After Pop Psychology appeared in his dream, Orpheus finds himself in a helpless state, like a rock on the floor of a lake pushed into patterns by the current, like standing next to someone who is skinning a rabbit. Orpheus calls a friend to calm himself, but when the friend is busy he goes out for a walk instead.
The sky is a screech of blue acid, and Orpheus walks under it, squinting. His breathing is laboured from the dream, his chest cluttered with a nameless concern for the things he loves.
With each step, Orpheus observes an instability in the ground beneath him, which feels flimsier than it normally does. Orpheus knows that this may be his doing; his frequent descents into the Underworld have caused a thinning of the membrane stretching between life and the realm of the dead.
The thought of Eurydice appears in his mind, a sensation with so immediate an impact that the membrane tears under his feet. Orpheus slips through the rift and comes crashing into Hades, where he lands loudly in a silent stream.
He rises from the water and sees Hades on his throne, his face hidden behind a newspaper. It is nearly Spring, and Persephone is somewhere in their chambers, packing up her bags. This is a hard time for Hades, Orpheus knows, when Persephone disappears for six months, a temporary reversal of Orpheus’s own situation with Eurydice.
“Women, eh?” he nearly says, then stops himself. He and Hades are on what seem like familiar terms, but who can say how far these things can be pushed with the God of the Dead.
Instead, Orpheus puts up his hands and says, “I’m not here on purpose. I won’t try to bring her back with me, not now. The ground just seems a little unstable up there.”
Hades waves his hand and points him in the direction of Eurydice.
From afar, Orpheus sees her, surrounded by spirits. At first, he assumes she is caught up with friends, or even lovers, which seems odd for insular Eurydice; as he comes closer, he realises the others are copies she has made of herself. The bodies are facsimiles of hers, replicated to near perfection, all moving of their own accord. They seem caught up in a set of tasks with the single-minded determination of worker bees.
As he approaches them, Orpheus catches one of the copies’ eye, and as she stares back at him, a smile widens on her face. For the first time since she died, Orpheus sees Eurydice’s features beam at him outside the context of dreams, and in response every organ in his body gushes and shakes. His heart collides with itself.
The copy approaches. From up close, he can tell she isn’t Eurydice; she is more translucent, with a more silvery skin than the real one. The copy stands in front of Orpheus and reaches out her gossamer hand, which she rests on his cheek. The feel of her body is like walking into a bathroom after someone else’s shower. On her face is an expression evoking nothing but love. Seeing this is too much to bear, and Orpheus closes his eyes, exhausted by what is happening to him.
The real Eurydice has noticed her copy gone astray, and soon she is standing behind them. Her blank face shows no recognition of Orpheus, no care for his presence. She places her hand on the copy’s neck, whose scruff stretches like that of a kitten when Eurydice picks her up. The copy lays her head placidly to the side and deadens her gaze, dangling there like a small animal between its mother’s teeth as Eurydice carries her off.
Orpheus stands there in the aftermath, torn by what seemed possible before it was taken away.
He knows that Eurydice is not Eurydice, cannot be Eurydice, because Eurydice keeps herself elsewhere. Eurydice is the refraction of Eurydice, the phenomenon of Eurydice, but the true Eurydice would be here, with him, if she were anywhere. The true Eurydice could be thought into a future in which the myth is resolved, broken apart and made new, with two coalescing yearnings instead of just one.
Eurydice, with her blind eyes and body empty of yearning, empty of love for Orpheus, returns to the many selves she tends to. Orpheus stays put and watches her for a while.
He wonders why he ever turned around, in that very dawn of things, turned to face the first instance of Eurydice, when it would have been so easy not to. Comparatively easy, of course, in the context of everything he knows now. Why did he turn around? It would have been simpler not to. He could have done what he always does and stared straight ahead, at the winking projection of himself in his future, reducing Eurydice to an unknown, a person like any other in the world. It would have been so easy not to make her Eurydice.
He wonders where he would be if he’d simply refused to see. But Orpheus knows that, as was the case with Oedipus, whose familiar fate plunged him into that same leaden dusk, that when the constellations predict what you will see, you are no longer given the option to avert your gaze.
Orpheus couldn’t help but look at Eurydice, because the very act of turning around to face the object of desire, even as it is still unknown, no more than a stranger, is the function of poetry.
Orpheus would not be Orpheus without Eurydice. Eurydice herself doesn’t give a damn and yet the fact of Orpheus remains. Eurydice may remain in Hades forever, may never, like a self in a cursed mirror, return his gaze, may stare endlessly backwards at an other, but the fact remains: Orpheus needed to see Eurydice in order to become Orpheus.
There is no stable symmetry here, their bond is not a sphere, not the unbroken surface of a lake. Divergent pressures drive them both, and their paths leave a trail of vortices in their wake.
Sweet Eurydice, in her detached contentment, is unruffled. Eurydice pines after something just as pointless. She has rooted herself within the deepest ground she knows, a realm in which people are reduced to their most distant forms.
In life, Orpheus feels everything too acutely, and has no means by which to numb himself. It is Eurydice herself who carries out their myth, who keeps the tragedy unchanged.
Orpheus thinks about Pop Psychology, who always wants to save others from themselves, and whom Orpheus could never save because her decisions were often as bad as his. It makes him smile to think that she found a temporary happiness somewhere, but he knows it didn’t last. Occasionally, the future can be read in the same tense as the past.
Orpheus, the son of Gods, suspects he would like to see himself, too, as a God capable of saving others – saving those he loves.
But Orpheus is not a God, and those he loves cannot be saved, least of all from the choices they’ve made for themselves; even if he could reach into their lives, Orpheus, who is mortal, with a mortal mind and fallible impulses, wouldn’t know which decisions are right. There is no teleology emerging from the sybil’s footprints that Orpheus consults, not when it comes to their lives, nor his own. The myth has always been an excuse.