My Eurydice: a modern day version of Orpheus and Eurydice
The large living-area was brightly lit, cast in a mysterious and sensual burnt orange like a sunset too perfect to be beheld more than once in a lifetime. The glow came from the many small lamps, whose bases depicted intricate carvings of the cult of Dionysus, scantily clad men and woman drunk off wine and life, raising their arms in devotion to the blessed God of drink.
The large floor to ceiling window that spanned across the expanse of the room showed the darkening city skyline, sparse stars making their slow and hesitant appearance. The focus of the room was a large and seemingly antique piano, covered by a thick layer of dust, but not on its keys. The grand piano was seemingly unremarkable, she thought, a large mass that threw off the décor of the rest of the room. Maybelle, in the nonchalant and yet bold way definitive of her, took these things in with a swift movement of her smoky eyes, and closed the door behind her to face the stranger.
Not but a moment before, she had been standing outside the downtown bar, leaning against the brick wall, slowly inhaling a cigarette. That was when Orpheus saw her. He saw her haloed in the light from the streetlamp above, her emerald eyes cat-like, her brunette hair hanging in ringlets down her shoulders to the small of her back, her neck elongated and regal, and he wanted her, with him, always. He wanted those full and pouty lips to only speak to him, wanted those alluring eyes to only glance in his direction, he wanted her to hear only his music.
As she toyed with the lace on the hem of her cream-colored dress, aloof and completely unaware, he approached her to purr into her ear, “I have something I want to show you.” She smelled the alcohol on his breath, heard the eagerness of his tone. A quick and uncaring glance up and down his personage where she raked in the wrinkled clothing on the well-formed body, the aquiline facial features, the maddened eyes hid partially by dark hair, and she responded, “Then I suppose there is something I’d like to see.”
And there she stood, in his apartment, not drunk herself, for she hardly ever drank. All through the taxi ride here, he had promised her the utmost sensual pleasure, a sharing of aesthetic experience, but oddly he had not touched her. He’d only narrated his intentions with the babbling speech of the intoxicated. Erratic and passionate about what was to come.
Maybelle took off her six-inch heels and set them by the stack of books lying on the floor, apparently placed there since the bookshelf was overflowing with volumes of Poe, Hawthorne, and other such readings that gave evidence to his intellectual and brooding character. Orpheus leaned against the grand piano, seeming suddenly sober and serious. He fingered the keys and seemed lost in thought, musing to himself. He then sat on the low bench, placed his chin in his palm and looked off. Maybelle inched further into the room, now becoming uncertain, setting herself for disappointment. This was not as she had planned. She lowered herself into a plush recliner, and waited for Orpheus to take action.
And Orpheus began to play . . .
The notes seemed to come from within her, within him, cast out to dance around the room, and then back into them again to regain possession, linking them together through a shared bond. It tasted of sorrow, spilled out rivers of pain, but promised salvation at the end of strife. Maybelle’s hands shook, her throat worked, and her breathing came out in ragged sobs. Orpheus’ face was strained and turned to the side to hide his vast emotion as the notes carried on, lifting them both to a higher state of consciousness and telling their stories word for word, note for note.
When it ceased, for a moment Maybelle had thought she had died, for the music became so much a part of her that she thought when it ended, that she must surely also end. The woman had slow tears welling up in her eyes, “Orpheus . . .” she tasted the name as her lips quivered, “Orpheus . . .” She stood shakily and walked around to the front of the piano to smudge off the dust with the tip of her finger, “I love that story,” she whispered.
“How does it go?” he asked, making eye contact with her for what she strangely noticed may have been the first time, his pupils dilated, but still holding an acute intelligence.
“. . . . It is your name.” she stated, not amused in the least. For who doesn’t know the most tragic love story of all time? That beautifully symbolic Greek myth?
He spoke emphatically, his temporary sobriety leaving him, “Well, I’ve never been a huge fan of myths. Why should I be? They are not real, and very unlikely to happen. . .” He looked at her. Did I see her shiver? he wondered. “How does it go?” he repeated, “Tell me a little story. I’ll enjoy it. Even if it is fictitious smut.”
Maybelle drew herself down to sit in the lap of Orpheus, “Orpheus was a very gifted musician, and rivaled even the god of music, Apollo. Some say that he was Apollo’s own son. Orpheus had a wife name Eurydice, who was very beautiful, and they loved each other dearly and were very happy and content. One day Eurydice was out in the forest picking berries by herself when a half-man, half goat . . .”
“Satyr.” he interjected.
“. . . tried to rape her. . . ”
“That has to be traumatic,” he suppressed a laugh.
“She ran from him and fell into a snake pit and died. Then her soul was cast to the underworld, and Orpheus grieved her as no man had ever grieved before. But Orpheus, in his love for her, decided to go to the gates of hell itself to get her back.”
He waved his hand dismissively, “Hell is not a physical place, but a state of mind,” he said.
“And what state would that be?” she inquired.
“A place of desolation and depression, away from beauty.”
“I agree, but for the purposes of this story . . . He went to the gates of hell to get Eurydice back, and asked Hades for her. Hades said no, Eurydice was dead and she must remain in the underworld . . . But then Orpheus began to play on his lyre, and Hades was so moved by his music, that he actually wept for the first time in his existence. He told Orpheus that he could have Eurydice back on one condition. While Orpheus was leaving, Eurydice would follow behind him but Orpheus could not look back otherwise she would be pulled back down to Hell and he would lose her forever. So, Orpheus made his ascent out of the Hell, and when he was almost to the gates . . . he looked back.”
“He looked back?”
“Yes, he looked back. And he lost his love forever.”
“But . . . Why did he look back?”
“No one knows for sure. There are many speculations. Some believe that he doubted that Eurydice was following him; he doubted that she was behind him.”
“That’s quite symbolic.”
“Yes it is. But another speculation is that Orpheus was actually looking back at Hell itself . . .” she paused and stared at him with those emerald eyes, for dramatic effect, and it seemed to him as if she kept staring for hours, but he minded not in the least. She rose to retrieve a cigarette out of her purse. She inhaled a long slow drag and her eyes rolled to the ceiling as if in ecstasy. “Then there are two endings. One ending says that Orpheus then traveled the world, telling everyone who would listen about Hell. The other ending is that the maidens of the underworld, seeing that he was now single, tried to seduce him. But he only wanted Eurydice and rejected them. . . They then ripped him apart in a sexual frenzy and he died.”
“That’s a good way to go. Death by groupies.”
She smiled, “Yes. It is.”
“But I prefer the other ending. It makes it more tragic for him to continue living on without his love. And I suppose . . . that if you‘d seen Hell, you could not easily forget it. You’d want to tell people the story.”
“I concur. So tragic.”
“Myths . . .” he spat, shaking his head. “And that is precisely why they are called so, Myths.” His mood had changed.
Her mouth tightened in dismay and puzzlement as she persisted in drawing shapes in the dust, “You don’t have a very good imagination for an artist.”
“Hmph,” was the noise he made was he lifted himself from the piano bench, walked over to her small handbag lying on the sofa, took out a Pall Mall, and lit it, all with quick fidgety motions. He produced a bottle of wine and a glass from a cabinet. He then retired to the window, staring out at the now black sky, his back turned to Maybelle as he ran a hand through his hair in a violent way, uncaring that he’d pulled a few strands out. He soon threw the glass to the floor and drank out of the bottle.
“Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” said Maybelle from somewhere behind him. Her voice is so beautiful, he thought, It is like music itself.
He turned abruptly around and smiled, “Fie! I am not scorning you Maybelle! I’m inviting you to come drink with me! . . . Consider it a compliment. I usually drink alone. My father is not Apollo. He is Dionysius!”
Adonis, perhaps, she thought as she glanced over him, looked into his dark eyes as he handed her the glass he had revived from the floor and poured the red liquid into.
“Are you my Eurydice?” he asked, inching closer. “Can I call you my Eurydice?” he breathed onto her neck as his hands grazed around her hips and up her back.
“Now I have something to show you,” she breathed, tangling her hands in his hair.
And she cried for his music, and he cried for her beauty.
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© 2015 Marié Patricia Nicolina Murray