Life, Once Again! - Chapter 341
A lady wearing a red qipao smiled and moved to the side. Maru smiled back before walking past.
“I see you know that director,” he spoke in a low voice.
He heard the answer from behind him.
“I do,” Suyeon replied as she walked.
They seemed to be frying some chili oil as there was a spicy smell in the air. They walked past the oily smell unique to Chinese-style restaurants and went to the hall. There were families who came to eat.
Maru nodded towards the employee in charge of the door before leaving. There was a queue outside the restaurant. He saw a man sigh and turn around since the queue wasn’t decreasing that much.
“Rooftops are the best to have a talk,” Suyeon spoke.
She then turned to the left of the building and climbed up some stairs. There was an electronic door lock on the rooftop, but Suyeon proficiently typed in the passcode and entered. Maru then remembered that the store owner had greeted her warmly when they came here.
There was artificial grass laid out on the rooftop. They seemed to be planted on polyurethane boards. Other than that, there were foldable camping chairs, camping tables as well as a barbecue grill. It seemed that this place was used to hold small parties between acquaintances.
“I heard you’re appearing in it as a minor role.”
“Yeah, well,” Maru replied as he looked at Suyeon.
How did this woman know Joongjin? Why was she aware of his recent activities?
“No need to stare at me. We’re going to have to act together again.”
“Don’t tell me you were cast in the movie too?”
“That’s probably how I know about you being in it, don’t you think? I heard from the director a few days ago. He was writing down the participating actors and I saw your name, so I asked.”
“You and I seem deeply connected. This is already our second piece together.”
“But we never met during shoots. We’re too far apart to be ‘deeply connected’.”
“Is that so?”
Suyeon sat down and offered him to sit as well. Maru shook his head. He wasn’t planning to stay here for long, so he didn’t plan to sit.
“You don’t like me, do you?”
“As I said before, I neither like nor hate you.”
“It’d be nice if you were a little kinder.”
“If you don’t have anything else to say to me, I’ll get going. The gyoza I didn’t eat is appearing in front of my eyes.”
“I can’t help that you don’t like to communicate. Alright, alright. I’ll get straight to the point.”
Suyeon stared at him as she crossed her legs.
“Help me out a little.”
* * *
Pilhyun nibbled on his ballpoint pen. The pure white manuscript paper made him frustrated. Even though he was staring holes into the squares, nothing came up in his head. The squares were like a fine mesh, and he was like a fish struggling to survive in that net.
He looked at the tip of the ballpoint pen he was nibbling on. The plastic tip had been deformed by his teeth marks and it was shiny with his saliva. Pilhyun put down the pen and stood up from his seat. There was no paradise in the place he ran away to. He returned to the keyboard and stared at the monitor.
He didn’t know how much time had passed when he suddenly thought of the smell of doenjang-guk. He raised his head to look at the clock. It was 5:32 p.m. It was about time for dinner.
He just turned off his monitor before standing up. The reason he didn’t turn off his PC entirely was because of his meager conviction to start writing again after eating. Of course, Pilhyun was well aware of what was going to happen. He would drown in his incompetence and solitude and turn off the noisy PC and decide to leave it for tomorrow.
He turned on the TV and ate ramyun in front of it. The savory taste of doenjang-guk from his imagination was forgotten behind the stimulative taste of the ramyun. He had been eating ramyun for all of his meals for the past few days. He was more than capable of eating proper food, whether he ordered it or went out to eat, but he did not do so. He locked himself up. He wondered what the difference was between prison food and ramyun, but he stopped thinking about it after seeing that the noodles had gotten all soggy.
On TV, a group named ‘The Five’ was talking about their love for the fans with a serious expression. After watching their figures for a while, Pilhyun switched the channel.
His fingers stopped pressing on his remote on a movie channel. The movie ‘Chinatown’, a masterpiece by Roman Polanski, was airing right now. What made it a masterpiece was the scenario created by Robert Towne. That scenario was evaluated as one of the greatest scenarios of all time. The movie was also one that Pilhyun had played back dozens of times to study. Well, someone who studies screenplays wouldn’t have watched that movie just once.
After watching the movie for a while, Pilhyun made a bitter smile and turned off the TV. Guilt overwhelmed him. The movie Chinatown slowly left his body without a sound after slapping every last bit of his self-confidence, the last line of his defense. The taste of ramyun in his mouth was bothersome now.
He rinsed his mouth with some water and washed the dishes. He was forty-five this year. Ever since his mother, who screamed at him to get married, passed away last year, he was living a lonely life. He had become used to doing the dishes, laundry, cleaning, as well as everything else. It hadn’t been that long since he last had eczema from all the housework. He remembered being somewhat proud seeing his ruined hands. That was because he felt that he was capable of living by himself.
However, recently, he started becoming frustrated about this space where he opened his eyes. It wasn’t that he longed for human presence. If he wanted that, then he could just phone his friends and tell them to come over. There was a whole list of people who were living or used to live off of writing on his phone. As all of them knew the pain of writing, he could call them anytime and have fun with them.
He wasn’t frustrated because of the lack of human presence. He was frustrated because of his work. He had hit a block, and his income was decreasing. Although he was earning his living expenses by writing newspaper columns and some things on the internet, it was unknown how long that would last. His sufficient bank balance had thinned to the point that it was hard to pay for his savings every month.
He opened the bottle of vitamins on the table. All he saw inside was the desiccant. He scr.a.p.ed the white powder with his finger and licked it. It tasted sour.
He sighed and looked at the door. He wondered if he should go outside and have some beer or something. He opened his wallet and checked inside. He took out the receipt he shoved in a slot for his credit card before checking if he had any bills. There were a few ten thousand won bills. It was 7 p.m. now. He wondered if his head would clear a little if he ate some fried chicken and a 500cc glass of beer.
After hesitating for a long time, Pilhyun clicked his tongue and threw his wallet on the sofa. If Muse came just because he felt full, the pigs inside everyone would’ve become Shakespeares already.
He had to face the white-colored devil again. His weapons were his keyboard, a cup of coffee, and some energy drinks. He sat down on the chair he didn’t want to sit on. Why were chairs designed for people to sit? He spent the next ten minutes wondering about something useless, but he didn’t feel like it was a pity. It wasn’t like he could write something anyway.
Just as he erased his writing because he felt like he had seen it somewhere before, he heard his phone ringing from the living room. He remembered throwing his phone on the sofa. Thanking that he had an excuse to run away from the white devil again, he stood up from his chair.
“Oh. It’s you, Joon.”
Pilhyun spoke as he saw the name on his phone screen. Gwak Joon. Although he was at the young age of 32, his writing was incredible. He was someone that wrote novels, and recently, the publication rights to his first novel were sold and received a movie adaptation. The novel depicted the problems of the aging society, lonely deaths, and the society that was gradually losing emotions. When he first received the book as a gift, he predicted that it would become a bestseller in a short time since the writing was incredibly good for a piece written by a thirty-two-year-old, but the market reaction was rather quiet. This could be said to be one of the pieces that received the spotlight later in its life. Like its title, it became successful in its ‘twilight struggles’.
-I’m in front of your house.
“…You should really get rid of that habit.”
Actually, Gwak Joon wasn’t seen in good light amongst writers. Even the journalists that worked in the publication field did not like him. The reason was simple: he gave off a vicious impression and he didn’t speak a lot. He was like a hermit master who broke his china every day in the mountains just because he didn’t like it. He was a cold man who couldn’t stand eating together with people he didn’t like, so it was hard to get close to him.
Pilhyun opened his door. Gwak Joon, wearing black glasses, a black hoodie, and black shoes, was standing in front of him. In one hand, he was holding a bottle of beer while in the other hand, he was holding a paper bag. The smell from that bag was quite savory. It seemed to be fried chicken.
“Have you had dinner yet?”
“I just finished eating. But there’s still enough space for some booze. Come in.”
Gwak Joon entered as he nodded. Although he was a picky man, he was a great fellow to drink together with. Pilhyun took out some Chinese-made kkakdugi from his fridge, which he bought from the market.
Meanwhile, Gwak Joon had brought a table from the veranda, laid it out in the living room, and laid out the food as well. Pilhyun grinned and put down two beer glasses on the table.
“What brought you all the way here?”
“I made a visit since I was visiting Seoul.”
“Seoul? Is it a publication contract?”
Pilhyun wasn’t a man that would be jealous of another’s success. Also, Gwak Joon was someone he cared about. He felt good when he did well.
“No, I visited someone in the hospital.”
“Oh. Sorry to hear that. Is it a member of your family?”
“He’s someone I got to know during work. I was thankful towards him because he always told me good things, but I heard that he collapsed a while back, so I made a visit.”
“Tsk, it looks like he must be quite old.”
“Yes. He looked lively, but he seemed to have pushed himself recently. Fortunately, there weren’t any big problems.”
“That’s good. Perhaps I’m getting old, but it doesn’t feel like it’s someone else’s problem when I hear stories like that,” saying that, Pilhyun grabbed a chicken leg.
“But I can’t quit this and alcohol.”
“You should exercise.”
“I’m doing it every day, you know. Ever heard of mental exercise? Hey did you know that the brain spends the most calories?”
“You should move around your body. You’ll have it harder later on in your life.”
“Hey, quit nagging and start eating. You’re making me lose my appetite in front of this sacred food.”
The taste of the fried batter that broke down with a crunch in his mouth was blissful. It was worlds different from the cheap oily taste of ramyun. Gwak Joon started eating as well.
“How is your writing going?”
“Don’t even talk about it. I can’t think of anything.”
“It’s because of all the oil.”
“Are you trying to kill me here?”
Pilhyun poured beer into Joon’s glass to make him stop nagging. Gwak Joon emptied the glass in one go before continuing.
“I’ll be staying at your place for a while.”
“Well, go ahead.”
“I’ll go down and get my luggage then.”
Gwak Joon then stood up and left through the door. After a brief moment, he came back through the door again, carrying a travel case.
“What about your house?”
“I couldn’t write anything so I decided to switch places. I thought it’d be good to talk to you as well.”
“Do you think my house is some temple in the mountains?”
“Going by quietness, it’s better than most temples.”
“Fine. I’m a single man just about to die of loneliness.”
Pilhyun giggled as he drank. He had two empty rooms. He would gladly give his juniors those rooms if they were stuck when in writing.
“But you should give me some inspiration as well. Let me get some talented man’s energy through my stiff head.”
He ripped off the other chicken leg and gave it to Gwak Joon. He needed to change things up as well. Perhaps he would make progress on his writing if he talked to this guy who had a great mind for writing. Both of them would profit off of this.
“Can I call someone I know over tomorrow?”
“Sure. A writer?”
“No, an aspiring director. But that person is talented at writing so I’m kinda learning myself as I’m teaching.”
“If it’s like that, then you can call anyone you want. It’d be great if it was a woman, but it’s not, is it?”
“It’s a guy.”
“What did I expect. Is he around the same age as you?”
“He’s a high school student.”
Pilhyun wondered what kind of high school student managed to get close to a desolate guy like this as he drank the last sip of his beer.
‘He’s probably someone similar to him right?’
Scary eyes, skinny body, and words like knives. He could paint the picture in his mind. He would probably bring a doppelgänger over.
 Korean manuscript papers have squares instead of lines. Because each character can fit into a square.
 Kimchi made with cubed radish