She dreamed of stained glass butterfly wings. Red and green and blue and light to carry her away. Drift high above the city. Float her to where she could daisy nectar sip and the mountain grasses caress.
She woke to the stench of the city. That old dragon that devours the young who stream from small towns and homes to its streets. Sacrifices that think themselves immortal.
She was not a sacrifice. The sacrifice would have been to stay at home and the least said there the better. Running away was her becoming. Even with sand in her eyes and dirt in every pore. The smell of urine choking the air in boxes and alcoves and abandoned despair.
She never despaired. Mainly, she just couldn’t see the point to it. Well, other than a snazzy black wardrobe. And maybe some silver earrings. And ennui. N is for Neville who died of ennui. Lucky bastard.
But, What-Ev-er. She had her dream. Washed in diner bathrooms and Ys and shelters to remind herself of clean. Sold herself five times to pay for the sweeping arc of inked wings painted into her back. Dipping tails furling down her legs. Curving round young back. Strong and brown and ready to fly.
Eventually, she found for herself two sisters to help busk and grift and get by. A tiny never take guff, never say die Queen and a tall silent Angel with pink tipped braids.
The three found a little flop off the street. Scrounged furnishing milk crates almost clean, feasted on Ramen and tasted their own immortality.
Time wended past. Inked a tattered ribbon flow of butterflies up her right arm. A flutter of butterflies. A flight of butterflies. A swarming float of tropical wings from dots on wrist that swarmed and wrapped round and round until they came to shoulder rest.
Inked a halting strain of barbed wire up and round the left. Black barbs that pricked olive skin with red points. A strain from wrist to shoulder.
So, with friends and place and decorated body and dreams, life was cool. And if she wasn’t quite pretty, a bit too much noble Greece in her nose and not enough Olympus in her chest, well, she had loads of personality. And when she sang, it felt like she was flying.
Her name was Psyche. Or Psycho. Or Psychic. Or Psych. Or String Bean, because she was many things, but short wasn’t one of them.
So we begin in the miserable of stink of heat. Grown men rolling up suited black serious pant legs on their stolen lunches to walk in public fountains. Grown women shucking nylons and heels to wriggle scrunched toes in the furtive strips of grass.
See that man over there, walking in the low round fountain. Red faced and sweating. The one with the “high” forehead. Yeah, him. He is supposed to fall in love with Psyche.
It’ll never go anywhere of course. Because, come on. Ant meet butterfly. However, once the longing and the angst and the durm, blah, blah, blah is over, this guy with his “high” forehead will finally finish the inspiring novel of true love torn asunder that he’s been working on for the last freaking twenty years and Melpomene will finally stop sending Eros pointed little memos.
Also, call your mother. She wants to talk to you.”
Eros has learned the hard way that if you don’t develop a paper trail, love can be complete chaos.
And so there he stands, bronze arrow at the ready. Smooth pull back, hears singing and turns toward the future object of Eugene’s desire and he shoots himself in the foot. D’oh.
Eros sighs, “Oh, this is so going to suck.” And then he is heart palpitating, dry mouth, flush cheek deep in love.
Her beautiful silky, brown sugar creamy, crystalline piercing, arching, yeah. Gods, the face that launched a thousand raves belting out, “My Way” with some little accompaniment with a bucket, a stick and some choice comments. “Yeah, she did it her way.” “She did.”
He can listen to her for hours. And is all set to do it, when she starts to sing, “I’m your Venus. I’m your fire.”
“Crap!” because, sure enough his cell phone rings. He ignores it and glances around. Eugene of the high forehead had long scuttled back to floor forty of air conditioned back grinding. “My mother is totally gonna kill me.”
And with a twitch and a white drifting feather, he goes to his next appointment. Ends up sighing the whole time and flies home.
That night he mopes. He is supposed to be attending the monthly city Association of Love Gods meeting. Inana is giving a presentation on, “Poly in the twenty-first century. The time returns or something new?” Eros is supposed to supply the audio visual equipment. Instead he mopes and Inana is reduced to doing shadow puppets. Erotic shadow puppets. Shadow puppets of desire. Freaking Shadow puppets while Eros watches his DVD of the most depressing romantic moments in history. Drinks tequila. Mopes.
The next day he accidentally shoots two customers scheduled for Enduring Love with Extreme Loathing.
That night Eros is graced with a visit. First the air is filled with a soft sweet richness. Then opening the door, her form and face. She walks in beauty like the night. All that is beautiful meets in her aspect and in her glorious glamorous eyes. And then there is her voice, low and rich and full. Like old honey. “Where the hell have you been?” says Inana, tapping long slender fingers on glorious rounded hips.
“Can’t talk. Moping,” says Eros.
“Cute,” says Inana. She snaps her fingers and a handsome loin cloth clad youth appears. She ponders weighty, then says, “Margarita, blended. And, this time, extra salt.”
“As you asked, I was already tardy in fulfilling Love’s desire,” says the youth, who bows and scurries from the room.
Inana gracefully flops down on a rich red crushing velvet couch, “You flaked out on me and I’ve yet to hear you grovel for my forgiveness.”
Eros looks up from his contemplation of the floor, “Look. I’m sorry. I’m a flake. I suck. I’m a terrible friend. Now go away. You’re interfering with my Patsy Cline groove thing.”
“You’re forgiven,” says Inana, who accidentally smiles just as her minion returns with a salt encrusted rounded globe of margarita. “Oh, dear!” she says. “Well, clean that up and go get me another.” Loin cloth boy whips off his loin cloth and begins mopping the floor.
“Hmmm…” says Inana, and then, “Now, since I’ve graciously forgiven you and I am your friend, I pretty much have to make your life a living hell until you tell me what’s wrong. Come on. You know I can take you. In 738 ways. So, spill.”
“I shot myself in the foot,” says Eros.
“Oooh. That’s not good,” says Inana.
“With a tragic love arrow,” says Eros.
“Ohh! That’s really not good,” says Inana.
“So, I’ve decided to drink lots of really disgusting alcohol until my life ends in vomiting,” says Eros. Well, actually he says, “I goin drink lots til life ends vomit @&!” but Inana knows what he means.
“That never works. And you’re going about this all wrong.” Her minion hands her a fresh margarita, “Oh, thank you.” She takes a sip and waves loin cloth lad away. “Okay, so this love is pretty much doomed, cause you know that’s the way it works.”
“And she’ll die. Cause, tragic greek hubris,” says Eros, crying into his shot glass.
“Not necessarily. You just need to put a gaeis on the whole thing. You know, if you ever blah, blah, blah, you’ll be tragically parted. But you know, no death. Just tragic parting. And hey, maybe avoid it for years. And in the meantime, joyous nookie of love.”
Eros smiles wobbly, “That work?”
“Sure. Have I ever lead you wrong?” says Inana.
“Pfff. Goat orgy.” Eros shudders.
“Hey, that was millennium ago and I had no way of knowing about the troll,” says Inana. “This however is foolproof.” She takes a triumphant sip.
“Huh. Hubris,” says Eros. Sigh. “Zeus, she’s beautiful and smart and her voice. Yeah. This sucks. Oh, get me a margarita.”
Inana smiles and snaps her fingers.
An abandoned building. Left behind. Love stripped away and burned. All that’s left of care are window eyes hollowed out, boarded up. The whole building merely waiting to be struck down. Replaced. Weeds growing. Rats scurrying and copulating in its rooms. And sometimes, if it is lucky, at night, Ravers gather to dance till dawn.
They bring no lights. Just a sound system and a few glow sticks. They like the dark. Pulsing music. Pounding beats to vibrate the bones. Still the heart. The same rhythm repeated a thousand times as the young restless gathered to writhe.
She has a red ring on her right index finger that flashes. Not enough to see in the dark. Just enough to watch it glitter. Watch other rings move and flash in the dark through half closed eyes.
She is dancing with someone. She can feel the heat of his body in the dark. Radiating out to touch her.
They did not touch. Except for the almost brush of hair on legs and arms and stomach. Reaching. Touching. Entangling. Parting.
He smells of sweat and sweet and clean.
And they dance and move in the dark. Hips almost. Hands, lips, legs, almost. Moving. Flashing. Warm with sweat and heat and dark.
He takes her hand or she takes his. They take each other. Pull each other up the black stairs. Pause to devour lips. Slam against a wall so that not an inch of their bodies will be apart. Had to touch. Had to merge. Hands scratched. Lips conflagrate lips. Pull apart to go farther up the stairs. Farther up and deeper in. Electricity arcing the bones of their fingers where they touch. The music is quieter here. They are alone.
Butterfly fingers touch her face. The sides of her breasts. Lips flutter down her arm. Wander down her waist. Light seeking nectar licks kissing her taste. Salt as the tidal sea. Salt as tears and warm. Smooth. Soft.
Psyche doesn’t want soft. She pulls him up. She kisses to consume. Hungry to feel. To know. Every inch.
Clothes are shed, safety donned, because Psyche’s not that psycho and they move and shift in the dark. Psyche’s flashing red, the only light. Shift. Move. Devour. Shift. Move. Dance. There.
And Angels wage a heavenly war, worlds shudder, and Icarus melting falls. Weeping. Laughing. Exhaling. Love’s name.
“What’s your name?” says Psyche, kissing his collar bone, running hands down his scratched winged back. Wings. “You’ve got wings. How cool is that. I wanna see.”
Eros takes a shuddering breath. Surprised he even can breath. Prepares to shape tragedy with words. “I’m afraid you can’t. You see, I’m under a gaeis.” And by saying it, Love makes it so. “See, love’s blind. So, we can only be together in the dark. If you ever see me or know my name, well, tragedy, parting, tests, you know the drill.”
Psyche ponders this as the sweat cools and she smells the sex on her skin. “Why do I always get the wackos?” she thinks, “On, the other hand. Wings.”
“Is that okay with you?” says Eros, who contemplates nobility and honor, but decides to screw it. Go with his talents. Touches her there and there and. There.
Her flesh feels like it is smiling. Hell, singing. “Oh, kay,” she says. “But next time. Yeah. Do that again. Ummm…someplace with a bed or a table.” Mmmm…yeah. Singing.
Sometime in the night, he leaves her. Soft and wobbly and exhausted. She moves down the stairs. Past the dancers, who are just getting ready to leave as the sky turns grey.
Drags herself onto the metro. Happy winces as she sits on the hard plastic. For once wild black seeking witch hair is tamed to exhaustion. For once she isn’t humming on her way home. Too tired. And this morning, everything about her is a song.
Rolls into the flop she shares with her sisters. Is greeted by a singsong voice, “Someone ga-ot laid. Someone ga-ot laid. Damn, Psych. I want to look the hell like that. You are glowing,” says Queen B, who is sprawled on a thin mat on the floor. “How come I spent my night strutting my stuff looking for some lucky and you’re the one ends up looking like the cat dragged in? Damn. In that right, Angel?”
Angel grins out from under that wooly cap she always seemed to wear and nods. Better yet, she hands Psyche a cup of coffee. Psyche smiles, praises deities and takes a good long gulp. Ah, sweet caffeine.
“So,” Queen B grabs the barbed wiry arm and pulls Psyche to earth or at the very least to the mat on the floor. Psyche winces as she sits and stretches out long legs, sips steaming instant legal perk. Queen flips back hennaed curls that will get in the way and leans in, “Details, Psych. I need details. If I’m not getting any loving, then I want to hear all about it. In that right, Angel?”
Angel one shoulder shrugs and soft dipping head smiles.
“Well,” says Psyche, “We met. We danced. We screwed. A lot.”
“Hey, Angel tells better stories than that and she don’t hardly talk,” says Queen B, “So, was it dirty? Mental? Twisted? Oh yeah, I can just tell it was twisted. Look at that smile. It was twisted.”
“It was not twisted. It was flexible. Wasn’t twisted.” Psyche smiles some more into her coffee and stretches tired muscles. Grins. Her flesh is still humming.
“So, are you going to see this flexible stamina man again? And if not, can I have his number? Cause damn, girl look at you. You’re a puddle of lovin. In that right, Angel?”
Angel nods and raises her eyebrows with head tilt number forty-six, to indicate that she too wouldn’t mind getting the mystery man’s number.
“Yeah, I guess,” says Psyche, “I have his number. Hmmm…so, is it weird that he doesn’t want me to see him? Like in the light,” says Psyche.
“Uh, it means he’s a total dog. And quite possibly a freak, which would be okay if he were a circus freak and double jointed, but clearly he’s a psycho.” Queen B leans back against the wall and dances oiled curls with nods. Takes a drag on the day’s first cigarette.
Psyche contemplates her coffee, “And he has wings.”
“Demon freak, yo. Have I taught you nothing? Have I taught her nothing Angel? Nothing. What did I tell you the first day we met?”
“Want to buy a joint?” says Psyche with a certain amount of the rye.
“After that. The part where I told you to not suck face with demons, because you always end up with hell spawn.” Queen B waves her cigarette in the air, “Listen girlfriend, you’ve got to see his face and like prick him with a needle or something.”
“Uh, no,” says Psyche narrowly avoiding having her eye out by cigarette, “We will be meeting at Johnny Darko’s where he will pay my door charge and I will scope out if he is a freak. Aside from the wings. Look he’s got mad skills. Give a girl a break.”
“Demon spawn. Exploding heads.” Queen B makes the universal gesture of the exploding head, “I don’t care what kind of mad skills he’s got, he’s a wacko.”
Psyche glances at Angel, who does vague hand wave number nine and offers her a refill. “Thanks Ange. You’re an Angel.”
And the talk shifts to rent and food and other mundane.
That night Psyche meets her lover at Johnny Darko’s as promised. The latest rage with all the young fashion things. A total sensory experience. Soft velvet couches lush with pile and plush. Every slide and move on bared young flesh grips by thousands of soft strands. Rooms warm and humid soft. Rooms cool enough to make the skin prickle taunt with goose bumps. Music low, loud, Afro, Celtic, World, Harp longing something something. Never no nothing any words, just melodic strands. All in total darkness.
Eros feeds Psyche spicy smooshed finger foods as they spoon on their luscious velvet couch. Talk about nothing. Everything.
Where is desire bred? In the heart or in the head? Or in the touch? Little unseen touches. Little unseen kisses. She runs gentled hands over his wing pinions and he softly shudders. He does this thing with her ear and she darkly melts. She can practically feel the butterflies on her arm shivering. The barbs tightening.
The room is full of people, but they are alone, washed in music. Just the sound of occasional gasps as fingers wander and clatters as waitresses stumble in the dark.
Psyche decides that if her lover is a psycho, he’s a really interesting psycho.
Drags herself in at dawn. Is greeted with coffee and shouts that she’ll be popping demon spawn any moment.
Days pass. Weeks. They meet in darkness. In clubs and raves and eventually even his home. In darkness, full of things to touch. Textures. Fabric. Toys. Food. Tables. Chairs. Linoleum. A bed. A real bed. With a velvet coverlet and satin sheets and soft like a cloud. And she is floating. Her body as light as a feather and heavy as a flood. And she flies and falls and flies again. P is for Psyche who dies the little death. Every night.
And they talk. And melt. And sigh. And scream.
And with every sleepless night, with every dark gasp on her skin, every kissing taste, every center deep touch, she grows to see the world luminous.
Sees music. Tastes color. Feels everything. Feels everything begin to fall away. Never fat, she grows thin and thin. Fined away.
Angel looks at her with liquid earth eyes and offers her government cheese, high in fat and calcium and free. Queen B just bitches and is sure, so sure that dark lover boy’s a freak, a killer, a demon sucking away Psyche’s life.
She feels more alive than alive. But she does wonder if she can get a condom that would work with the mystic as well as the physical.
Or not. She’s always had a voice. Could always fly, but now, the songs are just in her and she writes and reaches. Flow the words into living colors. Sings happy and watches bottle blue dragonflies chase wisps of wheeling dragon puffs across the sky. Sings her heart and the weeping willow plucks its roots to shift a little closer to the slender pale birch.
Even the really real folk seem to see, hear, feel the difference that is glowing out of her. One day as she sings of hearts on fire, this high forehead little mouse of a suit, who’s come to sit on the same patch of grass every day actually looks up. Comes up and gives her twenty bucks, which he’s never done before. Thanks her. Smiles. And he isn’t the only one. Money flows, but still, but still, she drags herself in every morning. Pretends it’s all normal. Just all sweat and desire.
Imagines a hundred faces from beneath her fingers. Eye and skin and colors.
And she knows nothing lasts. May as well do it already. Stop being a wuss and do it. Brings a lighter with her. It’s got to be this way. Cause, he could be a demon or worse. Cause she’s given him her lumpy heart?
And so after sighing and moving just so in the dark, he lies sleeping. She holds up that lighter and in the faint flickering light, sees him golden and beautiful. Caressed. And seeing, knowing, she inhales love’s name. She stares and stares. Can’t stop looking, he so pretty and fine and clean.
And a drop of lighter fluid liquid falls. Burns. Eyes flutter to open and she sees his eyes. Blue as the barest sky. Blind. And he says only nothing. In a flash he is gone and she all alone in that dark room with its faint colors, flickering from her little plastic lighter. And she cries.
It should be explained that the city is in no way flat. Inside or out. Ringed with mountains. High sharp forested blades in the east. Rolling moors to the west and south. Facing the vivid froth sea.
At the heart of the city is a mighty muddy river that runs contrary north separating the seven central hills.
Rosy temples cluster and vine cover perch on the hill tops. Here lightening shakes. There thunder dwells. And over there, temples to love. Love of every inclination. Free and easy. Bound and straining.
Inana’s temple is not large. Full of priests and priestesses and doves and cows and geese and flowers. On a hot fall day the smell is overpoweringly of life. And incense. Lots of incense.
It is a temple with no doors. No knocking. Everyone is invited to join in celebrating the goddess. In celebrating love.
Inana sits in a wide open window watching the sun rise pink over the harbor. Golden over the great river that split the city into two. Hazy peach over the hills with their temples and their gods.
She drinks bitter chocolate. Savors the warm sharp taste. Runs her fingers over through a minion’s tousled hair and watches the day rise.
Sees a white dot resolve into Eros flying towards her. Lifted up in Zephrus, the warm west wind’s, gentle hands. It is only as he stumbles through her window that she sees his eyes. Blinking blind in the light. Landing, laughing, crying, “Inana. She looked and Love is blind.”
“Oh, Eros.” She kneels to the floor, cuts a strip of cloth from her dress with a copper knife. “Time for stage two then. Is your girl up for it?” She gently wraps the cloth around Eros searching eyes.
“Oh, Psyche is…yeah. If…yeah.” He reaches up and touches the cloth. Sighs.
“Well, then, let’s see how this works out.” Inana takes Eros by the hand.
Psyche is alone. She waits. In the darkness. Curses. Says the hell with it.
Goes out for a drink, planning on picking up the first young thing that she sees. Ends up leaving and walking. She can practically hear the romantic soundtrack in the background. Watches the sun turn white peaks rosy glow, although it is still gray in this fold between mountains and hills.
Drags home as finally the sun breaks free. Angel hands her coffee. Looks at Queen B who says, “Demon Spawn.” Psyche wups Queen upside the head, who says “Hey!”
Psyche stands over her, tall so tall, “He’s a god.”
“Oh.” Queen B takes a quick short drag, fiddles with her hair and twiddles.
Psyche pauses a beat, “A god of love.”
“Oh.” Queen B takes another puff. More fiddle twiddling.
Another pause. “A god of erotic love. He had mad skills.”
“Oh.” Queen B is not looking at Psyche. Eyes on the cracks in the wall.
“That sucks,” says Angel, who offers Psyche a chocolate bar from the “that sucks” stash.
“Yeah, don’t it though.” Psyche takes the chocolate and sits down. Takes pity on Queen B and hands her a chunk of chocolate. “But, hey, couldn’t go on like that. I was just being lazy. My baby’s under a curse.”
“So, what are you gunna do?” says Queen B.
“I’m going to break that curse wide open and get my hunk of burning love god back that’s what.” Nibbles on the chocolate, “I know how this works.” Follows it up with slug of black, black, black coffee, ahhh, “There’ll be a quest. And three things and in the end we’ll be together.” Psyche shoots Queen B a sewer full of dirty look, “And there will be no demon spawn.”
“Damn. You’re not preggers are you?” says Queen B.
Angel rolls her eyes and hands Psyche another piece of chocolate
Psyche, Queen B and Angel catch the 47 bus to Parnassus. Walk up windy cobbled streets. Streets that became stairs. Stairs that became streets.
“So, what are we doing?” says Queen B, “Cause my feet are killing me. If I’d realized how high the hill was I’d have worn my other combat boots.” Queen B knocks the heel on her left boot back into place, “I mean there are plenty of other gods in the sea.”
“Slimy wet cold gods,” says Psyche, “And I’ve told you like a billion times, we’re going to see his mother.”
“So, why are we here? Not that I don’t love ya and all, but he wasn’t our boy toy. In that right Angel?”
Angel shakes an emphatic no and pink tipped braids dance. Knocks friendly fists with Psyche. Keeps walking up the steep.
“All I ask is that you back me up and stuff.” says Psyche. “Can’t go facing gods without my sisters.”
Queen B accepts this explanation. Keeps climbing. Talking. If there were a Slestak on Buffy, would Xander date it? The Ancient Babes from the Andromeda System are in a battle with the Dead Presidents, who’s the red shirt of tragic love. Cu Cuhulain and Alexander the Great while on their erotic adventures through space and time pay a visit to Richard the Lionhearted. Do they fight? Have an orgy? Or talk poetry? Or all of the above? Basic bored pirated cable t.v. babble.
The cobbled narrow of a lane empties onto a crooked shank of a street. The street leads to a gracious bend of a boulevard. The boulevard tree lined stops at a temple. The Court of Love.
There is a great oaken door set in golden sandstone. Psyche knocks. A priestess with perfect curling black tresses, not hair, tresses, and perfect hanging chiton opens a little door with the mighty door. Looks them over with arched eyes. Smirks, “Who comes for the adjudication of Love’s desiring?”
“Um…us,” says Psyche. “Uh, can we just go in?”
“What would you give to earn soft sweet love’s correction?” says the priestess, gesturing at her heart and then turning her hands palm up to Psyche.
“Uh, I uh would kill a dragon or something and you know take a trophy or something for a gift.” Psyche exchanges a shrugging, how would I know glance with Angel.
“Damn! What are you mental?” says Queen B, “She wants money, not dead animal parts.”
“Oh,” says Psyche, who hands the priestess a fold of paper currency. The priestess smiles, sort of, and gestures for them to enter.
It is not a big hall. City Hall is more massive. This hall makes City Hall seem over large. It is not the most ornate hall in the city. The Temple to Mardu is done entirely in golden marble and gold leaf. This hall makes the Temple to Mardu seem a tawdry cheap strumpet who wears all her jewels at once. It is not the most crowded hall in the city. There were other temples that team and throng with people, pushing and straining to be heard. This hall made all that seem unseemly. Lower. Less.
This hall is restrained. Elegant. Perfect. Not too large. Not too small. There is marble, but that marble is white. Pure There is gold, but only here in the discrete curve of discrete friezes that run the tops of the column rows. There are crowds, but each person it seems is placed to maximum effect. Jeweled ladies and their swains. Troubadours and Troubaritz. Jongleurs with their harps and lutes. The air faint with the scent of trembling roses.
And at the center of it all, She. The Lady of this hall. This Court of Love. Every strand of gilded golden tress. Every fold of perfectly dress. The way she enigmatic smiles. The way her feet in sandals shod seem a gracious blessing for her to wear them such poor lucky strips of leather. Though surely such as they, such as she never touches the ground.
And there is Psyche, who feels like a hag with her air frizzing out and her best black T-shirt and best black jeans and best black (only) combat boots. Too tall. Too plain. All elbows and knees and clumsy.
“Earth to Psych, I think that’s her over there,” says Queen B, pointing at the goddess Aphrodite. Takes a glance around, “Nice place if you like to decorate in frigid.” And deep down laughs.
Psyche grins over at Angel and gives Queen B a quick hug.
“Hey, you’re wrinkling the T-shirt. I’m saving that for one of these extremely lucky hunks of oh baby. Lets get this over with, I’m hungry.”
Angel rolls her eyes and pats her stomach.
So, they walk up the hall. It is not a large hall, but for some reason it seems really long. Listen to Aphrodite as she hears cases presented with poetry and songs. “Can a Lady love her husband?” “Should a Lady of Upper Middle Estate grant her love to a Gentleman of Lower Upper Estate?” “Should be the name of this Lay be the Unfortunate One or the Four Sorrows?” And so and on.
Psyche comes to stand before Aphrodite on her throne. “Um…hey, Your Queen Goddessness.”
A perfect pale brow climbs up perfect smooth, “Yes. What brings a crow to the nightingale’s court?” A soft titter of laughter.
The goddess looks down from her height at Psyche. Looks her over from her toes (Psyche is sure that she could see the hole in her right sock), to her thin, thin face and wild black witches hair.
“I’m uh, am beseachifying to help me with your son, who I uh, yeah, um, yeah, I love,” says Psyche.
“Ah, yes, you. My son’s strumpet of a whore has come begging for love’s mercy. Love is cruel.” Aphrodite smiles a little perfect smile. “My son is the most beautiful of all the gods. Skin as fair as milk. Hair as spun honey on a summer’s day. All the care and beauty that being my son can bestow, I have given him. With love, I created him. Perfection that your love has only marred. Made blind eyes that should only see beauty. Why should assist you in anything? You are nothing but a mangy bitch nosing for scraps. Fouling the reeds till she is whipped from the room.”
Psyche stands frozen. Blood roaring in her ears. Nothing she can deer in headlights unfrozen say.
Fortunately, she doesn’t have to.
“Hey, Bitch. Who are you calling Bitch?”
says Queen B. Scowls at the pretty guards in their shiny armor to keep
their hands the hell off of her. “Way I hear it, you got your pretty perfect
son by screwing Ares in your husband’s bed, where he caught your skanky
ass and then showed it to all the other gods. Way I hear it, you’re the
dog in heat sniffing whatever himbo wants to roll you. Now, you’re going
to listen to my friend or I’m going to come up there and kick your skanky
white ass all the way to Olympus.”
Aphrodite’s lips thin in a way that is, well still beautiful, but not quite perfect. The court of ladies and courtiers flutter and whisper. Everyone is certainly looking now.
Psyche takes a breath; you’re a bitch on wheels, bitch on wheels. “Look you don’t like me and I get that I’m not what you want for your son, but whatever. He’s under a curse and I figure the way these things work, you can tell me how to break it. So, tell me. Whatever it is, I’ll do it.”
Aphrodite taps long white perfect fingers on the arm of her tastefully simple white throne. “You cast me as the wicked mother-in-law. The old woman. Very well. There are rules to these things and even I in my hall, in my temple, in my city, must follow them.” She puts her long white hand to red perfect bow lips that curve just so, “Little faithful dog that yips, to break this curse on Love you must do these things three. First go to my granary in the west and sort the wheat from the chaff that you may make bread for your wedding feast. Then you must go to my fields in the east, where I keep my golden rams with the crooked horns and gather their wool that you might make a dress for your wedding.” The court titters and whitters and shifts as their Queen speaks, “And finally, you must go down into the earth, to hell, to get the box in which the Queen of the Dead keeps her beauty, for I find myself quite tired and wan from worrying over my son and would restore my beauty for your wedding day. Good enough? Or do you need me to tell you how to go to hell.”
“Nah,” says Psyche, “There isn’t a kid that’s lived rough that doesn’t know the way.” She turns to go.
“Oh, and one more thing,” says Aphrodite, “You have until the sun rises on the next day or my son plays the bind fool forever.” Whispers turns to open laughs. “I would not want this to be too easy. After all, love is sacrifice. You may go now.”
“Gee. Thanks your lopsided assyness,” says Queen B. “Come on. Let’s blow.”
Angel indicated damn with an inflection of brows and they follow Queen B as she saunters away. Queen B only pauses three times on the way out to hand her phone number to, “Hello Hotness, you deserve to date some me. Call me.”
Psyche buys her a hamburger with cheese, bacon, and some cool sauce stuff, super sized fries, a really big coke and a deep fried apple pie.
Inana looks at Eros as they stand in the shadows of a tasteful arch in that tasteful hall. “Well, that went well.”
He leans on his willow wood bow. “Knowing my mother, yeah, it did.”
“Think the talky one would be interested in an exciting career in the priestess hood?”
“You can ask. Tomorrow.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. All work and no play makes Inana a cranky goddess.”
The bus chain smokes its way across the city. Past broken tenements and gutted hope. Past soft curbed suburbs. Past fields and trees into the mountains west of the city.
They get off of the bus at the cross roads with a small lonely pilgrim’s cross.
It’s rolling empty hills as far as the eye can see. Shaggy fierce sheep graze on purple stuff. A white and black tiled road leads across the purple. They trudge.
“It’s hot,” says Queen B. “Are we there yet?”
“No, my little smurfling,” says Psyche.
They walk past a pet cemetery, where Bessy the cow lies. She gave milk. A lot.
“I’m thirsty.” whines Queen B. “Are we there yet?”
“Nope,” says Psyche. Angel hands Queen B a water bottle. Queen B wrinkles her lips and takes cautious sip.
They walk past a burnt out mansion, its roof all caved and crushed and broken beams.
“I’m hungry again,” whines Queen B. “Are we there yet?”
“Yup, over there,” says Psyche and there is the granary of the Queen of Love. Red and white and perfect. And full heaping of mixed grain.
“Crap.” says Queen B. “We need more people. Or guns. Or explosives.” And after a moment, “Shouldn’t the grain be in grain silos or something?” Angel and Psyche look at her. “What I can’t have depths?”
Angel shakes her head and glares at the granary. The mounds don’t disappear.
An old woman, with wide hips and depth of chest and a little gap between her two front teeth, gets up from a chair by the granary door. “Hello. I am a simple elderly goose herder woman person. What would be your problem?”
“So, where are your geese?” says Queen B.
“Oh, they are resting. Yes. Resting.” The old woman shoos off a young man that appears and tries to hand her a frosted drink with an umbrella. “Yes, so, what brings you out to such a remote place?”
“I have to sort this grain.” Psyche walks up to granary door. Vast and perfect and really vast. Dim shafts of light dimming the interior. “There’s got to be a trick to it.”
“I imagine that there is. Why I bet you already have what you need. Something that you love. And you know what they say if you love something…” says the old woman. The wart on her right cheek falls off and onto her dress. The old woman ignores it. Her wrinkles look like they are painted on. And her butt is lumpy, like she’s got a pillow back there.
“What are you talking about?” says Queen B.
The old woman reaches into a pocket and hands Queen B a business card with an address, “Call me. Great hours. Benefits. Full Medical and Dental. Orgies.” The old woman calls back to Psyche, “Good luck with the grain. I’m going to tend to my goats now. Bye.” The old woman mimes making a phone call to Queen B and disappears around the building.
“Okay that was weird,” says Queen B.
“Mysterious assistant. Probably a god or something. What do you think she meant?” says Psyche.
“No freaking clue.” says Queen B who eyes the card with a new, orgies huh?
Angel shakes her head and looks rather sorrowfully at the grain. Pulls out a little metal flask and hands it to Queen B. “All right,” says Queen B. “Now we’re cookin with ethanol.”
Psyche walks back into the granary. Takes a breath rich with must. Glances down at three months savings on her right arm. “If I let you go, you’ll come back right?” She says, murmurs, wonders, breaths, sighs, lets go. And the room is filled with tropical wings. Feelers cloud her face and hair and swarm the room. Shifting color in the dim light. Millions of wings flash and flit and are gone.
Leaving behind two piles of grain and chaff neatly stacked.
Psyche sighs, “I guess you were never really mine.” And goes out to collect her friends. One down, two more to go.
The tiny little electric train pulls away from the city center. Rattles down tracks and sparks chugs. Stops at every tiny station width in the road. Climbs past apartments strung with laundry and estates ringed with fences. Up into the hills that fold the city to the east.
They get off at the little train. Angel and Queen B buy beer and candy from vending machines, before catching an even smaller connection with wooden benches and real glass windows.
Angel and Queen B write their names on the glass. The train crawls out into the hills. They get off at a remote enough spot. Walk up a yellow brick path into the darkly woods. They come to a moon shadow bridge curved red over a white rushing gorge. On the far side, golden flocked sheep with crooked black horns graze on short cropped grass.
“Well, this’ll be easy,” days Queen B.
Angel white rolls eyes and snorts.
There is an old man fishing on the bridge with a willow rod.
“Hey, old dude. Give us your cryptic message,” days Queen B. Psyche elbows her. “What?” says Queen B.
He turns. There is a filthy bandage wrapped round his eyes. He is dressed in layers of grey rags. Coarse grainy skin limned with dirt. He smiles sweetly. “Shhh, you’ll scare the fish.”
Angel starts to walk past him across the bridge.
“I wouldn’t go over there if I were you,” he says.
“Why not?” says Psyche. “I need to gather wool from the sheep.”
“It’s hot and the sheep are hot and they are not happy sheep,” says the old man, who creaks bones. “Unhappy sheep with crooked horns. They’d gore such pretty voiced young things in a moment.”
“So, how do I get the wool?” says Psyche, but she already knows. “This will hurt won’t it?”
“I’m afraid so,” he says.
“Well, let’s get on it.” Psyche walks up to him. Holds out her left arm. He reaches out liver flecked hands, crooked, bent. Butterfly touches skitter up her arm. Old claw fingers grab the barbed wire on her arm and rip wrench it away. There’s blood on his hands where the barbs bite him. There’s blood on her arm where the barbs once gripped.
Angel kind of jumps back and looks askance, perturbed and discombobulated.
“Well, that’s really disturbing,” says Queen B.
Psyche bends down and kisses the old man softly on weathered lips. Crosses the bridge. Skirts the place where the sheep graze. They crisscross the barbed wire between bushes above the rutted sheep path that trails down to the stream and they wait.
As the day grows hot and hot, the sheep walk down to the water to drink. Snag wool on long crooked barbed wires. Walk back to graze.
The women gather their wool and wait and gather and head back to the court of Love to drop off three bags full.
And then it’s night and dark and wet and the streets are slick and swish as the cars go by.
And for this, Psyche must go alone.
She puts a baseball cap on her head. She hangs an ankh around her neck. She puts on a black t-shirt of smiling death. She covers her legs with faded soft jeans. She paints an eye of Horus round her left eye. Paints her lips black. Her skin white. She puts black leather thick boots on her feet. She puts on a leather belt with a butterfly buckle. She places a red flashing ring on her right ring finger.
Psyche walks alone in the misting damp of night to the house of the dragon. Psyche pounds on the door to be let in. An old man, blind in one eye meets her. He takes her shoes and her socks and lets her through the door. She walks down the cold white granite hall full harsh with light. Cold stone leaching the warmth from Psyche’s bare feet till she comes to a door green as fern.
Pounds on the door to be let in. An old woman with no teeth meets her, clucks her tongue and takes Psyche’s silver plated ankh and lets her in. She walks down smooth polished ebony halls, dark, strange shapes peering from puddled light. Ebony smooth and hard beneath her feet till she comes to a door red as dying light.
Pounds on the door to be let in. A child of ten meets her and gives her a cloth to wash her face. She washes her face and goes through the door. Walks down the pine and rice paper hall. Smells ink and ginger. Sees violent curves of black and gold and art on the walls. Feels the rough scratch of paper till she comes to a door blue as eye.
Pounds on the door to be let in. A young woman, her breasts just starting to bud, meets her at the door. Takes her belt with the butterfly buckle and lets her in. Walks down green glass tiles. Slap. Slap. Slap on the floor. Till she comes to a glass door glazed white as sugar glaze.
Pounds on the door to be let in. A young man, his beard just started to grow meets her. She didn’t want to, but she knew that she’d come too far to quit, so she gives him her shirt with smiling death and her jeans and walks naked down the hall. Shivers in the cold fingerings of draft and yawning barred windows. Till she comes to an iron gate black as empty.
Pound on the door to be let in. A dragon meets her at the door. Take her ring. Coil around her cold naked body, shivering in the air. Wrap black and green around her, but she still so cold. Look at her with red glow eyes and take her skinny hips in its mouth, tender as a lover, bite her with its sharp white teeth. Support her shivering as she fall. Down. Down. Rainbows in her veins. Glowing angels drown. Burn.
Something on her eyes and skin and face. She opens her eyes. She is in a meadow. Green lush grass. And she is covered in tropical butterflies. Like a fluttering flood. Skipping from flower to flower. Daisies twisting their faces to the light. The light. No sun, just swirling mist and sky.
She isn’t alone. There is someone in the meadow. A woman with wheat colored hair braided in tight cornrows and decorated with gold colored beads. The woman smiles. “Hello.”
Psyche feels the hello in her skin. Soft and furry. “Hey. Ummm…I’m looking for the city of Dis.”
“Why? It’s so pretty here.” The woman runs a daisy across her cheek. It leaves a trail of golden.
“Umm…I have to get the goddess of Death’s beauty box. So, I can lift the gaeis on my boyfriend and I can get him back. Which would sound stupid under other circumstances.” Psyche flushes, flushing, blushing, still naked, exposed.
“He’s blind you know.” A butterfly lands on the woman’s hair and takes place as a red ornament on gold wire.
“Who?” Psyche feels like she shouldn’t have stood up.
All the world is in the woman’s spring eyes. “Your lover.”
“I don’t care.” Psyche feels like she should put her hands somewhere. Not sure where.
“Foolish too.” The butterfly climbs down to the woman’s ear.
“Still not caring. Look do you want to tell me how to get to Dis or not? I don’t have a lot of time here.” Psyche so wants to sit in that field.
“On the contrary. You have all the time in the world.” The woman smiles so much and more. She smiles a lot and like she means it. The smile is there in every bit of her.
And focus, and focus, “Uh, no.”
“You’re dead.” The woman laughs, it should be silvery and bells, but it’s the rush of earth. “Can’t you feel it? Now here. Let’s make you a daisy crown and you’ll feel better.”
Psyche sits down. “It wasn’t supposed to end like this.”
“How was it supposed to end?” The woman hands her a pile of daisies.
“Well, not like this. Dead. I was supposed to get the box and get the guy back. You know, like a hero in a story. Only with more sex. This sucks in every way possible.” Psyche takes a daisy and bits its head off. It tastes bitter and she spits it out.
The woman laughs. “I like you. You’re funny.”
Psyche tries to tie two daisies together. “Great. Happy to please. So, who are you? Or is your name a secret too.”
“Oh, I’m Kore today. Tomorrow I’ll be Persephone and lie in the grasses with my love. After that, I’ll be Hecate and as your future aunt/cousin, I can be of more use.”
“Ooohkay.” Psyche ponders the use of nod and back away slowly when you’re dead.
Kore smiles. “Don’t worry. It’ll all work out. Like in the stories.”
They braid daisy chains and Psyche lies in green grass for the first time in her life. Not a park or a tiny strip of green get off the grass. An honest to goddess meadow.
After a time, the whitest man that Psyche has ever seen comes out of the glade. White in a dead sort of way, not in a I got no soul way. Because look in his eyes, loads of soul. The kind that knew what you’d done and why. And tall. And broad. And deep. His face cracks into a smile at Kore.
No, Persephone, who laughs deep down happy. Skips to the man and reaches up to kiss him. Stands on toes as he bends down and down. She kicks one tiny shapely foot, her ankle bracelet jingles as they kiss and kiss. Pause for breath, “You know what I learned today?” Persephone says.
“What?” His voice is the crack of deep down. Psyche just can’t look away. They so very are.
“I learned that it is impossible for wives to love their husbands.” She traces a finger down his chest.
“Really.” He kisses her nose. “Tragic”
“Yes. Good thing we’re Greeks.” And she smiles and takes his hand, waves at Psyche and tows her lover off to see some flower, grass, sky mist, love.
Psyche lies back in the grass and leaves them alone. Dances with butterflies. Makes daisy chains. It was really easy once you got the knack.
After a time, Persephone returns. No Hecate. Dressed in black and silver and power. Her face still and cold. Beauty put aside. “Ready.”
“Ready for what? I’m dead.”
“Oh, that was that life. Now you’re not quite dead, but dreaming.” Hecate holds out a black box. “Anyway, here’s my beauty in a box. But first, you can’t just come back from the dead you know.”
“Sure.” Psyche take the box.
Hecate leans forward. Her breath brushes Psyche’s ear, soft whisper, “Dream of flying.”
And Psyche does. She dreams of stained glass butterfly wings. Red and green and blue and gold and light that carry her up and up and up. Past the empty and glaze and eye and dying light and fern and door. Doesn’t bother with clothes. Dresses in light and the curve of lucent soul. Fly on. Fly on. Rub butterfly beauty into her cheeks. Fly on.
Over the city. Up high to the divided hills. But as she comes to that final bend, where Aphrodite rules, Psyche grows worried. She isn’t beautiful. Flat chested. Boy hipped. Not like Inana. Not like Aphrodite. Not like Kore/Persephone/Hecate. Maybe she should open the box a bit. Get a bit of more than butterfly dust, so Eros would see her and love her. It’s not good to love someone so much prettier than yourself.
So, she opens the box. Knowing she shouldn’t. It’s a death god’s beauty. A really nice death god. Goddess. She wouldn't mind. Why not. And Aphrodite, oh she'd definitely mind. Well, then. Just open the box a little. Opens the black shiny lacquered lid slight and swirling dark rushes out into her, filling her with, well it’s not beauty. Something, hey! Tumbling. Stumbling. Careening.
Bright and shining and light in the rising sun. “They always open the box.” He smiling says as hover they midst air. Clean and clear and high. Birds sail beneath them as the cities muscles move to ready for a new day.
“Hey,” she says, as eyes tangle, trangle, divine. She whispers, “Let Psyches corps be clad in mourning weed, and set on rock of yonder hill aloft:
“Hey,” he says as wings beat in double time and answers, “Her husband is no wight of humane seed, but Serpent dire and fierce as might be thought.”
Wheeling cherubim spin, she pulls her lover east towards some last twinkling stars night. “Who flies with wings above in starry skies, and doth subdue each thing with firey flight.”
He is pulled, pulls, playing in the sky, “The gods themselves, and powers that seem so wise, with mighty Jove, be subject to his might,” Pauses a bit, “her might?”
She shrugs perhaps, “The rivers black, and deadly floods of pain, and darkness eke, as thrall to him remain." They fly and spin and, “Well, that was fun. So, is the curse lifted?” she asks.
“Close enough.” he says.
“Cool.” And “So how do you feel about a temple on a mountain top? We have wings. We can commute.”
He laughs. She laughs. And they drift to
blade thin glass green mountain top where they daisy nectar sip. Find a
pale of stucco temple to lie in grasses caress and linger in that place
where love sometimes likes to dwell.