[a short story written expressly for In The Middle]
for Heather Love
“I do dream about being with Foucault, but I imagine joining him in the underworld, after the moment he has turned away. I want him in that darkness—bearing the marks of power's claw. How to explain such perverse, such intransigent desires?”
—Heather Love, Feeling Backward: Loss and the Politics of Queer History
I was in the crowd on the beach when you were pouting over dog-faced Menelaus’s theft of your girlfriend. I like men who strut and storm and rage, but when you cried over Patrocles’s corpse, I was a little embarrassed for you, but you still had me, not at “hello,” but at “I have no mind to linger here disgraced, brimming your cup and piling up your plunder.” That really gets me, even now. It doesn’t bother me that you hooked up with Medea after death—finally, someone to match your ferocity. Sometimes I imagine the two of you, lying together in some crevice of the underworld, eating out each other’s hearts. But when you get tired of that, write me some time. I hear hell is nice this time of year. Of course, I’m speaking of winter. Box 45K98.
* * * * *
I first saw you walking hurriedly down the street in Yonville-l’Abbaye, on your way to the apothecary. Of course you’re beautiful; this is beyond saying, but not inconsequential. Bliss, passion, ecstasy: can it be that these are, in the end, only words? Darling, although I don’t know you, I can show you differently. I have something else to show you: a small box, filled with little pills, mood enhancers, designed just after your time—deep feelings are overrated, and if you like, we’ll just skim the surfaces of things. When you were dying and asked for a mirror, I wanted to slap you—that was me outside your window, the blind beggar, singing to you—but of course I still want you. I can only imagine your aversion to gardens, so we don’t have to meet in one, and I don’t require extravagant gifts. It doesn’t get more low maintenance than me, and I’m hoping you’re feeling the same, although granted, as my friends often tell me, I have unrealistic expectations. So if that combination of qualities interests you, give me a call some time. I won’t go “all Rodolphe” on you, but if you like love notes concealed in baskets of apricots, I’m amenable. Box 67G54.
* * * * *
I was in the crowd of virgins in the temple at Aulis when your father plunged his dagger into your heart. My therapist tells me I have a thing for sacrificial victims, but I can’t help myself. Is this so wrong? If it’s true that Artemis replaced you, at the last minute, with a doe, and somehow I missed that, then I’m hoping we might still be able to meet. There’s a rumor going around that the women in your family like a little violence with their marriages, and this can be arranged, if you like, although, technically, I’m a pacifist. It must get boring sometimes being a high priestess and for all the kisses your father refused you at your dispatch, I will give you a thousand more. As to that snow-beat glen in Phrygia and the hills of Ida you wished had never existed, let me make them disappear for you, and in their place, I’ll conjure up a continual daylight, for I’ve heard you’re afraid of the dark. If you like this sort of magic, drop me a note. Box 89D34.
* * * * *
I have a thing for men without illusions, and I already know your head was severed from your body, so that is not an issue: the head or the trunk and limbs, I can take one, or the other, or both. I’m easy. I don’t think you can really know a person until they’ve lost everything, and if that was a dagger you saw before you, I believe it, you don’t have to trouble yourself to convince me, although I do think you need to lighten up a bit. I know you have trouble sleeping and I have some good pills for that, or we can just stay awake all night and engage in a different sort of forgetting. As you can see, I try not to over-think things. But I would be lying if I didn’t admit that, in the end, it was your ability to finally shed all thought of the hereafter that drew me to you: when you refused to yield to Macduff, that made me want to yield to you. The soldier’s life can be a little dull, as you know, but I like this little cemetery where they laid you to rest, buried upside down like a traitor—this position works for me, and if it also works for you, let me know some time. Box 72U63.
* * * * *
I was sitting under the willow on the riverbank, resting before continuing on my way to conquer other countries, when you drowned yourself, and I would have stopped you, but I have a thing for women in watery graves with violets in their hair. Unlike Hamlet, I have some art to reckon my groans and I can show you some of that, if you like. I won’t take your gifts, then give them back, and I won’t treat you like a child, unless you like that sort of thing, but what I have in mind, actually, is showing you the other way to heaven, the path that is neither thorny nor steep, and if I tell you the stars are on fire, by god, they are on fire. You’ll forgive me if I get a little excited sometimes, but it seems I’m always showing up after everything has happened already, and I didn’t even stop to ask, what brought you to this place? Your sadness shakes the very root of me, and yet, I would beg its explication. I’m a good listener. Box 82X34.
* * * * *
I was hiding behind a tree in the Odenwald forest when you were bent over, drinking water from the spring, and Hagen slipped up behind you and thrust his spear into you. You are so beautiful like that. I like a man whose wounds never stop weeping, and I promise not to cover them up if you agree to meet me in a hotel some time, preferably in Berlin, near the discotheque. I like to have crowds of people around me, even when I’m alone, or, all my hopes realized, with you. I understand you’re betrothed, so I won’t ask for much—perhaps we could just spend some time wrapped in that cloak of yours, invisible to the rest of the world, and you could wrestle my girdle away from me. I heard you’re good at that. I won’t ask you to play the role of Pandarus to my or others’ desires; in short, I won’t place you in harm’s way, unless that’s how you get your excitement. I’m open to negotiation, but let’s keep this temporary. Box 90F38.
* * * * *
I was one of the people who helped to roll the stone across the entrance to your cave, sealing you in, and I couldn’t take my eyes off of you. I doubt you even noticed me, as I’m one of those persons whose name or title doesn’t even warrant a mention in the personae dramatis. I have a thing for teenage girls who stand up to kings and I’m hoping this fling of yours with death is only temporary. A lot of people in my generation like to claim how fucked up they are because of their fathers and mothers, but they don’t have a thing on you. You’re the real thing, the original hopeless cause, and I have a weakness for hopeless causes. I think I know something that might help you: there is no higher law and most brothers aren’t really worth the trouble, nor are there any gods living below us, nor are the statutes of heaven unfailing. But you, Antigone, you’re a law unto yourself that I think I could really follow, or break, if that’s your preference. Drop me a note some time. Box 62V58.