– By Nick Gurevich – 

It was love at first sight. There she was, in the flower garden, at the rose bush surrounded by her sisters – the truly fairest of them all. He had never seen anything so wonderful, so resplendent in his life. Of all the flowers the Nightingale had admired before, they paled in comparison with the exquisite beauty of the Rose. And the more he looked at her, the stronger his love became. The deep and yet delicate purple of her almost translucent petals, the perfectly shaped head resting on a slender neck-like stem, the intoxicatingly delicious fragrance with which she filled the air around her, drew him in with irresistible force. 

Every time the Nightingale tried to approach the Rose, the numerous and sharp thorns would prevent him from reaching her.  So, he hovered above, hoping to attract her attention somehow. All day long his thirsty, insatiable eyes drank the overflow of her beauty, never seeming to get the fill of it.  At night the Nightingale would sing the best he could. In these songs, he told the Rose how much he loved her; he begged her for an answer and asked her to fly away with him. They were songs of joy and sadness, hope and despair, longing and surrender, the heart-breaking songs of unrequited love.

But the Rose always remained silent. She never even looked at the Nightingale. During the day, her beautiful head was turned toward the Sun and at night, she would close her petals and sleep. Was she in love with the Sun? Was she dreaming about him in her sleep? Was she listening to the Nightingale singing? There was no way of knowing. How could one guess what the silence truly means? It could mean anything or nothing.

In desperation, the Nightingale would lament his misfortune to other birds, complaining about the total indifference and disregard the Rose had shown for him.

“You should forget her,” they would tell him. “Sure, she is a beauty. But there are other flowers around you, just as beautiful as she is. If only you weren’t blinded by your love for the Rose, you would be able to see them. And some surely would respond to your enchanting singing.”

“Oh, no!” protested the Nightingale. “It is you who are blind if you cannot see how incomparably superior she is to all other flowers. After seeing her, I can’t look at anyone else. It is either her or nobody. Perhaps I am not as good a singer as you say. If only I could learn to sing better, if only I could come up with better songs, she would finally hear me. But now I don’t even know if she is listening to me or not.”

As time went by, the Nightingale was becoming more and more aware of the futility of his efforts. Yet, he couldn’t stop. He couldn’t just fly away. It was beyond his strength. Such is the obsession of love; it robs one completely of the power of free will.

When tired of hovering and singing, he would plead silently with the Rose: “I know what you probably think: ‘What does this grey, totally indistinguishable little creature want from me? How could he even imagine that I would pay the slightest attention to him, I – the beauty surrounded by beauties, the Rose surrounded by roses. All we need is each other; nobody is equal to us.’”

He never dared say this aloud, always fearful of doing or saying anything that could offend the object of his love. He just continued his daily and nightly ritual, spending many sleepless and weary hours trying to imagine what the Rose thought about him and his courtship.

“Perhaps she can’t hear what I’m saying because I’m too far from her,” he said to himself.  So the Nightingale, though he was afraid of the sharp thorns, flew closer and closer to the Rose every day.  But alas, to no avail. Nothing changed. Until one day, when desperation overcame his fear, he alighted on the rose bush and was immediately pierced by a sharp thorn. He never experienced such pain before, but neither such joy, for he was as near to his beloved as any lover could wish to be. The smooth velvet of her petals was enfolding him and his feverish head rested in a cool dew. Oh, if only this could last forever!  The blood was slowly draining from his heart and he was getting weaker and weaker.

“Speak to me,” he whispered with his last breath. “I am dying.”

But the Rose did not respond. The glow of her magnificent purple burned like eternal fire, the seemingly unearthly fragrance filled every particle of the air. There was neither sound nor movement. The Rose was the most beautiful flower, but alas, only a flower. She could neither hear nor speak, neither sing nor fly. All she could do is be beautiful, with supreme indifference to anything around her.