Laura Sang & James L. Secor (from Jim):

I'm trying to find out where Laura is. I teach literature and at Lanzhou Jiaotong University she wrote me a story of unrequited love that I edited as I thought it was quite good. I'm not at that school any more, though I do keep in contact with some of her classmates.
So, it's a one time deal for us. So, I don't have any pictures of us together. The administration there treated
me terribly and this will be nice to throw in their faces:
no one else (foreign languages) is published, not even an academic paper.
Now, I teach literature and, supposedly, drama and writing--you know how promises tend not to be kept
sometimes?--at Anyang Teachers College in the flat, flat lands south of Beijing, by train about 5 hours. I have a
light publishing history and 30 years in the theatre, though this was opted out for education. Sometimes I think
that was a drawback.
Any more?
jimsecor

 

An Unspeakable Love
by
Laura Sang & James L. Secor

Darling, I cannot ever tell you some things. I can't speak because I don't know where I should begin. I'm sorry, too. You will never know very much about me, for my heart-- everything I did was for my heart. For me, life has been cruel. For you, it is just a kind of fairness. Your beautiful name will always be in my mind: Eileen. If it were possible, I would have been perfectly happy doing
anything for you forever. I would follow you anywhere, but this was not to be.

Now, I'm satisfied. I want to lay like this forever. Until the sky falls down. Because now, you belong to me and no one can disturb us. Let me tell you. . .

I am, after all, only a mirror. A little mirror. Made of silver, delicate and sentimental. I was born in a thatched cottage, where a blacksmith lived. He loved his wife so deeply that he put all his heart and soul into her. Although I never saw the days they spent together, I imagine the beauty of those days because when the blacksmith gazed on the things his wife had touched, I saw unspeakable suffering in his eyes. How deep that feeling was! He must have loved her a great deal to suffer so her absence. Their cottage was born for two, not one. The small wooden door belonged to two. The little garden around the cottage belonged to two. Even the sun, the moon, the twinkling stars had been born for them. This is what I saw as he moved about, going from room to room looking for
something he could not find. Her. She was gone. He was looking for her presence. Her perfume. This is truly lost. Yes, all things in nature belonged to these two, not to just one of them. Everything became vivid and splendid because of their love. So perfect. But I could only guess at their happy days, I felt happiness. Me! A mirror! Perhaps this is love's magic: it influences others. Yes, happiness--and unhappiness. For on the lonely days, waiting became the blacksmith's only hobby. My silvered gaze grew grey. I languished. I languished for what I could only sense my master had, this love that showed in his every movement, his every touch, his every missing. I was born of
this love. A thing embodied.

I can't understand why life is so cruel. Maybe it is jealous of humanity's strong love; maybe there's no taste of the feeling of love. Maybe it abjures a two persons world; maybe life is brutal. The blacksmith. Eileen. Made separate. The blacksmith and his beloved Eileen Bound in cyclonic passion and then bereft. I don't know the reason for this. Why does life keep things secret?

Why at midnight did this lusty woman leave a deathbed note? "Please live for me well!" Why, with her broken heart, did she jump into the muddy river?

A thunderstorm was wailing. The waters swirled and roiled like a witch's cauldron. I don't know how much burden she bore but why, if she loved her blacksmith so much, did she not give him her unhappiness. Maybe death is the only way for release from worldly cares. Maybe no reason. No reason at all. Under certain circumstances, no reason is a good reason. What is it we do understand?

Saying good-bye means togetherness. Separation is an eternity.

On that night, the blacksmith's world went black. His sky was never again blue. His eyes never saw any color but black. Everything was bleak and dismal. No living thing existed for him. He cursed life a thousand times. Each morning, with his wife gone, there was emptiness, solitude, silence. The silence closed in around him, great stone walls pressing and pressing until his ears were stopped up.
His heart and lungs compressed. His eyes squeezed. He was scared by the tiniest noise, the gentlest breeze, the least light. Everything contained a disappeared Eileen. a life he couldn't have.

He cried out his wife's name from the bottom of his heart, "Eileen, come back, please came back! Eileen! My love! My life! My--!"

Anyone's heart would tear to pieces to hear the wailing. I believed that life would crack. But it didn't. There was no answer to the blacksmith's tortured existence. It was too late. Eileen's coming back was impossible. And the blacksmith couldn't die because of his wife's testament. He had to live. How could she who loved him so leave him such horror?

After several dawns and dusks, the blacksmith looked in the mirror, into me. Oh! He had changed so much! He was reduced to a skeleton! The skin over his cheekbones was thin and lined. His cheeks were sunken, pursing his cracked lips. Cold, empty eyes bulged in their sockets. Salt and pepper stubble tried to hide his emaciation While the whiteness of his hair belied his young age. His bony hand shook. Nevertheless, the blacksmith stroked the mirror gently. "Eileen. . .your favorite thing was looking in the mirror, 'cause you were so beautiful. I'll make the ideal mirror for you! And then I will have you back again." Without eating or drinking, the blacksmith started to work. He chose silver as my body, carved, molded me with all his blood and heart. I was not round. I was not elliptical. I  was asymmetrically balanced, the ring of silver fuller, rounder and more filigreed to the left side, where I might be held; to the right smoother with an understated luxuriance and less dense so the light would dance and heighten my face, purifying the image. My image was a true palpable presence. As he touched me, I was born in the cottage that belonged to them. Fine and smooth, so
exquisite. I knew I was appealing because I was made by a man's whole heart. Each stroke of his strong fingers I kissed.

At first sight, the blacksmith smiled into me and I knew he saw his wife in my body, in the rounded curves and flow of my form. I was gratified. That was enough. I was filled up. As a mirror, I found my value in the world: I was a man's mainstay. As long as he saw me, he could smile. But an unfortunate event occurred. The blacksmith couldn't avoid the inexorable fate that is written on the hand of man.

One midnight, yes, the same awesome time of his life's demise, he sat beside the river where his wife lived. A huge whirlpool reached out of the black waters and took him away. No struggle, no call for help. The blacksmith enjoyed the water freely.

"Eileen, I'm coming. I didn't betray your testament. I've finished. I'm tired. You will live forever, a reflection of me. I knew life hadn't to be so cruel. It is perfect!" Before he was engulfed completely, he threw me to the shore. He didn't need me any more, for he could see his true Eileen. It was a perfect time indeed. The whole of nature listened to him, and the universe smiled. Clinging to the marshy bank. I watched the water close over his unburdened soul.

I was lost and found along the riverside I don't know how many times. Many girls' hands experienced me. They touched my body gently, loving me. They smiled and tittered. They caressed and kissed me. But I never tasted the true feeling of love. Only these childish posing. The Eileen that filled me up and raised me out of myself was not there. Perhaps using silver as my body, the blacksmith destined my heart always to be hard. Never warm. Cool as my glass face. I believed that in my whole life I was only a thing, an onlooker in a world full of sadness and suffering. All who
picked me up just as thoughtlessly tossed me aside.

Until I met her--a girl named Eileen. Yes, another Eileen. When Eileen was still in her mother's body, her father bought me from a street vendor who had wandered up and down the river scavenging for anything that might make him a living. That year, I was already older than Eileen, 50
years. I was tarnished, a little dented, faded. But this new owner thought I had character. I smiled on him as he held me. I smiled on him as he carried me home. What could I give him for his kindness?

Eileen always cried when a baby. Her wailing filled the cottage, creaking the casements. The thatch stood on end to hear her complain at life. In her mother's arms, at the breast, she derided the world for her living. One day, her mother found Eileen's eyes focused on me. She had stopped crying. I smiled back at her. So, her mother took me from the table and, using a red thread passing around my body, hung me from the bed post so I swayed in front of baby Eileen.

This was the first time that I was near to my new Eileen. Her little hands were so tender that I couldn't breathe freely, wanting their touch. She was so lovely! Her small pink cheeks like a rose struck at my heart. I tasted a little of the blacksmith's strong feeling for his wife. Love fell down upon me quietly. I even dared not accept it. But I couldn't stop it. So I beamed back. Such a miraculous
thing! A little bitter, a little sweet; a little sour, a little spicy. I was out of mind. Eileen was an infant! An old mirror was falling in love with an infant! Ridiculous! But definite! As a baby, I loved her absolutely. She filled me up. And of course, she was satisfied. Her crying turned to gurgling and cooing and wide mouth laughing.

When Eileen was ten year's old, her mother gave me to her formally. Eileen put me into her bag and took me to school every day. She was a lonely girl. Because of her beauty and cleverness, other girls didn't want to talk to her. Her most happy time was holding me in her hands. When she looked at me, I saw her charming smile. When her slim fingers touched my body, my heart beat til I thought my glass face would shatter. Unspeakable feeling! From my frame to my face, I convulsed. I hoped time would stand still so I could have this feeling and reflect it back. I understood thoroughly the reason why I had come to the world. Although I was only a mirror, an elderly looking glass, I understood exactly what was love. I could love with my heart. No! My heart was not cold metal! It was also blood and sinew! Oh, Eileen, you gave me life by your simple touch. Eileen, Eileen. Doubly blessed!

From the day Eileen's mother put me on her bedstead, I became her shadow. Every night, I lay beside her listening to her breathing. She became a necessary part of my life. Everything about her deeply concerned me. In my eyes, Eileen was a child forever, full of curiosity. Active. Undaunted. And I went with her on all her adventures. The lines of age that naturally come to a glass face smoothed out. Over these years, I had become full-bodied again. By the time Eileen was 17 years old, I was totally captivated. I'd already accompanied her for 17 years.

But one day, bathing in mild sunshine, I found that my Eileen was not a little girl any more, not my infant in swaddling clothes. She had become a shapely siren. A mature beauty. When she looked at me, I felt her blushing cheeks, her rounded breasts, her broad hips. I needed her! Look at me. Look to me. Always. Hold me to your body so there is. . .

I was 67 years old. Just an old mirror with a warming heart. I never felt so lonely while so full. Once I was sure of my love to her, I couldn't fall asleep any more. I didn't know how long I could live with my eye always open. I knew from the time I was born at the blacksmith's hands a misery of life. It held me in its clutches for 50 years. Never a moment's peace. Life so cruel, yet love was
crueler. How could it be that I could love but not touch? Trapped in a polished body and full of wanting.

I didn't want time to pass. I couldn't control her growing up. What she needed was a man, a real man, not a mirror, an old mirror with no voice. I was in a deep sorrow. There were so many things in the world that I couldn't make decisions about. Why should I exist in this shabby world? Why should I meet Eileen? Speechless, I could only gaze out in wonder, wanting to hold all the life to me and yet wanting to fulfill Eileen's needs. I was helpless before the world. Where was the reason for my creation if I could not hold onto it?

I couldn't stop Eileen's dreams, her desire for another happiness. What could I, a voiceless object if silver and glass, give her? Once gain I was set down on the banks of the river when that man finally appeared. Eileen's man. Handsome, maybe, in a human being's view. The time Eileen spent looking at me obviously increased. Of course, not only for herself. Not for me and the happiness I could give her. She smiled at me and made herself more attractive before me. Doing things she didn't need to do to impress another.

I knew she would love that man and I was jealous. I wanted to claw him, beat him and torture him! He didn't have the right to take my Eileen! She belonged to me! Everything about her was mine. I saw her first! I spent my life with her. I listened to her and protected her.

I was not mad. I was lost. Bereft. All I wanted never to become reality? I cannot cry. I cannot grimace. My life, my love is all another's. I am without form. I am nothing without another. A useless thing. I wanted to throw myself to the floor and shatter the world. All I thought was only nonsense. Nothing could stop a man and a woman uniting. Nobody could imagine my feelings--that I even had any. No one knew of my magic.

That night. . .that broken-hearted night, bleak moonlight sobbing for me, I wanted to fly to the moon and back for my baby. Eileen finished the process of growing from a naive girl to a knowing woman. She took me with her, to make love to this man. How dreadful! I could only hope I would slipout of her pocket and then, covered by their clothes, I would not see. I didn't want to see them... doing things. But I knew Eileen was happy. She sighed. She caught her breath. She moaned gently. I felt them fall on me. Through their clothes, I could feel their warmth. Their slow movement toward stillness. And. . .they felt so good together. At the time they became one, I could only tremble beneath their weight. I was deaf to understand the kind of feeling such action brought. But they liked doing this kind of thing. I wanted them to stop. I didn't want the feeling to go away. It was all too much. How could I contain myself? My silver heated. My ancient glass fogged. Everything seemed to be ridiculous! How ridiculous I was-- that I could get anything from this love!

From then on, I lost all self-confidence, for I was ever only glanced at. A second thought. Maybe I was not as delicate as before. I was not young. I was just a mirror. A big trick by nature! My birth was an error. The blacksmith must have put some curse on me when he made me. It was impossible that I could taste real love in the world yet that's what I was made for. Love. And I could have none of it. I could do nothing. I had no choice. But, it was not my fault. I wanted to be a real man to protect my Eileen and bring to her what she needed. How frustrating to be only a reflection of reality.

Lonely. Always loneliness. When I stood before the window, I'd blankly stare at the outside. Several times, I made the decision to say goodbye to Eileen but I choked. When I saw them together, I tried to turn away but I stumbled and could only lie and watch helplessly. I wanted to end the two of them. My life felt guilty. I was the heart of a blacksmith's ardor. He didn't want to leave me in this world in this way. Eileen found happiness. I should be satisfied. That's the most important thing, right? I was made for Eileen. Eileen's memory. And now, once again, Eileen was leaving me.

When I was 70 years old, Eileen had a baby. It was a girl. It looked like Eileen. The little baby always played with me, but I still felt sad. I'd been hurt badly. Neither time nor this new life could recover my wound. When I looked at Eileen's baby, I remembered the happy days Eileen and I
spent. She was free and happy then. I remember the first time she touched my body. That feeling was permanent in my heart. And the first kiss. Yes, she ever kissed me. Soft lips. . .fresh breath. Although I was not a real human, I felt a fabulous cyclone. I puffed up. I tried to give this back to her.

Eileen grew older. Her parents passed away, one right after the other. Her daughter got married and moved out of the house. The house became Eileen and her husband's. A house full of memories that had, in some instances, to be dispersed before it was truly theirs. I was beside her through it all. More loyal than any servant.

I accepted their two person world. I understood that Eileen didn't throw me away. Sometimes, when I saw her husband hug her, I myself could also smile. Love could make everything peaceful. Why wasn't I? I was tired.

Loving a woman doesn't mean owning but knowing she's got happiness. That's enough. So I told myself. I felt empty, though, reflecting none of my thought.

Wasn't there supposed to be a giving going on here? I only saw her out of necessity. Sometimes I couldn't smile on her. And that broke my heart. I wanted to catch her attention. All I got was a reflection. All I had was a reflection of the past. Dwelling on memories began to cloud my face. I felt used and abused. A forgotten thing.

One lonely dusk, as shadows crept over the bedroom, Eileen held me in her hand again as before. Her fingers touched my body gently. I felt her skin had become rough and dry. As she gazed into me, my eyesight weaved with hers deeply. I saw her white hair and quick wrinkles. Suddenly, I
remembered such a scene. . .a night many years ago. Eileen was still a young girl. Her tears drooled from her beautiful eyes when she read from a female poet: "For me, now, you are more / beautiful than you were young. / At that time, you were beautiful. / Compared to that, I love your present face / with its suffering better."

Her tears fell down on my body because I was beside her pillow. I wasn't dead and forgotten after all as I caught her tears. I knew why she was crying. I knew everything. Eileen and I now united in a different way.

I felt so shameful that I couldn't tell her my feelings. Waiting is a whole life. But the moment finally came, the eternal time when my whole life's meaning ended and my value blazed. I accompanied my Eileen forever. I realized I had already. No other one to disturb us.

Eileen left this shabby world quietly. Her daughter put me into her grave. People gathered above us grieving over their loss with no real thought to Eileen. I felt a kind of happiness that never tasted so good. I knew I had lived. I knew I had accomplished much. There was no regret. Nothing to lay down. My burden was over.

Love. Unrequited love because I never asked for any return from Eileen. I wanted, yes. But I could not speak. I could only bask in the reflection of love.

In the dark grave, I remembered my life as a mirror. I regretted nothing. Suddenly there was no regretting anything. Let me whisper it from the dark. . .

Darling, there are many things I never told you. I didn't want to say it--perhaps because I didn't know where I should begin to say. I'm sorry you will never know about me. About my love. About my giving. I will always accompany you, my darling. There is no fear.