Last Night with Aphrodite

Greg Emilio

Greg Emilio

Summer afternoon in Athens and we are smoking fast cigarettes
on our balcony, drinking ouzo without water, and watching the pillars
of the acropolis waver in the hundred degree heat.  An empty bottle gleams
on the banister.  The one from which we’re drinking passes between our hands;
we never set it down.  Our goal is three gleaming bottles before nightfall.
Because, what else do two do in Athens?

I am naked, and Aphrodite is as well.  Her skin glistens with sweat; wherever we touch,
water glides between us.  “Isn’t this Athena’s town?” I ask her, running a finger down
the valley of her back.  “Hers and Poseidon’s,” she says.  A man in the tenement building
across the street opens his window, lifts his neck out into the heat, and whistles.

Aphrodite hurls the empty bottle of ouzo.  The heel of it strikes him
in the forehead, then sails down, down, to shatter on the street.  The man tucks
his neck back inside, cursing in Greek.  “Good shot,” I say, lighting her cigarette.
“Will you give me a child?” she asks.
“Not for many years,” I say.
“Will you marry me?” she asks.
“Yes,” I say, “when I get my life together.”

She swills what’s left in this bottle, then raises it above her head, ready to strike me with it.
“Time is love,” I say, deflecting her wrist as she swings.  The bottle dislodges from her grip,
and lands on my big toe.  Blood rushes to the nail bed.
“My clock is ticking!” she says.
“I know it is, but you will live forever.”

She cries into my neck and her tears mix with my sweat.  Whole streams undulate down the skin
of my ribs.  I grab another warm bottle from inside the room.  We drink, and smoke, and laugh
some until it gets dark.  Floodlights bathe the acropolis.  The ruins look like bones, a burnt
carcass above the city.  The streets, the empty storefronts, the traffic signs are all covered
with graffiti.  Our concierge says it’s not safe to walk alone at night.

A few stars escape the light pollution, blaze high and cool in the sky.  Athens slows down
a few degrees.  Two bottles trap vague light, there, on the banister.
“You have the most beautiful eyes,” I tell Aphrodite.
“You’re a child,” she tells me.

*        *        *

We would never have children, Aphrodite and I.  She was gone when I awoke.
I got a letter six months later explaining that I’d gotten her pregnant that afternoon
in the ancient city.  That she had an abortion because I didn’t deserve immortality.
Her last words for me:  I can’t blame a human for being afraid to grow up.

The Athens I remember no longer exists.  Heat and ouzo, two tanned bodies
on a balcony, cigarettes.  Whenever I drink the stuff now it is always with water,
and always when I am alone.  But I remember what it was like to believe,
to know that I’d be with her forever.  I still remember that false perfection.
And when I remember this, my mouth waters,
flooded with the taste of her sweat.

2 Comments

  1. Wow. Excellent job, Greg. What a scene you create!

  2. Greg, this is marvelous. Just the right amount of everything. The sly humor and lusty images are terrific. I really enjoyed this!

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