Life, Once Again! - Chapter 762
When he looked down at the empty coffee cup, Park Hoon realized that it was time to stand up. It wasn’t like staring at the monitor in the café would give him any good ideas. He picked up the laptop bag and left. The moment he left, he missed the café. The air was more than just hot. It stabbed into his skin.
He staggered back to his house. Today was a holiday that was such a pity to waste. He wanted to go hiking, go fishing, or do anything to take a break, but the work given to him seemed to be laughing at him for daring to try to rest on a weekend. It would be less frustrating if it was company work instead.
“How is it?”
His wife urged him to give her the results. Park Hoon despaired at the environment of his household where he couldn’t even form a labor union as he sat down on the sofa.
“It’s not bad, I think.”
“Not bad, huh. So it’s not good either?”
“You always take it that way.”
“Then tell me properly. Was it interesting?”
Interesting, splendid, touching. These three were magical words that would give him freedom on weekends. If he turned a blind eye and praised his wife’s writing, everything would be good, but his mouth betrayed his thoughts and talked about useless things.
“Personally, I would have second thoughts if I had to pay money to read it. Maybe it’s because I’m personally not fond of the genre, but I wouldn’t buy it.”
He instantly regretted saying those words, but the train had left; pandora’s box had been opened. Park Hoon wanted to stitch his mouth shut if possible. Having kicked away a comfortable weekend’s rest, Park Hoon ended up lying down on the sofa. He could already expect what he was going to hear next: then how about this?; What if I change it this way?; Did you like this part?
“Looks like I should stop for the day. I need to get some rest too,” said his wife who was sitting at the computer desk in the living room.
Hearing that, he suddenly woke up as though cold water had been poured over his face. Yoo Jayeon, who was number one in the drama department in YBS, had declared defeat first. This was a rare sight. The path that lead to traveling on a weekend, which was about to close its gates, had been opened again. His heart had already packed some kimbap and was on its way to the hiking trail. He felt like the refreshing smell of the moist forest on Mount Hwaak was already tickling his nose.
“Well thought. Creating content requires breaks. You can’t do it by pushing yourself.”
“You’re right, oppa. I should get some rest. I feel burnt out too.”
“How about hiking? I went to Mount Hwaak last time, and it was really good there. A writer I know said that she goes there whenever she hits a wall while writing. I think she said something about how the refreshing air of the mountain clears her head or something.”
He tried conning his wife with facts mixed with lies. If she didn’t want to go, that was fine as well. The mountain was something he could only embrace fully when he hiked by himself.
She seemed not so into it. For producers, who stayed up night after night like it was nothing, saving energy was a requirement, and it was natural for them to not want to waste energy by doing something like hiking.
“You’re tired, aren’t you? Then have a break at home.”
“What about you, oppa?”
“Me? I’ll go for some fresh air. Just for a little bit.”
“Don’t say that; let’s watch a movie together at home. I just bought a DVD the other day. You’re going to like it too. It’s a romance movie.”
“No, there’s no real need to watch together is th…”
His wife was already connecting the cable to the TV. Park Hoon nervously watched his wife as she ripped open the packaging of the DVD joyfully. What would happen if he said to her ‘honey, I’ll go hiking’ when she looked like a little bird flapping her wings in excitement while imagining watching a romance movie together with her husband? At first, she would probably try to coax him into it. The moment he mentioned it again, the little bird would become an eagle that soars in the skies and attacks with her claws, which she had trimmed for work but were still slightly long nonetheless. The whole time she would be mentioning the duty of the husband in society to spend the weekend with his wife.
Park Hoon looked at the wedding photo in the living room. His wife in the photo, Yoo Jayeon, was beautiful. He himself, who was on one knee next to her giving her a ring, was handsome. When he mentioned that he was dating Jayeon, who was like a fighting rooster, to the producers of the drama department, the entire YBS building flipped upside down. When he handed out wedding invitations, his senior producers asked him if he needed serious advice. They said things like ‘you can’t give up on life so easily’, ‘tell me if there’s anything you need’, or ‘it can’t be helped if she’s pregnant’.
If he looked back in retrospect and asked why he got married, he honestly wouldn’t be able to answer. Was it because he took her around a lot when they worked? Or was it because she found him an easy man? They somehow ended up being comfortable around each other, and when he came to, he was meeting her parents. They got married half a year after dating, so when the people around them said that they were too hasty in getting married, they weren’t entirely wrong.
His marriage life was just as he had expected. The tomboy genes didn’t go anywhere just because she got married. In the beginning, they quarreled quite a lot. As they were both people who could say anything about each other, they never avoided a fight by feigning good smiles. Once, they even fought about which direction to put their toothbrushes in. This person was a woman that didn’t fit him from A to Z.
Two years passed like that. The fact that they didn’t suit each other from A to Z hadn’t changed, but what had changed was that if they fought ten times, he would lose ten out of ten times. Fighting each other fiercely like fighting dogs in an arena became a thing of the old. Park Hoon chose to become a docile puppy who would lie on its back and act cute. He was still the unrelenting producer who did not know compromise at the TV station, but he became a gentle puppy who let his wife take the leash. Why did it become like this? He did not know. He only vaguely predicted that his subconscious judgment to not continue the cold war with Yoo Jayeon, who had braved the women’s taboo zone that was the drama department by herself, created such an environment.
Mount Hwaak became distant. The game console, which had become a DVD player for this moment, gobbled up a disk and started producing motor sounds. Once the movie began, his path to Mount Hwaak would be blocked off completely. Seeing the DVD precursor screen, Park Hoon thought back to two months ago when his wife said that she was going to write a book. To him, he heard that as: she was going to enjoy a gentle hobby, so he urged her to do so and even cheered her on for it. Back then, he didn’t know that he would be in charge of the research and even the editing. If he knew, he would have stopped her. He would have told her that not anyone could just write.
He desperately needed an exit. Spending the weekend lying down on a sofa at home wasn’t bad, but his consciousness, which was already at the foot of Mount Hwaak, was screaming at him to escape his house. It was when his wife brought some snacks in a wooden bowl that the phone in his hand started ringing.
-I’d like to eat the dinner that you said you’d treat me to tonight.
Park Hoon spoke as calmly as possible while reading the text. It would be troublesome if his wife found out that there was a party going on within him to congratulate his escape.
“Maru says he wants to meet me.”
“Maru? You mean Han Maru?”
“Yeah. I told him I’d treat him out some time.”
“So you’re leaving now?”
His wife looked at the clock from the corner of her eyes. He cut in before she could say ‘it’s still early’.
“We have a lot to talk about. You know me, honey. You know I want to shoot a drama with him. We couldn’t do that four years ago, so I should shoot one with him this time.”
He silently stared at his wife rummaging through the snacks. He was inwardly nervous that she would say that she wanted to go with him.
“Don’t drink too much. Just because you aren’t working, if you come back late because of drinking, well, you’ll see what will happen.”
“I’ll come back early of course. You should get some rest too, honey. You have to go to a shoot tomorrow.”
He embraced her shoulders and pulled her in before kissing her on the forehead. He found his wife so lovely for obediently waiting at home.
“Buy some milk on your way home. We ran out.”
“I can buy two.”
Three wasn’t a problem either.
* * *
“The outside air sure is good.”
“Did something happen?”
“You’ll see once you get married. You should definitely get married. It’s something filled with happiness.”
Park Hoon parked his car at the barbecue restaurant’s parking lot before walking inside the store. They were guided by an employee to a room on the inside.
“Hey, you look like you’ve grown.”
“I’ve grown a bit in the military, though, I still haven’t hit 180.”
“You were pitch black when you got discharged, but you’ve whitened up like an actor now. The dermatologist seems to be doing a good job, eh?”
“Well, I’ll have to thank the head manager at the company for forcing me to go to the dermatologist. Money sure is good.”
Park Hoon’s memory still contained the young Maru that was in high school. He was a child who did not show any of the challenging or daring attitudes that his peers would have. The child that looked ‘experienced’ had become a young man. Though, he still had those coldly sunken eyes that he couldn’t see through.
“I heard you did your last performance.”
“Yes. It went well, thanks to you.”
“Don’t thank me. I didn’t do anything.”
“Is the thing you’re preparing as the director going well?”
“I’m participating in the production crew, so I think I’ll only be able to do my own thing at the end of the year. Well, the preparations are going smoothly, so there’s no problem with that.”
“What’s the genre this time?”
“What else? It’s a drama that the ladies would like. If I want to raise my value before I quit and become a freelancer, I have to make big hits, so I ended up going down that route. Looks like it became a habit after I gained some popularity.”
“At times like those, you come back to yourself if you get smashed hard.”
“Gee, why don’t you pray for my doom instead? Let’s order something for now.”
“I have a classy taste now, so I might end up drilling a hole in your credit card if I make the orders. You’re gonna get an earful from director Jayeon too. Are you okay with that?”
He wanted to shout ‘I’m that woman’s husband’ in a confident voice, but his voice couldn’t help but become lower when he thought about his wife appearing in front of his face with his credit card bills. Hold back a little – she would say.
The pork ribs they ordered came out. Maru picked up the tongs and put the meat on the grill. Only after seeing the sizzling meat did he realize that he had skipped breakfast and lunch today. He realized that the stress given to him by his superior at home was quite serious.
“Are you really not going to have a child?” Maru asked as he ate a spoonful of the doenjang soup.
Park Hoon licked his lips. A child; it was a word that he used to not like, but these days, that word gave him a kick in the heart.
“I’m not sure whether I want one or not.”
“You should. Having a child is the entire point of marriage.”
“But I can’t have a child by myself. I need to think about Jayeon too. It’d be weird to tell her that we should have a child when she still wants to work.”
“That’s true, director Jayeon is a workaholic.”
“She sure is.”
He poured some beer into the glass. He didn’t dare order soju because of what his wife said.
“What are you going to do? It’s been a year.”
“I don’t know. If anyone calls for me, I do want to go back to dramas. Plays are fun, but it’s the TV that makes money. Blue Sky also has a lot of applicants because I became pretty well-known. Though, the problem is that they don’t have any money to accept more members. But that’s something they need to solve by themselves.”
“You should’ve joined us when we did ‘Flaming Lady’. If you did, you would’ve become a national star rather than the Daehak-ro star.”
“Instead, I got my discharge certificate.”
“Since we’re at it, let me ask. Why didn’t you do it back then? I still don’t understand. The director wanted you, yet you refused that and went back to doing plays. Didn’t I tell you several times that there’s a character I based on you?”
“I can only apologize. I really wanted to do it when you gave me the offer. I really did, but the circumstances weren’t right.”
“Well, I’m asking what those circumstances were.”
Maru only smiled to gloss over everything. Park Hoon lost his motivation to ask any further questions. Usually, Maru became firmer than concrete when he smiled like that.
“But still, you got a star from that drama.”
“Han Gaeul, the girl you recommended? She did become a star.”
Park Hoon thought back to the winter four years ago as he sipped some beer.