Inquietação

Inquietação – The restlessness of young love.

 

The sweet-savory of your breath
Encrusts in the juices soaking my beard’s coffee coarse strands.

Each bite elicits a sensation hot enough to warm two bodies,
But once you taste the blood of my fruit, you bite hard and deep.

 

Photo by Brody Vissers

Animal Mother

 

You are there and not there, around when I need you most—
More than you’ve needed me— slumbering sweet on my rug,
Next to my feet, and under my heart.

Image Credit

Dog Paws [Photograph]. Dan Gold. Accessed on 03/09/2018

Largo

 

It pains me denying you of unpredictable whims,
childlike cravings for unrepeated joys; gouging a rib
From my side to murder my younger brother,
Exposing what’s left of a body you’ve claimed as your own,

Photo Credit

Wu, Samuel. Apple Polisher. Los Angeles, 1947.

My Heart Will Lead Me There

The seas are like four tightly wound lyre strings that stretch from one end of Greece to the other; over and under each of the islands. Anything that happens within it, resonates in the winds and reverberates in the waves, and becomes the domain of all its dwellers; divine or mortal. Things sometimes get misplaced in the sea, but they are never lost. Those things that are sought but not retrieved don’t want to be found.

Poseidon is a god of order and balance, one who enumerates the droplets of water that fall from the sky into the sea, and those that leave it when waves crash into the sand. Seemingly infinite, the sea has a beginning and an end, a length that only Poseidon knows. He loves the sea, including the time before he was its husband and master. It is this love that fueled his thirst to conquer it, and wield its power. It is his strength, and because he loves it so, his weakness. In his benevolence, Poseidon allows creatures known and unknown, seen and unseen, dreamed of and never imagined to dwell at all levels of his domain’s infinite depths. There are regions of the sea that Poseidon himself has seen but once. Even so, he feels its entirety as humans feel the entirety of their face. It pains him when foreign objects enter it, or when its natives are fished out. It smiles upon those who render sacrifice to its lord and master, and grows angry with those who reap, but do not sow respect within his blue heart.

All creatures that live in the sea or from it are seen by the Sea Father as sheep of his flock. Under his strict rule, every creature has a purpose, and a duty. For some it is to serve as food for his devout followers, and for others, like his beautiful siren daughters Evalotha and Goithea, it is to inspire love in the hearts of lovers from the island of Corfu, off the Ionian Sea.

Lord Poseidon took special interest in this island after he had taken one of his wives there, the beautiful Cercyra, daughter of the river-god Asopos and the river-nymph Metope. She begat Poseidon a son named Phaeax, the father of the Phoenicians, who were a seafaring people, skilled in ship-building.

Evalotha and Goithea were born from a battle between a hunter, descendant of Phaeax, and Poseidon in the shape of a ram, who was grazing in a field in Corfu, waiting to kidnap a maiden feeding her flock. Her husband spotted the strange ram, muscular and robust, its horns thick and calcified with sea shells. The maiden whom Poseidon was trying to seduce was deathly afraid of coming out of the house, and pleaded to her husband to put an end to it by placing an arrow in between the beast’s rib cage. He aimed the arrow a few inches before the anterior legs; straight for the rogue beast’s heart.

As Poseidon chewed the cud, he was surprised with a sharp pain in his side. Luckily, the arrow only struck the bone. He bucked and bleated, running around in circles, head-butting and goring all of the sheep in his wake. Poseidon broke for the bluffs overseeing the sea as the man ran out of his house, shooting arrows, barely missing the wounded deity. Right as the ram jumped into the clear, the man landed another arrow on it, this time directly in his heart. As soon as the ram’s body plunged itself into the sea— the two wounds effervesced dark green, with flecks of bright red— the blood rushing out of him foamed into the likeness of Evalotha from the heart wound, and Goithea from the rib wound.

As the man looked over the cliff to make sure that the beast was dead, a tidal wave shoved him back, nearly knocking him unconscious. A colossal Poseidon arose from the waves, trident in hand. A terrible storm had developed behind him. The skies grew grey, making it difficult for the man to keep his eyes open because of the harsh rainfall slapping his face. The king of Atlantis wanted to wreak his wrath on the man, but held back due to the man’s insistence and bravery to face the god, even as he presented himself in his divine self. The man grew mute and dumb in astonishment, but garnered the small amount of strength he had left in his body, and crawled to his knees, burying his face in his hands. Poseidon took mercy upon him, and blessed him for having fought with a god and not shuttered in fear. He made a pact with him that if the man gave him all of his children and his children’s children as a sacrifice of servitude, then he would not only let him live, but prosper the island of Corfu and all of its inhabitants with plentiful food, and fair seas to travel, so long as he was their lord and master. The man accepted, and Poseidon presented the island with the gifts of his beautiful daughters Evalotha, vulnerability, and Goithea, charm, because Lord Poseidon found charm in this man during his moment of vulnerability.

****

To human ears, the rhythmic strums and arpeggios of Evalotha’s lyre and serpentine melodies of Goithea’s double flute sounded as birdsong, wind rustling leaves, and sea foam fizzing and tickling their toes, burying slightly in the warm, wet sand. When lovers wanted to make love, Evalotha and her sister played louder yet to create a sea fog that afforded the lovers some privacy. The sirens always sung beautiful songs that were new, and never repeated themselves, creating new scales and chords as they played. Sounds that Zeus himself couldn’t produce let alone memorize. Evalotha was taught to play the lyre by her cousin Apollo, whose home she needed to visit, leaving the Atlantean splendor, and ascend to the heavens to receive her lessons. Her sister Goithea, on the other hand, received impromptu double flute lessons from Pan. She had grown so close to her master that she even aided the god of the wild in playing pranks on people and gods, and luring maidens, including his beloved Syrinx. She too had to venture deep into the woods, and find her teacher, which was nothing short of hunting wild game.

“It’s not as though we live in the Underworld,” Poseidon would say indignantly after both Apollo and Pan refused to visit his underwater kingdom to teach his daughters music. “Those Olympians and land-dwellers always want everyone to visit them.”

At first, their songs were so beautiful that they brought most to tears as they expressed the completeness and interminable pleasures of divine love. They arose in their listeners a sense of melancholy, and mourning lost love. Because Poseidon needed their music to inspire love rather than prevent or startle it away, he had the sisters learn how to sing about love, but not just any type of love, human love, with its rawness, and animalistic power. How human passion could drive humans to forgo the well-being of their bodies, impair sound decision-making, and even die for love. Evalotha and Goithea didn’t understand it because they had never and would never feel that way. They each craved the knowledge and secrets of human attraction to do their job to the best of their abilities, but it was Evalotha who truly wanted to feel that emotion similar to how humans craved to be gods. Although she was ancient, and had indulged in the pleasures of sexual love— mainly with other sirens, nymphs, and gods— she wanted to feel the full range of human emotion, as a human with a human body.

“By the gods, these humans have a smaller array of emotions than fish,” Goithea used to joke. “Love, hate, sex, jealousy, joy, blah, blah, blah, over and over.”

Evalotha agreed with her sister, but even so, she saw the amount of passion with which a human heart was able to love. A heart so intense that it was willing to hurt itself, mimicking disease, pestilence, and feelings that could keep them in bed for days, weeks, and months.

“I think it is very noble how these creatures seek one another, court, and more than anything, attempt to reach the divinity of Olympus through their withering organs,” Evalotha said. “I mean, every single thing that they do, whether it is work or leisure, is done with one thing in mind: sexual pleasure. It has to make you wonder what it would be like to feel what they feel.” Evalotha sighed.

“Nope. Never,” Goithea said. “Stop thinking about things that will never happen, pick up your lyre, and follow me to the shore. I think I see two flounders about to express that fish sex you claim to want to partake in so much.”

Evalotha picked up her lyre and followed her sister down shore, near the shallow part of the beach. Unlike Goithea, Evalotha was so talented that she didn’t need her sister to play the double flute with her, as the prior needed Evalotha to play the lyre. She was the only siren who could play the lyre while also the double flute and sing, harnessing the energy of the sea surrounding her and the energy within herself.

The island of Corfu was known for having the best sailors in all of Greece. Strong men who lived out at sea for most of the year, men who painted the hull of their ships in their own blood. But more importantly, honorable men who always rendered sacrifice to the god who gave them so much prosperity, Poseidon. This was why he gave his daughters Evalotha and Goithea the task of playing romance-inducing melodies to young lovers on that island. He wanted to make sure that these people kept their promise of procreating men and women who would do his bidding: on his island, the sea, and when the time came, on the battlefield. The twin sisters had been doing so for thousands of years, carefully watching the subtle signs of how two strangers first met: first struck with curiosity, followed by bearing of the soul through prolonged ocular flirtation, and finally allowing the charm effervescing within each of their beings to completely consume their inhibitions. Once this newly formed, yet delicate union took place, it was the twins’ duty to follow their every step any time they were alone, together. As part of their job, they played the lyre and the double flute, and sung melodies of erotic love. Songs whose melodies vibrated not in the sirens’ vocal cords, and out of their mouths, but rather, ones that reverberated out of their whole being, resonating in the man’s head, making his legs weak, and in the woman’s eyes and the pit of her stomach.

Evalotha’s voice was the most beautiful of any siren, and her sister’s was only good enough to sing harmony to hers. Though their melodies were beautiful, if sung to a lone lover, they could be catastrophic, as not having a lover with whom to express such heightened feelings of love and sensual desire could drive any human mad, and induce in them inexhaustible feelings of depression and suicide. In fact, this was one of the many rules their father Poseidon had given them upon first placing them in charge of this noble cause. Another was for them to never fall in love themselves; especially not with the men or women of Corfu. The dwellers of this island were the descendants of the man who withstood their father’s wrath; so strong-willed that if they came in contact with divine blood, they would surely become demi-gods, or maybe, something worse. They could potentially dethrone Poseidon as he had the gods Achelous and Oceanus, the former rulers of Atlantis.

And thus, the sisters would follow the sun to its watery grave every twilight, and rise reborn again with it every dawn, in order to be awake and ready for the formation of new love in the hearts of Corfu. Just as the twins emerged from the foamy waves onto the shallow waters of the pristine beach, Goithea spotted a couple in the midst of love-making. Evalotha took a deep breath and sighed as she plucked her lyre. Their playing calmed the morning waves crashing on and around the lovers, making their temperature more agreeable to human skin.

“What’s wrong?” Goithea asked as her aura continued to harmonize with her sister’s singing. “Are you alright?”

Evalotha continued to play contemplatively, singing a melody that was beautiful and romantic, but one that was beginning to make the man’s desires wane a bit. Evalotha shed a single tear. The man’s moaning turned from pleasurable to labored and uncomfortable.

“Don’t worry, sister,” Goithea swam closer. “It’s not your fault. I bet he had too much to drink before he brought her here. Poor woman.” The man dismounted the woman who then pulled her robe to cover nakedness, confused as to why the man had stopped. The woman was tugging furiously at the man, attempting to spring vitality back into him, but nothing came of it.

“No, it is my fault,” Evalotha finally said. “I just don’t see the point in continuing to partake in an act whose joys we will never fully understand. I mean, if it wasn’t for us, most of these people wouldn’t even be here starting new romances, and eventually new families and living short, but fulfilling lives.”

Goithea floated quietly, noticing that the two lovers had left the beach with their passion ruined, not by wine, but by the twins whose job it was to make it a reality.

“Well, at least you won’t have to worry about those two,” Goithea said, stroking Evalotha’s long, auburn curls. “They’re done. Did you see how hard she was trying? She nearly ripped his head off.” As Goithea swam on her back laughing under the spell of her own wit and charm, Evalotha slammed her lyre on the water.

“See, that’s what I mean,” Evalotha said. “Why should people that don’t even deserve one chance at love be given one over and over, and father doesn’t give us the option to even dream of what it would be like to love.” She picked up her instrument, and placed between her arm and breast. “I just think that beings that feel love in their hearts should be able to express it with whomever they want, in whatever form they want. Love is love whether you’re a god or human.”

“Ah, my god. Why?” a voice wailed in the distance.

The sisters’ conversation was interrupted by the most discordant, awful singing either of them had ever heard. As the sisters combed the seas, they heard the woeful sound coming from one of the ships docked by the shore. They checked each one of them but found nothing. They soon realized that the sound was emanating from a shelled out, shipwreck near an abandoned port. The wooden hull was splintered, buried deep in the sand, like a partially dipped clam shell poking out; a tombstone for the heartbroken and desolate. They had seen it before and had even been inside of it a few times because it was used by young lovers as a hiding place in which to express their carnal desires for one another. The sounds that usually came from it were those of anticipation, agitation, and premature ejaculation.

As the sisters approached the ship’s damaged hull, they gripped their instruments tight, which sometimes doubled as weapons whenever they found themselves in trouble. They knew that it was most likely a man or woman in pain, but at the same time, they knew that it could possibly be a cacodemon, or even a mischievous god waiting to strike. Before they rounded the ship to see who was really making that tormented sound, they looked at each other one last time, braced themselves, and submerged their whole bodies under water as to not make a sound.

From beneath, they could see very little in the cavernous darkness of the hollowed out hull, just two feet dipped in the water. Men’s feet. They were weathered, splintered and sunburned from having spent long days on a ship’s deck. They saw that the inconsolable cries were coming from a strong, burly man; one whom you would think would never cry. His face was buried in his hands, muffling his whimpers. His exposed back, tanned bronze by Helios’s glory, rippled as he struggled to breathe. The twins instantly knew that this man was a sailor, one of Poseidon’s men and, as such, needed to keep their distance from him. As Goithea swam away from the ship, she noticed her sister wasn’t following her.

“Evalotha, come on, let’s go,” Goithea whispered as to not startle the weeping man. To him, the sisters’ conversation sounded like sea bubbles gargling on the surface of the water. Nothing out of the ordinary. But given that he was so submerged in his sorrow, drowning in his own tears, Zeus himself could’ve appeared and he would have gone unperceived.

Evalotha continued to stare at the man, reaching her hand up toward the dividing crystalline wall that was the sea surface.

“Don’t you dare,” Goithea yelled. “He is alone. We are prohibited from playing music, let alone talk or touch lonely men. We are under strict orders only to play, and sing to lovers. Lovers who will consummate, and bring wealth to Poseidon’s army of men.”

“Quiet,” Evalotha finally broke her silenced reverie. “I just want to look at him.” She continued to swin ever so close to him; within arm’s reach of his thick, hairy toes. “I’ve seen many men before. Even caused a few of them to desire me more than any man should desire anyone, even a god. But this man. This man is different.”

Goithea swam agitatedly, back to her sister’s side, and pulled her arm away from the man; from making the biggest mistake of her immortal life. But the more she tugged, the less Evalotha budged.

“Evalotha, just come with me. I promise that if you do, we’ll return, and visit him tomorrow and the day after that, and as many days are necessary for this man to stop his infantile whimpers.”

Evalotha turned sternly at her sister, reprimanding her with her eyes. Her sister disengaged.

“Listen, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you and your new husband,” Goithea said. She swam back, giving her sister some room to follow. “Why are you so infatuated with him, anyway? You haven’t even seen his face. It’s buried in his big, hairy hands. He could be hideous. Uglier than a gorgon. And based on how much hair he’s got on his feet, he could very well be a satyr.”

Goithea’s laughter garnered no levity in her sister.

“I’m just kidding, sister,” Goithea said. “Come on, tell me what’s on your mind. I’ve been blathering all by myself. I feel like I’m beginning to sound like the weeper over he—”

“Silence,” Evalotha burst out. “Just keep your mouth shut for a moment.”

Both Goithea and the man stopped their cacophony of tears and jeers. There was a momentary silence that brought a soothing sense of relief to all. When the sailor finally took his face out of his hands, it carried the most painful expression of loss. Who was he mourning? A fellow sailor? A lover? His father, brother, son? Evalotha wondered. In spite of it, Evalotha and Goithea were struck not only by the pain in his eyes, but their beauty. They were the color of sand in shallow waters. His face was also the most beautiful they had ever seen, on a god or man.

“Oh Hades, why have you conspired with Cronus and have taken my beloved from me so young, and so new at her role as wife. Why did you take her from me?” the man yelled, his voice echoing in the night. Then, the man resumed his unending, head-splitting drone. Evalotha hated seeing the poor man rage crying as he was, so she started to play and sing a lullaby to ease his pain.

“We’re under strict orders to only play for people in love,” Goithea warned. “Don’t waste the gift father Poseidon has deigned us on some poor sap who will never love again.”

“Even if that were true,” Evalotha said. “This man is sad, and his pain comes from a place of love, a loss of love, and therefore should be consoled by our lovesong.” Goithea was looking at her sister playing with her eyes closed, playing as she had never seen her play before. “This man is in an incredible amount of pain. I’ve never seen this amount of pain before. In a god yes, but never in a human.”

“So what if the man is in pain?” Goithea said. “That’s not our responsibility. We only deal with lovers, remember? This man will never love again, and you know it. You’re wasting your time.” As Goithea stated these facts, she swam circles around her sister. Evalotha just floated there playing as if alone, not wanting her sister’s words to get through to her. “You know exactly what happens to men like him. Their pain becomes so intense the more they mourn, and the more they mourn the more they want to join their beloved in the Underworld. If you ask me, he doesn’t need to use that rope tied around his waist, he’s already swimming in the Styx.”

“You know, for someone named ‘charm’ the things that come out of your mouth sometimes aren’t very charming,” Evalotha said, wiping away tears.

“As true as that may be, you’re name fits you a little too perfectly,” Goithea replied.

It didn’t hurt Evalotha that she indeed was too vulnerable and sensitive as she had grown used to crying for days, weeks, even decades over a single thing. What truly hurt her was the fact that most gods and people cared so little about the pain of others. Unlike most, Evalotha could see beyond the pain. She could see where the pain was sourced and the potential of the heart that contained it. She could see how a heart like this sailor’s could love so fully and deeply, and this in turn made her not sad, but jealous. Jealous that she, in all of her prowess, immortality, and beauty would never experience in her own being.

She understood that in order to experience a love of that magnitude, a being had to have the ability to be vulnerable, and have an extinguishable life force. For only something with a definite end could be enjoyed to its fullest. This man had enjoyed such love, and was now suffering for it, which was part of love, the other side of the coin. Coins of which two he had laid on his lover’s dead, once glimmering eyes. Now all that awaited him was death, for Goithea was right. This hollowed out heart would never love as intensely again, so why love again? Nothing could ever fill that void. Or could it? Evalotha wondered.

As true as all of that was, something awoke in Evalotha, and as if reaching into the Underworld, she reached into the profundity of her soul, and began to play a song of love, one taught to her by Eros himself. A song that had the ability to enamor and mend even the most shattered and fragmented of hearts. Her interest in him was slowly morphing into infatuation. She wanted to know more about him. To just be there with him.

“What are you doing, Evalotha?” Goithea asked. “Whatever it is you’re trying to do, you better stop it right now.”

The melodies plucked from her lyre created a prism of light underneath the water, and soon morphed into warm flames dancing on the surface of the water; blue, green, and purple. The ripples in the water projected onto the rounded interior of the overturned ship. The man’s wet clothes and tears dried as his face finally emerged from his palms. He looked around the once dark surroundings, surprised that now it was filled with warmth and a rainbow of lights. His weeping turned into befuddlement.

“Stop it, you witch. Stop it,” Goithea yelled as she shook her sister’s arm away from the lyre, agitating the water around them.

“Stop, you fool,” Evalotha said, pulling her arm away. “He’s going to see us.”

Being the older of the two—having been born of the blood oozing from Poseidon’s heart itself— Evalotha was stronger, and easily shoved her sister against the hull, slightly rocking the interred ship. This ceased the man’s crying completely as he grew warier of his surroundings. He thought that he was in the midst of one of Hades’ minions. Realizing that she would never overpower her sister, Goithea grabbed her double flute and played the most jarring noise she could muster. She blew air into the mouthpiece lazily through the side of her mouth, manifesting itself as creaks in the ship’s interior, as wind rustling in and out of empty sacks. The otherworldly sound would have rendered Cerberus’s hellish howls more endearing than the gurgles of a newborn baby. Rats and snakes of all colors and sizes burst out of the rotting wood, crawling out of the boats rummages and all over the man, their tiny claws scurrying on his neck and down his back, snakes slithering up his legs and into his robes. As the man rolled in the water, batting and patting himself all over his body in a panic, Goithea was doing the same in laughter, creating geysers so big that they thrashed the poor rat-infested man against the ships interior. This made Goithea lose complete control of herself.

The man disrobed himself, shoving the sopping wet rags against the wall. Goithea’s mischievous mirth bothered Evalotha so much, that she stopped her playing and darted straight toward her sister pinning her against the seabed. They had fought plenty of times, they were sisters after all. But not once had she felt genuine feelings of hatred and rage toward Goithea. Her sister was a prankster, but she had crossed a line. She was picking on a man that deserved nothing but their most heartfelt sympathy.

“Sister, have you gone mad?” Goithea asked, struggling to break her wrists free from her sister’s tight grip. Evalotha snatched the flute from her and played it herself.

“We’re just having fun with him, Goithea,” Evalotha said. She wanted to entice her sister to stay, not to continue to tease the man, but so that she could continue to admire him. “Don’t you remember when we used to lure men like him with our naked bodies, lying on the flowerbeds, allowing our long tresses to cascade on the mossy rock?”

“That was different,” Goithea said. “Those were father’s enemies. Men who sailed, and pillaged his seas without rendering oblations. Not even a ‘Thank you, kind Poseidon.’ Nothing. Those dogs deserved to die in the worse possible way.”

“Well, this man is no different,”  Evalotha said. “All men are the same. Sooner or later they turn on the hand that feeds them.” The people of this island had passion in their veins that could set the sea aflame. They worshiped as they fought; with blood and honor. They had always been there to fight at Poseidon’s side whenever Aries or Zeus didn’t see eye to eye with him. They were dormant titans, waiting for a goddess’s fertile earth or a god’s seed to blossom into the most fearsome creatures Atlantis, Hades, and Olympus ever saw.

“You know that these men are different. They were wrought of father’s seed,” Goithea said. “Besides, you are disobeying father’s ultimate rule: No human semen shall be drawn and placed into our being. He will find out sooner or later. Well, sooner because that is where I’m going to now.”

“Go ahead and do it. Father won’t believe a word you say. He never does,” Evalotha said. “He’ll think you’re playing a practical joke and dismiss you at once.” Goithea knew that her sister was their father’s favorite as she was the closest to his heart. “Go ahead. What are you waiting for?”

Goithea floated toward the seabed, deflated and fuming. Just as she was about to reach the bottom, she scurried all the way up to where her sister continued to admire the sailor.

“Well, if you won’t leave with me to see father, and according to you, father won’t believe my word,” Goithea proposed. “Then I’ll have to summon father himself to appear before us and see how big of a fool his pride and joy is.”

As Goithea was preparing to storm out the hull to the open sea to call on their father, Evalotha struck her with the lyre, knocking her unconscious. Blood gushed dark green from her head, betrayal blood, as Goithea’s body sunk slowly as if frozen in time and water. Evalotha felt a deep pain in her own body, swimming back and forth in a panic. The whirlpool of water, garbage, and thoughts surrounded her. Memories of the duets they performed for Poseidon, and the times they fought Triton and his followers floated rapidly in her head. What will father think of me? He’ll think that I no longer love him, Evalotha thought. She regretted having done what she had done. She loved her sister more than anything in the world. They were partners in everything, including work and play. Evalotha wanted Goithea to share her curiosity for the man, and for the both of them to explore and enjoy the intensity of his human love. But as she swam toward her sister’s body, she realized that her sister’s absence was necessary if she was to truly explore that power and darkness the human heart was capable of. Only then could she truly immerse, and unleash herself in its pleasures and pangs.

All of a sudden, Goithea’s tail twitched and slowly reanimated its motion with the moonlit currents. Her sister knew that in order for Goithea not to say a thing to their father, she needed to somehow silence her. She couldn’t possibly kill her sister, or else her father would instantly know. Besides, she would never be able to forgive herself and would be wishing the most painful death upon herself until she found it. So she decided to scatter Goithea’s body all over Greece. Evalotha took her body and ripped her head off and handed it to Boreas the north wind, bringer of cold winter air to freeze her sister’s thoughts, not allowing them to escape to Poseidon. She gave her torso to Zephyrus the west wind, bringer of light spring and early summer breezes to preserve her youth even in temporary slumber. And lastly, she threw her tail to Notus the south wind, bringer of the storms of late summer and autumn, to impede her swiftness of swimming by aging her ever so slightly. The wind-gods carried with them the various parts of her sister, spreading her charm all over the Greek islands, and its people.

As she returned to the boat, the sailor continued to weep, as did the double flute left behind by Goithea, mourning the loss of its wielder. Evalotha resumed her romantic lyre music, but couldn’t concentrate because of the double flute’s sorrowful melodies. The mixture of romantic and melancholic music was causing the sailor to feel dizzy, and groggy. Even as she played happier music on it to drown out its tears, Goithea’s instrument continued to mourn. Over the centuries, Evalotha had also taken some flute lessons from Apollo. One of the lessons he had taught her was how to harness the pain encrusted in the instrument in order to make the music more emotional, using the powerful energy of sorrow to create alluring music. She conjured a warm sea breeze and commanded it to play a soft, melancholic tune on the double flute. She stroked the lyre strings as she wished she could the sailor’s dark locks of hair. If only men’s feelings were as easy to change as the melodies of an instrument, she thought.

If this man was going to have any chance of loving again, he needed to expunge himself of all residual heartache. She had chosen him as her lover, and was prepared to aid him in whatever way she could. But sometimes, not even god can help mend a broken heart, she thought. The siren sang to the sailor, a song of loss, a song for her sister, and his lost love.

Soon his tears dried up, and he fell asleep.

Faded

Faded will be published in the upcoming issue of:

Meat for Tea: The Valley Review – Volume 12, Issue 5: Hemp

You can purchase a printed or PDF copy by clicking on the following link:

Purchase Meat For Tea

 

Flowers, bushes, small trees and…a woman (part 2)

***This story is a prequel to Mademoiselle Fantasy’s story Flowers, bushes, small trees and…a woman. Please head over to her site after reading this story.***

 

The flowers possess, typically, four stamens, and four free what?” Eduarda read out loud as Florencia lay on her stomach, enjoying the warmth of her eggshell comforter draped on her skin. She was curling her brown tresses of hair, looping them around her index finger. Hair as soft as a flower. “Are you even paying attention?”

“I’m listening, I’m listening,” Florencia replied, expelling a loud sigh, thrashing her milky-white hand, and untangling her finger from her hair violently. “I love flowers, I just hate reading about them.” She sat up on the bed, looking down at Eduarda. “I like getting into the earth, dip my hands in the mud, and release its bittersweetness into my nose.” Her lover put down the copy of “Water Plants: A Study of Aquatic Angiosperms” by Agnes Arber. It was required reading for one of her botany classes at the Universidad de Granada. “Who cares about potamogetonaceae or whether their spikes are stiff and erect, or thin and flexible.” Florencia kicked the book off the bed, and got up to a symphonic string section of bedspring shrieks cued in by a percussive thud on the floor.

The tremors crescendoing in Florencia’s natural fat deposits came as a result of solid bone making contact with solid wood. Her muscles rippled with grace as those of a prima ballerina; calves twitched up the hamstrings to the buttocks, danced for an instance in her back dimples, and slowly receded into her back. Eduarda’s obsession with the female form only intensified after she and her parents attended a performance of The Rite of Spring in London’s Royal Albert Hall a year prior. A performance attended by Stravinsky himself. Never in her wildest dreams did she think she’d see a body like those on stage, in the flesh, until she saw Florencia’s.

Florencia picked up a tall glass of warm water sitting on the table near the only window in the stuffy studio apartment her parents could barely afford. She took the glass and walked toward the column of light collapsing onto the dark oak floors. The light dressed her naked body ever so delicately as if made of butterflies and ladybugs, silhouetting every roundness, angle, and protrusion that decorated it.

She took a deep swig and exhaled through her nose as she continued to gulp. She looked over at Eduarda, and motioned her eyes toward the eighth of a cup of water left in the glass. Eduarda nodded side to side, and smirked. She found it endearing how Florencia could never finish a whole glass of water, regardless of the vessel’s capacity. Florencia could be drinking out of a shot glass, and still leave an eighth of liquid behind. I’m full, she’d say, making the face she made when she had a stomach ache, it won’t fit in my belly. One of the first quirks that Eduarda discovered of Florencia upon first visiting her tiny apartment on Avenida de Andalucía was the amount of nearly empty glasses placed on her nightstand, desk, small dinner table, and the kitchen sink like altar candles inside a church.

Florencia shrugged her shoulders, and poured just a few drops into each of the flower pots she was growing on the window sill; mostly bluebells that she transplanted from the garden outside her building. That was what attracted Eduarda about Florencia; the fact that she was so nurturing, and caring.

“You know,” Florencia said. “Most people don’t know that giving plants too much water is just as bad, if not worse, as not giving them enough.”

As Florencia stood there allowing the warm glow of the afterday to bathe her drawn eyelids, Eduarda reached over to her nightstand, and quietly lifted her sketchbook and pencil off of it as to not startle the moment unfolding before her; the delicateness glowing around Florencia was that of a small fawn sipping water from a pond’s brim.

“What are you drawing?” Florencia asked, laughing nervously. “It better not be of me again. You know how awkward it was explaining that nude you did to my mom after she saw it on my nightstand. She nearly killed me.”

Eduarda was silent. Her brow, in its furrowed state, didn’t allow Florencia to decipher what it really was that Eduarda was drawing. The subject could only see her lover’s eyes looking up at her and then down at her sketchbook, up and down, over and over, mimicking the metronomic gait of the clock that she had ignored all day; a day whose entirety she had spent in bed with Eduarda. In spite of Florencia’s befuddled look, she kept drawing.

After Eduarda’s eyes stop their back and forth dance between the whiteness of the paper and that of her skin, Florencia began to walk back toward the bed, flushed-pink glowing all over her naked body.

“Wait!” Eduarda yelped, not looking up. “Just stay there, mi amor. Don’t move.” Florencia stayed even though she had never felt this embarrassed in front of Eduarda. They had been together, in secret, for about four months, and they were the happiest she had experienced in her 18 years of being alive.

So, Florencia stood there a young, intelligent woman— some would say at a ripe age for marriage— feeling 8, biting the bottom-right corner of her lip— less out of nervousness, and more out of the fact that she liked the brusqueness with which Eduarda spoke to her. The empty glass of water weighed a ton; she dared not break the purity of the silence by setting it down. She thought about the day when she first saw Eduarda as she tangled her sweaty fingers into one another like the messy cable work behind her parents’ 21” RCA “Living Color” television, and a Philips Glidomatic radiogram that also played records. Both in matching fine wood veneers. How Eduarda kept looking at her in a way no other person had, not even a man. She felt something new blossoming within her, but she wasn’t quite sure where. Somewhere between my hair and my toes, she’d always tell Eduarda when the two reminisced.

Eduarda’s patient study of her creation made Florencia impatient, circling her eyes trying not to look at the artist hard at work as to not distract her. Even in her discomfort, Florencia was considerate; one of her greatest qualities and flaws.

“Okay, come over, mi amor,” Eduarda said, beckoning Florencia with a smile. Florencia poured a little bit more water into the glass, and walked toward the bed. As Florencia tiptoed in excitement, she expected to see another nude on the side of the sketchbook pressed against Eduarda’s breasts. She gently placed the rim of the glass between Eduarda’s lips, and tilted it holding her chin so that she could drink without spilling on her lover’s creation.

“You have to know how much water to give to what you love,” Florencia said with a smile.

“Okay. Ready?” Eduarda said, as Florencia sat on the bed. “Look!”

“Oh,” Florencia gasped. It was a drawing of a blooming dahlia.

****

The wounded look in Damian Rubio’s eyes felt as though he would never get over the disappointment he felt toward his daughter Florencia. The culprit of the crime was that of falling in love and writing about it in letters too honest and sincere for eyes other than those of Eduarda. Damian found them after looking in one of Florencia’s kitchen drawers of her small apartment. It was her 19th birthday and her parents had come down with a vanilla-sour-cherry cake to celebrate it with her.

The night before, Eduarda had treated Florencia to a nice home-cooked dinner, a bottle of young tempranillo wine she had been saving for by not buying art supplies for six months. She became so proficient in pencil drawings only because it was the only medium she could afford, earning her the nickname amongst her classmates as “the next Edgar Degas.” As she walked home from the market, she giggled just thinking about how Florencia’s nose would wrinkle, her eyelids shutter as butterfly wings, wincing at the taste of sour cherry, plum, spicy black pepper, and bay leaf playing with her cheeks and mandibles.

Eduarda and Florencia had decided to eat at home due to the reaction their public displays of affection had garnered from people and restaurant owners. Some went as far as labeling them “unservable.” After dinner, Eduarda gave her a short letter as hopeful about their love as it was fearful. It was as if she knew Florencia’s father would find it the very next day as he searched for matches to light the 19 candles; words chosen carefully as to create a wound in Florencia that would never heal, whether their love persevered or not.

“Florencia,” Damian said, waving the letter as a white flag, trying to find peace within himself through inquisition. “My daughter, my joy. You’re breaking my heart.” Damian began to hyperventilate, and Amanda, his wife, dragged a chair, its wooden legs screeching across the wood floors broke the foaming tension, and tapped his shoulder for him to sit down and relax.

“Calm down, dear,” Amanda whispered in his ear, looking at her daughter with a less severe stare than the one given by her husband, but still one that said, See what your sinful ways have done to your father, the saint?

“All we want…” Damian stopped himself to breathe. “All we want is for you to be a decent woman and a God-fearing wife.” That last statement hurt Florencia the most. The thought of being some man’s possession, and living under the stipulations prescribed by some god created in his image revolted her. She saw how her dad, Saint Damian, treated her mom, sometimes like a person and at worst like a good dog, but never as an intelligent, equal-minded adult. Even now she saw how her dad swatted away his wife’s hand as if her doting of love and concern were nothing but a nuisance. I’d rather die than be treated worse than a mere house plant, Florencia thought.

“Florencia,” Damian roared. “Who wrote this? Who’s Edi? Who is this hijo de puta?”

Florencia looked puzzled. Had he not read the whole letter? The part where Eduarda described without sparing a single detail how the taste of her honey lingered on her black lace panties, or how the way Florencia licked her body had made her feel more like a woman than her own Identification Card could ever prove. Does this idiot think Edi is a man? Florencia wondered.

“Florencia, tonta,” Amanda smacked her on the side of the head. “Your father asked you a question. Be a good girl, and pay attention when a man is talking to you.”

“Uh, what?” Florencia shook her head.

“I said, ‘Who for Christ’s sake is Edi?’”

“He’s a boy from one of my classes.” Lying never felt so good. An unbearable pressure in the hollows of her rib cage had been alleviated.

“Well, that’s it. You’re done with botany, and this whole den of whores.”

“No, papá. Please, no!” Florencia loved Eduarda, but more than anything, she loved flowers. Not just flowers, she loved plants of all types. Her dream was to learn more about them, and care for them as doctors and scientists did so for human bodies. She wanted to find their souls; their hearts. “I’ll stop seeing him, but please don’t take away my joy, my love.”

“Don’t argue with your father,” Amanda implored.

“But…”

“My decision is final,” Damian said standing up from the blue wooden chair, decorated in Hungarian-style Magyar flowering; lavender, burgundy, and golden-yellow, painted by Eduarda herself. The night she painted them was the first time she had seen Eduarda topless, and soon after made love on the canvas tarp they lay on the floor to protect the wood from the linseed oil-based paint. Florencia’s eyes, her father’s eyes, watered in wounded reverie. Damian got up, paced back and forth, panting agitatedly. He let out a loud yell—more feminine in pitch than either she or her mother would have expected to come out of him— and kicked the blue chair with all of the repressed anger building up in him. Its four stubby legs, like those of a cherub, glided as if on ice across the room and against the window sill. It shattered into its factory-lathed parts upon contact, knocking her bluebells off the ledge and onto the sidewalk. The rupture of pottery releasing dirt on cement mirrored the phenomenon unravelling in her heart. If her love for Eduarda had lifted the blindfold all daddies wore to see their daughters in eternal innocence, then his love for her was breaking the perfect world that her and Eduarda had built together in this tiny, and for the first time, sad apartment.

Damian placed his grey bowler hat on his primly-combed side-part, draped his trench coat on his forearm, and dumped in the garbage bin the vanilla-frosted cake he had so enthusiastically woken up at 6:00 a.m. to special order for the daughter he was so proud of.

“Come on, Amanda,” Damian commanded. Amanda looked down the whole time, not wanting to make eye-contact with her daughter. She draggled after her husband.

Florencia wiped her tears, and ran toward the bin, rummaging past the cake for the crumpled letter. She straightened it on her chest, and folded it back into its natural creases. It was moist from the vanilla frosting, milky sponge, dark cherry blood, and her still trickling tears.

She knew that she would never set foot in the apartment again, and that her father would hire men to come in and purge the place of anything that pointed toward her shame. His shame, not mine, Florencia thought. She rose up from kneeling, and grabbed a flat tin-box where she kept important documents and knick-knacks. In it she found a picture of her and Eduarda in the Television and Media lab during the first class they took together. They were the only women in the class, and naturally, were forced to work together because none of the male students wanted to be paired with either of them. Because they were women, they weren’t allowed to be on camera; Florencia for being too pretty, and Eduarda for being too offputting. Besides, Florencia really wanted to get to know the mystery girl whose eyes made her feel like a flickering candle on a lily pad of wax, drowning, but never extinguishing.

When it happened, she didn’t even know that the picture was being taken; more as a joke than to document anything in particular.

“Here,” Florencia remembered her professor saying as he handed her the picture. “You two made a great team, as much as I hate to admit it.”

If he only knew how great of a team we really were, Florencia thought.

The best.

****

The warmth of Florencia’s breasts melting into Eduarda’s, ribcage to ribcage, felt as though gravity was finally forming them into the single being their love had already allowed them to be. Florencia loved the scent of French vanilla dousing her nose as she and Eduarda swanned their necks into one another. A hocket of heartbeats intensified with every inhale and exhale until it melded into a soothing oscillation, vibrating in their blood, echoing in their bones.

The two of them used to sneak out of their Television and Media class and run off to the greenhouse, located in the northernmost part of campus, which was usually deserted. The professor and male classmates wouldn’t even notice their absence, given that in 1964 Franco propaganda was still teaching young people how to be good citizens, and women were lucky if they were used as moving props to indoctrinate hundreds of women on how to be the perfect, domestic wife.

“What are you thinking about?” Eduarda asked. Florencia could hear the question from within herself, not through her ears. At first, she thought Florencia had dozed off, as she usually did after making love. But as she sunk her chin into her neck to confirm her suspicion, Florencia began to draw shapeless geometry on the ravines of her ribs.

“I don’t want this to ever end,” Florencia said.

“Don’t worry, muñeca. We’ll be back tomorrow.”

“No. I’m talking about us. This. What we have. I don’t want it to end.” Eduarda felt tears stalactite from Florencia onto her sternum, and stream down the valley between her breasts, reservoiring in her bellybutton. Eduarda kissed Florencia’s messy flipped bob, inhaling deeply as if she were diving into the depths of something she might not return from. She always smelled of flowers.

“My parents want me to marry my third cousin,” Eduarda said. The sound of the wind breaking on the loose glass panes was the only sound that clothed their cold silence. “He’s proposing next ye…”

“Shhh…” Florencia whispered, massaging her nose into Eduarda’s firm belly. The entirety of her spine shivered like a thick, vibrating guitar string. Florencia kissed her puckered flesh, and used her tongue to play with her belly dimple. She continued kissing her ribcage, her sternum, her breasts trying to ravage every bit of her. When she arrived at her clavicle, Eduarda ran her fingers on Florencia’s back, all the way down to her round buttocks, caressing her all the way up to her shoulders. They slid their hands into one another’s, fingers intertwined, and Florencia forced them over her head. She sucked on Eduarda’s chin, outlining her jaw with the tip of her tongue all the way to her tender earlobe’s peach fuzz. She was taking her body to a place Eduarda had never been to. Florencia moved slowly toward the center of Eduarda’s face, quieting her quavering lips with a kiss. “Let’s just enjoy this moment. I want my mind to drink up as much of you as it can. I’m your Florencia, and always will be.” Eduarda wove her bony fingers into Florencia’s dark curls, pushing her lips hard against hers. Florencia reciprocated.

Their troubled heartbeats slowly calmed into a lullaby, gently rocking them to sleep.

And then, as if they each meant to, for a slight second, their hearts beat as one.

 

Artwork by Cory Bilicko

2016. Hydrangea [Painting]. Watercolor, Long Beach, CA.