You were little better than children when I gave you fire, and my, how you’ve grown. You’ve learned the pleasure of music, the energy of dance, and the glory of fire-water. From the very moment I learned of a club, I wanted to go to it. This bizarre combination of carnal pleasures and chastity made it sound like an orgy with ones clothes on, and you did not disappoint. The moment I was through the doors, I knew I was in over my head, but I wasn’t going to back down. I hadn’t escaped from Tartarus to watch others have all the fun.
Aphrodite was in rare form, transforming her expression from one of respectable airs, to sinful Goddess defining lust, with a tilt of her head. I came in with her, so people were interested in me by proxy. I had on this lovely three piece suit I stole from the offices. I think it might’ve been one of Ares’ spares, because it was loose around the shoulders and everywhere else. Nervous doesn’t begin to explain how I felt, so I asked Aphrodite and she spoke like Artemis: “Go for the quiet ones.” I was to be a hunter.
I had so much more to ask Aphrodite, but she was gone just as fast. I scanned the room and within a minute, she had a flock of people around her and her choice of free drinks. Seeing her like that made me smile, Aphrodite was being appreciated for the first time that night. Other members of the Pantheon might have trouble connecting to mortals, but beauty and love are still worshiped.
On to my attempts. In my mind, I was going to go out with Aphrodite and as the apex predators cut each other down to get to her, I’d be swimming in chummed waters. This was true, and there were just as many in the crowd looking for a way to get Aphrodite as there were those dejected as their dates abandoned them for a vision of perfect beauty. Circling her as they did, it would’ve been easy to play off those insecurities. It should’ve been easy, but I stood there doing nothing.
Someone touched my shoulder, filling me with hope, but I was simply in their way. I stepped aside, and a crowd formed around Aphrodite. They danced, drank, and laughed, convincing themselves that they were somehow apart of the it crowd. They were closer than I would ever be. I was a sack of bones and flesh, in a world I’d never seen before. Looking back on my reaction, I had what you call a panic attack. I found a vacant corner and threw my fit. I thrashed. I pulled at my hair. I ripped at my suit. I screamed. I cried. My little corner of the club got more vacant.
Security was talking to people who were pointing in my direction. I ducked down and found my way to the restroom. They knew what I looked like, so I had to do something. I ditched the jacket into a bin, wet my hair, and came out laughing like I was having the time of my life. I don’t think it worked. In hindsight, Erebus, Nyx, or Aphrodite probably called them off, but maybe Nike was on my side that night, and I actually had a victory of my own.
“Go for the quiet ones,” Aphrodite’s words repeated in my head.
I looked out at the crowd for the lost, the shy, and the bored. There was a reason they were on the outskirts. Some of them didn’t know how to dress, some had a deformity on their face that grew into a crippling fear of social attacks, and others didn’t want to be there. They were there for someone else. Maybe they’d been through a breakup, or they were there to capture the glory days of their youth with a friend, or they just didn’t know what else to do. They didn’t see that the people out on the dance floor were just as awkward, ugly, and miserable as they were.
There was a man with a lazy eye and an exaggerated crook in his smile. His neck jutted forward at a skewed angle, exposing bumps along his neck. He was joking, trying his hardest to win the favor of three women clearly there to talk to each other. They left him cordially enough, but one of them couldn’t resist the opportunity to glance back at him with disgust. The weight of the rejection sunk into him then. He tried to be cool, to play it off as a meaningless moment, but he was alone at a high table.
I ordered two whiskeys. The bartender asked me some questions, and I nodded. I brought the drinks over to the lazy eyed man with a bent neck. I sat down and put it on the table before him. He tilted his head quizzically.
“To loneliness.” I raised the glass.
He clinked his glass to mine and we drank. I worried about my liver, hoping that I could survive a drink or two, but I still felt hollow inside. Closing my eyes, I saw Koráki thrashing my chest and tearing at my insides. I swallowed and sighed slowly. I smiled at my new friend.
“What’s up with these bitches?” he asked me.
I looked around, trying to see the woman, or group of women, he was referring to. Of course, he wasn’t referring to any of them. I shrugged at his question. “They’re not here for love.”
He laughed. “I’m not getting down on one knee.”
“No, but you’re not here to have fun.”
“What d’you know ’bout it?” He was upset.
I held up my hands to ease him. “Hey, I’m a little guy. If you wanted to hurt me, you could hurt me really bad. Is that why you came out here, to get blood on your clothes?”
He shook his head and finished the drink. “I don’t normally drink whiskey straight.”
“You like it?”
He nodded. For a moment, he wasn’t thinking about his scripts, or his clothes, or even the tension in his loins.
“You look beautiful like that,” I told him.
He turned to me. “What’d you say?”
“I said you looked beautiful.”
He stood up. “I’m not some queer, go find someone else.”
“I thought there wasn’t anything wrong with men loving each other.” I blinked. “Was I wrong?”
“Thanks for the whiskey, now piss off.” Yet he was the one who left me.
I drank my whiskey and collected the glasses. The server behind the bar was annoyed when I returned the glasses to her. She didn’t want to touch used glasses. She wanted someone else to take care of that. She barked at me, asking if I wanted a drink, but I shook my head and left. I got a few feet before the alcohol hit me. This was not the wine of old; this was a concentrated poison. I leaned against someone, and they pushed me back. I hit the floor.
Someone picked me up. They were worried about me, as they would worry about one of their own. It made me smile. I must’ve looked strange, a scrawny man with half-damp hair, and a face red from a single shot of whiskey. They parted, making way for Aphrodite. They stopped looking at me with pity and looked to me with envy as she placed a hand on my cheek.
“Was this too much for you?”
I chuckled. “They think I’m one of them.”
“Let’s sit down, sweetie.”
We did. Somehow I had a water in my hand before we were even on the couch. Aphrodite had an army of people doing her bidding, just so she would turn her head in their direction and say, “Thank you so much.”
“Who are all of these people, your friends?” I asked her.
She shook her head. “This is the kindness of strangers.”
They gave us room to breath, and she let out a sigh.
“I’m sorry. I wanted to come out here and have fun with you, but I’m ruining your night.” I drank down the water and wiped the sweat off my forehead.
“It isn’t you, Prometheus. It isn’t even really the people or this club. I don’t know what to do about my husband. He’s a work horse, and sometimes I want a tiger.” She was looking far away, thinking about a particular tiger.
“Just call me Pro.” I took a drink. “Maybe Hephaestus would be happier with another work horse,” I suggested.
Rage came over Her. It was directed at me, but it was so strong that men and women cringed before stepping up to come to Her defense. She got closer to me and whispered into my ear. “The hussy that tries to take my Hephy will have to go through half the Pantheon to get to Him.”
Seeing that look in her eyes, I realized that She’d kill Hera herself. She gave a warm smile and a self-conscious chuckle. “Listen to me, getting mad about something silly like that. Hephy is too busy looking at diagrams to be with anyone else.”
Aphrodite’s crowd relaxed.
I sat up and did what I do best: listen.
“We’re different creatures, Hephy and me. It’s always been a difficult journey for us. When His furnace is burning, it’s hot and he makes me feel like there’s nothing in the world beyond us. But it’s been so long since he’s even put tinder there…” Aphrodite sighed, and somehow grabbed that exact drink she wanted from the crowd.
“What about Hera?”
Turning her attention from her drink, she grimaced at me. “What about Her?”
“If there’s one person who knows what it is to live in a broken marriage, it’s Her. She’s the Goddess of Marriage. Every terrible broken home and dead marriage hanging on a thread is a part of Her domain, but so are the bad marriages that turn things around. I know you haven’t always gotten along with her, but I think Hera might be able to help you.”
Aphrodite thought about that. She gave the faintest of smiles, but it eased all of my worries. “You might be right.” She finished her flower petal colored drink and stood.
Before I knew why, I was standing with her.
She gently stroked my cheek. “Thank you for this. I needed to go out and have some fun for myself. You won’t see me again tonight.” Aphrodite picked out a man and left on his arm.
Once her divine grace was gone, they felt an emptiness inside. It was an emptiness that was always there. They only notice it when something filled it, no matter how momentary. Feeling the pain inside, the feeling of utter rejection, they took their anger and jealousy out on me. I don’t know who punched me first, but I know it didn’t end there. I tried to swim through the bodies, but they were frenzied, driven by the promise of perfect passion not delivered. Luckily for me, security got involved, and they threw me out with the rest of them.
Outside, they’d forgotten why they were mad at me. I was a scrawny sack of flesh and bones, not something to be threatened by. Someone was still mad enough to spit on me, but no one helped me up this time. I crawled to my feet and took out the keys to Zeus’ car I’d swiped from Nike. Her spirit was with me.
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