Life, Once Again! - Chapter 58
Going to work and going to school . The one thing that doesn’t change about life is how bothersome both of these things are .
“So hot,” Maru noted to himself .
There wasn’t any wind today, but the air felt hot enough to melt the tires already .
‘You are working way too hard,’ Maru thought, looking up at the sun .
Maru pedalled harder, cursing the August sun as much as he could . Suddenly, he had to squeeze the brakes when he saw something on the road, a roadbike .
After waiting for a few more seconds, he saw Dowook step out of a nearby shop with a drink .
“It’s hot . ”
“ . . . . . . ”
Dowook stared at Maru for a few seconds before stepping back into the shop . After a few seconds, he stepped back out with two drinks . Maru caught the flying can with his hand .
“Yeah, it’s hot,” Dowook responded, and started walking his bike .
Maru caught up to him with a grin .
“Thanks for the drink . ”
“You weren’t looking at me asking me to buy it?”
“Oh, you buy people things when they look at you? Learn something new every day . I’ll be staring at you a lot buddy . ”
“ . . . Idiot . ”
Unlike in the past, Dowook wasn’t sizing Maru up and down in an annoying manner . Maru was actually a pretty big fan of Dowook . At their age, it wasn’t uncommon for students like them to try to step into delinquency to escape their routine life .
As a matter of fact, Maru had a good mind to assume that everyone must’ve done something similar at some point in their lives . The real problem laid in the question if these people ever got back to their normal lives afterwards .
Before summer break started, Maru noticed Dowook apologize to some of the kids he bullied during the semester . Watching the boy apologize by himself where no one else could see him left a bit of an impact on Maru . Not even adults could apologize easily . To adults, apologies were just a way of trying to save face .
Adults would apologize without a moment’s hesitation when there was an audience . Without one, they would become arrogant and haughty .
In that sense, Maru could tell that Dowook wasn’t all that bad of a person on the inside . They don’t interact much, but Maru still felt a good vibe from him .
Right then, Maru’s eyes drifted over to Dowook’s bike . For some reason, he started thinking of the gas station manager he worked for . Now that he looked at him… their faces were similar, too .
“Do you have an older sister, by any chance?”
“Just curious . ”
“ . . . I don’t . Have one . ”
For a second, Maru noticed a twinge of sadness, anger and nostalgia on his face . It surfaced so quickly that Maru almost didn’t catch it . As he looked into the boy’s eyes .
[Why’s this guy asking about my damn sister?]
“Oh, I see . By the way, did you do the homework?”
Maru changed the topic . Dowook had a sister . He knew that for sure now . But the boy didn’t want to talk about it, looking at his expression and his manner of speech .
‘So he has issues with his sister, too . ’
Maru could somewhat tell why Dowook was being so rough just then .
“I did . Why?”
“I did it too . Nice . ”
“What the hell? Are you trying to go anywhere with this?”
“Me? I just want to talk to you . ”
“Ugh . I’m going first . Don’t talk to me . ”
“Sure, sure . ”
Dowook pedalled forward after looking at Maru like some sort of an alien creature . Maru followed after a small shrug .
* * *
“Lord, why is it so hot already? It’s just morning . ”
Maru sat down on his seat after catching Dojin’s happy greeting, along with his flying candy .
“Dude, were you okay back there?” Dojin asked .
“Back when you went somewhere else with instructor Miso . ”
“Oh, yeah, I was totally fine . ”
“ . . . Really?”
Maru nodded with a grin . He knew why Dojin was so worried . For now, Maru was basically excluded from the club . He did what he did knowing fully that this would happen though, so he was fine .
To begin with, he was never that deep in with the club anyway .
“I’ll just have to be quiet for a while, if I don’t want to be hated that is . ”
“Wow, you’re quite something . ”
Daemyung walked over to the two of them from his seat as well .
“Sorry, Maru . I should’ve been on your side back then . ”
“Come on, guys . Why so sad in the morning? There’s nothing wrong, and there’s going to be nothing wrong, so it’s all good . Don’t try to make things even more awkward by playing sides . You guys just focus on making a decent play, ok?”
“S-sure . ”
Maru gave Daemyung’s belly a light slap . They were definitely good friends, seeing how they took the time to ask him if he really was okay . That was probably why people said high school friends last a lifetime . Because they truly cared .
“Sit down, you asses!”
The homeroom teacher burst through the door, making Daemyung run over to his seat hurriedly . The teacher began the class by saying a string of useless, predictable words .
Ah, summer break was truly over .
* * *
“Maru . ”
Taesik called Maru as he was headed to the cafeteria . It was lunch time . Maru told his friends to go without him, and walked outside the campus with Taesik . The teacher asked Maru if he wanted to eat anything as they entered a restaurant .
“I’d prefer to hear about what you have to say, rather than talk about what I want to order . ”
“Can we order first, though? I’m hungry . You should eat too . I’ll be paying, so order however much you want . ”
“That last line’s really only reserved for barbeques, isn’t it?”
“Hmm, is it?”
Maru ordered a tuna kimchi stew with a slight grin . Taesik ordered the same thing .
“I wanted to say thank you for now, Maru . ”
“Is that about instructor Miso?”
“Ah… well, there’s that too . ”
Taesik’s cheeks turned slightly pink . Maru smiled proudly .
‘They are definitely a couple now . ’
Though Maru had no idea how far along they are in their relationship just yet .
As they talked about Miso for a few moments, the stew they ordered came out . Maru dumped his bowl of rice into it before talking again .
“Good to hear . But you’re not here to just show off, are you?”
Taesik nodded .
“I wanted to properly apologize . I’m bribing you a little as well, so I’m hoping you’d accept it . ”
“Bribing with just stew? That’s a little cheap, isn’t it?”
“Haha, that was just a joke . But like I said, you don’t have to worry about it . I did that because I wanted to . I’m not pathetic enough to shift the blame elsewhere . ”
“I honestly didn’t think you’d go this far . I’m both thankful and a little ashamed as a teacher . ”
“Well, things would’ve been different if I knew them better, but… to be honest, I don’t know them all that well . It’s really the difference of being one and two steps away . ”
“Was… it really that easy?”
Maru took a bite of his food .
“Well, that was exactly why I did it . Because it really was that easy . ”
At the same time, Maru remembered something . It was back when he was told that his paycheck would depend completely on how servile he was towards his boss . When he almost quit out of sheer rage, the faces of his wife and daughter floated into his vision . At that moment all the anger inside him dissipated, and his brain immediately started to calm down .
Compared to the humiliation, anger, resentment and desperation he felt back then, this was nothing more than a joke . It wasn’t like antagonizing the entire club was going to endanger his livelihood . This was just a minor event .
“You didn’t feel disappointed?”
“When my friends didn’t side with me?”
“Yes . ”
“Teacher, do you decide if someone’s your friend solely based on whether or not they take your side?”
“ . . . I asked you a stupid question . ”
Maru had to admit, Taesik was a good teacher . The man didn’t take his students’ words lightly, instead using it as an opportunity to learn . It was something that only teachers who respected their students could have .
“You really are a teacher, teacher . ”
“Haha . ”
“If I ever get a daughter, I’d love to leave her in your hands . You’d listen to her words at face value . ”
“That was a pretty decent compliment, I’ll have to admit . Do you want to eat anything else?”
“I did notice that a restaurant next to this place sells really good beef . ”
“That’s… a little too much for my wallet, I’m afraid . ”
Taesik smiled awkwardly in response .
* * *
Nothing changed . School food was still alright most of the time, except when potatoes were on the menu again . The old man at the school store would still throw you a burger with incredible accuracy after taking the payment . The floor of his class was still cold, the air hot and filled with sweaty smells . Students still rushed to the cafeteria come lunchtime, and come break time they would all rush over to the school field . By the time the last class came around, everyone struggled to stay awake, almost as if they simultaneously took a dose of melatonin .
There were a few things different, of course . The greenery outside the class was starting to turn brown . The gym that was under construction was finally opened, but use of it was still prohibited for students . The yellowed curtains of the class were finally washed for once . The fact that this would be the English teacher’s final year teaching after getting her second kid was a change as well .
“Hey, Dowook! Let’s go to the store!”
“Sure . ”
And there was the fact that Dowook started getting along with the rest of the class as well .
“Yo, guy with the big head, can I borrow a thousand from you?”
The fact that Changhu, the class bully, started to become more overbearing was another change as well . Maru looked out the window with his chin resting on one hand . It was the last day of August . A saturday .
“Let’s go, Maru,” Daemyung said, pulling on his arm .
Maru followed his two friends with a yawn . He cursed the heat for not leaving despite it being so close to september as he stepped up to the fifth floor .
“It’s hot . ”
“For real, so hot . ”
The trio greeted the first years they ran into at the entrance, and entered the auditorium . The second years were standing next to the windows in their gym clothes . The first years stretched gently as they made their way over to the group . Maru joined in .
“Be sure to drink a lot of water as we train, alright? We don’t want any of you getting too dehydrated,” Yoonjung said with a clap, making the first years respond with an enthusiastic shout .
Maru responded quietly before making his way over to the audience seat . Like always, he picked up a book he had been reading and opened the page he was on last time .
Nothing changed .
And nothing will change .
Things will continue to move, calmly and peacefully . He occasionally noticed Geunseok and Yurim stare at him, but he could easily ignore that . Or just smile back in response .
The couple turned away their heads . Nothing special .
“The instructor’s coming today, to help us prepare for the nationals in winter . ”
If the national competition held in august by the national theater association was the biggest competition for acting held all year, then the one held in winter was the follow-up . It wasn’t all that different from the august one in the sense that it was also funded by the government . As a matter of fact, the payout from this one was actually bigger due to the involvement of various companies .
If the fall national competition was about honor, the winter one was about money .
The club members began practice . They were nothing like their former selves during the regionals . Everyone was going about their duties with passion and energy . The lot of them suggested switching things up to doing a different play for the winter competition . They’d have to talk it out with the instructor, but the idea of doing a different play pretty much seemed like a fact at this point .
Maru turned the page of his book . Before they started making props, there wasn’t much for him to do, save for reading his book and pondering by himself .
‘This is pretty nice . ’
Recently, Maru started gaining an interest in reading classics . He read a lot of books in his past life, but they were mostly about self-improvement . From the time when all he wanted to do was follow the recipes for success given to him by other people .
‘Well, now I have all the time in the world . ’
Maru wasn’t that interested in self-improvement books anymore . He’s realized how pointless they were . Instead, he decided to try and get a glimpse at the lives of his ancestors . The reason behind classics were their unchanging values and rules about the world, after all . There was value in reading it .
As Maru turned another page, with the club members acting as his background music, his phone dinged . When he flipped his phone open, he found that the message was from a person he had been expecting all along .
It was a short message .
“As I thought . . . ”
Maru shook his head, thinking of the blonde lady who would soon come open the door to the auditorium with a bang .