Illustration and Text by Rhian Mansur

“One must love a little or a lot, following nature, but quickly; during an instant. 

As one loves a birdsong which speaks to one’s soul and which one forgets with its last note, as one loves the crimson hues of the sun at the moment when it disappears below the horizon”. 

– Valtesse De la Binge

It was the kind of opera where the lover dies for the ingénue, and the prodigy’s aria rang out to the drunks in the audience who kept broken dreams like an unpayable debt. I saw her on the stage, dark eyes dancing across the auditorium to every wealthy beggar. Hidden between a blurry layer of contemplation was a young thing, reading the faint memory of a libretto given to her days earlier, mixing her tears into the facade she played. A young dove— wings clipped one feather at a time. The world, no doubt, would eat her up in no time; perhaps that was the real show.

I was on the stage once. A lover wished for me to be in a production he directed, to play a subtle mix of Venus and la Dame. But I am not so foolish as to think my skills lie in the arts. I did it, of course, but my voice made no match to his vast network of musicians who accompanied me. I laughed hysterically at the climatic finale, louder than any other half-hearted notes I had sung that night. The audience, who spent meaningless riches to come, laughed as well. I lost him that night but gained countless more. My talents truly lie elsewhere, in skills that allow me to be in the audience, plucking just as much as I am plucked.

“Mademoiselle, it’s time,” 

I’m not sure what it is to love. That is, in the way that transcends all worldly obsessions: power, beauty, wealth. One where torture would be favorable to living a day outside their arms. A love where, on the deathbed, you are not alone in person or spirit; two grave-bushes intertwined, blossoming roses and honeysuckle. A love where you hold the children you have because of the glimpses of the person you see in them. 

But I don’t want that. It isn’t real.

A life dedicated to another. A life dedicated to making another life dedicated to you. The crux lies there. There is true love, and then there is happiness; very few are destined for the two to overlap. I pray for those who dedicate themselves to me, believing as much. 

Pity to those who give up everything in hopes I’ll sing them a sweet little birdsong when they are gone.


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