OR, "KNOW IT ALL"
Dear spirit of the raw deal, whole halved and halved again, drawn into divine plot and quartered comfortably in the Void. Sweet babe breastfed on snakesong, petit second sight dashed in sight of land, follow my voice. I have been before where you are now and just between us, there is only one way to survive the ills befallen you:
Invest in sugar futures.
You know the drill, the tea never gets cold and your book never falls in the bathwater with you. You are not a mausoleum of good intentions, and the day is coming when you will not wake to the smell of hospital disinfectant and the sterile gleam of the electrical equipment keeping your loved ones from paying Charon’s toll for your tongue in trade. In 100 years’ time you’ll have forgotten how blood tastes in your mouth, learned to let Orpheus’ cries drown out your screams and sleep at least one hour a night. You, with bones of solid diamond and blood that turns to gold when it hits the air.
Dream, drenched in sweat, of a past in which you were not a girl with too few choices: that you were not property to be sold to anyone with the denarii to pay for you and queen was not another word for slave. Dream that you did not have to make this mistake to learn that slave is the only word for slave.
Invest, too, in sweeter pasts. This time, Pompeii never burns. None sing songs of ash and stone, Hephaestus’ forge is powered by something other than death. Big deal, in this version of events you undo all that’s ever been done. So what? An instance of greed doesn’t define eternity, except for when it does.
If you could go back, and in these candy-coated versions of what actually happened you can, you would say no to the promise of eternity. You would never unhinge your jaw and devour the dawn and your future would be a notion, glitter and smoke, intangible - not a sad retelling of Atlas’ fate. Yes, you would say no and not just to anyone - to a man that is not a man but the color of the sky on the first day of summer warm enough to run barefoot. The warm, dry kiss of the breeze on the back of your neck, raising the hair there, the sweetness keeping time for nightingales and their backup band of crickets. To a man with bones of solid diamond and blood that turns to gold when it touches your lips, who is not a man but walks and talks like one and promises knowledge of all things for the low, low price of the rest of your life.
Don’t be stupid, of course you’d say yes.
You’d say yes every time, even knowing how the story ends, because the man who is not a man is so much more. You’ve learned plenty of things over the millennia, almost as many as you’ve seen in your dreams and then seen come to pass, but your lesson isn’t one of them.
That being established,
a yes is only a yes as long as you keep saying it.
Play Clotho, just for a moment, just while no one is watching. Spin a long spool of celluloid memory back to the early days of disaster: recall that you were holy once. A princess, even, gowns of silk and golden laurels in your hair, etcetera. The jewel in Troy’s crown, bound for greatness by design or by the divine, etcetera. Twin sister to Helenus, lucky, lucky, twins being loved best by his highness the sun, and so on. On paper, there’s no other way it could have gone but the way it did, and you’ll have to make your peace with that sooner or later. Before Delphi and Pythia and the black stain on your name it was the two of you, living in and before all of time with eternity at your fingertips.
You too ate of the oleander’s petals, and the rhododendron, chewed laurel for strength, breathed deep of the pneuma and felt your lungs give way to more, the ad infinitum in your breast carving a hollow for itself. You writhed with the agony of the universe entering your body and spreading like a cancer until it was you and you were it, thrashed as good as the next oracle, sacked as surely as your husband’s temple years down the line. It is important to note that you came first, daughter, and all others were pale imitations of you. You were chosen, whatever the fuck that means, and the love of your first life will spend the entirety of his trying to substitute Splenda for your sugar.
There is no bliss like that you knew back then. The sun itself in your arms, glitter on your lips and snakesong in your ears, light and light and light, nowhere to go but everywhere. In an effort to balance itself, the voices behind the veil whispered to you of an apple, a choice, a horse that was not a horse, a hundred hundred swords and twice as many hands to wield them, a kingdom soaked in blood and all of it hinged upon a great warrior’s fatal flaw. That was a dream, but what came to pass was not.
This happened, no matter how much you wish it hadn’t.
Troy fell, a gush of stone and blood played in slow motion for all to see and the joke is none listened to your warnings. Even a princess, the wife of a god, the chosen is... still a woman. You watched it first behind your eyelids, and that was bad enough, but the replay in vivid Technicolor™ carried with it dimension, weight, the taste of smoke. Centuries later, you’ll still be able to smell burnt flesh if the wind is right. You loved him, and you loved Troy, and you couldn’t save either of them in the end. Accept this. Accept that in your anguish you regurgitated the sun, broke its heart and yours, eyes running like the Nile, and accept that this is your punishment.
You are going to live forever, that much is certain. He left you with nothing but sand in the hourglass of your ribcage, a whole universe nestled precariously between your lungs like a cup waiting to overturn, and so you will feel every grain scrape away at the bits of flesh and history that make you human on the way down. It’s okay, it’s okay, Infinity hurts, especially when you have nobody to share it with, and there is the crux of it: you made a pledge for good or for ill, you broke it, and mischief is nigh. You have no one to blame but yourself.
To recap: oldest living thing resembling human on earth, the apocryphal elevator stuck between the floors of death and perpetuity. Blessed with the Sight, cursed with the inability to use it. Insufferable, ineffable know-it-all with nowhere to publish her findings. Afraid to sleep, more terrified still to dream, straddling the prime meridian of asleep and awake. Feet on the ground, head in the clouds. Heart like an open wound gone septic and leaking moonlight. Years without end to think about what you’ve done, or what you haven’t, and an answer comes. Use this to your advantage.
If they cannot be told, the children of Prometheus, they must be shown.
Write songs of your crimson past, the god who loved you, the eternal company you keep, tune them to the key of the screams of the dying, and open the windows.
Show them how to do it. Show them every misstep on the map carved into your cerebellum and how to survive the endless field of landmines. Show them how to save their money and each other. Show them how to invest. Don’t worry, it’s not as if you’re short on time. Rest assured that there is no end in sight:
If anyone could see it coming, it’d be you.