Life, Once Again! - Chapter 760
Hyungseok was walking in the desert. Whenever he took a step, his foot sank into the ground. When he tried to take out the foot by putting strength into his other foot, that foot would then sink knee-deep into the ground. When he came to himself, he found himself sunken until his thighs. He groaned and twisted his body from side to side. He couldn’t budge as though a giant hand was tightly grabbing onto his legs. Just as he started having a hard time breathing and thoughts about the afterlife, he suddenly wondered why he was in the middle of the desert.
He felt like he was surfacing from deep within the water, he opened his eyes. He collected his senses and looked around. He was lying down on one bed alongside Gitae, Beomsoo, and Youngjin. Pushing aside Beomsoo’s feet and Gitae’s body, which were the things that made him have a hard time breathing, he got off the bed. Four grown men were sleeping on one bed, so it was natural for him to have a nightmare. For some reason, he felt like he could smell the military. The stench of the military blanket tickled his nose.
When he opened the door and walked outside, he saw Maru in the kitchen. The large TV in the living room was yapping by itself. Tomorrow’s weather will be warmer than today and….
“Where is this place?”
“Of course, it’s my house.”
The sound of glass being scratched reverberated in his head. He barely managed to squint open his eyes and look at the clock on the wall: 6:20. The sun was setting outside the window.
“So I had about an hour or two of sleep, huh.”
Hyungseok sat down in the living room. After meeting up with Maru in the theater, they went to drink immediately. Before they even asked each other how they were doing, they opened a bottle of soju and poured it into beer glasses. The last things he remembered were his friends pouring vodka into their glasses, Maru taking out his credit card, and his phone clock which said it was 4 p.m.
“Sheesh, you can’t even drink that much, yet you had to order all that.”
Hyungseok grabbed the cup that Maru handed him. Now that he had collected himself, he felt a wave of strong thirst. He felt like fire was burning in the corners of his throat. He drank the lukewarm water in the cup in an instant. After drinking, he saw Maru, looking completely fine.
“You drank with us too, didn’t you?”
His head rewind the time back to 4 hours ago. It was when they were drunk but not out of it. Bottles of alcohol piled up behind the boiling soup pot, and they were replacing their stomach acid with alcohol while crying for seconds. Hyungseok clearly remembered the number of green bottles in front of Maru. While the four of them were chatting noisily and eating food, Maru quietly emptied glass after glass. He didn’t know exactly how much, but he was confident that Maru drank the most out of the five of them.
Hyungseok looked at Maru like he was looking at a fantastic creature.
“Nothing. Rather than that, what happened?”
“Don’t you get it? You guys all passed out while drinking. I expected it when I saw you guys mixing soda into vodka because you found vodka bitter. If you were going to do that, why did you bother drinking vodka at all? You should just drink Yakult instead. What about the others?”
“They should be wandering in the desert right about now.”
Something like that, Hyungseok said while waving his hand. The air conditioner here was the model that was on recent TV ads, the television was a large, curved screen one, and the leather sofa was clearly a brand name one as well. The balcony had a glass table and there was a view of the Han river. An apartment with three rooms and a good view. The salesman living inside Hyungseok’s head finished his calculations quickly.
“You’re well-off. Is it monthly rent?”
“That’s what you want to know?”
“Sure. I always wanted to live in a house like this if I ever became successful as an actor. Looks like you earn a lot of money even through plays, huh?”
“If plays were enough to earn tons of money, do you think actors would have switched to dramas or films? Play actors don’t earn that much.”
“Then how did you buy this place? I’m not an expert in real estate, but this place is definitely on the higher end.”
“I don’t know the cost since my company provided it for me. As you say, I heard that it’s pricey.”
“Company? You had an agency?”
“Didn’t I tell you? I’m in JA Production.”
Hyungseok looked at Maru in surprise. If he didn’t hear wrong, he heard ‘JA Production’ just now. It was a small agency with super bigshot actors who could hit at least 8 million views if they shot a film. That was the place that anyone aspiring to become a film actor would give a second look at. Hyungseok was no different. Although he was merely a beginner who had just started off, he had set JA as his final destination.
“Seriously? You’re in JA Production?”
“Why? Can’t I be?”
“You can, but it sure is a big blow to me. I never imagined it. Did you take an audition after you got discharged?”
“I was there before I was in the military. Now that you mention it, it’s been pretty long.”
“Then why didn’t you tell me about it?”
“Because I had no reason to say it. It’s not like being in JA would change my military life. In fact, I would get bombarded with annoying questions.”
He was reasonable, yet Hyungseok felt disgruntled for some reason. He even felt slightly betrayed. The colleague he had spent two years with suddenly felt like a foreigner from a distant land.
“I’m disappointed. You should’ve told us about it.”
“Why didn’t you ask?”
“We would’ve if we knew anything. I just thought that you went to Daehak-ro after appearing on TV a little.”
“Would anything have changed if you knew I was in JA?”
Hyungseok fell silent. He had already learned that he couldn’t win against this man with words in the military. Hyungseok, who lost before he even picked a fight, sighed awkwardly and changed the channel on the TV. An old western movie was airing. It was a movie that started with a former CIA agent falling into danger. He had watched it several times, yet he enjoyed it in a daze every time he watched it.
“I also want to shoot a film like that.”
“Looks like you weren’t kidding when you said you were receiving acting lessons,” said Maru, walking over.
“I handed the business over to my friend entirely, and I’m learning these days. I even heard that I’m pretty good at the academy. I’m a promising student, you know?”
“Usually, academies don’t talk bad about their students. It’d be troublesome if they quit.”
“Why are you so pessimistic? You should watch my acting. Only after will you know that the teachers at the academy aren’t saying nonsense.”
“Go on then. I’ll have a look,” Maru said while tilting his mug.
The bitter fragrance of coffee wafted out. Hyungseok smiled and waved his hand. Acting in the living room of someone else’s house wasn’t something he wanted to do. Maru, who he expected to say that he was just joking and then switch the topic, kept staring at him as though to urge him. Hyungseok made an awkward smile again. The corner of his lips trembled for some reason.
“You really want me to do it?”
“You said you were serious about it, didn’t you? I’m no one amazing, but I can still subjectively evaluate your acting. When I learned acting, listening to other people’s critiques was common. You’re not going to act in front of a mirror forever, are you? If you want to become an actor, then just consider it a practice run since you’re going to eventually have to act in front of people.”
“Here? Right now?”
“If you don’t want to, then you don’t have to. I’m not forcing you or anything.”
Maru slowly turned his eyes to the TV. Hyungseok also rested his chin and focused on the TV. The character in the film was wailing while holding a photo of his dead wife. He watched the act for a while before looking at Maru.
It was true that he was receiving good evaluations at the academy. The teacher that taught him confidently told him that he would eventually become good enough to debut if he kept practicing. Hyungseok studied acting not only through the assignments he was given but through things he did during his own time as well. He did so in order to catch up since he started late. When he started his clothes sales business, he did the same thing. He split up his time into tiny bits and didn’t waste any in order to catch up to others. Hyungseok had the desire to live better off than other people. To walk ahead of others, he knew that he had to put a lot of effort as well as give up on some things. The thing he sacrificed while starting his clothes sales business was sleep. He also distanced himself from drinking, as well as the friends he drank with every weekend before he started working. He put as much time as he possibly could into his business. The result was a successful business.
“What?” Maru asked, seemingly having felt his gaze.
Hyungseok looked back on what kind of life he had been living ever since he decided to start acting. He made the decision to become an actor before his last vacation in the military. It was an impulsive decision, but the friend that he ran the clothes sales business with encouraged him. He spent the last night in the military planning what to do after getting discharged. Before he was enlisted, he would often get nosebleeds because of the lack of sleep. He reminded himself of that time, when he had a hard time but managed to obtain success and obtained confidence that he would be able to become successful in a short time if he put his time into practicing. He registered at an academy and started practicing. He had never missed a lesson in the past year. His acting should have improved from the day he got discharged. A difference though, was that he wasn’t as desperate as he was when he ran his clothes sales business. That was something he was sure of. He met up with friends he hadn’t called in a long time on weekends to have drinks and enjoyed his time with the ladies he met at the nightclub. Whenever he had to go to the academy, he put everything down and focused wholeheartedly on acting practice and even studied more when he returned home, but on weekends and on days he didn’t have lessons, he had his private time. That was because he came to the judgment that he was doing sufficiently.
In acting, there was no visual proof of achievements like sales numbers and income taxes. Even after investing all that time, the only thing he could rely on was his senses to judge whether he improved or not. The only measure he had, his acting teacher, repeatedly told him that he was improving. That was the reason he wasn’t feeling anxious despite being leisurely. That was the reason he felt like he could be at leisure.
He believed that he put enough effort into becoming better than others. As something abstract, he found acting easier than business where numbers proved everything.
“Should I do it?”
Hyungseok believed that it was time to get evaluated. He came to the conclusion that having an interim check through Maru was a good idea to see if his calculations were right or not. He had the confidence. He also had leisure but wasn’t playing around. If acting had a score sheet with things that could be displayed as a number, he would have practiced to the death in order to raise those scores, but as judgment was a subjective thing, he believed that investing too much was a waste.
“Did you suddenly have a change of mind?”
“I just thought that it’s not a bad idea to get evaluated by an actor belonging to JA. Who knows? We might eat out of the same pot in the future.”
“Maybe. So, what are you going to show me?”
“That movie. I practiced a lot while watching that movie.”
“This movie’s good. I watched it several times. What about your character?”
“The main character of course.”
Hyungseok refined his emotions. He reminded himself of the main character who cried miserably while holding a photo of his wife. It was something he followed many times over while playing the video. The tone of voice, the expression, and even the breaks in the line were clearly engraved in his head.
He kneeled and looked at the imaginary photo in his hand which triggered his crying emotions. The tip of his nose tingled and his tear glands started doing their job. Feeling tears flowing down his cheeks, Hyungseok said the line: Ohhh, no, no.
He did find it a little embarrassing to act in front of a friend he hadn’t met in a year – someone who also happened to be an actor who was working in the field – but he found his acting satisfactory. The emotions were definitely up there when he was practicing as well.
“Good. You were literally Flipps just now.”
Maru applauded while mentioning the actor’s name. Hyungseok felt proud. At the same time, he came to the decision that acting was a lot easier than running a business. Although he might change it depending on the occasion, he came to the decision that maintaining the status quo on the amount of practice he did now should be enough to allow him to pass an audition not too far in the future.
That was all Maru had to say about the act. Maru just sipped on coffee and looked at the TV again. Hyungseok was satisfied with his achievements, but he was also rather disappointed that there was no detailed evaluation. Maybe acting was extremely subjective and even professional actors had nothing to say. That had to be how it is; it had to be what he was thinking, but he wanted to check one thing.
“Can you show me as well?” Hyungseok said while pointing at the TV.