The Incorrigible Virgin
A True Story
by Petko Hinov (Han Pei)
All this happened in the late spring of last year.
All that day I had been making vain attempts to write the story I was commissioned with by the chief editor of… well, of the magazine I am working for. It was hopeless. The shrieks of the sea-gulls, the distant splashes of the blue sea and my impatience got the better of me and I could no longer abide in my hotel room. “Call it a day,” thought I, hastily grabbed my cardigan, for the evening promised to get colder, and ran downstairs.
As usual, I took the alley running along the coastal line and vanishing amid a broad copse of bushes, low trees and blossoming shrubs of unimaginable beauty. The lovers’ alley, they called it, and not without reason. The alley was not a straight one, but split in numerous smaller alleys that crossed each other randomly and without any pertinent logic. All the more attractive for me, as I badly needed a solitary saunter amidst the thriving fragrance of the copse.
My promenade had not lasted an hour when I suddenly overheard the peevish voice of a girl. I halted. The voice was carried by the dewy breeze toward me from the direction of the sea and was too clear to be easily ignored.
“Do you love me at all?” the girl’s voice was charged with indignation. I could not hear the answer, but only her bitter reprobation.
“All right, so you say! But why don’t you … am I ugly? Am I …” some of the words were drowned in the din of the waves and the sea-gulls, almost as anxious as myself. “Tell me, … then maybe you are a gay!?”
I could not stand that kind of language. Afraid that the quarrel was going to get nastier, I decided to return to the hotel and just take a shower and go to sleep. It was a waste of time. But then, for the first time, I heard a disgruntled reply: “How dare you?!” It was a male voice full of youthful vigour. It sounded strangely pacific, regardless of the short-tempered words it gave away. There was silence after that.
I was already on my way back when she squeezed between myself and the shrubs that were too near to remain untouched, if one should run along this narrow alley. Her shoulder caught mine with arrogance. She probably had intended not to pay any attention to that, but having run two or three paces ahead of me, the girl changed her mind. She stopped, turned her face and gazed at me with almost contemptuous curiosity. “Excuse me! I did not mean to ruin your walk!” I was too astonished to reply and when at last I could reason with lucidity, she was gone. Nevertheless, I remembered her features: a very attractive face and a pair of large sea-green eyes. A rare beauty. Her long straggly hair was auburn and danced impishly behind her back as her figure was vanishing in the dusk.
However, this was only the beginning of an event even more unusual.
After the girl had disappeared from view, I thought I could still continue my walk in the direction I had chosen previously. Assuming that the person whom she had just abandoned would not follow in her track, I put my cardigan on and turned over to walk on the alley leading to the coast. After not more than ten yards, however, my eyes caught sight of his athletic figure: in a carefree manner he was holding his light overcoat over his left shoulder and was noiselessly approaching. Our eyes met.
I turned my gaze away. The beauty of his face was stunning. It wasn’t the cheap beauty which we have all got used to see on the glossy magazine covers. He was handsome in a way which bespoke nobility and a sedate, manly character. In my first perfunctory impression he was not more than 24-25 years of age. His eyes were dark blue and his hair was obsidian black. The cheeks of his face were sunburnt and the wrinkles at the corners of his eyes were evidence of an amiable and mild-hearted nature, not yet spoiled by the feeling of self-esteem which such beauty commands.
Within two yards, I gave him a respectful nod, all the more natural, being elicited by his charming personality. From the smile he gave me in return I felt again that disarming cordiality, over whose existence in our days I had often debated with my fellow-writers. It was this smile which stirred in me an almost irrepressible desire to strike a conversation with the stranger. But how?
I was never the journalist type. I have always been diffident and uneager to engage in contacts with strangers. My chief-editor kept me only for the stories I was writing, because in spite of their old-fashioned manner, they were welcomed with interest by various circles of readers. And, incongruous with most of the contents of our magazine, my stories provided a refreshing contrast to the other articles of higher demand.
Before I could think out the best approach toward the young fellow, his inviting voice startled me: “What a pleasant evening, sir, isn’t it?” My answer jumped out of my mouth before I could think over it.
“Indeed, young fellow, very much so!”
“I am sorry, sir, if our quarrel a moment ago offended you!”
“Please, don’t mention it. I heard nothing!” What a stupid lie, thought I even as I spoke.
“Well… Involuntarily, I overheard a few hot words!” I tried to apologise, because my blushing cheeks were doubtlessly betraying my “good intentions”.
“No need for any apology, I assure you, sir!” The smile brightened his face again with the honest charm of his warm-heartedness. “In fact, I badly need to talk to somebody. Perhaps you could spare me some of our valuable time?”
I was charmed by his polite manner, so rare for a young person of our time. Or, was he perhaps trying to pull my leg? No, his deep eyes were full of frankness beyond any doubt.
“Well… If I could be helpful in any way,… why not?” said I with a studied stammer.
“Let me introduce myself first, my name is Richard Linton… Call me Richard, please!”
“I am Han Pei,” said I in reply.
“Really? I am happy to meet a person with such an unusual name!”
“Nothing unusual about it, just a name!” smiled I. “Well, Richard, I should also warn you I am a writer of short and sometimes longer stories for a magazine and you may not appreciate the fact that you are talking to a journalist.”
“I don’t believe you, Mr. Han, you do not look the journalist even the tiniest bit!”
“Was that meant as a compliment, sir?” I winked at him and we both laughed in the hearty manner which only good friends share in moments of unadulterated joy. Then and there I knew we had become friends.
Richard and I took the alley toward the coast. His manner was as easy-going as it was circumspect. He talked in a profoundly British English with a slightly Northern modulation. His overtones were the pleasantest I had ever heard—in his speech there was a melody that, as I found later, was owing to the fact he was a brilliantly gifted singer, who, however, had never performed before a larger audience.
So, Richard began telling me his story.
“First, you must excuse my rude tone to my girl… mm, former girl-friend. It was a slip of my tongue. I am never rude, it’s unnatural for me, especially to girls. I don’t know if I should be telling you so much about myself, Mr. Han, but… I feel I may trust you.”
I nodded with complacency to his earnest assurance.
“I have always had difficult times with girls. You heard what a bitter accusation Jenny hurled at me tonight. A gay! What on earth… Oh my, here I go again! But that’s true, Mr. Han. I have always been wooed by these fairies. God has given me many gifts. I am not a bad singer, I write poems, my education is excellent, my reputation is beyond reproach and, mind you, my father is a rich man (and they somehow always know it). But my family does not accept me for what I am, so I am trying to make my own living independently. And do you know what? I am 33 years old!” Here he paused to gleam at my dumbfounded countenance. “Yes, Mr. Han, believe me, though I look like 23, as they all think, I am 33. And I am still a virgin.” I could see him blush in the thickening dusk.
“I have tried to pick a girl-friend for years. But the problem is, I cannot stand the way they start to behave after some time. I don’t mean those … those girls who are like sharks—good looks, gimcrack surface and neither mind nor manners. No, I am speaking about the “true girls”. Even they are no better when it comes to sex. They want it. Perhaps they wish to “secure” me, as they understand it. Well, I don’t accept such an attitude. I have lost touch with all my former classmates because of this. It is not that I am not attracted… As any young and healthy man, I am. But there is a deeply-set hindrance in my mind or heart.”
“How do you mean?” I asked him. “A hindrance?” I admit, at these words I allowed a shameful doubt to cross my heart: ‘what if he really is … ?’
“What I mean is not easy to explain. But it’s getting dark and cold here, and I would be impolite to take more of your time,” added he. We had already reached the sea coast and the tide was breathing upon us a nightly air.
“Let us go to my hotel room,” suggested I. “We could have dinner together.”
“It would be an honour, only if I am assured that I am in no way trespassing on your privacy and patience,” smiled he.
“You have my outspoken assurance, young man!” What was that mysterious man, I kept wondering on our way. Was all this real? Was it not some bad practical joke which he and his girl-friend had invented in order to wreak vengeance on me for having unwittingly overheard their little dust-up?
When we were seated at the table in my room, Richard continued his riveting story.
“Since I was a child, I had always thought that people, especially those whom Heaven has endowed with beauty, are nothing like the rest of the world. I have always admired beauty, but I have also always been afraid to approach it, to touch it, to feel it, as it were. To me, a beautiful person is something divine, a heavenly harbinger with a special message to the world. I don’t know since when I have had this conviction, but its roots are in my heart since early childhood.
“I remember the thrill I would feel at the sight of a beautiful person or landscape. I could spend hours contemplating this person or scenery. A lovely melody, too, would haunt me not days, but months and even years on end. Now that I have seen and even held girls of enviable beauty, I can never feel the same thrill. I even have a vague apprehension that beauty is always vicious. Oh, Mr. Han, I wish I was wrong!”
Here Richard paused to look inquiringly into my eyes. I said nothing. He then continued:
“I remember how bitterly I wept when I had to part with a girl, a very dear childhood love of mine. Her name was Edwena, so I called her Weena. We knew each other since we were six, in fact our families were neighbours and we spent all our childhood days together. Unnoticeably, she grew into a lovely woman. We were both a little over 17 when we broke up. She was my first and probably my only love, for I never met any girl like her after that. And do you know why she left me? Because…” here Richard’s eyes moistened with tears. “Because she wanted to make love with me. And I… mind you, it’s not because I am… unable to make love. No, Mr. Han. It’s because deep in my heart I felt this would be the end of her beauty, the end of our true love. Her beauty was so pure, so heavenly. How could I take her virginity? How could I even think about it? I don’t know if you would believe me, sir, but I cannot even imagine doing… such a thing to a person I love. That is why—I admit it honestly—I got mad at Jenny’s words tonight about being … ! How could she say this to me!? I am a normal man. Yes. But is it abnormal to feel about beauty the way I do, tell me now Mr. Han, is it crazy? Am I a freak?”
By this time I was sweating with uneasiness both at his unusual philosophy of beauty and his peerless open-heartedness. How had I deserved such frankness? Before I could even attempt to answer his question, he continued his soliloquy:
“I know I am not a crazy person: I think and act as a perfectly sensible individual. If you will pardon my arrogance, I consider myself even cleverer than many… But I do not presume on that in my attitude to others. In fact, I believe that I should place myself lower than others precisely on account of my endowments. Oh, sir, all I want is to LOVE. But what I mean by love is not what they want from me. Girls get mad for me because of my appearance, talents and money. Girls want to possess me. And this is exactly the opposite of what I want from ANY living person. Can they imagine at all what it is to possess? What a responsibility! What a duty! And, in the end, what a folly. Beauty cannot be possessed!”
These last words profoundly stirred my imagination of a writer. What a simple and lofty truth! Is this not the explanation of all our failures to understand beauty? A feeling of deep sympathy for Richard warmed my heart. I said:
“Richard, I can understand you almost entirely. In fact, I have had similar thoughts on beauty. I have been asking myself, is beauty really beauty if it must change, if it must wither, if it must degrade? Is beauty really beauty if it drives one frantic or makes him dream of impossible things, if it takes one’s reason away from him, if it broils the heart instead of sanctifying it, if it ends, sooner or later, in mourning and despair? But still, I would like to ask you, how did you love your Weena? What was the happiest moment in your mutual love?”
Richard was silent, ruminating over the past. He spoke gently:
“The happiest season of our love was the very time, which caused our separation. It was springtime—the happiest and saddest springtime in my life. We were both sixteen and had decided to go to the mountain village where my parents had a secluded cottage. I wished to take Weena to a lovely place where she had never been in her life. Though she was a child of the city, she loved nature.
So, after due preparation and arrangements we found ourselves alone in the loveliest of mountains. Can you imagine an earthly paradise? High-peaked mountains in the remoteness, with pure white snow glistening; the village nestled in the bosom of a charming dale, carpeted with meadows of fresh green grass, split in two by a vigorous river, swollen with the melted snow; the air was filled with innumerable fragrances and with the hilarious twitter of birds. And the sky, the impeccable deep blue sky was blushing with the sunrise of a new and cherished life.
Our arrival at the solitary hamlet was unnoticed. We had not planned anything ahead. We were expecting only happiness, only blissful days. Weena and I were almost engaged at that time, though we had never spoken about it. In spite of this, we kept our silence on this subject during the first couple of days in the cottage. We sat at the same table, but we said goodnight as friends only and slept in separate rooms. And then one evening…” Here Richard’s voice broke off in tremor…
“Well, as you know I love singing, so, every evening after supper we lit a fire in the open fireplace and spent hours together, singing and dreaming. I sung to her with all my soul and she loved those happy hours as the best in her entire life, she told me this. But, there was a something in her voice I should have recognised and been forewarned about, something womanly and stealthy… A naïve boy that I was, I took these overtones for pure sentimentality and felt an upheaval of feelings on account of it, sort of being “soul-in-soul” with the girl I loved most of all in the world. Song after song deepened her passion, song after song the exhilaration of the night created fairy dreams for both of us. And Weena’s beauty changed, the usual brightness of her eyes changed into deeper shades and warmer glimmers.
“I am so tired,” said she after I had finished a wistful song of love. “Will you take me to bed?”
I was dubious as to how to understand these words? So I asked plainly: “How do you mean? Take you…” “Just carry me, you fool!” Was she perhaps a little drunk? No, I don’t think so. Perhaps she was only joking. Why not, thought I. So, I propped the guitar against the wall at the fireside and carried her to her room.
She was not as heavy as I had expected. She buried her face upon my bosom. I could feel her heart beating very fast. My hands were sweating as I was carrying her. And there was an unpleasant tension in my whole body I had never felt before.
As I was carefully putting her down on the bed, she did not release me from her embrace. She began kissing my face, my lips—our very first kisses,—and I begged her to stop. She wasn’t the Weena I used to know!
I was beginning to get upset, my heart was suddenly filled with nameless fright. “Come, Richie, don’t you love me?” She suddenly pushed me out of her hug and began to unbutton her blouse. I felt an excitement of such immense power which I had never imagined could exist. But at the same time I felt an even deeper repugnance, I felt as though she was not Weena, but another woman I had never seen before. Although she was smiling at me, I could not recognise the charming girlish smile I had loved so deeply. Although she was talking to me, I could not understand what she was saying. And yet, she was so beautiful! It was precisely contemplating this beauty in combination with such shameful actions, that curbed my excitement. It was precisely this beauty acting in so disdainful a manner which cut my heart in two. I felt such a pang, such an anguish in my entire being, that my tears ran down my cheeks like a couple of springtime brooks!
At last Weena saw through my feelings. In an instant she covered herself, took my hand and made me sit at her side. “You little boy, foolish little boy!” she tried to comfort me, but at the same time we both knew that what had happened was irrevocable. “Come on, Richie, don’t mind me, please, don’t! Don’t cry, my boy!” Her voice was trembling, her eyes were also full of tears. She kissed my tears away. She fondled my cheeks as a loving sister would do. She said how sorry she was and that it hadn’t been the right time. But she never knew what I was really feeling deep down inside of me.
The following day was rainy, and we could take a walk by the river only after the rain had stopped. We were silent almost all the time. Only after we had finished walking and were approaching the cottage she spoke: “I do not understand you, Richie! Every boy would be burning with impatience to make love to a girl like me, to a girl he loves. Don’t be cross, but I can’t help asking you: do you love me?” Her tone was very mild. I knew she meant only well. So I answered: “Weena, I do love you! I love you very very much. You are the life of my life, the heart of my heart. I have never loved another girl. I don’t think I could ever love another girl but you. And yet… There is something which I don’t understand myself. I feel excited, I have passion. But I don’t wish to let it grow… Not that I am afraid of the act itself. It is because… I fear that I will lose you after I have done… such a thing to you. It’s a kind of an instinct of my soul. My very soul is cut in two, believe me, I am anguished with this feeling. I know we changed: you became a woman, I—a man. But there is something in my very nature which cannot change. Its something spiritual, something I cannot describe or define. Plainly, I love you and my love is such, that it will grow eternally if you would help it grow. It is such a kind of love which grows not because it is satisfied or given pleasure, but because it rejoices at seeing you grow in goodness and in giftedness. I cannot very well explain that… Perhaps we truly need time. I know time will show the path for both of us.” She was listening to me intently. But her smile had disappeared. I thought I had said something wrong and stopped speaking.
“Go on!” said she. Tears were now welling up in her eyes. “Weena, did I hurt you somehow?” “No, you didn’t. You are sincere, are you not? You know how highly I value your frankness. Go on!” The last “on” was full of insistence and even mild aggression. “Weena, I AM sincere. And yes, I do love you. But those changes… those feelings… I am afraid they portend something bad.” “Stop it!” she yelled and sprang at me, and started to hammer painfully my shoulders with her fists. “Are you making me a fool? Are you not a gay, by chance!” The moment she said this she bit her tongue. She hastily threw herself in my embrace and wept so bitterly that her entire body was shaking.
“Then there was thunder, rain and darkness. The sky was overcast, the clouds in the mountain were low and their rain pelted all over us until we got home soaked through and trembling. Weena was taken ill. She spent in bed two days, delirious, with a darkened face and was mumbling words I could not understand. I was by her side day and night. In her weakness, in her helplessness she was once again my dearest love, my only Weena. The girl I could give my life for! Now I know what it was. And what it wasn’t. I had loved Weena all along. But in my love for her I had only wanted to give. I had totally discarded pleasure, let alone passion, as a factor. More than that, I had kept my distance every time she had tried to thaw that reservedness of mine. This had been her resolute attempt. Her last attempt to overcome my resistance to her blooming womanhood. And I had withstood it. Not because I was strong. Not because I was even pure. No. I had withstood it because I was frightened. I had only suppressed those passionate feelings which I was afraid would destroy her beauty.
“When I met her ten years after than I knew, alas! I knew how right I had been. She was unrecognisable. Her loveliest features had gone, had been transformed by passionate life into something which people associate with greater maturity, but which awoke in me only deeper pity and regret. In a word, her chaste and awesome beauty was completely gone.
“But now, the morning she awoke in her restored health, she smiled as the girl I had always known. My Weena, my very own Weena! She threw herself into my embrace and her first words were: “My love, how exhausted you look, and all because of me!” Oh, Mr. Han, these were the words that ever since never cease to throb within the deepest recess of my soul.”
Two enormous tears ran down Richard’s cheeks. “She dressed and we had breakfast together,” continued he after a pause. “We were again the best of friends. I knew, however, she had not given me up. But I knew how miserable, how disgraced I would feel if I ever despoiled her or any other girl’s chastity. I had a kind of seal upon my soul which even the most furious of passions could not break. After a year she was already cool in her attitude to me. A little later she told me she had found the love of her life. He had given her all the “love” which I had denied her. All the romance between us had been a childish infatuation, nothing more. She was a woman now and she wanted to tell me we could still be friends, if I wanted. “Weena,” I had said to her. “Both of us know it is over. What I could not do to your beauty, I cannot bear to see being done to you by another. I don’t want to see you again! Never again, do you hear me, Weena!” She wept. We both wept. And these were the last words we spoke to one another.
“More than ten years have passed since then. I was successful in my life. I made what people call a career. I have met many girls. I have been pursued by many and many have broken their hearts over me, assuring me they could not live without me. And then, after we have broken up, they have very soon found another “irreplaceable” love in my place and had made the very passionate love which I had not engaged in. Then they have thrown this “irreplaceable love” for another, more “irreplaceable” one. I have seen much in my life, Mr. Han, and I have been deeply disappointed by what people consider to be love. Instead, those people whom I have really cared for and, I dare say, I have truly loved, have not given me anything. And those, who have truly loved me, have never expected anything from me in return. We have simply given. And we have never pursued pleasure as a prerequisite of “love.” You see, Mr. Han, what a “freak” I am.”
Richard’s peal of laughter filled the room. We both laughed heartily. I said:
“Richard, you are an amazing person. If everything you told me is true as it sounds, I dare claim you are the rarest person I have ever met in my entire life. Now, don’t frown, this is not a praise. It is “a practical ratiocination”. It is an observation, if you don’t like the former word. I most solemnly ask you for your permission to publish your story. I think that maybe some young heart will be touched by it.”
“Ha-ha, you really think so, Mr. Han?” It wasn’t a question, he was making fun of himself.
“But I am in earnest, Richard!” I gave him my downright assurance.
“So be it, you have my ‘kind permission’, on condition that you invent another name for me.” So I did by calling him Richard.
“I am such a die-hard virgin, Mr. Han. You could throw me into the sea of passions and I would probably float on its surface as an empty buoy! Such a charmingly hollow buoy which all the empty girls would love!”
We both laughed to our hearts’ content. “But honestly,” said Richard. “I am inclined to think I have a disease.”
“Indeed you have,” replied I.
“What? You’re serious?” asked he.
“I am. And it is called philosophy. ’Cause you are a born philosopher, Richard, that’s your problem. You take things rather deeply. You want all things to be meaningful.”
“Do you think that’s wrong?”
“Not wrong? Don’t you see that so many things in this human world are just without a meaning? Just ‘fun’!”
“That’s one of the things that makes me feel truly sick,” said Richard. “I simply cannot be happy for ‘fun’.”
To that I replied very seriously:
“It’s because apart from being a philosopher, you are a poet as well. You cannot touch beauty. You consider yourself impure, unworthy. Beauty, in your opinion, is something heavenly, something sacred. Therefore, you are unworthy to touch beauty and you are sad when you see how it is not only being touched, but smeared and devoured by rapacious beings who do not see beauty except through the eyes of lust and possessiveness!”
Richard was stunned by my words. We fell into impenetrable silence which lasted almost two minutes.
“Go ahead, Mr. Han. No one has ever touched my feeling so deeply. You have just expressed for me something I had been groping to express for years. You see, I may be a poet, but I lack incisiveness such as you possess. Go on, please!”
“Well, if you insist. Your sense of beauty is not based on the devastating realism of carnality. And you know why? Because your soul is too sensitive. Your soul can hear the sounds which go beyond the hearing of ‘normal people’. Your soul can see the virtue which underlies true beauty and on which true beauty is sustained. And because of these qualities, your soul can foretell what happens to beauty when surrendered to the hands of passion, of lust that’s vainly and blindly asserting itself as ‘love.’ This is precisely what Edwena failed to understand. Oh, if she had been more patient with you, she could have been your lovely and wise wife by now. … Please, don’t be sad, Richard! Time took what it took. Time always gives you the wisest answers. Time gives you the real value of things, the real essence of love. Because love’s real name is fidelity. Love which is not faithful passes away as imperceptibly as a morning dream. And your soul, Richard, also has a feeling of justice and of freedom. You did not wish to sacrifice your freedom to anything less valuable than sanctity. Your wisdom told you that beauty is beauty as long as it is sanctified by chaste fidelity in love. Your heart has a deep instinct of virginity and of fidelity. Believe me, you are not a freak. We are born virgin and we are not freaks for that. Your fear of change was simply another expression of your thirst for immortality. You soul could feel as though by losing your virginity you would lose that innate feeling of immortality which is the twin of your feeling of beauty. Here I believe I would be right to tell you directly that in your inscrutable heart of hearts you are aware that immortality is the same as beauty. That is why nothing would persuade you to sacrifice beauty for mere pleasure: precisely because to you beauty is immortality and immortality could never be sold at so cheap a price as pleasure.”
“My God!” exclaimed Richard. “Mr. Han, not I but you are the philosopher! I cannot tell you how happy I am to become finally aware of my deepest motivation for what I have been trying to explain to myself for years! You bet, it is precisely as you so excellently expressed it.”
I smiled with satisfaction and said:
“If you allow me to go a little further…”
“Yes, please!” he interrupted me. I continued:
“In your spiritual motivation there could be one and only price at which virginity, equalled to immortality, could possibly be surrendered—I do not say sold, because if it is as priceless as immortality, then nothing in this world could buy it. This price, paradoxically, is immortality itself. You surrender your virginity to give a new life, that is to create a new immortality. This is the only price, if price it might be called. A mother would take leave of her beauty for the sake of her child. A wife would lose her virginity to conceive a new life… Again, in your heart of hearts you are of the conviction that this is the only sacrifice which beauty and virginity are entitled to offer. Life.”
“I believe you might be right…”
“But why then,” pursued I “didn’t you marry?”
“Hm, that’s a difficult question, Mr. Han.”
We both fell silent again.
“I am too impressionable, perhaps,” said Richard. “And perhaps those girls I have met were too practical, too worldly… I was awkward. I don’t know why. But they all were trying to pull me into the same… position as Weena had. None of them could really understand my feelings. And I could trust none of them either. It seems my sense of modesty has grown with years, whereas the younger girls are being even more immodest than the ones I knew in my early youth. I could not countenance any form of immodesty. Perhaps I was born old.” He laughed bitterly.
But this time I did not laugh.
“Anyway,” he went on, “I often wander in the mountains on my own and sometimes think I should simply leave this society and live there on my own. There is no air like the mountain air, no water like the water of the mountain brooks. I will probably say farewell to this world very soon. The sooner the better. You were witness to the scene with Jenny tonight. I had hoped she could try to understand me… It is all my fault, Mr. Han!” There was weeping in his voice. I felt deeply sorry for this young and solitary swain. He was a swan. This is a true swan story.
Before he left my hotel room, I gave him my visiting card with my e-mail address. He thanked me again and again for the comfort I had given him by sharing my views. I saw him off to the street and walked with him in the night a long way before bidding him good night.
I never saw him again. He never called me. He disappeared from my life as suddenly as he had entered it. The few hours we had spent together, however, brightened my views on many things in life. And ever since, I have been unable to repress my profound sadness for this young man with an extremely sensitive soul so fond of beauty, that it destined him to live alone perhaps his entire life.
When I presented to my chief-editor the story a few days later, he could not believe this had really happened. He called it a “superficial realism, interspersed with philosophical deliberations and deliriously abstract aestheticism, which no modern reader could either grasp or appreciate.” So, my story was never really published. My first swan story. One of my colleagues, however, wept after reading it. She was the only person who had believed it was a true story. Later I learned she was a friend of Weena. And that when Weena had read the story, both women had been unable to hold back their tears.