“Flesh and the Mirror” is narrated by an English woman, who recalls a day-and-a-half period in which she wanders the streets of Tokyo, weeping, searching for her lover. She turns herself into a character in a melodrama, she later realizes, living her life as a performance, relishing her anguish and hysteria. She observes her own life from outside, as if it were taking place on stage. She has always lived as if she were a actor in a romantic play and now she eagerly throws herself into the age-old role of abandoned lover, loving the opportunity to indulge in self-dramatization.
The narrator returns to Japan from an emergency trip home to England, expecting her Japanese lover to meet her. He is not there, and she wanders the rainy, crowded streets of Tokyo’s pleasure quarter, relishing her showy unhappiness, weeping, observing her own performance as if she were the heroine in a soap opera. The narrator switches, briefly, from first to third person, underscoring her later realization that she had turned herself into a puppet moving through life as if it were a stage production.
A stranger—a young man, presumably Japanese—falls into step beside her and asks why she is crying. They go to a hotel that caters to sexual trysts and take a room that has a mirror on the ceiling above the bed. As they make love, the mirror reflects the narrator back to herself as an “I” stripped of all the social constructions that has made her who she is,...
(The entire section is 522 words.)