You have beckoned me to your throne, for Oizys called upon you -- though I should not have allowed her to do so. Please refrain from retrieving Aphrodite’s scales. I ask only to sit on that oak stump within the gates of your mountain sanctuary -- where gardens of sleeping hyacinth meet the trail, and silver bees in their hives dream of purple and rose -- so that I can share my case of love, unrequited.
Who is this warrior sleeping near my stump? Is he a God? For, as with you, the reposed soldier is too magnificent to look upon but a brief glance of the eye. But, I think I know who he is, for his lyre is set by his side and his laurels have slipped from his head. He is Apollo, and he is not sleeping -- only lost in his memories. His tears seed your sanctuary with hyacinth, and he draws his fingers along your clay in unrecognizable symbols.
Shall I stay, Anteros? I will not take too much of your time.
I am an old man in spirit, though I am much younger by age. I do not know what face greets you, but I was once a handsome man. My trade is the sea; and the sea ages men quicker than those of the land. Yet, if I may be so bold, will you permit me to think my face is still desirable and pleasant?
I feed the agoras of mortals. I catch sardine and, if the land dweller wishes, octopus and larger fish, too. When I cast my net in the midnight hours, I do so alone, unless I have the rare chance of spending it in good company. I am often lonely, as you are aware. So, I give sacrifice to Poseidon and give fair sacrifice to you.
As I cast and draw my net into the shoals, I can often see the torches along the trail that leads mortals and Gods to your sanctuary. It winds and rises and disappears behind shadowed valleys, and I have gazed upon it for so many years that I can see its path with my eyes closed. I never thought that I would take to this very path, until my heart was stolen by ---. I must not mention his name. You, no doubt, know him, for he is the one I have accused of squandering. I am sure Oizys has revealed all to you.
Yet, Anteros...before you weigh his worth, hear me out.
It is true that Eros had found me some months ago, though Pheme sent rumor that Eros regretted his careless sting. I had taken my fish to the agora, collected my due, and I hurried to get back to the shore where I have more solid footing on the sea than I do the land. One of the many sons of Petraeus, the Elder, whom I still cannot say his name; he admitted many days later that he had been following me that particular morning and had done so several times prior when I sold my catches. He had boarded my vessel, and he waited for me in my tent.
Bold. Handsome. Smiling. His shoulders broad like Atlas’s. He was thoughtful, and his promises fulfilled in the hours of our binding. I had never been so blessed! Many nights I stayed in the port awaiting his nightly arrival, failing my duty to agora and depleting my trust in Poseidon for fear that I might miss my new love’s visitations -- or that I might drown in a gale.
I happily -- and greedily -- traded Poseidon’s salt for this man’s sea. Never had I been so intoxicated!
And, most pleasantly, my new love faithfully committed his passion and, when he could not make some nights, confirmed those miserable absences so that I would not fear the worst. Yet, he warned me; never could I search and find him; never could I visit his home.
I agreed. I understood. As you must know, however committed he was to me, my man adored his wife and his children and he would never stray from his duties to them.
So, now you ask me, Anteros, what was I to him? May I have a moment to give this some thought?
I was a ghost that came to life with his beckoning. I was the sea that he could traverse without fear of drowning. I was an isle he could escape to under the veil of night. I was the man he could never have in his own bed, yet the man he could always discover in mine. Until….
He ceased to come to my vessel. He no longer sought my company. Without warning. Without cause. I feared he had drowned at the docks. I called out for him between the other vessels and over the rocks and among the drunken men and their women who gathered near the shore. I waited another close of day. He came no more.
I had to find him!
I went to the agora and asked the villagers where he lived. Some knew him -- and they did not find him a fair man of business -- yet told me where I might find his home. I lost my way wandering the unfamiliar streets, having not walked those streets since I was a child. I found his residence, and...confirmed his family. He, a wealthy merchant; yet. they did not know his business affairs; and sweetly, they asked if I wished to wait for his return. I did not take the offer.
I was furious that he still lived!
I gave his youngest child with the most familiar eyes a coin and asked him to make sacrifice to you. He said that he would do so, and I hope you received it well. Yet, I swore to never set foot on land again beyond the length of port-to-agora. And, I swore I would someday seek your vengeance.
I hated Nyx and her false promises with each death of light. I seethed in my hatred, too; swore at the paucity of my net and its frequent shredding upon the rocks -- and I cursed the sea nymphs for their cruel jokes. Some nights ago, I prayed to Poseidon to capsize my lover’s vessel -- for I was sure he still visited the port for a richer one than mine. I feared to rest, for Oizys might haunt my sleep. And, this evening, when I thought to plummet into the depths where the nymphs circled my tired vessel and stole what little bounty I could catch, Pasithea wrapped her arms about my waste and begged me to seek my warm tent -- to leave my net frayed -- and escape the shivering rain and the gnashing teeth of nymphs about my vessel.
I did as she asked. Pasithea guided me into my bed where I agreed to take to the arms of Morpheus. Yet, as usual, Hypnos had yet to visit, for Poseidon still roamed too close and stirred the sea in his wake. And, as I feared, Oizys -- who searches for company when Hypnos fails to visit -- crashed onto my vessel and spilled into my tent -- and took to lie by my side. She shared my pillow, as she often does, and I heard her retelling the stories my lover and I once shared. Shen then sent me wandering -- and alone did she have me go -- through a labyrinth of what if and if only and what could have been.
Despite my attempts to rid her, Oizys remained in my bed and demanded me to look out my tent--for the evening sky will clear, she claimed-- and she was certain my plea will have finally been heard by you.
Did you compel Selene to breach my tent then? For, it came unlatched. Did you have her cast her luminous net over my naked body and expose my loneliness? Did you then beckon me from my small and fruitless vessel to seek your justice in this affair?
I returned to port. I crossed the village where the fire smoke thinned in the late hour, and I took to the olive-ladened hills where your trail begins and, for the first time in my life, set foot onto a mountain’s spine. As the trail wound about the perimeter, each step a painful pull in my legs, I looked out over the village and onto the port where I could see my poor vessel tucked between far larger and richer vessels. Though I could never know, I was certain one of those vessels held my former lover and, soon, would receive his ballast of lies. I spat over the edge -- and I hurried up the trail to seek your justice!
Yet, where the trail stabbed into the mountain and the torches were nearly extinguished by shadows, I heard the thunder of water some steps ahead that gave me pause. I saw a young woman -- her skin pale, her eyes dripping blue, and her white robe yellowed and covered in mud. She hid like a frightened child behind cut stones Hephaestus had left abandoned from some nearby quarry. I asked the poor woman if she was lost.
She then repeated what I had asked her.
I knew the woman was actually a nymph; she was Echo, and she was addled in mourning. She came no closer to me, and I knew she would never leave the river, for it was her prison as well as her sanctuary. Suffice to say, Anteros; I passed Echo on my way to your throne and crossed two rivers – the one that is fed by the narrow meadows of your sanctuary, and the other that drains poor Echo of hers. For, she wept as Narcissus’s skeleton had long ago collapsed into a pile of white stone at the river’s bank, though she could never be free of him.
I left her hiding behind the refuse of old empires as I returned to your trail. I could hear her sobs grow weaker as she searched the riled waters for her Narcissus, and as I raced to your meadows to seek the punishment of my neglectful lover.
I found the rope bridge crossing Hephaestus’s quarries. The ropes were old and I questioned their strength, yet I could see your sanctuary clearly lit inside the meadow breach, and I urged myself to continue. As I neared the end of the bridge, I heard a terrible thunder to my right where a great cloud illuminated with dancing silver and gold stars cut a path through the pines and scraggly oaks, breaking limbs and pulling up their roots as it set aim towards me. The bridge now swung to and fro, and I clung to its ties and prayed for the thing to leave me be -- though the thundercloud now lingered above me.
I saw a most unforgivable thing! A young man -- a boy? with golden hair looked down at me while clutched in the talons of a giant bird. The golden-haired boy-- his face so beautiful as to render anyone ugly -- had the look of tired melancholy as his captor flapped its wings to keep them afloat above me -- to show me its prized possession? The beautiful, sad boy reached down to me, as if to touch me or allow me to rescue him, but the bird then took off to the west where a waterfall could be heard, though not seen. Wearily, I continued on to the meadows, saddened and disgusted to have witnessed the abduction of Ganymede.
And here I sit in your gardens seeking something that I did not first come to seek. Because of your kindness, you have offered to bathe me with your pity. Yet, Anteros; I would rather you hear my heart.
As had the Spartans deduced, the love between men can be commemorated in its devotion and sincerity, by its legends and anecdotes-- or, as in my case, on in the moments before it must end. I have discovered passion within the arms of treasured men wearing strange jewels and ornate metals of their faraway lands -- only to be stolen of my meager possessions or left adrift in foreign harbors. I have collapsed my tired head on many a layered chest -- only to be awakened by that beating drum against my ear and its inevitable spell to depart by Hybris, or by Dionysus’s libations, or by the war trumpets of Ares. I have been carried on waves stirred by men as they were rising to their greatness or were plummeting to their infamy -- only to grant yet another man his ceremony or commiseration.
I realize more than ever, for Epimetheus must have followed me on the trail, that love is of many forms and colors...several magnitudes of dedication and layers of beauty -- if forever in legend it lives, or hideously unfair in it’s resolutions. The love that I need is neither Echo’s lonely worship of Narcissus, nor Zeus’s want and pillage of Ganymede. The love that I need is neither a binding resolution in another man's heart, nor is it Apollo’s sad longing and culpability.
I need only a love that cares to visit my small vessel and places me in the hands of Caerus.
I offer a bargain -- if a mortal could ever do. Please set your club back onto its mantle and dissolve this court. I ask that you allow Poseidon to determine judgement of men like me.
Set my lover free. Let Eros find him however He must do. I must allow the same. What love I am blessed or love I am cursed; whomever Eros has stricken or Tyche has set adrift by whim; whatever meager moments the Horae have arranged; whatever arrives with Gaea’s roaming fish -- such love may never return to me, though a new love may fill its void.
I ask you to please refrain from avenging love lost at sea.
As Helios and his steeds arrive -- the colors of land are strange and plentiful! I kneel among your waking hyacinth as your humming silver bees now search purple and rose; where Apollo has ceased drawing in your clay and has fixed his laurel straight. Poseidon beckons me!
I pray to you, Anteros:
Grant me a vessel. Grant me the wind’s chill. Grant me Oizys -- for she knows me well.
Grant Nyx to greet me at the close of day. Grant me Oceanus who will never drain.
Grant me netting to cast the depths of men. Grant me Eros -- or torn netting to mend.