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After Story 76
As he took a day off from his morning exercise, he had some time left over. Instead of going on a jog, Maru ran half a lap around the park and returned to his house.
He untied the scarf around his neck and drank some tea. Since today was the day of the audition, he had to look after his condition.
After he stretched himself a little, he started singing from a low voice in order to exercise his vocal cords. Then he picked up a mop.
Cleaning was one of his routines. Just like how tennis players would go through a series of actions like a ceremony to get into tip-top shape to give the best serve, he organized his thought during cleaning and calmed his mind, preparing to act.
He breathed out a long breath from the depths of his body and then had a look at the calendar: January 4th. He looked at the table clock underneath: 7 a.m. The audition, which was originally scheduled on the sixth, was pulled forward by two days, but there was no problem with that.
"I'm off," he said to the cat staring at him by the porch. Usually, she would be in the room whether he left or not, but today, she watched him until the door was closed, as if she was encouraging him.
-Hey, where are you?
He got a message on the train to Seoul. It was Seungah. He replied that he was on the way.
-You're full of leisure, huh? Come quickly. People are starting to gather one by one.
Seungah had arrived quite early. He put his phone in his pocket. Just because he hurried wouldn't mean that he would partic.i.p.ate in the audition early.
It was instead much better to have some leisure like it had been ten years since he started working.
The train arrived at Daechi station. He took out his earbuds from his ears and got off the train. The street with cram schools was also rather empty, perhaps thanks to the fact that the CSATs had ended.
As he walked while simulating the skit he had prepared inside his head, he found himself at Bell acting school. There were people gathered outside the building.
"You're here," Seungah walked over.
As he was waving his hand, he found a girl right next to Seungah. Perhaps she was company.
"She's a little sister that's going to the audition with me today. She goes to our school too."
"So you're partic.i.p.ating in the audition. Nice to meet you," Maru greeted the girl. The girl shyly looked around before speaking,
Seungah, who was watching, jumped in.
"Introduce yourselves, will you? We're going to hang out together after the audition anyway. This is Han Maru over here. He doesn't actually go to our school, but instructor Miso said he should try the audition; that's why he's here. He auditioned with me for a drama before too. And she's Jung Dawoon. She's one of the best students in the acting school."
"Unni, I'm not that good," Dawoon quickly shook her head and spoke.
Maru looked at the two of them alternately. The first impression he had was that they were a pair of a mother bird and newborn bird.
"Have you prepared well?" he asked Seungah.
"I don't know. I did prepare, but I'm not sure if it's 'well.'"
"If you didn't, then I guess you just won't make it."
"Thanks for the encouragement G.o.ddammit. Now, I'm going to blame you if I don't make it."
"And it's thanks to me if you do?"
"It's my effort if I do. How about you? Did you prepare well?"
"I did everything I could."
"How could you say that so confidently?"
"Because I have the confidence. Leaving aside whether I'm going to pa.s.s or not, I am prepared to show everything I have during the audition."
"Good on you, mister."
Seungah untied the m.u.f.fler around her neck. She seemed to be feeling slightly too warm.
Maru spoke to Dawoon, "Have you prepared well?"
"Huh? Oh… yes. I have done everything I could."
"You're much better than your big sister over here. I'm sure you'll pa.s.s."
Dawoon's slightly stiff expression relaxed when he said those words. She thanked him with a faint smile.
"Why don't I get some of those warm words?"
"How could I say it to an actress who doesn't even know if she's ready or not? That'll just be rude to the other actors here."
"Fine, I get it! I also practiced to the death, but I was just being a little humble. I mean, who else other than me here will pa.s.s?"
"Yeah, that's much better. The unconfident words you tell yourself might nibble away at you without you knowing. Rather than freezing solid, it's much better to become a pa.s.sionate fool."
Maru took out an insulated bottle from his bag. It was tea. The tea came into contact with the cold air and produced some steam.
The fragrant smell was relaxing.
"Some tea. Would you like some?"
"Can I? It doesn't look like there's a lot."
"I have two bottles, so it's fine."
Maru showed them the other insulated bottle in his bag. Unless it was a mime, looking after one's throat was one of the basics, especially in winter, when the weather is cold and dry.
He poured some tea into the lid and gave it to Seungah. She took a careful sip before exclaiming and emptying the tea in one go.
"Would you like some too, Miss Dawoon?" He offered a cup to Dawoon.
Dawoon thanked him and received the lid with both of her hands. The way she drank reminded him of a squirrel.
"You'll be less nervous with something warm in your body."
"Can I have another cup?"
While they were waiting while drinking tea, people started gathering in front of the acting school. There were people of many ages, ranging from teens to people in their 40s. The rather empty-looking street started becoming crowded.
"We'll now hand out your name tags and call your name. Please come inside in order and check the name list and get your name tags."
People started walking into the building, starting with the people near the entrance. People lined up on the stairs and waited.
After about ten minutes, the three of them got their turn. Maru approached the employee who was waiting at the table in the corridor.
"It's Han Maru."
"Mr. Han Maru. You're number 228. Those in 200s will have their audition after 3 o'clock in the afternoon. You should come back at 3. If there are any changes, you'll be notified through a text message."
This was a frequent occurrence. Even auditions required them to wait. He would not have to go through the trouble of coming early if the production company sorted through the names and told them their numbers beforehand, but they weren't so considerate. After all, aspiring actors were as many as the stars in the sky.
He grabbed the name tag and left the building. Many people were leaving the building as well, after getting the name tags.
"What number are you?" Seungah asked while showing her name tag. Hers was 273.
Maru replied that he was 228. Dawoon was 274.
"If I knew this would happen, I would've taken my sweet time like you. I came here early for nothing."
"I had a hunch since this is an audition with many partic.i.p.ants."
"Also, I had a look on my way out, but I saw some actors I've seen in movies. From how they didn't come back out, those people must have taken the early numbers, right?"
Maru had heard that all roles other than the lead characters would be selected through an audition. On the surface, it might look like a fair testing ground, but there should be all sorts of agreements and promises tangled within.
Sometimes, auditions were held only to show that they were fair in their picking.
Maru had partic.i.p.ated as a judge for such auditions several times. No matter how low of a score he gave, there were always those that managed to pa.s.s.
He had no intention of blaming them. This was a business that involved hundreds of millions of won. They couldn't simply look for fairness in everything.
In any case, he needed someplace to spend time. Just then, a cinema caught his eye. If he watched a movie and ate a late lunch, he should finish just in time for the audition.
He walked towards the cinema. After walking for a long while, he looked back. He saw that Seungah and Dawoon were following him.
"Where are you going?" he asked.
"We're following you. Where are you going? To get some food?"
Maru pointed up at the sign on the building that had the cinema logo. Seungah looked at him like a madman.
"You're going to watch a movie right now?"
"There's nothing else to do to kill time. I don't prefer sitting down in a café for hours."
"But isn't watching a movie still going too far? It'll be the audition soon."
"People who have auditions can't even watch a movie? The seats are comfy, the air is heated, and if even the movie is interesting, isn't it the best way to spend time?"
"You're not wrong, but…."
"If I'm not wrong, then I'm right."
The two of them were puzzled but still followed him regardless.
With perfect timing, there was a movie that started in about 10 minutes. The runtime was about an hour and fifty minutes. Just perfect. The genre was also not bad, as it was a romance movie with a hint of thriller.
"This really doesn't feel right," Seungah said as she sat down next to him. Dawoon also didn't look that good.
However, once the movie started, both of them became absorbed.
"Both of you were totally absorbed in that. Where's the person who said it doesn't feel right?"
"Forget about the past. But hey, that was unexpectedly not bad. I guess it's not bad to watch a movie if you have time to kill. I would've been nervous if I was dazing out while waiting."
They had a late lunch at a kimbap restaurant, albeit just a light one so that they could stave off their hunger.
As they were leaving after finis.h.i.+ng their meal, Dawoon spoke to him, "Uhm, aren't you nervous?"
"No, not really."
"You must be used to auditions then."
Maru gave Seungah a glance and spoke,
"It hasn't been that long since I started acting, so I'm not entirely used to it."
"Really? And you still don't get nervous, huh."
"Are you nervous?"
Maru glanced at Seungah again. Seungah looked at him with a gaze that said he should console her.
He did find it strange. Having watched her for a few hours, Dawoon wasn't someone sociable enough to talk to someone of her own accord.
It would be a different story if they became close, but she wouldn't talk to someone of her own accord if it was a stranger. It was probably Seungah's urging. After all, to Seungah, Maru must be someone who's good at consultation.
"Have you thought about why you're nervous?"
"No, I'm just nervous…."
"Try asking yourself why you feel nervous."
After thinking about it for a while, Dawoon spoke cautiously,
"Because my preparations aren't perfect."
"It's good that you found out. There are many different forms of nervousness, but it ultimately comes down to one thing: Incomplete preparation. You said in the morning that you did everything you could, right? But unlike what you said, you must know in your heart that you are still not enough."
"Then Maru…oppa, are you saying that you're not nervous because you've come perfectly prepared?"
"Something similar. Of course, I'm not saying that I'm perfect. I'm just saying that I didn't waste any time unnecessarily during preparation. If you don't have room to regret, then you don't feel nervous either. That's how everyone is, and that's why they practice."
Dawoon nodded twice and thanked him. Just because he told her that, it wouldn't make her nervousness disappear. While the power of words was great, it couldn't solve everything.
To not feel nervous, one had to have one of two things: one, be born with a heart of steel, or two, push oneself to the limits so that they wouldn't have any room to feel nervous.
"But hey, when are you going to drop the honorifics?" Seungah said.
Maru looked at Dawoon.
"If you feel uncomfortable, then you can drop the honorifics. I'm fine either way."
"Now's a little…."
"It might actually feel easier to use polite speech. Seungah only thinks that it's easier to drop it since she's young."
"Thanks for thinking I'm young. But we should get going, you know? It's almost three."
Seungah walked ahead. Maru also checked the time and quickly followed.
* * *
Right, I haven't prepared perfectly. What he said is right — Dawoon chased Maru walking ahead of her with her eyes.
He didn't sound arrogant. What he said felt like it came from his heart. It wasn't so often that she found herself sympathizing with what someone else was thinking.
"A perfect preparation."
She suddenly recalled the profiles she threw away in a trash bag.
Dawoon shook her head. That was just a single mistake. It would never happen again… probably.
She shook off her thoughts and looked ahead of her. She saw Maru look back at her.
Dawoon quickly moved. She hadn't seen him before today, but she was at ease around him. Although they weren't close enough to drop the polite speech, she wanted to talk to him more.
After taking a few more steps, Dawoon found that the nervousness that tickled her neck had become quite a lot fainter.
"Let's catch up. I think she plans to leave us behind," Maru said with a smile. Dawoon also smiled.
A good man — echoing these words that came to her mind in her head, she moved.