Chapter II: Unexpected Encounters and Unwanted Emotions

Previous Chapter

Chapter I: Reflections in a Broken Mirror

Who Ever Loved, That Loved Not at First Sight

It lies not in our power to love or hate,

For will in us is overruled by fate.

When two are stripped, long ere the course begin,

We wish that one should love, the other win;

And one especially do we affect

Of two gold ingots, like in each respect:

The reason no man knows; let it suffice

What we behold is censured by our eyes.

Where both deliberate, the love is slight:

Who ever loved, that loved not at first sight?

~ Christopher Marlowe (1564-93)

I survived the greeting of old friends that came with me from the Far East. I never liked cordial greetings in more public occasions. Everything just seemed so fake and unreal. The classic, “how are you?” came from so many different individuals that I knew didn’t really give a damn about my wellbeing. Sincerity is scarce when company is aplenty. Nevertheless, there were some that I knew more intimately, people with the decency to be sincere while meeting friends. Krishnan and Isabella were such people. They came towards me with smiles that revealed their 32 teeth to the public and eyes that were dead set upon their target. Me.

“Jakob!” They screamed in unison at the top of their voices. I felt that a few students turned their heads to look at the cause of the commotion.

“Hi Krishnan, Hi Bell,” I replied in a voice much softer than theirs. The last thing I wanted was more people staring at us. “Wonderful day isn’t it?” I continued with some heavy sarcasm.

“Come on, when are you going to enjoy the crowd?” said Isabella accompanied by a one-eyed wink. She was a very attractive woman, Isabella. She had light blue eyes, long blond hair that she tied into a ponytail, and the exact right blend of mischief and intelligence. All in all, an exquisite lady-like being that seemed to be the perfect product of nature and nurture. The fact that she wasn’t arrogant and aloof like so many people with her level of attractiveness was just icing on the cake.

“Don’t push him too hard, Bell,” said Krishnan with a snicker. He was obviously suppressing a full blown burst of laughter. “I am betting that he just wants to be alone with you.” The idea was appealing of course. But a light crimson blush on the cheeks of Isabella brought me back to cold reality.

“Any man would be dying to have some time alone with Bell,” I said while attempting to put on an emotionless face of stone. No harm being courteous or trying to be courteous in my case. “Just look at her. She is overflowing with joy and mirth.” I was still trying to salvage to situation from escalating further. It was bad enough that I was tongue-tied when I first met Isabella after coming up to Sheffield. I thought it better of me to display some form of eloquence while first impressions were not yet set in stone.

“See, I told you he likes you,” said Krishnan with an evil smirk on his face.

I stood there like a dumbstruck lamb while Krishnan burst into a fit of laughter that got everyone looking at the three of us again. Fortunately for me, I was saved by the bell when an announcement was made asking all students to enter the Pennine Lecture Theatre.

I left the lecture theatre as soon as I heard what the University had to say.  My friends were still at the Owen building. I wanted the day all to myself. It was rather selfish of me but I was kind of a lone wolf. In my bag was a file that contained the University’s 2010 prospectus, an international students’ handbook, and a course guide. From these items I knew that I had classes on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. The rest of the week was free for self-study. As if students would really do self-study when given free time. But I thought in glee that it was a very convenient schedule, one that allowed me to explore the city of Sheffield by light and night.

Deciding at that moment to make the most of my time, I crossed to the other side of Arundel Gate and walked up Surrey Street to the heart of the city of Sheffield. I had read earlier that day that one of the art galleries in the city was located on the top floor of the central library. Although I had never myself been able to produce anything I thought was of artistic value, paintings and sculptures have always invoked a great sense of fascination and admiration in my heart. One need not be an artist himself to appreciate the art of others.

It was to this art gallery, the Graves Gallery[1] to be exact, that I was headed to.

After I reached the central library in a few hurried but measured steps, I was greeted by Antonio Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’[2] as I entered the Graves Gallery. I thought that Baroque music of the 17th century was very suitable to be played in art galleries. The elaborateness of the sounds produced by various instruments present in an orchestra served to heighten the sense of depth and wonder that one can find in art. It was like coffee and milk. They complement each other to form a whole new level of experience. Experience that I was really looking forward to.

However, my expectations and hopes came crashing down when I found out that the gallery housed collections of modern art at that present moment. I remembered being utterly disappointed. There was even a feeling of betrayal akin to being stabbed in the back. Nothing good had ever came out from me when viewing modern art. Somehow or rather, I had never been able to relate to them as well as I could relate to the classical pieces from the ancient Greeks to the Renaissance.

Nevertheless, I decided to give modern art the benefit of the doubt for that day.

Among the artworks that I found was a half-figure of a woman with her arms and hands reaching upwards either in prayer or in a desperate plea for mercy. It was carved from a single, hard block of stone and it stood barely 2 feet high.[3] Another equally thought provoking sculpture was that of a figure lying on its elbow with its legs bent in a way that its knees pointed to the sky.[4] The figure’s form was dictated by the shape of the original ironstone pebble that it was carved out from. The description of the sculpture revealed that the periods of 1920s and 30s were dominated by the notion of ‘truth to material’ whereby sculptors tried to ‘emphasise the inherent qualities and limitations of their chosen material’. The task of the artists in those periods was not only to shape matter but to unlock the form hidden within a given stone.

Leaving sculptures aside, another more interesting artwork was William Hogarth’s 18th century series of prints called ‘Industry and Idleness’. They numbered 12 in total with each print telling a part of the story about two apprentices, one following the ‘good’ path of life, Francis Goodchild, and one who strays from the path of righteousness, Tom Idle. Bonded by the choices that they made during the early days of their lives, the story ended in a most peculiar way with Goodchild who was in the later part of the story a judge, sentencing to death Tom Idle who became a criminal of society. Choices, could we really have them?

My gaze ran through several other pieces of art before finally coming to rest upon a giant sculpture of Adam and Eve who were kissing in a rather erotic and passionate manner. But the sculpture was inconsequential. It was unimportant at that moment. In fact I could barely remember anything of that piece of marble stone besides its general shape, texture and colour. The sculpture was not my object of contemplation but a young girl standing beneath the arms of Adam looking at one of the paintings in the gallery.

From my vantage point, I saw only the side view of her face. Yet I knew she was beautiful. She stood upright around five-five in height, with long, dark brownish hair that reached straight down to her shoulder blades. Her skin was fair and smooth, almost as white as the marble sculpture beside her.

I moved closer to the wall in order to capture a glimpse of her facial features and I was immediately captivated by what I saw. The girl I was looking at was the idealisation of beauty herself. A goddess in flesh and blood. She had a doll’s face with big childlike eyes that were light brown with little flecks of grey. Her nose was perfectly shaped, neither too big nor too small, and her mouth betrayed twin bows, delicate and pinkish. It was as if Venus herself had come down to the realm of mortal beings. She was the perfect sculpture. Every other art piece seemed to fade away in the midst of her presence. Her posture, standing stance, and her steady, unwavering eyes that were intently fixed upon the painting in front of her made her and her immediate environment a work of art in itself. She was at that time both so real and surreal. I would have begged the heavens for such a moment to last a little longer. It was all so deeply sensual. A sculpture, a woman, and a picture. All unmoving, a perfect blend of still life and vitality.

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder,’[5] I thought silently in my heart. ‘Beauty fades like a flower, it is but a blossom.’ It was a desperate attempt by my rational mind to break away from her enthralling form and facial features. Yet no matter how I tried, I failed to convince my inner self and my subconscious being that beauty was only skin-deep, only one layer, only an ethereal thing. My thoughts drifted back to an old Chinese proverb, ‘a pretty face comes together with a poor fate’. For it was true that the four women of ancient China[6] known exclusively for their beauty led lives filled with strife that all ended being entangled in tragedy. Would she be worth the tragedy she would bring?

Then something changed. I sensed it before it happened. I wasn’t sure which came first, whether my idea became reality or did reality became my idea. Slowly and gracefully, she turned her head to her left and her childlike eyes tore through the enchantment that held me in a trance for a period when time seemed to have slowed down. Her head was tilted to the side. Some of her wavy dark brown hair was caught between her shoulders and her face. I remembered wishing that it was my hand that was touching her face at that moment. Then her lips pressed against each other and revealed a serene, one-sided smile. But she looked at me in a different manner than when she was looking at the painting. Her steady eyes were replaced by a dreamy expression. It was as if she saw through me. Like I didn’t exist or like my body wasn’t opaque. It gave me a chilling feeling, like I was laid bare, and exposed under the sunlight. It was as if all my flaws were brought out from the depths of my soul and I could not escape her judgment.

It pained me to look at her. So much hurt that I had to look away. The music in the gallery started playing Albinoni’s Adagio in G minor.[7] It was one of the most melancholic melodies, played as if to make a mockery of my disposition. I had looked away in fear. Fear of what, I did not know. I had never felt fear gripping my heart this way before. It was as if all confidence and stature evaporated like water spilled on the pavement on a hot summer day. A sinking feeling that engulfed my inmost being. It was like having your soul seized into the underworld and now having to live with half your soul left. Silent coldness of ice gave way to a flame of fiery rage. What have I to be afraid of? I looked back to the place where she was standing just a moment ago aiming to confront my fears. ‘We have nothing to fear but fear itself,’ was the famous saying of President Roosevelt. I would live up to his saying.

But she was gone!

I checked the empty spaces in the gallery, eyes darting back and forth like an eagle in search for prey. Gone! She had disappeared in a matter of seconds! It was as if she was a magician that went off in a puff of smoke. A rabbit disappearing into a top hat. I even checked behind the giant sculpture of Adam and Eve. Nothing! If I was fuelled with fury before, now I was fuming with molten wrath. How dare she summon such a mixture of feelings in me and disappear! In a flash I bolted to the exit door of the gallery determined to catch her silhouette. Little did I know that after today, my life would change in an unexpected twist.


[1] The Graves Gallery was opened in 1934 with the generous donation of local mail order entrepreneur JG Graves. It celebrated its 75th birthday

[2] Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741), The Four Seasons

[3] Henry Moore, Woman with Upraised Arms, 1924-5

[4] Henry Moore, Reclining Figure, 1930

[5] A sentiment that has been traced back to the Greek poet Theocritus (3rd Century BC).

[6] Xi Shi (Spring and Autumn Period) was so beautiful that fish would forget to swim and shrink away from the       surface of the water.

Wang Zhaojun (Western Han Dynasty) was so beautiful that birds would fall from the sky.

Diao Chan (Three Kingdoms Period) was so beautiful that the moon would hide in embarrassment.

Yang Guifei (Tang Dynasty) was so beautiful that flowers were put shame.

[7] Albinoni’s Adagio in G minor became synonymous with the revival of interest in Baroque music in recent years, but it was in fact reconstructed by the Italian musicologist Remo Giazotto (1910) from a fragment of music by Albinoni.

Who Ever Loved, That Loved Not at First Sight

It lies not in our power to love or hate,

For will in us is overruled by fate.

When two are stripped, long ere the course begin,

We wish that one should love, the other win;

And one especially do we affect

Of two gold ingots, like in each respect:

The reason no man knows; let it suffice

What we behold is censured by our eyes.

Where both deliberate, the love is slight:

Who ever loved, that loved not at first sight?

Christopher Marlowe (1564-93)

I survived the greeting of old friends that came with me from the Far East. I never liked cordial greetings in more public occasions. Everything just seemed so fake and unreal. The classic, “how are you?” came from so many different individuals that I knew didn’t really give a damn about my wellbeing. Sincerity is scarce when company is aplenty. Nevertheless, there were some that I knew more intimately, people with the decency to be sincere while meeting friends. Krishnan and Isabella Rowe were such people. They came towards me with smiles that revealed their 32 teeth to the public and eyes that were dead set upon their target. Me.

“Jakob!” They screamed in unison at the top of their voices. I actually felt that a few students actually turned their heads to look at the cause of the commotion.

“Hi Krishnan, Hi Bell,” I replied in a voice much softer than theirs. The last thing I wanted was more people staring at us. “Wonderful day isn’t it?” I continued with some heavy sarcasm.

“Come on, when are you going to enjoy the crowd?” said Isabella accompanied by a one-eyed wink. She was a very attractive woman, Isabella. She had light blue eyes, long blond hair that she tied into a ponytail, and the exact right blend of mischief and intelligence. All in all, an exquisite lady-like being that seemed to be the perfect product of nature and nurture. The fact that she wasn’t arrogant and aloof like so many people with her level of attractiveness was just icing on the cake.

“Don’t push him too hard, Bell,” said Krishnan with a snicker. He was obviously suppressing a full blown burst of laughter. “I am betting that he just wants to be alone with you.” The idea was appealing of course. But a light crimson blush on the cheeks of Isabella brought me back to cold reality.

“Any man would be dying to have some time alone with Bell,” I said while attempting to put on an emotionless face of stone. No harm being courteous or trying to be courteous in my case. “Just look at her. She is overflowing with joy and beauty.” I was still trying to salvage to situation from escalating further. It was bad enough that I was tongue-tied when I first met Isabella after coming up to Sheffield. I thought it better of me to display some form of eloquence while first impressions were not yet set in stone.

“See, I told you he likes you,” said Krishnan with an evil smirk on his face.

I stood there like a dumbstruck lamb while Krishnan burst into a fit of laughter that got everyone looking at the three of us again. Fortunately for me, I was saved by the bell when an announcement was made asking all students to enter the Pennine Lecture Theatre.

I left the lecture theatre as soon as I heard what the University had to say.  My friends were still at the Owen building. I wanted the day all to myself. It was rather selfish of me but I was kind of a lone wolf. In my bag was a file that contained the University’s 2010 prospectus, an international students’ handbook, and a course guide. From these items I knew that I had classes on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. The rest of the week was free for self-study. As if students would really do self-study when given free time. But I thought in glee that it was a very convenient schedule, one that allowed me to explore the city of Sheffield by light and night.

Deciding at that moment to make the most of my time, I crossed to the other side of Arundel Gate and walked up Surrey Street to the heart of the city of Sheffield. I had read earlier that day that one of the art galleries in the city was located on the top floor of the central library. Although I had never myself been able to produce anything I thought was of artistic value, paintings and sculptures have always invoked a great sense of fascination and admiration in my heart. One need not be an artist himself to appreciate the art of others.

It was to this art gallery, the Graves Gallery[1] to be exact, that I was headed to.

After I reached the central library in a few hurried but measured steps, I was greeted by Antonio Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’[2] as I entered the Graves Gallery. I thought that Baroque music of the 17th century was very suitable to be played in art galleries. The elaborateness of sound produced by various instruments present in an orchestra that aimed at achieving harmony served to heighten the sense of depth and wonder that one can find in art. It was like coffee and milk. They complement each other to form a whole new level of experience. Experience that I was really looking forward for.

However, my expectations and hopes came crashing down when I found out that the gallery housed collections of modern art at that present moment. I remembered being utterly disappointed. There was even a feeling of betrayal akin to being stabbed in the back. Nothing good had ever came out from me when viewing modern art. Somehow or rather, I had never been able to relate to them as well as I could relate to the classical pieces from the ancient Greeks to the Renaissance.

Nevertheless, I decided to give modern art the benefit of the doubt for that day.

The exhibition in the Graves Gallery contained the work of a group of internationally important artists who lived and worked in Hampstead in the 1930s. Their names were Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, and Ben Nicholson. The trio took several summer holidays at Happisburgh on the Norfolk coast and found their inspiration among the stones and pebbles lying at the coastline.

Among their works was a half-figure of a woman with her arms and hands reaching upwards either in prayer or in a desperate plea for mercy. It was carved from a single, hard block of stone and it stood barely 2 feet high.[3] Another equally thought provoking sculpture was that of a figure lying on its elbow with its legs bent in a way that its knees pointed to the sky.[4] The figure’s form was dictated by the shape of the original ironstone pebble that it was carved out from. The description of the sculpture revealed that the periods of 1920s and 30s were dominated by the notion of ‘truth to material’ whereby sculptors tried to ‘emphasise the inherent qualities and limitations of their chosen material’. The task of the artists in those periods was not only to shape matter but to unlock the form hidden within a given stone.

Leaving sculptures aside, another more interesting artwork was William Hogarth’s 18th century series of prints called ‘Industry and Idleness’. They numbered 12 in total with each print telling a part of the story about two apprentices, one following the ‘good’ path of life, Francis Goodchild, and one who strays from the path of righteousness, Tom Idle. Bonded by the choices that they made during the early days of their lives, the story ended in a most peculiar way with Goodchild who was in the later part of the story a judge, sentencing to death Tom Idle who became a criminal of society. ‘Choices,’ I pondered. ‘Do we really have them?’

My gaze ran through several other pieces of art before finally coming to rest upon a giant sculpture of Adam and Eve who were kissing in a rather erotic and passionate manner. But the sculpture was inconsequential. It was unimportant at that moment. In fact I could barely remember anything of that piece of marble stone besides its general shape, texture and colour. The sculpture was not my object of contemplation but a young girl standing beneath the arms of Adam looking at one of the paintings in the gallery.

From my vantage point, I saw only the side view of her face. Yet I knew she was beautiful. She stood upright around five-five in height, with long, dark brownish hair that reached straight down to her shoulder blades. Her skin was fair and smooth, almost as white as the marble sculpture beside her.

I moved closer to the wall in order to capture a glimpse of her facial features. I was immediately captivated by what I saw. The girl I was looking at was the idealisation of beauty herself. A goddess in flesh and blood. She had a doll’s face with big childlike eyes that were light brown with little flecks of grey. Her nose was perfectly shaped, neither too big nor too small, and her mouth betrayed twin bows, delicate and pinkish. It was as if Venus herself had come down to the realm of mortal beings. She was the perfect sculpture. Every other art piece seemed to fade away in the midst of her presence. Her posture, standing stance, and her steady, unwavering eyes that were intently fixed upon the painting in front of her made her a work of art in itself. She was at that time both so real and surreal. I would have begged the heavens for such a moment to last a little longer. It was all so deeply sensual. A sculpture, a woman, and a picture. All unmoving, a perfect blend of still life and vitality.

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder,’[5] I thought silently in my heart. ‘Beauty fades like a flower, it is but a blossom.’ It was a desperate attempt by my rational mind to break away from her enthralling form and facial features. Yet no matter how I tried, I failed to convince my inner self and my subconscious being that beauty was only skin-deep, only one layer, only an ethereal thing. My thoughts drifted back to an old Chinese proverb, ‘a pretty face comes together with a poor fate’. For it is true that the four women of ancient China[6] known exclusively for their beauty led lives filled with strife that all ended being tangled in tragedy. Would she be worth the tragedy she would bring?

Then something changed. I sensed it before it happened. I wasn’t sure which came first, whether my idea became reality or did reality became my idea. Slowly and gracefully, she turned her head to her left and her childlike eyes tore through the enchantment that held me in a trance for a period when time seemed to have slowed down. Her head was tilted to the side. Some of her wavy dark brown hair was caught between her shoulders and her face. Oh, how I wished that it was my hand that was touching her face at that moment. Then her lips pressed against each other and revealed a serene, one-sided smile. But she looked at me in a different manner than when she was looking at the painting. Her steady eyes were replaced by a dreamy expression. It was as if she saw through me. Like I didn’t exist or like my body wasn’t opaque. It gave me a chilling feeling, like I was laid bare, and exposed under the sunlight. It was as if all my flaws were brought out from the depths of my soul and I could not escape judgment.

It pained me to look at her. So much hurt that I had to look away. The music in the gallery started playing Albinoni’s Adagio in G minor.[7] One of the most melancholic of melodies played as if to make a mockery of my disposition. I had looked away in fear. Fear of what, I did not know. I had never felt fear gripping my heart this way before. It was as if all confidence and stature evaporated like water spilled on the pavement on a hot summer day. A sinking feeling that engulfed my inmost being. It was like having your soul seized into the underworld and now having to live with half your soul left. Silent coldness of ice gave way to a flame of fiery rage. What have I to be afraid of? I looked back to the place where she was standing just a moment ago aiming to confront my fears head on. ‘We have nothing to fear but fear itself,’ was the famous saying of President Roosevelt. I would live up to his saying.

But she was gone!

I checked the empty spaces in the gallery, eyes darting back and forth like some laser scanner in the movies. Gone! She had disappeared in a matter of seconds! It was as if she was a magician that went off in a puff of smoke. A rabbit disappearing into a top hat. I even checked behind the giant sculpture of Adam and Eve. Nothing! If I was fuelled with fury before, now I was fuming with molten wrath. How dare she summon such a mixture of feelings in me and disappear! In a flash I bolted to the exit door of the gallery determined to catch her silhouette. Little did I know that after today, my life would change in an unexpected twist.


[1] The Graves Gallery was opened in 1934 with the generous donation of local mail order entrepreneur JG Graves. It celebrated its 75th birthday

[2] Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741), The Four Seasons

[3] Henry Moore, Woman with Upraised Arms, 1924-5

[4] Henry Moore, Reclining Figure, 1930

[5] A sentiment that has been traced back to the Greek poet Theocritus (3rd Century BC).

[6] Xi Shi (Spring and Autumn Period) was so beautiful that fish would forget to swim and shrink away from the       surface of the water.

Wang Zhaojun (Western Han Dynasty) was so beautiful that birds would fall from the sky.

Diao Chan (Three Kingdoms Period) was so beautiful that the moon would hide in embarrassment.

Yang Guifei (Tang Dynasty) was so beautiful that flowers were put shame.

[7] Albinoni’s Adagio in G minor became synonymous with the revival of interest in Baroque music in recent years, but it was in fact reconstructed by the Italian musicologist Remo Giazotto (1910) from a fragment of music by Albinoni.

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