From the author: Thea, who is a Greek scholar, finds the man of her dreams without leaving home.
The morning Sedgewick left, Thea worked on her Ph.D. dissertation. She felt as though she had been working on it for centuries, at least as many years as the Greek Empire had been in existence. Somehow the conclusion eluded her. Perhaps by completing it, she was ending her chance to perfect the manuscript. Like a Greek, she was searching for perfection ,beauty, wholeness. The gods and goddesses floated in her mind like living creatures endowed with all the shades of personality and feeling of human beings.
Her northside apartment looked like little Greece, with classic statues scattered through every room, giving the apartment a gray cast. Photographs of her most recent trip to Athens hung from her hallway: Thea, standing beside the Parthenon; Thea, climbing the steps of the Acropolis and the Temple of Zeus. In each one she appeared statuesque, young, thought she was only five feet six inches tall and thirty years old. Her black hair was curled in waves across her ears, her long Grecian nose shaded by the sun.
In the center of her dining room, just beyond the kitchen was an imitation marble table encircled by black lacquer chairs. Every part of the house had something Greek, some souvenir, some momento.
When her mother Diana Coustopoulos, visited her she said, “Thea, when are you getting rid of these hideous statues? I feel like I’m in a mausoleum!”
Thea grimaced, biting her lips, “Mother. When they go, I go!”
“Why can’t you be like a normal Greek girl married with six children?” Diana continued. Her dark hair was matted to her head. Her eyes were slits. “It would make your father and me so happy.
Instead you spend your life in school getting your Ph.D in some strange subject. You waste your time with Sedgewick. He’s not even Greek.”
“I know he’s not my type. I don’t want to be alone,” Thea snapped.
“You’ve been seeing him for an awfully long time. He’s such a dope. A nice one. But a dope just the same.” Her mother refastened the gold clip-on earring to her left ear. “I got rid of a man I had been dating for years before I met your father. Your father and I were married just three months after we met.”
Thea’s father, Harry Coustopoulos, had been a glazier ever sine his immigration to the United States. An only child, Thea was the only one in her family who had been educated beyond high school.
At Clarendon University, The Greek scholars were anathemas, a clique worshipping the ancient civilizations. She was pleased that Sedgwick wanted no part of it. She met him three years ago when he fixed her sink. She would never forget his tiny eyes staring up at her. His raspy voice saying, ”Get me the wrench.” He would never say “please.” His dark features reminded her of Annibale Carraci’s Apollo pursuing Daphne. His arms and legs were thick, muscular. His nose was flat. She decided he was more Dionysian than Apollonian. Maybe she needed a Dionysian man to oppose her.
Thea decided long ago that her search for the perfect man, her Adonis, her Zeus, had been a dismal failure, not unlike her attempt to finish her Ph.D. dissertation. The closer she came the further away she was from her goal. Maybe she expected too much. She was searching for someone who didn’t exist.
She walked through her apartment, without touching the statue on either side of her, statues that appeared like corpses, their stark features assaulting her.
In the living room, she lay down on her couch that was strewn with papers, crumpled sheets just like her life—torn, shredded. She wished she could get advice from the Oracle the way the Delphians did.
She shut her eyes for a moment and folded her arms. Still there was no peace for her. Frustrated, she rose from the couch and slumped into the kitchen, head down. The counter was filled with appliances: a juicer, a Mr. Coffee, and an Osterizer. A table covered with a red-and-white cloth sat in the center of the room.
From the top of the cabinet, she got out a can of black olives and opened it. She bit into one slowly, her teeth locked onto an unpalatable hard pit. Without swallowing it, she picked up the can which said in green letters, “Argo Enticing Black Olives, Pitted.” She spit the object into her left palm, her eyebrows arching. It was a little man, less than one inch tall. He was smiling, probably relieved she hadn’t swallowed him.
She rubbed her eyes with her right hand, thinking she must be imagining it. But when she looked at him again, he ws still there, his head lifted towards her, his arms raised. He was saying something---words she couldn’t understand. He as saying his name AhPah, AhPah Low. Apollo, she repeated.
Apollo, the son of Zeus and Lato, God of sun, archery, medicine and music, born on the island of Delos. His mother hid there from jealous Hera. His twin sister was Artemis, goddess of the Moon. That was all she could remember. Though he was the most majestic of all Olympians, he had rough time with women. None of them would pay any attention to him. He was unlucky in love just like she was, Thea thought. She stopped herself from clapping her hands together.
What do Gods eat? she wondered. Gently, she put Apollo down on the table in an empty cup. She walked over to the bookcase and got out her compendium of Greece, a leather-bound book she had purchased years ago. The pages were yellowed and torn and in some places unreadable. Under the heading Greek Gods—food, she could barely read the words, which were sliced and smudged.
Closing the book, Thea looked at the table. Where were Apollo and the cup? Her eyes widened as she looked into the black pupils of a full-grown God. He was standing in front of her. His face was damp, tinted black . His eyelashes were dark and long. His auburn hair was curled over his ears. His was about five feet six inches tall, her height. He appeared too young,-- nineteen, twenty at the most. He stared at her briefly before his hand grasped hers. Then he kissed her passionately.
“I know what you’re thinking,” he said. “I find you attractive too.”
Thea’s mouth dropped. Gods are omnipotent, omnipresent, omni everything.
“How long were you in the ah- ah- olive,” she said, trying not to stammer.
“I don’t know,” he replied. His voice was low, melodic. “We Gods do not experience time in the same way you mortals do. No matter how early I get up, I always seem to miss my flight.”
“But…” said Thea, unable to think clearly.
Without saying a word, Apollo sat beside her on the couch, his legs crushed, pushing crumpled papers on the floor. Her hands grasped his neck, which seemed strong and unwavering like a monolith. Finally he pulled the rest of the papers off of himself.
“You are beautiful,” he said, raising his voice.
“Men have never called me beautiful,” Thea said, staring into his eyes. “They’ve called me smart before. Maybe it’s ‘cause you’ve been in an olive so long.”
“Are you going to doubt a god’s word?” he said, raising his voice. “Don’t you think I know what is beautiful and what is not?”
Thea nodded. She did have Louis give her a perm so her hair didn’t look so limp. She was wearing a bit more makeup, lipstick and eyeliner. But she still had the same flaws: a nose that was too long for her face., small close-set eyes and a weak chin. As far as she knew, until ugliness was considered beautiful she was out of luck.
“Are you sure you’re a god? Thea asked. Leaning back on the pillow.
“Why would I not be?” Apollo replied in a serious tone of voice. “Who else would be stuck in an olive? A common mortal. Certainly not the mortal you know—Sedgewick?”
“How…” Thea stopped herself from asking a rhetorical question. He’s omniscient. How will he ever get to know me the normal way, discover me, she thought. He knows what I’m going to say before I say it.
“There is so much about you for me to discover,” he said, touching her shoulders with his hands.
“Not at the rate we’re going,” Thea said. She was attracted to him. He was polite, nice. How could her mother object to having a god in the family?
“Let us eat!” he said, pulling her up from the couch.
“I haven’t been to the store in a while,” Thea said, walking into the kitchen. She opened the door to her refrigerator, whose contents consisted of a half-eaten avocado, a moldy jar of applesauce, and a stale loaf of whole wheat bread.
A moment later, the kitchen as well as the refrigerator was filled with fruit, vegetables of all sorts. The table was covered with grapes, pears, apples, oranges, pomegranates and kiwi fruit. No olives, Thea thought.
“I could not look at another olive,” Apollo said, taking his seat at the table “The salt is drying my face.”
He ate with such ravenousness, Thea could not help but watch him. He had not eaten for centuries. She sat down slowly. His face was covered with pieces of apple, orange rind, and grape skin. He wiped his face with his open palm and began eating again. Thea was able to put one grape in her mouth before the table was bare again.
He stood up wiping his face with his open palm, cleaning out the residue in his fingernails. He grabbed the phone which was on the counter beside the sink.
“Who are you calling?” Thea asked. Her phone bill last month had been nearly five hundred dollars. She had called her parents, who lived in Baltimore, fifteen times.
He waited a few minutes before dialing a long number. “Is this Olympus?” he asked the operator. Then he waited a couple more minutes.
“Zeus, it’s me Apollo,” he said, turning away from her. He was gripping the phone so tightly that it cracked. “Yeah Daphne and Marpessa put me in the olive,. They ignored my advances. They were nasty. I was going to turn them into sheep…” He paused, lowering his voice. “I’m glad you already took care of them. I know you were worried about me. I still don’t know how to pronounce where I am.”
“Chi-ca-go,” said Thea.
“Some strange sounding place. Never heard of it,” Apollo said, talking loudly through the mouthpiece. “I shall be back as soon as I can. I shall catch a flight, of course. I’ll let you know so you can meet me at the airport. He slammed the phone down on the receiver, shattering it.
Thea sprang out of her chair to pick up the pieces. A moment later, the phone reappeared in perfect condition.
“You must be cold in that tunic,” Thea said, touching his shoulder. It was nearly sunset.
“I’m fine,” he said.
“Apollo,” she said after she laid the blue suit out on the couch-- a suit Sedgewick had left.
Apollo looked down at her with his dark eyes and said, “We’ll eat in tonight. I’ve concocted some stuffed grape leaves and ordered violinists to serenade.”
“Try this on,” she said, picking up the jacket.
He stared at her. “You want me to…”
“When we have dinner,” she replied.
A minute later, he was wearing the dark blue suit.
“Blue is your color.” She kissed him on the cheek. “I’ll slip into something more comfortable.”
Thea put on her Oriental robe, rose patterns outlined with gold threads and walked slowly into the room Her hair was pulled on top of her head and braided with green ribbons.
They sat down to eat at the oak dining room table. The candle made her turquoise curtains glow yellow. The string quartet, three men and one woman, played epic Greek songs, legends. Thea caught the phrases ”wine-dark sea” and rosy-fingered dawn.”
“What’s that instrument?” Thea pointed to the women who as playing what looked like a giant violin.
“That’s a lyre,” Apollo said. “I love music that flows from the lyre.”
Putting down her fork, Thea whispered in the woman’s ear. The woman handed her the instrument and sat down on a chair. Thea’s fingers touched the strings lightly, melodies flowing out of her.
Apollo stared at her, dumbfounded, his mouth open. He shifted his weight in the chair, leaning towards her.
“I cannot marry you,” he said.
“Why not?” she said, taking down her hair.
“My wife is still asleep. She’s been asleep for thousands of years. I’m not free to marry.”
“But I thought…”
“Most Greek mythologists, including Edith Hamilton, forget this fact.”
Thea sat down on the bed, her head in her hands. “At least would you help me get my mother off my back?”
By the time her mother visited her, there was very little left of her original furniture. Apollo used clouds for chairs and couches. Gold-leaf toilet paper. Silver napkins. Corinthian columns at the door to the bedroom. The queen-sized bed was floating on air. surrounded by nymphs and cupids holding up the pink silk coverlets. Every lamp was replaced with a candle. The statues he didn’t like were beheaded. Thea had lost track of her dissertation in a mass of cloud cover that hung over her office.
“My, my…” Diana said, snapping her gold-clip earring that was shaped like a half moon. “Your apartment looks wonderful. Apollo has good taste.”
“What’d you expect from a god?” said Thea, sitting down o nthe cloud that was trimmed in gold leaf.
“Thea,” her mother said, sitting beside her
Thea looked at her watch. Where was Apollo? He said he had a few things to take care of on Olympus, pay some bills, other business. Once in a while he drove his chariot downtown and zapped any policeman who gave him a parking ticket.
While her mother waited Thea brought in a tray with two cups of Celestial Seasonings Gourmet tea, Cinnamon Vienna. As she sat down, a whoosh sound filled the room. There was Apollo dressed in his blue suit.
“Mrs. Coustopoulos,” he said, kissing her hand.
“Apollo,” she said, her eyelashes fluttering. “I’ve heard, I mean read so much about you.” She paused. “I’m so pleased.” Suddenly her tone of voice changed. “But I’ve got so many questions. You were born in Greece, weren’t you?”
“On the island of Delos…”
“You’ve got a sister…”
“Yes, Artemis.” She has a rough time of it…a drug problem. But now she sells chariots.”
“What about your future? I mean work?”
“I’ll go into my father Zeus’ business, Olympus Enterprises. We have a variety of interests from software to interior design..”
“No, Olympus Enterprises.”
“Can I see an annual report?”
“Mother!” Thea cried.
“I’ll provide one form you,” Apollo said. A moment later, a gold book appeared. It was so thick Diana couldn’t pick it up.
“I’ll take your word for it,” she said with a sigh. “Can you prove to me that you’re a Greek god?”
Apollo pulled a gold scroll form his pocket. “This is my certification.”
Thea folded her arms and turned her head away in disqust. “Mother,” she said.
“Thea tells me you’re already married.”
“I’ve appeared before the Celestial Court to get an annulment,” Apollo replied. A second later, a light flashed, gold with a greenish tint. “It’s been granted,” he shouted, pulling a gold bowl from the air. “We’ll be married tomorrow.”
Thea gathered the side of her wedding gown as she and Apollo climbed aboard an Olympus Airlines 757 heading for their Greek Islands honeymoon. From her window seat, she waved to her mother, who was sobbing handkerchief in hand. Her father had taken the ceremony more calmly, barely cracking a smile.
After the aircraft had climbed to 30,000 feet, Thea stared out the window. She rubbed her eyes. There were two disembodied faces with cheeks puffed out, blowing air underneath the tail of the plane.
“Who are they?” she asked Apollo.
“That’s our tailwind. Olympus Airlines never takes chances,” he replied, kissing her cheek. “We have a perfect track record.”
Thea leaned back in her seat, smiling, her hand grasping Apollo’s. The look on her face was cherubic.
Copyright (C) Kathleen Vyn
This story originally appeared in Lynx Eye.