Life, Once Again! - Chapter 357
He received a call to come. There was no explanation. It wasn’t that they made an appointment, nor was he told anything about this. If they were old friends, they might call each other all of a sudden like this, but considering the personality of the caller, that probably wasn’t what was happening. Of course, it didn’t mean that he wasn’t close with the caller.
The place he arrived at in his car was a chicken feet restaurant near Daehak-ro. Although the restaurant was located on a rather old street, it was full almost all the time. He greeted the lady as he went inside. He went past the noisy first floor and climbed up to the 2nd floor. People were roasting chicken feet on charcoal underneath the low ceiling. Among the people, Ganghwan managed to find the person that called him here.
“What led you to drink over some chicken feet? Didn’t you quit drinking because of your health?”
“It’s fine to drink once in a while.”
Ganghwan smiled and asked the waiter to bring them another soju glass and a bottle of soju.
“I thought something happened because you called me out all of a sudden.”
He picked up the tongs and took out some chicken feet marinated in spicy sauce and put them on the grill. Along with a sizzling sound, smoke started rising up. He put down the soju glass that the waiter brought and shook the bottle of soju.
“Please, receive one from me.”
Ganghwan poured soju into the other party’s glass. The owner of the glass, Junmin, just looked as the glass became filled.
“Did something happen?”
“No, there are a few things that tick me off, but there aren’t any problems.”
“Then why do you look like that? If you’re feeling bad, then I’ll drink instead.”
“It’s nothing like that, so don’t worry about it.”
Junmin emptied the glass in one go. Ganghwan put his finger at the tip of the glass. Junmin poured one for him.
“Did you come in your car?”
“Then don’t drink.”
Junmin took away his glass before emptying it in one go.
“Hyung-nim, you should really eat some side dishes. You’ll ruin your stomach.”
He put a piece of chicken feet on some pickled radish slices and put it on Junmin’s plate. Junmin was just dazing out as he looked at the glass. He was in a strange state today. Was he drunk? Ganghwan had known Junmin for over ten years but never had he seen him drunk even once. Even when he used to enjoy alcohol, he always stopped drinking when the alcohol started to get the better of him.
Junmin held his chopstick in his fist and stabbed it into the chicken feet. It was clear that he was drunk. Perhaps he didn’t know he was drunk because he had never been drunk before.
Ganghwan called for a waiter. There was no bill on the table, so he decided to ask.
“Uhm, excuse me. Do you know how many bottles this table ordered?”
“Please wait a moment.”
The waiter went downstairs and came back to tell him that they ordered four bottles of soju. Ganghwan sighed. He wondered why there were chicken feet left even though the side dishes were empty, and it turned out that Junmin emptied three bottles of soju with just some garlic, chili pepper, and kimchi. He reached out and touched the ceramic pot. There were some steamed eggs inside and they had gotten cold.
“I’d like to order one more steamed egg. Don’t put too much salt in it.”
The waiter replied yes before going downstairs. In that short while, Junmin was pouring soju again into his glass. Ganghwan frowned and took the glass away from him.
“You drank three bottles. That’s more than enough.”
“I drank three bottles?”
“Yes. What’s happening? You’re scaring me especially since you don’t act like this usually.”
“I said it’s nothing.”
Junmin waved at him to give him the glass. This was the first time Ganghwan had seen Junmin like this. Junmin was like a pillar. He was the CEO of a huge company and a senior that received full trust from his juniors since he supported everyone without shaking. He always managed himself meticulously because he always said that if he wavered, then many people’s lives would become tough.
Just then, the steamed egg Ganghwan ordered came out. He took some steaming hot egg and put it on Junmin’s plate.
“You should eat something else. Spicy things might ruin your stomach even further.”
“I said I’m fine.”
“You’re the opposite of fine from what I see. Stop being stubborn and eat that first.”
Junmin then picked up his spoon. He spooned a bit of the steamed egg and put it in his mouth before shaking his head and putting the spoon back down.
“I should lie down a little.”
Ganghwan supported Junmin and left the restaurant. He had Junmin sit in the passenger seat before pushing the backrest down. Junmin closed his eyes and heaved a deep breath.
“Please rest for a while.”
He went to the convenience store in front of the chicken feet restaurant and bought a drink that would ease hangovers.
“Hyung-nim, please drink th… oh he’s sleeping.”
Ganghwan scratched his head. He closed the door to the passenger seat and got in the driver’s seat. He started the car and drove off. While he drove, Junmin didn’t wake up even once.
“Hyung-nim, please wake up.”
After arriving at Junmin’s house, he tried shaking Junmin so that he would wake up, but Junmin’s eyelids did not even move. Having no choice, he opened the door to the passenger seat and supported him out. Junmin seemed to have come to himself and muttered something, but Ganghwan understood nothing since his pronunciation was all mumbled.
Ganghwan entered the door lock code before entering. The dogs that Junmin raised all barked and ran to the door.
“Your daddy’s super drunk.”
He laid Junmin on the sofa before going to the kitchen. The weather was hot as it was, and he had to exert his strength, so he was sweating like mad. He drank some cold water and went to the bathroom to wash his face. This place didn’t feel that unfamiliar to him since he freeloaded here for around a year before. There were probably quite a few people that could ‘make themselves home’ here. Geunsoo was one of them.
Ganghwan picked up the chihuahua that was circling around his feet.
“Have you been doing well?”
When he tickled the dog’s chin, the dog stuck out its tongue and wagged its tail. He played around with the dogs for a while. Just then, Junmin, who was lying on the sofa, fell on the floor with a thud. Looking at that, he just laughed in vain. Was the Earth going to end tomorrow? This was the first time Junmin looked so ruined.
Ganghwan took out his phone and started shooting a video. It would be quite a sight to see once he showed others Junmin acting like this.
“…Haejoo…,” Junmin spoke as he clenched the carpet on the floor.
His voice was very sorrowful. Ganghwan stopped the video. Haejoo. He was probably referring to Jung Haejoo. Ganghwan had never seen her. After all, when he found out her name, she was already deceased. However, he did know that that name was definitely not light in Junmin’s heart.
Ganghwan brought out some blankets from the bedroom and covered Junmin. Then, he lied down next to him as well. He was free since he wasn’t doing any plays, so he decided to freeload at this place for a while like he did before.
Ganghwan closed his eyes as he hugged one of the dogs that kept panting.
* * *
“I’ve been near a volcano as well, and the smell was horrid. I wanted to go inside some more and see lava, but they prevented me from doing so saying that it was a danger zone. It was such a pity.”
“Do you have two lives, director?”
“I only have one.”
Maru watched Joongjin who giggled as he unfolded his story. His story bag had burst since before they arrived at the restaurant and he was telling new stories one after the other. The genres were diverse and never did they overlap. He was unlike a drunkard who talked about the same things over and over again.
“Mongolia was good as well.”
This time it was Mongolia. Joongjin expressed the vast expansive plains with his entire body, and the others laughed. He found out while listening to their conversation that the four of them met during a movie shoot. That movie was none other than ‘Spring Calendar’. Joohyun was the actress of a minor role, Choongho was the action advisor, Jangsoo was in charge of the camera for part B, and Joongjin was in charge of directing and scripting.
“Well then, let’s drink!” Jangsoo raised his glass as he spoke.
Maru raised his cup which contained sprite. They were at a restaurant where the kitchen was right in front of them. A steak was being grilled on top of a steel pan. Joohyun had booked this place and it looked quite expensive.
“It looks like I talked about myself too much. Jangsoo hyung-nim, please talk about yourself as well. Tell us how you’ve been doing lately.”
“Well, I’m the same. The only thing that’s changed from ten years ago is that I have to send my kids to college, so I’m even more financially tight. In the old times, people used to sell their cows to send their kids to college, but cows aren’t nearly enough anymore.”
After emptying his glass, Jangsoo looked at Maru.
“Earn a lot of money and don’t make your parents suffer. Kids these days think that money sprouts from the ground. My kids couldn’t be purer when they were young, but ever since they entered college, they started splurging on some weird things. They tell me that everyone else does that as well.”
“They’ll probably mature soon.”
“I don’t expect that far. I just want them to know what money is. That kid has no intentions of taking on a part time job, nor studying seriously.”
“Then just stop giving them pocket money. If it’s a boy, then have him become independent. Get him a cheap one-room and support him for just half a year and cut off all financial support. He’ll get by one way or the other.”
“But the thing is, she’s a girl. The world is a scary place, so I can’t exactly have her leave home.”
“Then just think of it as your karma and listen to her wishes,” Maru faintly smiled as he spoke.
Jangsoo shook his head as though he had a headache.
Jangsoo’s whining continued for a while. He preached that it was better to get married as late as possible and that it was better not to get married. While he was talking, he suddenly got a call and picked it up, and suddenly, his face became anxious and whispered to everyone to be quiet.
“Yes, honey. I’m talking with business partners because of equipment loans. Drinking? Of course, I’m not drinking. Yes, of course. But I’m going to be a little late tonight, so go to sleep without me. What? You won’t open the door if I come back after drinking? But honey. Isn’t it fine to drink over some business? I mean just a little. Alright, alright. What about the kids? They still haven’t come home? Are you sure they aren’t drinking somewhere? What? Just think about myself?”
Jangsoo made a bitter smile as he hung up. Joohyun, who was listening to the conversation, laughed, and Choongho did the same. Jangsoo kept drinking while complaining to them about how they did not know the sorrows of being a father.
Maru also smiled and enjoyed the atmosphere. Just then, a finger tapped on his shoulder. When he turned his head, he saw Joongjin smiling at him.
“Should we change seats and have a talk?”
“Oh, please, sit here.”
“No, I don’t mean that I want to sit there, but that I want to talk to you, Mr. Maru.”
Joongjin put his arms below Jangsoo’s armpits since Jangsoo sat next to Maru and raised him up. Jangsoo mumbled some things as he walked to where Joongjin sat.
“Phew, it must be boring for you amidst these boring a.d.u.l.ts, right?”
“No. It’s very fun, actually. I actually sympathize with a lot of it too.”
“But you’re still young.”
“Just because I’m young doesn’t mean I can’t sympathize with a.d.u.l.ts.”
“Hm, I guess that’s true. Do you drink?”
“For now, I’m still a minor.”
“Minors can drink.”
Joongjin answered his own question. Maru received a glass from him. Choongho poured the soju into his glass.
“Rather than that, you work for Mr. Lee Junmin, huh. Looks like you’ll become big.”
“I’m still a trainee of sorts, so I don’t know if I can become big or not.”
“No, he’s the type of person to plan everything from beginning to end, so the fact that you’re under his wing means that your potential is very good. It’s a done deal if you signed an official contract with him.”
“Is that so?”
Seeing Joongjin gesture to him to drink, Maru bent back his head and drank the soju in one go.
“I’ve met a lot of people, and never had I seen anyone as scary as him. He knows how to handle people too well. On top of that, he can get extremely merciless if he has to be. Watch out. You won’t know what would happen to you.”
Joongjin spoke with a cold gaze that didn’t look like he was joking. Maru looked at his eyes for a while before speaking.
“If it’s that, I’m aware. In fact, that’s what reassures me.”
“It reassures you?”
“Yes. Rather than people that are swayed by ties and emotions, the ones that are calculative are in fact, safer. It just goes to show that as long as I prove my worth, I will not get stabbed in the back.”
“Oho, so you can think about it that way.”
“You don’t seem to like my president so much, director.”
Joongjin shook his head and made a strange smile. His inner thoughts couldn’t be made out from his expression. Even when Maru wanted to look into his heart, no speech bubble popped up. He was the type of person to solely think about himself.
“The relationship between me and president Lee Junmin couldn’t just be defined with either good or bad. However, I can tell you this for sure. I’m a very childish man and I don’t forget about bad memories.”
Joongjin put out his empty glass. Maru poured a glass for him.
“Why do you want to become an actor, Mr. Maru?”
“Well, I think I had a lot of reasons, but right now? I’m not so sure. For now, I just want to become one. Speaking of that, why did you become a director?”
“Me? Because I was bored. One day, the work I was doing just became boring. Like, everything about it. That’s when I thought about it. What should I do to have fun? At that moment, there was a movie on TV. That’s when I decided that that’s the one for me.”
“It’s incredible to think that you can become a director that way. From what I heard, you were the owner of a rather popular restaurant brand.”
“You’re quite knowledgeable about me.”
“I heard a few things here and there. Oh, weren’t you afraid at all when you put down your role as the president and switched to becoming a director? You had a lot of achievements yourself, and you shouldn't have found anything lacking even when you continued living like that. I can’t understand why you became a director solely because you were bored.”
Hearing that question, Joongjin grinned and raised his glass. Then he spoke,
“At the port, the ship is the most stable. However, that’s not why sh.i.p.s exist. Rather than a cruiser tied at the port looking at the horizon, I like being the Pequod more, being splashed around by the waves.”
The man full of adventurous spirit left those words before standing up. Then he held his spoon downside up and started singing trot that was rather old. The other three, as well as the chef that cooked the meat in front of them, started smiling.
Maru rested his chin on his hands and watched Joongjin. He felt like he got to know him a little better.