Mind-Dancing the Loneliness of Freedom: The Life-dance-story of “Sanmao”1943-1991

‘Do you still want to get married?”

One Madrid afternoon, Jose invited me to his home, something he wanted me to see. It was already getting dark – dusk – when we got to his room. “Look at what’s on the walls”. I looked. They were all faded B/W photos of me, everywhere on the wall.
… me, with my hair cut short,
Etched into the the light that came through the shutters.

I stood there lost in thought for some time, then asked: “I’ve never sent you any photos – where did these come from?”

“I pinched from from Uncle Xu’s (?). You used to send him your pictures from time to time. He’d check them over and then usually stuff them away into his desktop letter cabinet – each time I went over to his place to amuse myself , I’d filch some, them take them over to the photograph shop to have them enlarged, and return the originals to his cabinet. ”

I asked: what does your family think of this display? “ “They all think I’m a neurotic; anyone one who keeps pasting up pictures of someone gone out of his life, he’s lost his mind…”

“Why have they all yellowed?”

“They have, haven’t they- the sun bleaches them – I tried keeping the shutters shut but there’s always a slight glimmer of light getting through, and so they go on discoloring…

He looked somewhat ashamed. I reached up and peeled off one of them: there was a kind of clear white seal printed onto where the paper had kept the wall unexposed.
“Do you still want to be married?” Now it was his turn to be confused, I sort of felt amused.

He continued to be off balance: it went on.

“Didn’t you say six years. Well here I am and it is six years. “ (I suddenly couldn’t keep myself from crying) “ but if you don’t want me. You don’t want me, I guess you don’t want me…”

Then I was suddenly scissored between regret for the past and sorrow for the present.

“Why – don’t you want me then? If you had really truly wanted me – what I thought – since I’m a woman of my word, here I am back, and now my heart is broken.”

“If I’ve broken your heart I can glue it back together for you…?”

“But there will still be a scar..”

He clasped my hands and pulled it to his chest. Here is my heart, it is made of gold – for you to wear.
You have one too, let’s exchange them and …

Seven month later we were married.



“All my schoolgirl friends in Middle School in Taiwan carried her books with them..they dreamt of traveling afar”
“the Song Olive Tree quickly built a following both in Taiwan and in China”
“Her husband Jose was a fiction… she was quarrelsome and promiscuous” (2011)

It is not hard to see what was on the minds of the mid/late teens who were her first fans: getting out of the politically justified cages that both Chinese governments had trapped then in until the Nixon-Mao meeting foretold a thaw. Her greatest fear – meaning anathema – like theirs was “being hemmed in” (chan); the possibly invented warnings to her possibly fictional fiance “don’t try to own me” or “tie me down” were in the context of contemplated restraint on her trans-oceanic traveling/drifting/living without a home (=family and 4 walls).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s