is meant for those who are 17 and above.”

The boy smiled lightly as the mood of the audience changed immediately. The dark stage became lit up with a bright pink and yellow light.

“Now! The main play, ‘That Autumn, Winter, and Summer’, will begin!”

The boy exited the stage promptly.

* * *

“An employee of a company last time, and now a bus driver?”

Ganghwan greeted Maru as the boy came backstage. He was dressed in a checkered shirt and jeans in accordance with his role of playing a college student that just returned from the military.

“Did I not fit the role?”

“No. The problem is that you fit the role too well. Most people do well acting characters that are around their age, but you strangely do better with the older roles.”

Maru flinched inside, but smiled externally.

“It’s good that you’re widening your spectrum, but focus on roles that fit your age for now. Why? That’s because you can act the role of a middle-aged man when you’re actually middle-aged. But having a middle-aged man act the role of a teenager is guaranteed to be strange to the audience. There are times for everything, so try to focus on the present if you can. Ah, I’m not trying to downplay your current work, of course. You did a great job out there.”

Ganghwan headed off to the stage with a thumbs up. On stage, Ganghwan was a completely different person, a college student who was still immature and had no sense at all. Maru watched the man act on stage from the side.

“Acting that fits my age.”

So he couldn’t fool a professional after all, Maru decided to act out the role of a teenager next. Ganghwan was right. He needed to act out roles that best reflect upon his current age. Maru scanned the other actors, then turned back to the stage. He was used to standing there at this point. Every day when school ended, he would come here to stand on stage. After all of it was over, he would usually come back at around 11 at night. Thankfully, his parents didn’t seem so worried anymore. They seemed to have gotten used to his current schedule.

‘How was I today?’

To be calm on the stage. In order to finish this homework that Ganghwan gave him, Maru tried to repress himself as much as possible on stage. He stopped his heart from getting excited and tried to think as much as possible. He tried to calculate every one of his movements on the stage.

“Phew, I should go now.”

Hanna put on her lipstick as she winked at Maru. She was wearing pretty tight clothes, fitting for an erotic personality such as herself.

“Good luck.”

“Of course.”

Maru sat down on a chair and opened his notebook. It was time for him to go back to studying again.

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