Once upon a time, two birds, Beng and Lian met on a palm tree and Beng fell in love with Lian.
To attract her attention, he brought her many gifts. First, he found a shiny piece of aluminium and placed it infront of her. Then he found a few shiny rocks and with immense effort, brought all of them infront of her.
Beng wore black sunglasses and gold on his feathers and feet.
Lian looked at the shiny things he brought but said to Beng “Thank you for your presents but I can’t accept them without knowing who you are. I cannot see your eyes because you’re wearing sunglasses, take them off so I can see your eyes and look into your soul.”
Beng replied, “I can’t take off my sunglasses now because I have a sore eye. Instead, let me show you a photograph of who I am”
He gave her a photograph of himself and Lian said, “you have kind eyes” and accepted his gifts.
After a few months of courtship, Beng brought to Lian the biggest shiny rock she had ever seen in her life.
“What is this for?” Lian asked Beng
“You deserve the best in the world, so I brought you this shiny rock to show you how much I love you” he said.
“But a rock cannot prove your love for me, show me your eyes,” Lian asked Beng again.
“My love, I would love to show you my eyes, but the Sun is too bright today, and when I took down my sunglasses off earlier, the sun rays burned my eyes and now they are even more sore. Instead, I will show you what I’ve been building for us,” Beng took her hands in earnesty and gently told her.
Lian didn’t want her darling Beng to be in pain and so she allowed him to lead her to what he’d been building.
“Look my love, I’ve been building a nest for us. It’s made out of gold! Do you like it?” Beng asked his dearest Lian.
“My love, this is wonderful, but where did you get all this gold?” Lian asked
“I’ve been saving up for many years, waiting for the right person to come along. And when I first met you, I knew you were the one for me, so I started to build this golden nest for us so we can live happily together here forever,” Beng said
“Forever?” Lian asked
“Forever. I give you my word, my dearest Lian, that you are the only one for me. I vow to always protect and honour you; I will never leave or forsake you” Beng said. And with that, he placed a golden necklace over her neck and placed a mirror infront of the both of them.
Lian ruffled her feathers and noticed how heavy the gold necklace weighed while she looked at them both in the mirror. She couldn’t care less about the necklace on her neck, but when she saw the way Beng was smiling at her, her heart filled with joy and she believed that he loved her.
“Then I give you my word as well Beng, that what’s mine is yours, and that my body, heart and soul belong to you. Let’s make a beautiful life together and I shall love you till the end of time”
But soon after they started living in this golden nest, Lian noticed that Beng was hardly around.
Every day, Beng would fly out of the nest in the early hours of the morning and return home late at night. Lian would find breakfast and dinner for her husband, and wait patiently for him to come home so they could spend time together.
Weeks passed and Lian asked Beng. “My love, is everything okay? You’ve been busy spending most of your life outside of this nest, and I’ve hardly been able to get to know more of you.”
Beng replied, “Lian I told you many times that my life outside of this nest is none of your concern and I’m working very hard to make our golden nest bigger. Didn’t you say that’s what you want? More gold and a bigger nest?”
Lian was shocked and immediately felt guilty for something she never said or did.
“I’m sorry love, I see that you’re tired. Maybe it’s because you’ve been carrying around this gold for so long. Why don’t you take the gold off and I’ll give you a nice warm bath, then you can have a good rest.”
Beng said to Lian, “I cannot take the gold off, it’s attached to my feathers, my parents had them sewn into me when I was born to show others that I’m special.”
“Isn’t it tiring to fly around with so much weight all the time? Why don’t you remove them?” Lian asked
“REMOVE THEM? Then I’ll look like any other bird out there, and I won’t be special anymore. Why would you even ask me something like that?” Beng started to get angry with Lian
Lian noticed that she could hardly see any expressions on Beng’s face because he still had his black sunglasses on his face.
But she didn’t want to anger Beng any longer, so she didn’t bring the topic up.
Months passed by and now Beng hardly shows any affection to Lian. He goes about his business every day, and on the weekends he hangs out with Lian but is hardly ever present. He mirrors everything she says and lets her plan all of their dates and holidays, but not once does he ever ask her if she’s okay or if she’s happy.
Lian found herself alone in their golden nest alot, and it started to feel more like a golden cage.
One day while she came from work, a big burly bird came by and said “WHERE IS BENG. HE OWES ME MONEY”
Lian asks this big burly bird “are you sure it’s my Beng who owes you money? We don’t have much at all, only this golden nest.”
“And who do you think helped Beng to build this nest? I took golden strands out of my own nest to give him a chance to be with you because when he first met you, he had nothing to his name”
Lian took off the golden necklace Beng once gave her and said to this big burly bird, “take this gold neclace back and I’ll get you more gold the next time you come”
When Beng came home from work that day, Lian showed him 10,000 golden strands that she borrowed from her friend.
“Beng, I know you borrowed some gold from your friend, and I don’t have much to my name. This is all I have – take it and return him some of the gold we owe him”
Tears started streaming down Beng’s face and he said, “are you not going to leave me because I lied to you? It’s true, I didn’t have much gold with me when we first met. I used to spend gold unwisely and I lost a huge amount of it before we met. I wanted to impress you and so I borrowed gold”
“I never wanted the gold, my love. I just wanted for us to be soul mates and love each other. Please take off the sunglasses so I can look into your soul”
“I would love to take off my sunglasses Lian, but I don’t think you will love me after you look into my eyes. So please, let me keep them on for now. We have a whole eternity together anyway, we will slowly build our life back together” Beng told Lian. He was secretly afraid that Lian wouldn’t like what she sees when he takes off his sunglasses. He had this fear of her leaving him once she finally looks into his soul.
Lian could sense that fear, but she loved Beng anyway so Lian forgave Beng and they made a plan – A plan to leave this nest and have a better chance to pay back the gold Beng borrowed from the big burly bird.
Over the next year, the big stress of paying off the gold weighed heavily on Beng and Lian. Lian took up 2 different jobs in the day, and Beng worked harder at work. The year did not go well for the both of them. And even though they slept in a golden nest, both of them felt no love from each other, only stress.
First, Beng started to sleep on one side of the nest without her, then they stopped ruffling feathers all together. When Lian asked Beng why he wouldn’t touch her anymore, Beng said he wasn’t attracted to her anymore and that he was too stressed with getting more gold.
That news sent Lian into a downward spiral of depression and she began to eat less and less. Every day, she would fly for hundreds of kilometres until she became lighter and lighter, so she could look more beautiful to Beng.
At the same time, Beng was asking himself “why does Lian not love me for who I am? Isn’t what Im giving her enough? I’m working my ass off day and night to provide a nice comfortable nest for us, I’m doing all I can to give us a brighter future. Why can’t she see that? Maybe she doesn’t love me for who I am?”
Beng came home each day more tired and eventually stopped caring or looking at Lian altogether. The stress of needing to get more gold weighed heavily on him and the guilt he had towards her wouldn’t stop gnawing at him.
“When we pay off the gold, things will get better,” he constantly told himself.
“When we pay off the gold, things will get better,” Lian constantly told herself.
A year passes and their chance finally came. “Lian! My boss is sending me to America! America, the land of the brave and the free. There, we will have more money than we need, and I can finally pay off the loan I took!”
Lian was excited and happy as Beng came home with this news, but now she was more concerned about other things.
“Beng, it’s been many moons since we’ve been together, I want you to take off your sunglasses and look at me, so I can look into your soul,” Lian asks
“No. I will not. I don’t need to do what pleases you. I’ve worked so hard over the last many moons, just so I can provide a golden life for you. What more do you want?” Beng said to Lian
“I never wanted the gold Beng, I wanted to see your soul,” Lian replied. But Beng’s anger only grew and grew. He felt like his love for Lian wasn’t enough and started to feel as if his efforts were never going to be acknowledged by Lian. On the other hand, Lian just wanted Beng to be with her, and actually build a life together with her and not FOR her. The two birds keep miscommunicating with each other and soon, even the greatest love they once felt for each other wasn’t enough.
The two of them distanced more and more, physically and emotionally until one day, Lian felt like the golden nest was too lonely for her, and decided to let Beng go.
“Beng I don’t think you are happy with me, and maybe you should find another bird to be with you. I don’t feel loved and I don’t think you feel my love for you too,” she said, with tears in her eyes.
“Lian no, don’t give up on us. As long as we stick together, our life will be for the better. In just one month, we will be in America! Where our dreams will come true and we can live happily together finally!” Beng said to Lian.
But deep down, Beng had already decided for himself – that since Lian had given up on him, he shall find himself a new bird. “That Lian is such a selfish bird. Everything I do, I do for her and still she tells me I’m not enough. Why can’t she see that I love her? Why can’t she accept me for who I am?” he thought to himself
5 days before they were about to fly to America, Lian could sense the big secret Beng was keeping from her so while he was sleeping one night, Lian took off the sunglasses he always wears, and shook Beng up abruptly.
When Beng woke up, he was confronted by a big pair of eyes staring deep into his soul.
All at once, he felt great shame and the light from the sun got too intense and powerful. He was afraid to let Lian see more into his soul so he shut his eyes up tight. “What are you doing Lian! I can’t see!”
“Open your eyes Beng, you’re safe with me. Just open your eyes and let the sun guide you” Lian tried to soothe her husband.
“No!!!! You have destroyed my eyes. You are an infection in my life. How can you rip apart the one thing I asked you not to touch! Give me back my sunglasses!” Beng roared at Lian.
Lian had never seen this side of Beng and terrified, she dropped his sunglasses to the ground and flew away. Away and away Lian flew from the golden nest, until she could no longer see or hear Beng.
Groping around for his sunglasses while keeping his eyes shut, Beng cried and cried in agony. He was in so much pain from the sun’s rays. “Why did she do that? Why did she betray me? I gave her all parts of me and just kept my eyes for myself, why did she not respect my wishes?” Beng cried aloud
“Here, I’ve found your sunglasses,” a sweet voice suddenly rang out. Beng felt a warm touch on his shoulders as he spun around to face the voice.
“Will you hand me my sunglasses please?” He said to the kind stranger.
“Sure,” she said, as she put the glasses on for him.
When he put on his sunglasses and opened his eyes, Beng was surprised. The kind stranger was another beautiful bird, one who looked completely different from Lian.
“Did you see where my wife Lian went?” He asked this beautiful bird
“No. But I don’t think she’s coming back. Why don’t I stay here with you instead? You look like a nice loving bird, and I really like your golden nest” she told him.
“Yes I think that’ll be great,” Beng said, completely mesmerized by this foreign bird’s presence and soothing voice.
Together, this new bird helped Beng to forget – all about his wife Lian who flew away. “She left me anyway, it’s not my fault. I have no guilt to bear, no shame to face” He told himself.
The next day, Beng went to the big burly bird and paid him the money he owed him. “Hows your wife, Beng?” the burly bird asked.
“I have a new wife now, the old one’s dead to me,” Beng replied coldly.
“Here is the necklace your wife once handed to me, she wanted to help you pay off some of the gold you borrowed from me,” Big burly bird said to Beng.
With ice in his heart, and a deep hatred for Lian, Beng brought the gold necklace home and said to his new wife.
“Here darling, I got this gold necklace for you. Let’s start a new life together with your gold necklace in our golden nest. And together, we shall make more gold and be happy.”
“That sounds wonderful darling, this beautiful gold necklace is just what I wanted! How did you know I love gold? I’ve been flying around all over, looking for a golden nest just like yours. I’m so happy your wife left you, so now I can take her place. As long as you vow to love me more than you loved her, I vow to be with you in this life so we can make everything we touch turn into gold and become the richest, happiest birds in town,” the new bird sang to Beng.
“And look darling, I bought you new sunglasses! I know your eyes hurt when your soul gets exposed to the sun, so I got you a few new sunglasses to wear on different occasions. I will never be like Lian who wanted to hurt you, I’ll protect your soul from the sun always,” the new bird continued
“You’re the true bird for me, I will love you forever, you were my soulmate all along” Beng said to the new bird, who felt happiness in her heart, as all she ever wanted was a bird to tell her she was worthy and loved.
And so, Beng and his new wife stayed happily ever after, in their golden nest with their gold necklaces around them. They had a few baby birds and built an even bigger nest. In the end,the nest became a tall and big golden cage, so that Beng and his new wife could keep their baby birds safe and protected. Even though none of them ever left their golden cage, their family was happy. Beng never had to take his sunglasses off and his new wife had all the gold she ever wanted. Even though Beng never confronted his soul to look deep down into who he was, he was happy to live in denial and so was his new wife, who was equally happy to live in denial as long as she was surrounded by gold and felt secured with Beng’s love for her.
Every day, Beng would fly out of their golden cage and fly right back into it to his family. Beng was contented. His new wife was contented. The more gold Beng brought to her, the more she was happy. The more sunglasses she bought for him, the more she was happy. The bigger their cage grew, the more they felt contented – hidden and protected away from the rest of the world, them turning a blind eye to the ills of the world, and the world completely indifferent to this family of birds and the gold they collect.
As for Lian?
She had, for once in her life, flown so far away from home that she discovered mountains and oceans far beyond the horizon. She learned about the existence of new lands! New birds! New cultures and new foods. She discovered more and more of herself and found new ways of flying higher and further. She experienced so much life in these new environments and decided to explore them slowly.
One day, she met another bird, this time with great big eyes. She looked deeply into his soul and saw who this bird was, as he looked into hers. They fell in love, truly and deeply this time, because they met each other’s souls.
Lian vowed to herself, never again, to trade her freedom for a golden cage.