‘In love one perceives directly using one’s hormones and one’s stupidity
– Lisa Robertson, About 1836
Orpheus lies between Melusina’s legs, her feet pressing and drumming on the flesh of his arse. “You’re so tense,” she says, “What’s up with you?”
Orpheus chews on a corner of the purple blanket, then spits it out and looks at her face. “I’m thinking about what it must be like to have the head if a cow.”
“On your neck, or just to possess it? Heavy in either case would be my guess.”
“Do you think my father loved me?” asks Orpheus. “Do you think I’m irreparably fucked up?”
“You are the most distractible person I’ve ever had inside me, I swear.”
He sighs and leans his forehead on her chest.
“How should I know?” she says. “I haven’t read your myth.”
“I know, I forget.”
“You forget that people can’t read your mind.”
“Yes,” he says, “but not because I’m self-absorbed, just because sometimes I have a hard time telling the difference between myself and other people.”
Orpheus’s body has sucked Melusina’s body into it, his skin sticky as a frog’s, and she struggles to free herself.
“I need to get some water, Orpheus,” she says. “Sea-creature stuff, you understand.”
Orpheus lets himself fall back on the bed, arms spread out.
“Let the water run for a while,” he says. “It comes out green at first, then it goes clear.”
She walks to the bathroom and in the light he sees the scales on her legs have grown back. When she comes back with green water in a yellow mug, he sits up and holds her by the waist.
“Stop being so nice to me,” he says.
“Fuck you” says Melusina.
“No,” he says, “not like that.”
She takes a sip of water, leans over his shoulders, and lets the water trickle from her mouth down his spine. A dark stain grows on the mattress.
Orpheus stands at dusk under a sky full of dirty pigeon-coloured clouds, holding a beaker of sage tea to his solar plexus, and he watches the moisture from his face run up into the sky, sucked back into the clouds, where all water lives.
Orpheus strokes Melusina’s oddly yellow hair while she licks the skin below his navel.
“Sometimes,” he says, “I wish you could drop this thing with Siegfried, and I leave Eurydice to rot down there in her barren sulk, and we just stay like this forever, a rolling mass of bodies in the afternoon heat. What else is there to hope for besides this? Leave the struggle of the self behind and just open to something unrelated.”
“You know,” says Melusina, “if I were watching this whole thing unfold, I’d want you to end up with me too. But I know you’re not going to let this girl go, no matter how pointless idealising her is, for some reason you’ve got your mind’s claws in her.”
“There’s no-one like her in the world.”
“Yeah. Not even her.”
For days, Orpheus has been blowing yellow phlegm from his nose. Its consistency gets thicker every day, the colour deeper, and by the fourth day the blowing sound is deafening.
“Something deep inside me has become dislodged,” he thinks. “I must be healing an ancient wound, who knows.”
“What about Siegfried?” he asks Melusina.
“My myth makes things easy on me as long as I know how to be patient. I’m so many years into undoing the tragedy that occurs between me and Siegfried, I’m starting to understand everything. He needs me. Without me, he won’t become who he’s meant to be. It’s a matter of saving him from his own fecklessness. I didn’t make the rules, but I have a duty. I’m the part of him that brings about the person he needs to become. But Siegfried isn’t dead. Siegfried loves me, he just doesn’t know how to keep me yet. My magic is well spent there. I build the castle, and he inhabits it. But no matter how many times you go down to find Eurydice in Hades, even if you manage not to turn around, she won’t be the Eurydice you love. She won’t be the affectionate and electric person you knew. That version of her will never return. What you’d bring to the surface would be the dead-eyed zombie of Eurydice, who wouldn’t remember you or care about anything you are.”
“I know that,” he says. “But at this point this approximation is all I’ve got.”
“Stop chasing her.”
“I can’t. I’m a dog, Melusina. I chase the things I love, endlessly. I’ve never managed to be a cat, someone who just walks away from loss to go lick his asshole in a corner, pondering the bitterness of life. I’m a dog, a hopeful piece of shit creature, bouncing at the slightest whiff of promise, the merest thought that the thing I seek might be close again. Eurydice’s love is never far enough away not to seem close to my dog nose, my dog ears, because her love, even just the illusion of her love, is part of me. I know what it feels like to be wanted by Eurydice. Who she was when she loved, when she was alive, fuels every part of me. Did I mention I’m a poet? As such, I can’t accept her death because she is the part of me that makes what I do worthwhile.”
Melusina laughs and kisses his collarbone.
“Was your father mortal?” she asks.
“In more ways than one.”
“How about your mother?”
“Muse. Better than me in every way.” Orpheus strokes Melusina’s scales. “Before she had me some say she made the sirens. Can be vengeful at times, but mostly she’s great. You’d like her, I’m sure.”
“I might,” she says. “I think you should talk to her about all this.”
Orpheus squeezes Melusina’s thigh. “I like that you’re here.”
“That’s a start,” she says. “Beats waiting for Siegfried inside a rock.”
There is a moment in the dream when Eurydice returns. The sky is yellow and purple, and in the bushes the cicadas make their hind legs scream. In the dream, Eurydice’s approach is silent, but her entire body smiles. She wraps herself around Orpheus’s back and they lie warm against each other in the midst of settling dust. It has been so long since he heard her heartbeat that he listens to it for hours before he can turn around. When he turns, he wants to bellow out his happiness, because Eurydice is still there, she hasn’t vanished, her hair shorter than before, her eyes the shape of intimacy. “Make me waffles,” she says, and, “Can I take a shower?” He nods and holds her against him, closer and closer until they are inside each other, their shapes overlapping into one and they both sigh with relief at what their bodies wanted to feel for so long. They merge into a sphere of stillness, their limbs like waving rays. Now and then, they push further into each other and every part of them shivers. On the trees, in long honeysuckle rows, the empty shells the cicadas left behind cling lifeless to the bark. The sunlight loses itself in a hollow exoskeleton. The wood they lie in becomes a house, its rooms filling with people, their distracting paths jittering like ants. Eurydice fades, her eyes go silent and she looks at Orpheus as if he were a hole. The distractions never cease, the whole room is loaded with noise, the air flees into the corners, and Orpheus lies there knowing this has all happened before, just like this but in different words, and he cannot give in to the revolt inside him, no matter how much he wants to he cannot change was has already occurred.