Life, Once Again!
After Story 12
After Story 12
Maru waved at his friend who just came inside and was looking around. Park Daemyung came over, walking through the smoke in the air.
“Is this place popular? There’s a lot of people here.”
Having not seen him for a long time, Daemyung’s face had become quite burnt. The heat this year was quite bad, and Maru could tell just how hard Daemyung’s work must have been.
“Let’s order something for now. You haven’t had dinner yet, have you?”
They ordered two portions of pig skin, one bottle of soju, some rice, and some doenjang-guk.
“Please give us the rice and the soup first,” Maru said to the waiter who received the order. The waiter curtly replied yes.
“You took the train up here?”
“Yeah. The train is a lot more comfortable than taking a bus. But were the seats in the KTX always so narrow?”
“It’s definitely narrower than the older trains. You should drink some water. You look like you’re hot.”
Daemyung picked up the cup and gulped down the water. The way his shoulders jerked as he drank made him look like a bear.
“Easy, you might cough.”
Daemyung smiled awkwardly when Maru said those words without much thinking. Thanks to his innocent-looking smile and his large size, he was pretty popular throughout school as well. This Park Daemyung was pretty different from the one in his previous life. Though, his innocent personality hadn’t changed.
“Any progress on work?” Maru asked as he handed him the cutlery. Last time he called, Daemyung said he was in a tight spot because his team was disbanded.
“I just quit. I was told to move out of the apartment I was using as my lodging. I’ll stay in Suwon for a while before looking into it again, or look for a different line of work altogether.”
“Is the economy that bad?”
“You tell me. Before, people said that there was no way the shipbuilding industry in Korea would fall, but looking at how things are going now, that doesn’t seem entirely right. It’s okay for the time being, but it might get into serious trouble in a couple years. A crane driver I know said he was going to quit and was going to look for another line of work.” Daemyung shook his head from side to side as though this whole ordeal was a pain.
Maru probed his memories. Even in his previous lives, the shipbuilding industry frequently fell. There were a few worlds where they continued to be successful, but most of the time, most companies there went bankrupt.
“You’re going back to your parent’s house?”
“For just a few days. I’ll look for a house and leave as soon as possible. Mom told me to stay at home, but it’s kinda embarrassing to stay at home at this age.”
“You’re only twenty-two. At this age, most people will stay at their parent’s house. You’re the exception. You went to the military as soon as you graduated high school and started working. Other people just get pocket money from their parents like a baby kangaroo or just do some part-time jobs.”
“You know I’m not in that kind of environment.”
The waiter brought the rice and the soup. He pushed the bubbling doenjang-guk over to Daemyung.
“Let’s eat the pig skin over some soju, and eat this first.”
Daemyung wiped his hands with a wet towel and picked up his spoon. He took a big spoonful of rice and shoved it in his mouth before chewing on it.
Seeing that, Maru felt like they were back in their high school days. He was in the same class as Daemyung, but he only got to talk to him for the first time at the cafeteria to get lunch. This guy got a mountain load of rice on his tray and practically gulped it down like he was going to a fight.
There, Maru inadvertently asked if he didn’t eat breakfast. Daemyung responded with a nod as if it was natural. After that, Maru kept talking to him because of his roughness and affectionate-looking side to him. That was when he found out that Daemyung was raised in a single-parent household, by his mother.
He really liked Daemyung, who could talk about what could be an iffy family history so plainly.
“I should really go meet your mother soon. Does she still like cold bean soup noodles?”
“She loves them. Now that we’re on the topic, mom talks about you from time to time. She asks me what Maru is doing.”
“Since we’re talking about her, I should go visit her next week. I’d better go when you’re still around.”
“Do as you see fit.”
Daemyung downed a bowl of rice in that instant. His appetite seemed to have grown stronger. Maru stopped him from ordering another bowl.
“We’ll go for a second round so don’t fill your stomach yet.”
Over some crispy roasted pig skin and soju, Maru and Daemyung talked. Most of the time, Daemyung would talk and he would just chime in.
“Something must really have happened to you, huh,” Daemyung said.
“What do you mean?”
“You’re listening to me without a word. Usually, by this time, you’d be the one excitedly talking.”
“Listening is more interesting than using your mouth.”
“There’s the matter of you dropping out as well, and now you’re acting like this. Did you gain enlightenment in the time I haven’t seen you? You know, like some kind of fantasy novel.”
He really was an avid novel reader. Maru just shrugged. He had already told this guy that he had regained the memories of his previous lives, but he didn’t choose to believe it, so there was no helping it.
“Right, you should introduce me to your girlfriend,” Daemyung said, his face bright red. He still wasn’t good with alcohol.
“I’ll introduce her to you soon enough. Would you like to see her face first?”
“Is she pretty?”
“There’s no one else like her.”
Maru showed her photo on his phone. After looking at her for a while, Daemyung narrowed his eyes and spoke.
“You said you were going to college to study, and here you are with a girlfriend. Is she from the same university?”
“Then how did you two meet?”
“It was destiny.”
“Good for you. And your destiny.”
She’s pretty alright — Daemyung muttered before returning the phone.
“You said you’re taking a break for a while, didn’t you? Would you like me to introduce someone to you?” He filled Daemyung’s glass.
“Not now. Once I start working again, I’ll be busy without time to do anything. I’ll look for one once I have time.”
“If you keep doing that, your youth will disappear.”
“I don’t care. If I can sell my youth to gain financial stability, then I’d love to do it.” Daemyung’s face had turned volcano red after just three glasses. From his prolonged exhaling and giggling speech, it seemed that he was really drunk.ƒ𝐫𝗲𝒆𝑤𝚎𝐛𝙣𝐨𝙫𝙚𝚕. 𝒄o𝓂
Maru wondered if he got better at drinking while working on shipbuilding, but it turned out that he became weaker instead.
“Is it hard these days?” He put cooked pig skin on Daemyung’s plate.
“What’s hard for me? It’s my mom who has it hard. She’s working as a cashier, but that’s not easy, you know? She has to be standing all day, so it’s taxing on her body, and it’s also exhausting once some self-entitled customers come around. You know, don’t you? My mom has never taken a break. I wish I could just tell her to watch her favorite dramas at home, but I’m not capable of that.”
“Still, it’s fortunate that she has a son like you.”
“Like hell it is. It would only be fortunate if I went to a prestigious university with a full scholarship and then to a big company after graduation so she can rest easy. Look at me now. I’ve worked for over a year, but I was fired overnight because there was no work for me.”
“You haven’t changed your habit where you start grumbling once you’re drunk.”
“I can only say this because you’re here. You know I’m always grateful for that, right?”
“You’re creeping me out, so stop. Let’s switch places.”
“We’re going to drink some more?”
“Like hell I’d take you drinking. You’re quite something for reaching that state after three glasses of soju with a body build like that. Let’s just eat some gamja-tang. You need to eat some more to feel satisfied, don’t you?”
They went to the gamja-tang restaurant right across the street and ordered a small pot of gamja-tang with extra topping. They ate without talking and finished the entire pot in less than 30 minutes.
“I’m going to the bathroom.”
Coming back from the bathroom, Daemyung was no longer slack-jawed as though the drunkenness had gone away a little.
“You get drunk and get sober quickly. Does that mean your liver is good or bad?”
“I would be a doctor if I knew that. Though, for some strange reason, it does feel like I get drunk a lot quicker when I drink with you.”
Daemyung took out his wallet. Maru told him to put it away and went to the counter with the order receipt.
“Hey, take the card.”
“I’m buying to congratulate you for quitting work, so just take it obediently.”
Maru received the receipt and left the store. Daemyung, who followed him out, looked at him with an inexplicable look.
“I can’t believe that you bought two meals for me.”
“Congratulations. You experienced something new today.”
They quenched their thirst with the vending machine coffee from the restaurant. It was moderately sweet and suited his palate. Daemyung, who couldn’t tolerate hot food, blew on the cup for a while before downing the cooled coffee in one go.
When he turned around, Maru found Daemyung crumpling the paper cup. He seemed to have something to say.
“I think I said my part. So don’t you have anything to say?”
“Something to say?”
“If you don’t have anything then forget it. That’s just how it felt to me. You look like you’re worried about something, but kept changing the topic. You didn’t tell me why you dropped out or what you’re going to do in the future. If you did that because you don’t find me reliable, then I guess I can’t help it. Actually, it’s not like telling me will do anything good.”
Maru stared at his friend. The Han Maru that Daemyung knew was now buried under vast amounts of experience and could no longer be found. Maru’s expression, gestures, and even though processes have changed from the past, so it must’ve been difficult to read him, but for some curious reason, Daemyung managed to see through him.
“I look like I’m worried?”
“No, you don’t. It’s just a vague premonition of mine.”
“What the heck is that?”
“I don’t know. Anyway, if you don’t have anything, then forget it. Just take it as me saying some nonsense.”
Daemyung, who walked ahead, looked shy. Maru spoke as he looked at Daemyung’s reliable-looking back, “Daemyung, what do you think is more important? Dreams or reality?”
“Dreams versus reality? If I had to pick one, it would be reality.”
“Why do you ask? You feel iffy now that you actually dropped out and are now looking for a dream?”
“I didn’t drop out to find a dream. I dropped out to be faithful to reality. As you said, now is a lot more important than the vague future.”
“Right, now is important.” Daemyung took a few steps before continuing, “But if you aren’t cornered against a wall, then it might be okay to rush towards your dreams at least once. Well, I would have. Don’t you think it’s more fun because you feel like it won’t work out?”
“You say that, but you keep working.”
“Because that’s my responsibility. I can’t throw my responsibilities away just for a dream. That’s why I plan to try once I’m done taking responsibility somewhat.”
“What else? Writing, of course. Actually, I’m writing from time to time. I tried uploading it to online platforms too. But the responses weren’t that good.”
“You had time for that?”
“I made some. I thought I didn’t have any time for that, but when I tried to make some, well, I could. Time is really weird. You feel like you don’t have any, but if you squeeze it, you end up with more.”
“If it doesn’t work out, you’ll only be throwing away your time. Isn’t that a waste?”
“Well, if I slept more or looked for another part-time job, I would’ve definitely gained benefits, and in the long term, it would amount to quite a lot. But I didn’t do that. Why you ask? Because I made that time so that I can write. If I were trying to do something else, I would probably never have created that little free time. It might sound strange to you, but that’s how I felt. Those times only appeared before my eyes because I strongly desired them. I simply found it and made use of it.”
After saying that, Daemyung blinked a few times. Then, he slapped his cheeks. “It looks like I’m drunk alright. I’ve been uttering all sorts of nonsense. You’re smarter than me, so I’m sure you’ll do well by yourself. I don’t know what it is, but your choice will not be wrong. You’re smart after all.”
“You know you’re the only one who says I’m smart, right?”
Maru chuckled and looked at Daemyung who walked ahead.
Time appeared, he found it and made use of it. He ruminated on those words. His frame of thought, which had hardened and he thought would never change, seemed to be creaking. It was a pleasant omen of destruction.
He took out his phone and sent her a message.
-I want to do acting. How about you? Don’t think about other things, and just think about the answer to that question and reply to me.
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