A quirky sci-fi tale about Godliness and sushi.
Even goddesses had bad days. No one could attest to this more than Aphrodite, the goddess of love. She’d been directing romances since the day she claimed the mantle. There were no boundaries with the love she entrusted to these fragile mortals. She’d arranged her share of same sex relationships, but she always returned to the sacred idea of man and woman in union. At its best, man would toil long stretches of time to win the woman’s affections, and the woman as long to retain them. At its worst, the four d’s: divorce, debt, depression and death. Her most recent attempts at blotting out loneliness had tested her mettle to such an extreme that she considered starting fresh, throwing months and even years of work, in some cases, out the window.
First was a perfectly acceptable specimen who, for all the justifications in the world, refused to leave his home. He wasn’t antisocial. He took phone calls from friends, held down a job, threw parties at his isolated property in Chillicothe, Missouri. But he wouldn’t leave his home unless it was absolutely necessary. This complicated Aphrodite’s job to no end, as there was a neurotic 22 year old woman, an introverted artist type, who was perfect for him. Yet, every time she managed to painstakingly assemble the two in the same place, which took a lot of creative maneuvering to begin with, the two would brush right past each other, beaming and blushing the whole time as they pretended not to notice each other. Then, she would have to rearrange the cosmos once again for a chance meeting.
A bigger headache than that was an a-list actress and her on-again/off-again romance with a paparazzo. They were caught in a cycle that made Sisyphus’ rock pushing efforts look elementary. Whenever she stepped out for a red carpet premiere or release party, there he would be. The two would meet for drinks and engage until the morning hours in every degree of bacchanalia (A call for which Aphrodite was quite qualified to make). Then, they would slip back into their compulsory routines of luxury and business. Then, she’d act out until he couldn’t resist photographing her again, whether it was assaulting patrons of her father’s club, getting arrested or finding creative ways to not wear clothing in public. While the two were consistent in demonstrating compatibility, Aphrodite had someone else in mind for both of them. Their Lohanian theatrics never failed to disrupt her plans.
Finally, there was a lifeguard at a small family waterpark in New Orleans. Widowed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, he lusted after nearly every woman he came across, but when it came time to perform, he always came up short. Aphrodite empathized with him the most. He was a hard working man, just like the warriors from the old world where her devotees worshipped her. He didn’t whine or cry other than his wife’s funeral. He wasn’t a self-obsessed introvert. He certainly didn’t blame anyone for the shambles the hurricane made of his life. He simply bowed his head, flexed his block shaped jawline and moved on. He spared himself nothing that reminded him of his late bride. He still tended her garden and picked sunflowers for the vase by the kitchen sink. The rituals they observed together, he kept sacred.
Aphrodite once broke a cardinal rule by physically interfering. She couldn’t help that she felt compassion for him. Someone had to confess his sadness for him. He was too proud, too traditional to burst at his seams. He’d just returned the phone call of a female coworker whom he helped with a considerable amount of family debt. The two had been friends for a long time. Aphrodite wanted so badly to warn him it wasn’t going to end in his favor. She didn’t see him in that light, and no amount of cupid’s arrows were going to change that perception. She cringed watching the man drop a pair of season passes for football, for which she was an avid follower, across her desk.
Her response: “I can’t wait to tell Paul!” All that valor, squandered on such an unremarkable rake. The man drowned himself in rich scotch that night until she feared he’d never get up again. So she comforted him as best she could by laying down beside him. She made her touch ginger enough not to wake him, but provided him a warm body to get him through his night of remorse. When the sun broke over an apathetic horizon, it was time for her to leave.
They all compromised the deity’s grace with the immensity of their selves. Humans were more complicated than in the first years of her ascension. They could downplay the most shattering heartbreaker in the world, or make a lifetime of commitment out of a one night stand. They brought most of the grief on themselves.
“Something has happened to them”, she would insist to Hades, her friend with benefits. “They don’t throw themselves into love any more. They wait centuries inside only to settle on the most destructive. It didn’t used to be this way.”
“Aphrodite” Hades once confided in her, “Humans are more consistent than you think. They need to feel that they’ve been punished. That’s all anyone really wants is to have their faces rubbed in the mess they’ve made.”
Of course Hades would say such a thing, god of the underworld that he was.
“It makes no sense, Hades! They make dramatic flights from those who would champion their hearts, and grovel in penitence to their ruiners.”
“Love is temporary, Aphrodite. It spurns them on. When they find it, they can’t quite accept that it could be so. What then? They corrupt their betrothed. There is no greater catharsis than felling something passionately alive!”
Hades’ words stuck with her as she frittered about at Fountain, her favorite sushi bar. She’d taken a leave of absence to reevaluate why her subjects needed love. Why they even deserved it.
Taking stock of her recent accumulation of failures, she ordered Asahi and buried her face in the watercolor art on the borders of the menu. She ordered the 6 course Maki Olympus meal, a gimmick of creative hand rolls plastered with the names of Greek gods and goddesses, with all of whom Aphrodite fraternized.
Hermes Roll – A sumptuous entrée of spicy salmon, spicy mayo, scallions and deep fried tempura served with an edible caduceus as garnishment. Light enough to whet the appetite and spark your curiosity of what’s to come.
Demeter Roll – Yellowtail sashimi, virtuous and pure as the Goddess of the Harvest. Smothered in honey and mango butter. Crusted with sunflower seeds to make the entrée pop in your mouth.
Ares Roll – Red snapper does battle with soft shell crab age, paper thin slices of avocado, red lolorossa and kyuri in a dramatic conflict that would make the God of War proud.
Hades Roll – Teriyaki chicken wrapped in a layer of wild rice, drenched in ginger citrus broth. So good you’ll mistake Tartarus for the Elysian Fields.
Poseidon Roll – Trout roe, fresh water eel, cucumber, green peppers, sticky zebra rice, ume paste, five different kinds of fish to compliment each of Triton’s moods.
Zeus Roll – The House Secret is reserved for last, and with good reason! Everything has been building towards this Olympian edible. The ingredients are secret, because no mortal may question the will of Zeus. However, if you guess all five secret ingredients correctly, your meal is free!
After sampling everything on the menu, Aphrodite composed herself, freshened up and left for Tartarus. She was on fire with passion, so she would go to Hades and love him, or at least pretend to for as long as he occupied her ‘fountain of youth’, his pet name for her vagina.
When she reached the gates, Cerberus was dozing lazily. One of the heads perked up. The other two remained in a slouch though their bloodshot eyes followed the goddess until she was inside. As she reached Hades’ chamber door, she heard fits of girlish giggling on the other side, followed by deep bellows from Hades. She knew those oval mouthed moans all too well. Hades was in the throes of passion. Aphrodite threw the door open without moving her body. Her suspicions were confirmed. There sat Hades at his Victorian bedside with curtains of spidery silk. At the foot of the bed, spread out before him was Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom. Her lips were wrapped around the organ of the underworld authority.
“Aphrodite! Why didn’t you announce your coming?”
Athena managed a sinister grin, though her mouth was full. Neither she nor Hades made any move to dislodge it.
“Thought I would surprise you. Guess you had a better surprise for me!”
“Aphrodite, you of all people should know not to take this so personally. When you have all eternity at your disposal, you tend to get bored.”
“Don’t talk to me about eternity or boredom! In fact, don’t talk to me about anything!”
Aphrodite was too angry to cry, too sad to throw something at him. Worst of all, she knew Hades was right. She had once peered into Hades’ heart with her Olympian insight, hoping to find some overt fondness for her. While there were fleeting traces of this, the rest was just varying degrees of perversion escalating the deeper she got to his core. At the red hot mantle, there was a small vulnerability into which she could bore based entirely on self loathing. The only thing that really made Hades seethe was that he could never be Zeus. The rest, the absolute center of Hades, consisted of deliberate sexual trauma, mind games, catharsis from humiliation. It was familiar territory to her, for sure, but for all the wrong reasons. At least humans could be psychoanalyzed. That was Hades. ‘Punish me so I can punish you or I’ll punish you even worse.’ And Athena? She was doing this for no other reason than to embarrass Aphrodite. The two deserved each other.
It didn’t seem right for a goddess of love to feel alone as she did at that moment. She thought of going to daddy, but he was probably busy molesting some poor girl barely into her twenties in animal form. Meanwhile, her mother, Dione, was probably busy shielding herself from this libidinous atrocity by visiting her friends, the Fates. She had nowhere to go. She tried settling down by returning to her work. The spoiled actress was in the midst of a titanic meltdown on the set of her new movie, throwing her left heel at the Director of Photography. Aphrodite decided to wash her hands of the hot cosmopolitan mess. No, she needed to focus on someone who would work for her blessing, someone too proud to ask for it.
Her mind wandered to that poor middle aged widow, who wasted away a little more each day. She wanted to go to him at that moment more than she had ever wanted anything. She wanted to cradle and nurture him, and be cradled and nurtured by him, in the crib of that king sized bed, fit for two with only one occupant. She wanted to give him her eternity, to lift the boundaries of Cronos’ hourglass, so he too would have all the time in the world. There were rules against that. Her peers called it ‘Deus ex machina.’ Gods had interfered directly in human affairs, but it was considered an undisciplined display of power. Still, what a statement to take what she wanted for a change. Like daddy did. Like Hades. Even Athena, that wise old cunt.
With a dangerous warmth spreading throughout her being, Aphrodite acted on these earthbound impulses. She went to the aging man, again in the middle of the night. In medieval times, this would have gotten her branded a succubus. In modern times, there was an ever growing field of acceptance for all sorts of behavior once thought taboo. She unlaced her boots and tickled the sleeping man under his nose. He squinted at her through a fog of moon light and bourbon blinders. He knew she was there, but he didn’t bother acknowledging it at first. She would work for his affection. It was the least she could do for this frail god who had refused her help so many times. She removed everything but her socks, panties and the ribbon she’d tied about her waist. She was her gift to him. She would stay as long as he needed her to, then he would tire of her. That was okay. Mortals were a fickle lot. After all, they lived for less than a hundred years. Under the direction of her hand, the man found himself again. He gave his sobbing intruder everything he’d refused himself since his wife’s passing. Both found reprieve. It ended with a collective sigh, light as a feather, moist as the rain. They went again, though they were both half asleep. Then, they both prayed to separate gods that the morning would never come.