Life, Once Again! - Chapter 61
He woke up in his room, the room that was familiar enough for him to just conjure it from memory alone . Today, this room felt especially alien to him . Maru stroked his hand over the floor . The wooden floor gave that would give with just a little push . After pushing on it a few more times, Maru sighed .
“A… dream? Or . . . ”
Last night, Maru saw two women on the street . The mother and daughter couple going through a crowd hand-in-hand . Maru swallowed the sadness that welled up inside of him, and walked up to the two of them . They looked at him with a surprised expression before giving him a hug . They felt warm, soft, and incredibly comforting to him . Little teardrops started to well from the couple’s face . Each time a teardrop hit Maru’s shoulder, it felt like he was getting hit by a hammer .
Maru almost let out a scream of sorrow, but by then, Maru became aware that his time here was coming to an end . Instead of crying, he told the two of them what he wanted to say .
Thank goodness he was able to wish them good health with his own mouth . And thank goodness his family looked healthy in his dream . He wouldn’t have known what to do if they looked starved and depressed .
His daughter had grown by a fair amount after six months . Or maybe not . He didn’t get too much time to look at her . But he was able to tell that his little girl had matured a little bit through his death . Thank goodness, at least there was a silver lining for her .
His wife was… still wearing the cheap wedding ring that he had given her . How foolish of her . She wouldn’t be able to meet anyone new if she kept that on . Even at the age of forty-five, she looked as young as ever . To think such a beautiful woman would have to suffer like this because of someone like him…
Maru took his hand off of the floor to rub his eyes a little bit . He could feel little sandy particles coming off from around his eyes . He probably looked like a complete mess right now .
‘Thank goodness… I got to meet them . ’
His wife might simply forget that she saw him when she wakes up . After all, that’s what most dreams are like . They simply fade out of existence the moment you wake up . Maru actually hoped his wife would forget . He didn’t want her sadness to return because of a dream . All he wanted was one thing, someone who could replace him .
At the same time, a part of him screamed to never be forgotten . A part of him wanted to be a nail that’s embedded deep into the two people’s memories . Perhaps he was being greedy, cruel even .
Maru took a shower, trying to wash away those thoughts with the flowing water . He looked at himself in the mirror afterwards . Only then did he finally come to terms with the fact that in their world, Han Maru no longer existed .
“Well, at least I got myself one hell of a life insurance,” said the young man in the mirror, with tears still streaming down his face .
* * *
Dojin decided not to talk to Maru, just for today . The boy just felt so different today . Dojin tried to talk to the boy a few times, but all he could do was stare .
“ . . . Something’s happened to him, right?”
“Definitely . ”
Daemyung was looking quite troubled himself . Dojin shook his head, he had no idea how to handle this either . The one friend who was always calm and happy was sighing like the world was ending .
Right then, Dojin noticed Dowook step out of the class through the back door . The boy glanced at Maru before leaving .
To be truthful, Dojin wasn’t a great fan of Dowook . He saw his past self in the other boy . Dojin stopped glaring ever since the other boy stopped his bullying, but they weren’t really friends .
‘Why is that guy . . . ’
Dowook surely had something in mind when he stared at Maru . Was he looking for a fight?
“I wonder if something’s up with Dowook, too,” Daemyung noted .
Did this guy forget that Dowook used to bully him? Why was he so nice? Then again, being nice was what made Daemyung pretty charming .
A few moments later, Dowook stepped back into the class with a paper cup in hand . He must’ve gotten himself a drink from the vending machine downstairs . There were two cups, actually .
The boy stepped up behind Maru . He mumbled to himself with an annoyed look for a second, before stepping up in front of Maru and setting the cup down on Maru’s table .
“Cheer up, you bastard . And… ugh, it’s nothing . ”
With that, Dowook went back to his seat .
Dojin was incredibly confused . Did that guy just try to cheer Maru up? Maru looked a little confused himself . After a few seconds, Maru smiled and thanked him .
“Were they close?”
“Dunno . ”
Dojin looked at Maru and Dowook repeatedly for a few seconds .
“The hell was that?”
* * *
Maru looked at Dowook as he drank his iced tea . Since when did Dowook care about him so much? As far as he was aware, they greeted one another every once in a while, but not much more than that .
“Dude, are you okay? I’ve wanted to ask you since a while back, but you just looked so sad… Did something happen?” Dojin asked .
Did Maru really look that bad? Bad enough to make even Dojin hesitate? Maru stared at his reflection on a mirror hanging on the wall behind him .
‘I guess it’s pretty bad . ’
There were all sorts of emotions flowing across his young face . Maru put a hand over it for a second . The memories from last night were still hitting him like a truck . He told himself he was fine this morning, but clearly he wasn’t .
“It was just a bad dream,” he decided to tell them .
“Was it a nightmare? Or did you get caught by your mom while masturbating or something?”
“No, it was a really good dream . ”
“Then what’s up?”
“It was too good of a dream… One that I didn’t want to wake up from . ”
What if he was still alive in that timeline? Thinking of that made him feel anxious again .
‘The big events of this life haven't changed at all . ’
There was the world cup in 2002, and before that, the IMF . Would things change much in the future? Unlikely . No matter what he did, there would be events in the future that will remain unchangeable .
What if his death was also inevitable? Would Maru be able to try to change that?
‘No, besides that . . . ’
He’s become even more desperate to meet his wife and daughter after his dream . He believed that he would be able to meet his daughter . She would be his little angel that arrives after he marries his wife .
But what about his wife? What would he need to do to meet her?
‘What would… What would happen to our meeting if I live a life that’s very different compared to my past one?’
His past life was like a train track . As long as he rode on this track, like it or not, he would be able to stop at set stations . But right now in this life, there wasn’t just one train track he could ride on . There were countless tracks that he could create himself . In that case…
How many of these tracks would lead him back to his wife?
Maru subconsciously ended up turning to a rusty train track in his head . He knew how this particular train track ended . If he got on this one, he would repeat his previous life all over again . That is, he would be able to meet his wife again .
‘Where did I meet my wife again?’
He needed to remember . He had to remember .
Bang . Maru punched his table lightly . Since the class was full of students talking to each other, not many people heard him . Dojin and Daemyung were looking at him with a surprised expression, though .
“I can’t… remember . ”
“M-Maru, what’s up?”
“Maru . . . ”
Maru could hear his two friends, but he didn’t understand them . Right now, Maru was entirely focused on trying to remember .
‘Just yesterday… No, just this morning . . . ’
His other memories had all disappeared, save for that of his family’s faces . The memory itself wasn’t perfect, but just the fact that he could vaguely recall them gave him relief .
Right now, he wasn’t able to remember any of it . He recalled what the woman had said yesterday . Something about this being their last meeting . Was this what she meant?
‘That can’t be it . She said I would be able to recognize my wife . ’
Surely the woman wasn’t lying . She was supposed to be a representative for god . Surely he would be able to recognize his wife when they meet .
“So I need to meet her?”
“What’s up with him?”
Maru raised his hand to silence his friends . He thought back on his previous life again .
‘My… My daughter’s age was… . ’
He couldn’t remember .
‘My marriage . What was my marriage like?’
Again, he couldn’t remember .
‘ . . . Where did we go for our first date?’
Absolutely blank .
‘My wife’s… name . . . ’
Nothing . The train tracks in his mind’s eye started to disappear one by one . In the end, there was just one train track left in front of him .
One that he knew all too well already . One that… would eventually lead to his wife .
“Hahh . ”
God was fair . At the same time, that’s what makes him so cruel .
Maru put his hands through his hair, and gripped tightly . The pain didn’t help at all with his memories .
* * *
Dowook observed Maru from his seat . It was kind of worrying watching the boy punch the table like that . Did something happen?
‘Ugh . ’
Why did he have to get help from someone like him? Of course, Dowook felt pretty thankful about it, but Maru was just so difficult to approach .
Plus, as a person who’s never said thank you to a friend before… he had no idea what to say .
‘Maybe… Maybe when he’s calmed down a little more . ’
For now, Dowook decided to leave it to his future self .
* * *
Geunseok gave Yurim a little glance from the side . The girl looked very cute with her brown eyes . She was a girl who comforted him during hard times, a girl he was very thankful to have .
As a matter of fact, recently the girl’s become his sole reason to go to school . As they decided together where to go for tomorrow, his phone rang . It was his brother .
“Who is it?”
“My brother . ”
Geunseok responded a little annoyedly . His brother wasn’t his idol anymore . As a matter of fact, his brother was just a weirdo who wasn’t there to comfort him when he needed it the most .
Thank goodness he had Yurim now .
“Yeah, bro . ”
– You sound good . How are you?
“I’m doing fine . What about you?”
– You know, same old, same old . How’s acting been?
“Acting? Did I not tell you last time? We won at the college competition last time . It was pretty easy once my mind was set . It’s kind of like studying . ”
– That’s good . Did you tell dad?
“No, I’m going to wait a little bit . ”
– Wouldn’t it be better to tell him soon?
“I said I’m going to wait . I’m going to get scolded if I tell him . ”
– Well, obviously . But didn’t you join the club knowing that in the first place?
“Whatever . I’ll do it in my own time . You should just focus on your stuff . It’s not like you really ever helped me before . And don’t worry, I’ll get better than you at this sooner or later . ”
Maybe he shouldn’t have said that last sentence? Geunseok thought back to the time when he saw his older brother eat instant noodles by himself in the corner .
Well, that was pretty much all his brother was worth, wasn’t it? It felt like Geunseok used to have a reason why he looked up to his brother in the past, but he couldn’t remember it anymore .
“Geunseok, it’s a green light . ”
“Ok, I’m hanging up, bro . ”
Geunseok hung up his phone and turned to look at Yurim . The one girl who understood him best, and judged him fairly . He was so lucky to have a girl like her in his life .
“Yurim . ”
“How was my acting yesterday?”
Yurim responded with a bright expression .
“It was the best . ”
The best . The word alone made Geunseok’s heart flare up in pride . It felt like it’s been ages since he’s been complimented like this .
“Really . You’re the best . Better than the second years . ”
“Boo, no way . ”
“Yes way . ”
Yurim hugged his arm, which caused the boy to drag her closer towards him . If she was with him, he wouldn’t feel nervous . She was the person who convinced him that Hong Geunseok was worth something .
“You’re amazing . ”
Geunseok was becoming drunk in her sweet words . There was a need for him to work harder if he wanted to keep hearing these compliments .