Home is not as I remember, but then again, what is these days? Greece, as strange and beautiful as before, in entirely new ways, of course, had changed in the way we all had. So much and not at all. Still proud and boisterous, but now in this age of a new recession, the cracks are easier to see. The friendly face of poverty is fresh around me, the smell greeting me beneath the aroma of cigarette smoke, oregano, and the sea.
The disapproving looks of the locals, at my wardrobe and general American-ness, however misinformed (although I have been colonized more than I care to admit), are also familiar. Reminding me of their immortal counterparts I knew on the Mount.
But that is yet another change. Where I remember a grandiose mountain, I am instead led by my feelings, or likely by sheer instinct, to a shining skyscraper. I feel the power radiating off of it. Yes, they are there, within, waiting for me without even knowing it.
Even as I mentally take a step forward, I physically shrink back—the sight of the place spawning sudden anxiety within me. The building itself seems like an ivory dagger struck into the concrete, to ward off troublemakers from venturing too close.
Unconsciously shaking my head at the sight, I shrink back further. Back so far and so quickly that I step right out of reality itself. Back into the nothingness, my nothingness that serves as my other home. Specifically into my precious cornfield, my little carved out corner of the Aether. I step back until I feel the comforting coarseness on my golden apple tree at my back.
“You weren’t invited, Eris.”
“You’re not welcome here.”
Their voices haunt my thoughts, their faces mock my weakness.
As the fog around me swirls, my form shifts, losing its cohesion. I am they, he and she in turn and without intent. My thoughts, just as nebulous, if not more so. Every stray half-formed impulse rushing at me in a maelstrom.
“You were never one of us.”
Just then, another voice pierces the haze like an arrow. Eros.
“Eris!” He laughs, “You are the worst!”
And yet a part of me knows he means the best.
I see his face, so like his father’s but with his mother’s light. He wears a smile where Ares wore a scowl.
Within my all too elusive memories, his laughter dances and entwines with my own.
I use his laughter and our shared glee, like a guide and follow it back to those memories, back to an unstable clarity.
Right. Enough blubbering. To work.
I pull a rusty antique mirror from the folds of the fog and perch it in the arms of my tree at eye level. I spit in my hand and wipe away some of the grime from its glass surface until I can make out what currently passes for myself.
I take a good long look. I’m in my non-binary form, leaning male, wearing my usual mix of clothes from goodwill, the dumpster, or worse. What a way to make a second impression.
How would they best recognize me? With this question, I find myself at a crossroads. My gendered forms are not the same as my regular workaday shapeshifting. They are who I am. And at this moment, I am not feeling my feminine self, but I recognize that is how they would know me best.
Acknowledging this, I find my form changing, somewhat forcefully, taking on that of the smirking woman they knew so infamously.
Feeling moderately settled into this form, I discard my jacket, the ripped ‘violent femmes’ shirt beneath it, kick off my workman’s boots, and finally, I dig my thumbs into the hand-me-down slacks and pull them off with a sigh.
Standing naked before the mirror, I take a good, long look at what I have to work with.
I’ve been told by a brave few in the past that I have a “strange beauty” about me. That I might yet be considered attractive, were it not for the mad glint in my eye.
Pushing such vanity aside, I let my gaze drift to the many items of clothing that have found their way into my cornfield after all these years, from ascots to zoot suits. I would base my choice on what they would want to see, using their expectations of me like a bridge for me to cross.
I choose a midnight blue strapless gown, as with many of the misbegotten wares in my cornfield I’ve long forgotten whence it came. It was modern enough but still reminiscent of the robes and cloaks we so often wore back before the rise of the Christ.
I pull it on and return my gaze to the mirror. Yes, this would do nicely.
I smooth out my now long hair and add some makeup to my face, dark lipstick, dark eyeshadow, accentuating my pale skin and dark hair.
One final check, looking as close to respectable as I’m going to get I turn to go. I twirl around, letting myself get a feel for how the dress moves, and with one final spin, I throw myself back into the real world…with a thud.
Never one for the graceful landing, I misjudge the distance and find myself face first on the cobblestone. I am just picking myself back up off the street when a stranger’s hand does this for me, his courteous smile and flirtatious eyes let me know my outfit and appearance have done their jobs. I brush off the man’s attempts to get to know me better, why should he get that privilege when I don’t even know me better?
I get as close as possible to the OA without actually stepping onto the property. I can wait for the right moment. In service of that wait, I allow myself to slip back once more into nothingness but not so far as before, just enough to no longer be visible to anyone not looking for me and…who would be? They hadn’t for the last three centuries. Why start now?
I stood sentinel there for what seemed like hours but may have been days, waiting. Waiting for him. That young man who’s laugh was all that I was clinging to at the moment.
“Congratulations, Mr. Eros.” A voice knocks the wind out of my sails.
He had come along before I was even ready.
He is almost just as I don’t remember him. Charming as ever, but there is a sheen of maturity about him that was missing when we last met, an undercurrent of pain that a part of me wished he’d been spared.
“When’s the wedding?” another voice squealed, both of these excited utterances from mortals.
My, not so little, Eros brushed off these congratulations with aplomb and a polite wave.
A wedding. Another wedding.
This was a mistake.
“You’re not welcome here, Eris,” a voice says.
“Nobody wants you here,” comes another, speaking for the group, their eyes on me.
My mind swirls back to that time. That other wedding.
“Thetis isn’t in love with him,” I say, half amused, half something else. Concerned?
“Of course, she’s not.” Eros laughs.
“You could fix that.” I nudge his shoulders.
“Yeah, but where’s the fun in that?”
“Eros.” I roll my eyes.
“Besides, it’s not about that. This wedding isn’t even about them. It’s about what’s best for the family. That’s why grandad’s in such a fuss about making it perfect.”
“Right, right,” I sigh, “I know. When is it again? I’ve got to make sure I get something a little nicer than I usually throw on.”
Eros looks at me like I have two heads.
“Eris. It’s today.”
That stab of hurt still aches, and it will just keep throbbing until I do something about it. This isn’t a fix-all, but it’s something.
I clear my mind and rush forward before I can talk myself out of it. The real world closes around me like a glove, and I feel the ground again, the air rushing past me as I walk forward with purpose.
“Eros!” I call out.
He looks up, startled, amused, angry…I can’t quite tell, nevertheless, he is looking directly at me.
We’re now only about a foot apart, and I still can’t fully read his expression.
“Do you…” I start to ramble as my thoughts race back in. “Do you know me?” I blurt out.
His gaze doesn’t avert. It’s still unreadable, and yet there’s an intensity that goes beyond emotion. I match that intensity, but with all my might, I try to use it to radiate an openness, a sense of love, and sincerity. Not the malice and petty vengeance they’ve all always expected of me.
“Eris.” There’s relief in his voice, as a smile transforms his face, a smile that anchors my racing thoughts and emotions. “Where have you been? Why on Earth would I not know you?” he asks quickly, his words running together.
Before I even realize it, we’re hugging.
“I’ve been nowhere. Truly, nowhere. I forgot everything. I only just remembered Atë… she was my everything for so long, and I forgot her. I was worried you had all forgotten me too.”
“I didn’t, Eris, I swear.”
“I did. I forgot myself.” A half-dry sob escapes my lips, just barely. “I wanted to.” And it wasn’t until I said it, that I realized it was true.
We break the hug but are still standing very close, his hand on my arm and my hand on his cheek.
“I fell through a hole in the world. After Troy, because of Troy.”
He looks at me like he wants to say something. His face is fighting with itself as his thoughts are doubtlessly doing.
“It’s not like Atë. We remembered you. I remember you, but I didn’t know where to look. I didn’t even know if I should look. I’m sorry.”
“No. Don’t be sorry. Be something else.” I smile weakly. “Be happy?” I question, meeting his eyes.
“I am, Eris. I missed you.”
“I missed you, too.” I crush him into another hug. “And Clio and Atë, hell even Hermes and Dionysus and…”
“My mom and dad. I imagine they didn’t feel the same, don’t feel the same.” I look down, away, anywhere but in his eyes.
“They,” he pauses, considering, “they have a lot going on right now, Eris, speaking of Atë.”
“Where is my Atë? My Kallis.” I lose my words for a moment, my eyes briefly close. “I can’t…feel her.”
“That’s a long story, Eris. Parts of it aren’t even mine to tell. Come on, I’m sure you’ll get filled in with more info than you may have even wanted.” He forces a laugh. He’s definitely not saying something. The wedding? Doesn’t want me to find out about it?
He leads me towards the building. I freeze, my muscles stiffening.
“What?” he asks, turning back. “What’s wrong?”
“They don’t want to see me.”
“You never know till you give them a chance. It’s been a long time, Eris. Time may not heal all wounds, but it sure as Tartarus gets them about halfway.” Another laugh, slightly more genuine.
“You all,” I look at him now, dead in the eyes, “may not want me around.”
He considers me for a moment, then his smile brightens.
“Are you kidding? There’s so much,” he pauses his voice breaking ever so slightly, “you don’t even. I’m getting married, again.”
I start to cut him off to say that I already know, but he barrels forward, cupping my face in his hands.
“Would you please come? Come to my wedding, Eris.”
I release a shaking laugh of ragged emotion, and all I can do is nod, a sob threatening to escape my lips should I try to voice my gratitude. Instead, I throw myself back into his arms, burying my face into his neck.
“I’ll take that as a yes.” He laughs.
I feel something inside, like a crack in my heart, knitting itself back together ever so slightly. I’m aware of my body relaxing. My form shifts back to the male form I had originally wanted to take of its own accord, and I don’t stop it.
If he notices that he now cradles a young man in that same midnight blue gown instead of the woman he had known, he says nothing. More importantly, for my first step towards reuniting with my family, he doesn’t seem to mind.