Life, Once Again! - Chatper 455
“I spent a long time as a minor actor. But since it wasn’t like the work was continuous, I ended up needing money for everyday expenses. However, since I was over thirty, it wasn’t like I could reach out to my parents for help, so I went back to the construction site again. After thirty, I couldn’t work part time jobs anymore. When I say that I’m here for a part time job interview, people would scan me from top to bottom and say that they can’t hire me because I’m too old.”
The man’s emotions calmed down as the story progressed. He was telling his story calmly as though he was telling someone else’s story. However, the audience watching him felt the opposite – they expressed pity for the man, became angry at him for living his life like that, and sometimes would feel sad as though it was about themselves.
The more relaxed the man became, the more vigorous the emotions on the audience’s face became. Maru captured that change with his eyes as he listened to the man’s story.
“Since young, adults around me told me that I should have a dream. Everyone here must have heard that at some point.”
The audience nodded at once.
“That’s why I had a dream. It was to become an actor, and I never doubted myself living as an actor. Although it’s hard right now, I will definitely become successful. Light will shine upon those that put in the effort. Eventually but definitely….”
The man raised his gripped fist up in the air before letting it fall down again with a loathing laugh.
“I turned thirty-five, and I still lived in the semi-basement apartment. The frequent offers for background acting were reduced considerably once the leader I was working with decided to quit. Then, the opportunities to be a minor actor in a drama disappeared entirely. Back then, I was acting in a theater troupe near this place. I had my own popularity as well. I got to know some good and reliable friends. I was far from appearing on TV, and I was poor, but back then, I thought like this: are there any superstar actors on TV right now who didn’t spend a long time being a nameless actor? I mean, you know that famous saying don’t you? ‘This too shall pass’. I believed in those words and put my all into acting. However, I knew in my heart. That line was my last line of refuge.”
After saying those words, the man took out his phone before speaking in a careful voice.
“It’s gotten very late. As you can probably tell from how I look, there won’t be any good stories after this. I feel sorry for taking your precious time, so I think I’ll wrap things up here.”
The man then stood up from his seat.
“It’s been a long time since I last talked in front of so many people. I feel a little lightened, and I also feel like nothing happened at all. Yet, I felt so nervous at first. So weird, isn’t it?”
He then went on to say his goodbyes when,
“I want to hear more from you.”
The man holding his daughter spoke. The girl in his arms was also looking at him with wide eyes. She wasn’t even grumbling.
Maru, who was absorbed in the man’s words, stood up slightly and looked around. There were numerous people around. The people that originally sat in a semi-circle around the man had now circled the man altogether. What was surprising was that despite the increase in the number of people, it was still completely silent.
Now that the man stopped speaking, people started breathing again and began cheering for the man.
“We can’t leave at this point after having heard all that.”
“It’d be somewhat strange to call it fun, but your story’s really good. I want to keep listening to it.”
“These people didn’t stay here and listen to your words just because they had time left over.”
Many people wanted to hear more from him.
“There, there. Please calm down. You must give the patient time to think. How about it? I think we still want to listen to your story.”
“…Would that really be fine with you? It’s not a story that will make you feel pleased or anything.”
“A hospital is not for the intact. This place is the same. All of the people here have one area where they are in pain. It’s because they have pain that they can sympathize with you. I also want to listen to your story, Mr. Pati- no, Mr. Actor.”
Hearing Ganghwan’s words, the man stood up from his seat and looked at the people in the audience. He sat back down after a laugh.
“The world sure is strange. What I couldn’t gain at all when I most desperately wanted it was people’s attention, and yet I get to receive it here. Uhm, sorry, but can I get some water? I have a sore throat after blabbing on for so long in front of so many people.”
“We have plenty of water.”
Hanna gave him a bottle of warm water as though she was prepared beforehand. The man took a sip before breathing out, creating a white breath.
“That happened all of a sudden. A senior actor of mine that I stayed close with put me in a drama minor role. It was a morning drama for a public TV channel. I would play the role of a secretary for a company president and I had quite a few appearances so I wouldn’t have to work part time jobs for a while if I worked on that for a while. I was running out of money too so I gladly accepted that job. You wouldn’t know how many times I resolved myself as I walked towards the shooting set. I have to greet people, I have to catch their eyes, I will appeal with my acting. I will become successful. But then….”
The man shut his eyes before gulping down a lot of the water.
“I became afraid of the camera. No, back then, I didn’t know why I was like that. It was just a simple line: President, let me guide you. – How easy is that? Even someone completely clueless about acting should be able to say that line after practicing a couple of times. But I was unable to say that line until the end. President, le… sorry. P-president. President. President….”
After coughing once, the man faintly smiled.
“I, who never had a proper job even once, called all the presidents I would probably call in my lifetime on that spot. Thirty minutes. That’s the time I’d been shouting president for on the shooting set, and it was also the time that signalled the end of my career as an actor. The senior that introduced me to the job didn’t say anything as he looked at me. He probably couldn’t. He would only be able to say something if he understood what happened, right? I couldn’t even say that I was in a bad condition. After all, the problem wasn’t something on that level.”
Maru looked at the man who was unable to speak anymore, before looking up at the sky. For some reason, he thought that his story wasn’t just his. Everyone has their dreams and may strive towards their dreams. Does the life of everyone that strived towards their dreams have a happy ending?
The answer was right in front of him.
For one happy ending, an endless amount of bad endings were kicked around.
For some, it gave them a sense of warning, for some, interest, and for others, perhaps joy. Maru looked at the expressions of the audience. A sad story didn’t always invoke sympathy within others. Opposite to that man, the woman who was sighing in relief was perhaps looking down on that man, saying that it was fortunate that she didn’t live a foolish life like he did.
Ganghwan dreamed of a place to share sadness, but it turned out to be a space to heal oneself using twisted consolations. Almost invisible loathing laughter was directed at the man. Was this a zoo? Or was this some public execution ground? Why was it that the chair the man was sitting on looked like a guillotine instead?
Perhaps he shouldn’t have done what he did?
Maru vaguely, no, clearly realized that things would turn out like this. That was why he originally thought of ‘using’ that man to his advantage.
After talking with him, he had the guy go up on stage with a mind that cheered for him, but perhaps he should have stopped when he said he didn’t want to do it.
He never saw anyone lasting long while doing business with other people’s pains. Maru sighed. Why couldn’t he be more rational that time? Why did he not tell the man that things would turn out like this? What did all of this have with the déjà vu he kept having?
‘I don’t get it. I don’t get anything.’
The only feeling he had right now was the sense of apology towards that man. He didn’t put the guy up on that stage to have him become a target of mockery.
At that time, he heard a voice behind him. Someone had said a word of encouragement for that man. Maru turned around. A man in his thirties, who looked like he was about to cry at any moment, had spoken out after putting his glasses back on.
Maru closed his eyes shut and opened them again before looking around. Only then did he see the people that seemed to have a pain similar to the man on the stage entered his eyes. That number was overwhelmingly more than the people that disdained him. Maru thought that the emotions they didn’t express until now because they were looking at the man, had erupted a beat later.
The encouragement was for the man, but Maru felt like he was healed as well.
At that moment – it was quite absurd, but – he had a thought like this: Did he have the man go up on stage because he wanted to have him listen to those warm words of encouragement?
It felt rather strange since that kind of thought process was neither logical nor his style, but a corner of his brain was shouting that that was the right answer.
The man continued speaking. He kept mentioning a series of events that seemed to be nightmares without any hope in sight at all.
From some moment onwards, Maru could feel some water droplets falling onto his hands. Was it raining? When he looked up, the skies looked dark, but not cloudy. The droplets had come from his eyes.
Why? – Before he even had that question, Maru bit his lips because of the aching sensation in his chest. Whose sadness was this?
At that moment, Maru saw someone else standing next to that man in his eyes.
The man who had a warm smile on his face. – Maru knew that it was an illusion. It was an image that his brain was showing him and only him. The man who appeared along with a strong headache was patting the shoulders of the man on the stage as he talked about his dark and depressing life.
His vision shook again before the figure of the illusory man put his arms over the shoulders of the man on the stage. Maru put his hands on his head and narrowed his eyes. The face of the illusory man, which looked like it had been blurred out, became clearer and clearer.
The illusory man was smiling while putting his arms over the man on the stage, who wasn’t wearing worn-out clothes anymore, but a stylish suit. The moment Maru saw that man’s face, Maru made a twisted groan.
The illusory man smiling next to the man on the stage… was none other than himself.