After Story 13
“What are you doing?” Daemyung, who was walking ahead, stared at him.
“As you said, I’m planning to make some time for my own dreams.” He put his phone in his pocket.
“So there’s something you want to do, right? And that’s why you decided to drop out.”
“There’s a mountain load of stuff I want to do. But for those, rather than wanting to do them, they are things I had to do. Things I don’t have a choice about doing.” He walked past Daemyung.
Daemyung walked to his side.
“Daemyung, have you ever played Monopoly?”
“Is there anyone who hasn’t played it? Of course I have.”
“What would you do if life was like Monopoly?”
“You can see everything from the starting point to the final destination at a glance. You can see everything in the middle as well. You can also control the dice somewhat, and you can go where you want if you play carefully.”
Daemyung twinged his nose before rubbing his nose with his thumb.
“Of course, I’d aim for profit. Isn’t that how the game works? Or you can roll the dice again and again until you reach the most expensive one right at the end.”
It was an obvious answer.
While not perfect, if someone was aware of the general outline of the impending life and could change the direction to an extent, choosing something beneficial was something natural to do and also a necessity.
Daemyung continued, “But if it’s Monopoly, there are chance cards in the middle too, right? There is the jail too, and properties like landmarks. If I could really live my life like Monopoly, I would procure a minimum amount of property and aim for the chance cards.”
“As expected of a dreamer. What are you going to do if you pick a card and it says ‘go to jail’?”
“What else, go to jail of course.”
“And go for the chance again. There’s only one ‘go to jail’ card, isn’t there? Next time, I’ll be able to buy houses for my property.”
“What if something strange appears again?”
“It’s okay. I already have the land to live off of. I won’t be reckless enough to sell those off. Whether I go to jail or to the beginning, if I have a minimum amount of properties to live off of, I’ll go for the chance. If I found out that my life is Monopoly, how could I possibly ignore the chance cards?” Daemyung spoke in excitement before putting on a faint smile. “But life is not Monopoly, is it? At least, I don’t see the chance cards in my eyes right now. If I really saw a card that has a high success rate, then I would grab it without hesitation. I don’t care if that turns out to be a dud. Right now, I have so little that a dud is okay for me. It’s like that at our age. What’s scary is not a dud, but not being able to do anything. There are times when I get envious of even a dud.”
Maru remembered his high school graduation. It was the day he found out that Daemyung had given up on going to college and was going to the military in a week. On that day, this fellow had the same smile as the one he was putting on now. Now, Maru could tell that it was the smile this little child put on as he collected himself after having no choice but to give up.
Maru put his hand on Daemyung’s shoulder. His body had gotten a lot harder than before, which indicated the hardships he experienced until now.
“You’ll become a great novelist.”
“I don’t want to be a great novelist. I want to be a well-earning one.”
Maru patted his friend’s shoulder, feeling both grateful and apologetic.
* * *
The message she received in the middle of the night put a halt to her thought process. She looked at the sentence and dissected it over and over again. No matter how much she looked at it, it didn’t feel like there was any other meaning to it, which confused her even more.
“I want to do acting.”
She read the word ever so cautiously and delicately like a Japanese chef using an expensive fish for sashimi. The simple words did not contain simple meanings.
She put down her phone. The business plan she had in her head became a mess. Just seeing the word ‘acting’ made acting fill the majority of her head. It was an influence so great that it surprised her.
She needed to have a conversation with him. This wasn’t something she could decide over the phone. Her husband had told her not to think much, but how could she possibly do that? Weren’t they in a situation where they had to think about every single possibility and then some?
She sent him a message: Let’s meet up and talk.
She got a response not long later: I’m going now.
She looked at the time, feeling hasty, which she hadn’t felt in a long time. It was hard for her to stay still as though she had just heard that he had gotten into an accident. She stood up from the sofa and walked around in the living room. She went out to the veranda and returned to the living room several times.
Just then, she heard the front door open. She rushed to the front door.
“Gosh, that startled me,” her husband said as he opened the door.
His blushed cheeks provoked her eyes, and the smell of oil provoked her nose. It seemed he had some drinks with Daemyung. If he said those words out of being drunk, then she was planning to give him a slap on the back.
“Are you drunk?”
“No. As it turns out, I’m a really strong drinker in this life too.” Maru came inside.
She grabbed his hand and led him to the sofa. Maru was surprised, but he soon obediently followed.
“That message just now. What do you mean by that?”
“It’s just as you saw.”
“You want to do acting?”
He seemed serious. She had to try hard to suppress the emotions that surged from the bottom of her feet. She couldn’t tell whether it was joy or anger.
She raised her hand to stop the conversation for a moment. She needed some time to think. She didn’t need long. She had already expected this after all.
“Good. If you want to do so, honey, then go ahead. I’m sure you’ll do well. Don’t worry about the money, I’ll do something about it.”
I want to do it too — she couldn’t say those words out loud. If one of them jumped into the sea that was their dream, the other had to be the lighthouse. If both of them jumped into the sea and got swept away by the waves, then they would never make it back to the shore.
“What about you?”
That question contained all sorts of meanings. She tried hard to feign calmness.
“I told you. I don’t have any interest in it. So don’t worry about me and do what you want. I’ll show you what it means to be the queen of support.”
It was only hard to bring up the topic, so when she actually did, she could say the rest without a problem. Having finished her words, she felt her lips stiffen. She was smiling before she knew it. It was camouflage in order to hide her feelings.
Her husband looked at the empty sofa, seemingly indicating to her to sit. She shook her head. She wanted to put some distance right now. She felt like she would get found out if they met their eyes on the same level.
“Honey. We know a lot of things, don’t we?” he said. “We’ve spent an immeasurably long time together. And we’ve seen the end together too. While the forms of life we have spent vary, that isn’t entirely true. You and I must know how great the words ‘people are the same wherever you go’ truly are.” He grabbed her wrist. It was such a gentle pull that it was hard to resist.
Ultimately, she sat down next to her husband. They were now looking at each other on eye level. This time, his hands reached her lips. The smile she forced on her face sank again at his gentle touch. She put on the expression that she should be having; one that was of unease and disappointment.
“You and I must be thinking the same thing: the previous life only came to be because of a series of miracles and an accumulation of chance. The environment was given to us from a young age, and even luck followed us, which allowed us to reach that kind of position. We can’t deny that. It’s the strict truth. Comparing the previous life to this one, there are many differences.”
He frowned before smiling like a clown. It was the same action she took in front of the mirror by herself.
“I can’t get myself to display the expressions I want. My body’s in terrible shape too. I’m sure the same must be true for you. I’m sure you’re thinking that this is different from the past and that we must look at reality. That’s why I gave up too. I believed that it was the right decision. I believed that we should walk on a stable path for our own sake since this is our last.”
We – this word should contain more than just the two people.
When they thought about the child with lovely eyes, they would just realize how absurd it is to pursue their dreams so irresponsibly.
“And?” she asked. She had to know what kind of conclusion he, who had the same thought process as her, had arrived at.
“I just thought that it might be our misconception. Not a misconception that stems from ignorance, but one that stems from knowledge. We know what various paths have in store for us and we know what is going to happen in the future, so we believed that it is our duty to meticulously prepare for it. But then, it came to me. Should we really be perfect? No, can we be perfect?”
Maru’s grip became stronger. He looked at the clock and spoke, “Gaeul is precious. I haven’t stopped thinking that she should be raised in a good environment. But, you are just as precious as her. And I’m the same. We know the result. We know that we’ll definitely meet Gaeul. We also know that limits our options.”
“I… don’t want to give Gaeul an insufficient environment.”
“Our child might be in difficulty if we don’t make realistic decisions.”
“And you’re still saying you want to act? And you’re telling me to try as well?”
“That’s irresponsible. That’s not the best for our child.”
“You’re a good mother. You will love Gaeul more than anyone else once she’s born. I might even be jealous. But are you really okay with that?”
“Okay with what?”
“Actress Han Haneul, no, actress Han Gaeul. Can you really give up on that life?”
“I can do anything for the sake of my child. You’re the same.”
“Yes. We can do anything. That’s what parents are.”
Maru’s hand was placed on her lap. He slowly pressed down.
“Honey. You’re Han Haneul right now. You’re not yet Gaeul’s mother and not yet a housewife; you are but a twenty-two-year-old Han Haneul. You’re a youth who has so many things to do and so many things you want to do.”
Strength left her agitated body. Her husband poked the part that she was intentionally looking away from. She stayed quiet.
“We both know. We both know how lovely Gaeul is. However, the one here right now is Han Haneul who dreams of becoming an actress.”
“…It’s too late.”
“I thought so too. I even scolded myself, wondering what could I possibly do with these terrible muscles, body, and emotions. But I was wrong. Daemyung told me that he’s envious of even a dud. Being able to try is something precious in and of itself. Honey, don’t you think we were looking too far?”
She bit her lower lip. Her hands started shaking. The feelings, her emotions that she tried so hard to find, flowed out through the cracks. She could stop them if she tried to, but she let them be.
“Won’t Gaeul resent us?”
“I’m not saying that we should give up on everything else and stake our lives on acting. We’ll have to do it in parallel. We might be late in buying a house, but if that could buy Han Haneul’s happiness, then I won’t regret it.”
“What about Han Maru’s happiness then?”
“Of course I’ll pursue it. Honey, let’s not color our love with sacrifices. If we keep living like that, I’m afraid that I might shift the blame on Gaeul one day. I don’t want to have to tell her that we gave up on our dreams for her sake.” He smiled and finished his words, “Above all, my daughter is quite generous. I’m sure she must understand some small deviation of her parents.”
Hearing those words, she teared up, but couldn’t help but laugh.