“Have you ever thought about falling in love with a co-actor?” You remember sitting across from your childhood friend during your almost year-long hiatus as an actress, over coffee, with a sight of trees lined outside the cafe. The wind was calm then as was your conversation. You remember looking up to her, not knowing what words to say. You took an absentminded sip at your cappucino and glanced at the gentle breeze blowing tree branches. You heard her sigh before you said, “I don’t rule that out, chinggu-yah. I just haven’t found a co-actor to fall in love with, yet. Maybe I never will. Or maybe in my next project. Who knows? Really. Who knows?” She took an absentminded sip at her coffee also, satisfied with the answer you gave.
Like with many women, you want to experience that one love of a lifetime. You want to do crazy things for the sake of it. You even tell everyone that you are the type who would disappear in a heartbeat to pursue a love so great and worth to give up everything for. Deep within your soul, you view love as the ultimate prize and sacrifice for all the hard work and successes you have amassed. Yet another year had passed last July, before you decided to take on Secret Garden. You are almost at your prime, even if your youthful appearance doesn’t reveal that. Yet, you were still single, available and eligible. You remember being lonely at the thought of it. You remember pouring your heart in your work just to drown reality. Even with the passing time, and with fading youth, you still believe, in your deepest being, that you will also have your shot at that tiny piece of heaven, someday.
You also remember that first day at script reading, when you meet the great Hyun Bin again, and for the first time in an official manner. You’ve seen him walk the halls of Star M after the merger years back. You saw him chat it up with other colleagues at an event not too long ago. Yet, today, in your first meeting, you notice that something was off about him. He seemed distant, alone and confused. You observed him from where you sat, trying to figure out how your cheerful self can possibly channel its inner Eeyore just to pull a convincing body swap sequence with such a gloomy quiet person. You talked to him after the reading, and you still remember how he said, “Let’s do our best, Ha Ji Won-ssi. You be me and I be you. Let’s both fall crazily in love as Ra Im and Joo Won.” You laughed. He looked at you questioningly as he said “Did I say something wrong? What’s so funny?” You were still laughing, snorting as you replied “Anieyo. Mianhae. Don’t be too serious, Hyun Bin-ssi.” And you continued to gleefully chuckle for no reason. He looked at you, dumbfounded at the behavior of the peculiar stellar actress before him. PD-nim saved you both from embarrassment as he offered an excuse for your sake, “Hyun Bin-ssi, that’s normal for uri Ji Won. In outtakes and between takes, she is just like that, happy laughing woman. Don’t mind her.” He nodded at the PD’s explanation. “Ahhhh… mutjida,” he said looking at you before he started laughing with you.
You kept to yourself the real reason why you were chuckling. His words reminded you of a more recent conversation with your best friend as you discussed the scenario of your new project. Upon seeing the scenario, she was elated “Whoa, that’s one good script!! Jjangiya! Maybe this time you can make your characters real too, in real-time, in real-life. Maybe you can fall for the actor playing opposite you, Kim Joo Won.” You had slapped your friend’s arm as you heard that. “Ya! Don’t be saying such things! Who knows if the actor already has a girlfriend or is married?” you say cautiously. “Apa! Ai-ya.” your friend said rubbing the area where your hand landed. “I was just entertaining the thought. It will be so unfortunate if you have no chemistry with the male lead. More so if he’s what you think- attached with lots of strings,” she tried to rationalize to herself. Slap. You hear it as her hand landed on your arm. “That’s what’s wrong with you! You don’t believe in magic! Here I am trying to entertain cute stories for your lovelife, and what do I get? Doubtful, careful, scared Ha Ji Won,” she tried to knock some sense into you. “Well, I’m just trying to keep it real, you know?,” you tell your bosom friend. “Hae Rim-a,” she begins, “I’m not saying that you be a fake. I’m just saying that it’s okay to let go of the handrail and just skate. We will be here to catch you or to help you up. That part never changes. So stop being scared, and just fall.” You turn quiet hearing her sternly call your name. “That’s true,” you finally say. “But is it okay if I at least try and make sure he’s not attached first, before I entertain such thoughts?” You laugh together heartily. You returned home that night, wishing that, maybe in one way or another, magic will reveal itself.
They are good memories, these thoughts rushing in your mind under the light of the lampshade in your room. You look towards the direction of the bed, and stare at the tired military guy sleeping on it. And you smile, as you stared at his stillness. He slept as if his heart found a home, and that made you feel good. You go back into your reverie again as the memories you’ve made together replay themselves in your head. The day he finally warmed up to you. The many other days you seemed to have a world of your own as you only understood each other’s characters and each other’s real selves. Chemistry, other than it was one of the best classes you had in school, you are so full of it with this man. You can never identify the exact time and place when you started to fall. You just knew it when he was already happily catching you.
During one of the less busy drama filming days, you managed to spend time with your best friend again, who at that time had already turned into one of the drama’s many fans. “Omona!” you remembered her almost shrieking. “Hyun Bin-ssi! Hae Rim-a, how much more lucky can you get? Don’t tell me what happens in the story!!” She tells you almost without pause. You laugh at her. “And I expected to meet you to hear, bogosipeo, chukhahae, daebak. I should have known better.” You tell her with a pout. “Aigoo, kyeopta!” she says pinching your cheeks. “Does he fall for these antics?” she asks. You froze at her question, turning ashen-faced at the suddenness of how she asked. She read the expression you made with your face. You couldn’t hide for she knows you too well. “OMONA!” she said really shrieking. You shushed her out to deflect the attention she was gaining from the small crowd. She turned her voice low and spoke really fast “Don’t-tell-me-you-have-something-going on-with-that-man. Are-you-nuts?-What-about-Hye-Kyo-ssi?-Yes,-I-remembered-telling-you-to-take-risks-but-this-is-pretty-big-you-know.” She was really both elated and worried for your sake. So you just nodded with a laugh, “I know. And I’m not nuts. I’m almonds.” You said with a corny punchline. “YA!! Spill, spill. What is up?” She asked excitedly, trusting your word. “Let’s continue this at home.” you simply told her as you stood up to leave. You filled her in with as many details you could on the short car ride. And you found it funny how she did her happy dance at every stoplight. Your best friend was doing what your heart had been doing all this time.
The best thing that happened that day wasn’t that you were back to being a giddy schoolgirl again with your best friend. The best part was when you reached home and he was already there waiting for you after having wrapped his own filming. “Annyeonghaseyo, you must be Hae Rim’s best friend, “ he greeted your friend and you as you both arrived. “What brings you here?” you asked him. “I missed you today. PD and writer-nim needs to have more Joo Won and Ra Im scenes together!” he said as if professing his feelings was as natural as water. “Ahem!” your friend made her presence felt. He got a little guarded, wondering if he let in on a secret. “Don’t worry, she knows.” you assured him. He just managed a wide smile. “Okay, I’ll leave you beautiful women together. I will see you tomorrow, motji.” He said as he pulls you in for a short but tight embrace, running his fingers through your short hair. You see your friend make gestures behind his back “Let me die” she mouthed while hyperventilating. Yes, the shooting star you wished on long ago is finally making your wish come true.
You were still lost in your own thoughts when you feel strong arms envelop you warmly where you were seated. “Are you not sleeping yet, motji? You don’t need to think of me, now. I’m here.” He says whispering in your ear. As you looked up to him to answer, his lips find his way to yours first. And like with all the times this happens, you feel your heart lifted as if you were floating in the clouds. You lose your senses only to process one truth – miracles happen. His being in your life is better than all the “What If” you asked in your lifetime. And with him, there are no more “What Ifs” just “What Is”.
What if wishes all came true?
And each one had a star
That would keep it shining brightly however near or far?
What if a miracle appeared?
And heaven was here for us to see?
What if… you were to fall in love with me?
-What If, Nina