Secret Love

--- A quartz stone I picked on the way walking from Xiadang Middle School to my home village 19 years ago. Photo taken in Shanghai, 2019.7.22

— A quartz stone I picked on the way walking from Xiadang Middle School to my home village 19 years ago. Photo taken in Shanghai, 2019.7.22

 

You and I have been younger. We were almost as unpolished as this quartz stone. Our heart was little and vulnerable. When we saw a dragonfly, it wasn’t just a dragonfly. It was the whole fascinating world around the dragonfly. And when we saw a face that fascinated us, we might dream about it every night. The charming eyes. The fluffy voice. The sweet smile. All these would melt the ice in the dark. We wouldn’t feel pain when that person punished us. We would feel the joy of some strange connection. We would admire that person’s jokes or even bullshit. When we looked into the eyes, we would blush like a mystery.

 

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--- Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, 2015.3 | 斯里兰卡·锡吉里耶

— Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, 2015.3 | 斯里兰卡·锡吉里耶

 

At thirteen, I had this tender feeling for my Grade Three primary school teacher Mr Hu. He came as a volunteer from a neighboring town to teach us in 1999. Actually, each school year, there would be one or two volunteers like Mr Hu. The school was dirt-built, black-tiled and really old. There were no blackboards or white chalk, but wooden boards and charcoal. There were no windows in the classroom, but only a square hole. And there was no place to eat, but the families in turn would provide fresh food and firewood for the teachers.

 

--- Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, 2015.3 | 斯里兰卡·锡吉里耶

— Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, 2015.3 | 斯里兰卡·锡吉里耶

 

However, the playground was paradise. We would often skip and play the Chicks and Eagle game. Sometimes Mr Hu would play the Eagle. It was then I discovered that he was not as bookish as I had thought. His usually slow movements could be sharp, his usually toneless voice could be wild, his usually shy smile could be bold, and his usually calm eyes could be sparkling. Such a contrast just ignited my curiosity and attracted me like a magnet. When he caught me as the Chick and grabbed my arms with excitement, I couldn’t move or talk. My heart was racing, my face burning, and my eyes were afraid to meet his. When he let go of my arms, I wished he could hold me for longer. His existence had possessed my whole attention, and class time was not long enough to appreciate him.

 

--- Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, 2015.3 | 斯里兰卡·锡吉里耶

— Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, 2015.3 | 斯里兰卡·锡吉里耶

 

One noon, after school, I couldn’t help but stay longer to watch him cooking through the square hole that gave a view of the kitchen. He was clumsily peeling a potato. I laughed. Those smooth fingers were probably more suitable for holding books. By the time I had to leave, it felt the more I saw him the more impossible for me not to see him.  

 

--- Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, 2015.3 | 斯里兰卡·锡吉里耶

— Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, 2015.3 | 斯里兰卡·锡吉里耶

 

Until one afternoon in the middle of the second term, something new happened. A pig squealed like hell during our break. It was dragged along the playground by a mother and a daughter. The daughter Miao had the most beautiful smile in our class. When she smiled, her eyes smiled too. And that afternoon, her laughter resounded through the Fungshui forest beside our school with the screams of the pig. Everyone was laughing, except me. I was staring at Mr Hu. He was smiling and sometimes laughing too. His hand was holding his chin, his face was blushing, and his eyes were gazing at Miao with the same admiration as when I secretly watched him peeling potatoes. That moment, my world turned blue. I didn’t know there was such a word “jealousy”, but I envied Miao. From then on, although I frequently raised my hand in class, Mr Hu would still call Miao. Gradually I lost courage, and cried at night.

 

--- Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, 2015.3 | 斯里兰卡·锡吉里耶

— Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, 2015.3 | 斯里兰卡·锡吉里耶

 

The pain accumulated till the end of the school year. On the morning when he said goodbye, he slowly crossed a stone bridge. When all the classmates had left, he turned his head with a smile that broke my heart, waving his hand for me to go home. I smiled back, one hand covering my mouth and the other waving goodbye. He moved on and never looked back. I watched him disappear into the distance. Tears flooded my face. I knew I might never see him again.

 

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Was it secret love? What was the most nostalgic story from your school life? Have you ever had hopeless love for someone even if you knew that person would never love you back? What if you could meet your secret love again?

 

--- Spring Picnic in Grade Three primary school (1999). Total sixteen students, six from a nearby village. My young brother and I were in the same class till Grade Two in middle school. And I did meet Mr Hu again when I graduated from high school in 2006. That was anoher story.

— Spring Picnic in Grade Three primary school (1999). Total sixteen students, six from a nearby village. My young brother and I were in the same class till Grade Two in middle school. And I did meet Mr Hu again when I graduated from high school in 2006. That was anoher story.

 

About Heather Cai:

 

Heather is the daughter of a subsistence rice farmer from Fujian Province, China. She tells stories from her experience as one of the poorest. She writes her dream to share with the world, a very personal place. She has now written two English literary novels and is looking to being published in the UK. Her passion is a splendid cocktail or milkshake of word, image, music and art. She likes collecting books, DVDs, papers, stones, shells and leaves. She desires for all forms of natural beauty. She is currently living in Shanghai and serving as Sergeant-at-arms (SAA) for Shanghai Leadership Toastmasters Club.

Copyright © 2018-2019 Heather Cai. All Rights Reserved. 所有版权归作者所有!


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Shanghai Leadership Toastmasters Club Drives Me Crazy

--- My home village, Fujian, 2015.12 | 家乡福建

— My home village, Fujian, 2015.12 | 家乡福建

 

When I was little, the only time the parents could talk to their children was when they returned home from the rice fields. But at the table, we were not allowed to talk. And away from the table, the parents would be busy farming. They slept early and got up very early. All the year round, there was always something to occupy their hands and their minds. Therefore, we hardly had a conversation. Our home dialect was mostly built around a very basic daily life. And our emotional dialogue was through eyes or in silence, not words. Still I can only speak half the language, and cannot communicate well with my family. So you know I was never much of a talker.

 

--- My auntie's dishes in my home village, 2015.12 | 老家婶婶的拿手菜

— My auntie’s dishes in my home village, 2015.12 | 老家婶婶的拿手菜

 

Luckily I could play with words in my diaries and talk to my imaginary friends. But this didn’t help me build communication skills with real people in real situations. There would always be a barrier or a gap. Even four or five years ago, an English friend told me on the street, “Hey! I can’t hear you if you talk with your back to me.”

 

--- My home village, Fujian, 2015.12 | 家乡福建

— My home village, Fujian, 2015.12 | 家乡福建

 

I know it was a sign of my inferiority. My weakness. Until tonight, I’m going to share with you how SH Leadership TMC has made me confident and drives me crazy. It’s the people, the people and the people.

 

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— My very first time in Shanghai Leadership TMC, 2018.8 | 首次接触上海头马

 

Most of my life I was discouraged from speaking – like one interviewer who interrupted my self-introduction, saying that I was too short to be a teacher. But when I first stood on this stage, it wasn’t that scary. In fact, I felt welcomed to be recognized with nice people, including that night’s Sharing Master Steve.

 

--- My very first time on the stage, 2018.8 | 首次站上海头马演讲台上

— My very first time on the stage, 2018.8 | 首次站上海头马演讲台上

 

After joining several times, I observed that there are many great people in this club. Not only speakers and leaders but also guests. I decided to become a member so that I would have more chances to learn. My positive-change intention then was just to make one proper speech, as simple as that. And I did my icebreaker speech Transformations. It was poetic as the most handsome president Brian evaluated, but it was disconnected from the audiences as I made no eye contact at all. This was assured by Michelle Wu, who evaluated my second speech Aftertaste and told me, “Novel language is all about liberating the soul of the author, while public speaking is about making an instant connection with different souls.”

 

--- The evaluator, Brian Pippard, Shanghai, 2019.1 | 点评人Brian Pippard

— The evaluator, Brian Pippard, Shanghai, 2019.1 | 点评人Brian Pippard

--- The evaluator, Michelle Wu, Shanghai, 2019.2 | 点评人Michelle Wu

— The evaluator, Michelle Wu, Shanghai, 2019.2 | 点评人Michelle Wu

 

That was really useful to me, and I took all the feedback seriously. As Suhail once suggested, “Your speech is too much like a speech. Your mind is framed by the concept of speech. You should jump out of the box, and talk to the audience instead of yourself.”

 

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--- My home village, Fujian, 2015.12 | 家乡福建

— My home village, Fujian, 2015.12 | 家乡福建

 

Believe me, it was hard. But I tried hard too. And what Alvin emphasized about the purpose of a speech opened a window for me. I had only grasped half the meaning of a speech. What is speech? Speech is the communication or expression of thoughts and ideas in spoken words. I knew expressing my feelings on the stage is just like talking to my imaginary friends in a diary. But how about communicating ideas or interacting with you?

 

--- My home village, Fujian, 2015.12 | 家乡福建

— My home village, Fujian, 2015.12 | 家乡福建

 

This is something I wanted to learn. And later, I understood that it’s not just about a speech, not just about me. It’s about me becoming one of you, one of us. We are not only guests in this room or members of this community, but also real people who would influence or empower the others. I never thought I would connect with you in this way. But you know what? This enthusiasm or motivation of mine is not originally mine. It is yours. You make me crazy. Thank you to all the leaders of this club, and to all of you lovely people. Thank you all for driving me crazy.

 

About Heather Cai:

 

Heather is the daughter of a subsistence rice farmer from Fujian Province, China. She tells stories from her experience as one of the poorest. She writes her dream to share with the world, a very personal place. She has now written two English literary novels and is looking to being published in the UK. Her passion is a splendid cocktail or milkshake of word, image, music and art. She likes collecting books, DVDs, papers, stones, shells and leaves. She desires for all forms of natural beauty. She is currently living in Shanghai and serving as Sergeant-at-arms (SAA) for Shanghai Leadership Toastmasters Club.

Copyright © 2018-2019 Heather Cai. All Rights Reserved. 所有版权归作者所有!


Follow HeathersChamber for more original poems, essays, prose, drawings and pictures

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