La Vie En Rose
Monique Tran, Grade 10, Loreto College Mandeville Hall -
Excellence Award in the 'Play On Words 2021' competition
A delicate figure, carved out of glass and brittle kaolin, stands atop an ivory platform painted with flowers and encrusted with rings of pastel tourmaline. The tiny dancer appears delicate with her carefully crafted features as she twirls to the effortlessly haunting rendition of La Vie en Rose that floats through the air like an eerie lullaby. Her porcelain-edged grace remains unwavering as she is forced by some higher power—the winding of a clockwork key—to spin in the perpetual motions of a music box ballerina. Nothing is of her own volition but she does not mind it because she has no mind at all, or so she is told. She embodies perfection in its purest form, like a living angel or a symmetrical snowflake spiralling in the wind and she dances as if she were free; but she is a slave to her destiny.
And she cannot dance forever. There is hesitation in perfection, in living the life of a doll pulled by invisible strings and turned by rusting cogs as the world looks on in pity. She pursues the stars but she cannot move and she longs to open doors that she cannot reach because the world is pulling her down like a weight. She holds the Earth’s sins and prejudices upon her shoulders like Atlas held the heavens but she continues to dance, pirouette after perfect pirouette. And this ballerina lives behind rose-painted eyes and must be content with the world she sees, despite growing ambitions and desires, because her life is not her own. As a marionette and a pretty puppet, the world forges a path for her to walk and she cannot deviate or else she will break her little ceramic limbs and fissures will form upon every surface of her body until there is no redemption left for her.
It is a quick, sharp snapping of china clay somewhere in her figure that draws the tormenting melody to a gradual halt. The ballerina’s movements slow, becoming as rigid and still as the day and the music draws out until there’s only a staggering silence. The cracks, fine dark ridges, crawl up the side of her perfect porcelain face and run down her mid-pirouette figure, reaching the tips of her sculpted pointe shoes, and she shatters. Her kaolin body bursts because she is in such desperate disarray and can no longer hold the broken pieces of herself together. Little porcelain shards sprinkle around her ornate music-box in a slowed down motion that resembles feathers raining from heaven and when they fall they fall harshly, splintering into a million pieces. The air fills with the scent of silk and wilted rose-petals and the burning aftertaste of sulphur as she breaks away. As her cracked skin meets harsh painted ridges and the metal spikes of a key that was her master—not her freedom—her beloved prison crumbles and buries her, digging deep into her fragmented soul...
But the music box ballerina does not feel pain.