Sang & James L. Secor
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.