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Venus.



My name is Venus and I am twenty-four years old. Today I find myself walking through tall golden grasses-- somewhere in Italy—rooted to the ground, to this body, to the human plane. The sun is blazing. I cannot see the water, but I feel a tide-like pull guiding me to where I have to go. The wind rakes through my long hair, cold slashes on my neck. The path that I take, forgotten yet familiar, slopes down into a valley. I walk along the dry riverbed and keep my eyes peeled for the myrrh tree. There! I run towards the promise of shade. Aromatic, gnarled. I greet the tree. Hello, Myrrha. The tree quakes in front of me. She looks so stiff and sad. I feel a quick pain running through my chest: a hairline crack in my ever-breaking heart. The branches begin to shake. The air is thick with resin perfume. Adonis jumps down from the tree, though I do not yet know that it is Adonis. Who I see in front of me is startlingly handsome. He is tall and solid, shining with the casual perspiration of a hot day. His hair is dark, and his eyes are blue. His upper lip is a warped parenthetical: curving, soft point, Cupid’s bow, soft point, end curve. Bottom lip, a flick of beauty and implied pleasure. Both lips shaped, now, into a smile. Can you dive into a person? I wonder this as I look at his mouth. I know that this person could certainly dive into me. Hello I say. Hello he says. We stare at one another. Did you know my mother? He asks. Adonis! I rush forward, my body asks to be held. We stand like this, I am pressed against him, his arms around me, and I tell him that I’ve been waiting for him without knowing until this moment that I was.

//

I don’t tell my husband about Adonis, nor do I tell my lover. Adonis has nobody but me and he is only mine. He is as close to perfect as a man can be while still being a man. There is something intoxicating about his humanness. When we fuck I feel human, too. He holds me in a way that neither lover nor husband can. He holds me as if he means to break me and keep me safe at the same time. When I come to him naked, through the grass past the myrrh tree to where field stops and loamy cypress forest begins, he picks me up and drapes me over his humble bed of furs and soft needles. He gazes at me with love, with fear. I can only understand the limitlessness of my beauty when I see the reflection of it in his eyes. When we make love he strives to worship me and search for the woman inside of me all at once. He spreads me so far open I fear, for a sharp gasp of a moment, that I’ll split at the seam. Maybe there is a woman in there. That’s what Adonis finds, just beyond the gate of my immortal body. I experience a pleasure that is supposed to be reserved for those who die.

//

When we meet it feels like one long breath. Pain from start to finish. The aching acknowledgement that what begins will end. Choked for air by the end of the night. I wish we could live underwater. We would sink together like stones, the weight of love on top of us. I would watch his neck flutter; his feet would grow webbing. My sea creature. Instead he prowls with his dogs, bound to land and to the hunt. There are long stretches when he is away; longer stretches when I must keep up my appearances. There is hardly enough air to feed our flame, yet it burns brightly at all times. We live only in the present; a future is inconceivable. Every moment feels like marble. Smooth and hard and finished and permanent. Thousands of columns make up our affair. Each one its own moment: completely separate and detached from the other. A forest of them. A place to hide, maybe. But every time I leave or enter I find myself running headfirst into one of our memories. My body begins to hurt. Heat enters my joints. Waking up is difficult. My husband asks me what’s wrong and I say I’ve been so clumsy lately.

//

Adonis leaves on another hunt. My body is stiff as he envelopes me for the last time. Tears stream from the far corners of my eyes as I lay on the furs. My ears are logged with water when I sit up. Don’t. He is unaware that he has robbed me of a certain life force. That when we are apart I am less of a Venus. Autumn is coming. Blooms in the grasses are singed and puckered; leaves are curling, falling, decayed on the ground around us. Needles turn to dust when I lean against the cypress trunk. Am I not enough? I think to ask this, but he is already leaving. I hear the sound of the sea in my ears. Waves lapping on sun-bleached stone.

//

I find myself walking along the edge of the forest towards the sea. The future is inconceivable, but what happens next is beyond any tragedy I could have foreseen. My steps are muffled as I walk, and the breeze is getting cooler. My posture shifts as the chill penetrates. Tight, collapsed. The stiffness in my shoulders flares. It spreads down my spine to my hips, knees, ankles. I lead with my right side, limping. Half open like a bellows. My breath is shallow; my chest hurts. I hear sounds ahead, beyond a thicket of trees. I can hear the echo of voices in the little grove that opens up there. The future is inconceivable. I close in on it. Ahead, Adonis shouts.

//

The trees thin beyond the thicket, into a grove with soft ground and a view of the water. When I push past the last branches I see my love bent forward as if in prayer. His body shakes and the air inside of his lungs cannot come out but he is trying to weep. As I step closer I see that there are more bends in him, like a note folded and stuffed behind the very least-sacred of objects. Inconspicuous and fragile, charged with the kind of energy only love or death can bring. I sit with him. I take his broken face into my arms and wipe the matted, bloodied hair away from it. There is a gash in his neck. It flutters now. How could you do this to me? Adonis blinks slowly. I’m sorry. My tears hit the bridge of his nose and roll down his cheek. Even this seems to hurt him. Please stay.

//

I stay long after life leaves his body. After so much sobbing each of my ribs feel cracked loose, percussive and rattling, like I’ve become a permanent instrument of mourning. When my diaphragm settles I try to stand, but find that I can’t. I close my eyes and wait for the right time to leave him. When I open them again I see my arms have turned to stone, holding forever onto my Adonis. They break off as I finally make my way to standing. I look down at my marbled fingers, unburdened and perfect, pressing into the loam. I walk closer to the sea, every step more rigid than the last. At the shore I stop because it is easier than continuing on. I hear waves lapping at stone and notice that it is my feet they are hitting. I am sinking and can no longer move; I feel my joints harden to rock and the heat begins to dissipate. I wait for the pain to go away.





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