Priapus: Part I
New York 2012
I watched as the man coiled his fingers through the woman’s hair, pressing her up against the brick wall and kissing her with a fervency that sent a rush of heat through me. My face flushed with prickly warmth as I yanked my eyes away from their public display and ducked into the bookstore, hoping to hide the crimson fire on my cheeks.
The soothing, cool silence enveloped me as my eyes wandered along the rows of books, my fingers brushing across the spines of old paperbacks and hardcovers. I preferred used bookstores. Though the crisp scent of new print was alluring, it was nothing compared to the history held within pages of text, like invisible whispers of all the hands that had touched it before me. There was something sacred in literature handed down. The coffee stains. The scribbled notes in the margins, the odd receipt or grocery list hidden between chapters. The dog-eared pages. They all told a story. A moment of someone’s life captured and tucked away.
This was my safe place, among the silent refuge of ink and paper. A world where I could disappear. Where I could be anybody, and the weight of my own body slipped away.
Wandering through the aisles, I came to a shelf in the far back of the store, where a random assortment of books lay stacked haphazardly on a shelf. My eyes fell upon one in particular, a large book, bound in aged dark leather with the words Eros faintly inscribed along the front.
Slipping it carefully from the stack, I ran my hands across the smooth, faded cover. Opening it, I flipped through the pages of cursive slanted text, which seemed to depict mythical gods from ancient Greek lore. A flutter rose within my chest as my fingers brushed over the words, something heavy and alluring pulling at me.
A faint feeling akin to longing that sent my heart racing.
I found myself walking toward the counter with the book clutched against my chest. I had never read much Greek mythology. I mostly indulged in contemporary fiction with the occasional memoir thrown in. Those triumphant stories of people boldly rising above their misfortunes, tales of grit and determination. But something about this book called to me, like a tantalizing whisper I could not push away.
A young man sat hunched over the checkout counter, thick-rimmed glasses perched over the bridge of his nose, his fingers running continuously through tousled hair. Glancing up from the book he was reading, his dark almond eyes rested on me, and a jolt of electricity surged through my body.
Setting the heavy book down in front of him, I reached for my purse, noticing the faint tremor in my hands as my nerves began to creep in. “Yes. How much is it? I didn’t see a price.”
Picking the book up, he furrowed his brow. “Oh, this must have come in yesterday from the estate sale. Hold on a minute.”
He disappeared into the back room, leaving me standing awkwardly beside the counter. He returned a moment later with a shrug. “Can’t seem to find the invoice for it. How about I give it to you for, oh, let’s say…” He slid his glasses up and turned the book over in his hands, closely inspecting the cover and spine. “How about forty bucks?”
My eyes widened at the price. “That seems like a lot for a used book.”
“Well, look here.” He leaned in, close enough that the scent of him drifted around me, a faint aroma of coffee and chocolate I found alluring. “Do you see the way this spine is bound? And the cover is untreated.” His hands, large and calloused, ran down the leather. “The last hundred years or so, most books have been printed with patented leather.” He looked up at me, still so close that I could see the flecks of amber hidden within the brown of his eyes. “I would say you have yourself quite an antique on your hands.”
There was something soft and intimate in the way he said this, and a deep flood of warmth spread across my skin. I dipped my head, trying to obscure my face behind my curtain of long dark hair, hoping he wouldn’t notice the sudden stain creeping across my cheeks as I slid my credit card across the counter. “I’ll take it.”
As he rang me up, he kept looking over at me, his attention causing the heat on my cheeks to deepen. This was why I largely avoided people. A simple exchange, a smile, a quick glance of the eye, and my body would erupt into an uncontrollable heat that would surge through me like my own scarlet letter of shame.
Tucking the receipt neatly into the front and placing it into a bag, he handed the book to me, and another ripple of warmth spilled through me as his hand brushed against mine.
I hastily made my way to the door, fumbling with the handle as I heard him call out. “Lillian!”
I whipped around in surprise. “How do you know my name?”
Grinning sheepishly, he waved my card in the air. “You forgot your card.” His eyes seemed to twinkle playfully at me as I moved to take it from him with a nervous chuckle.
“No problem.” He tilted his head, a warm smile spreading over his face as he leaned across the counter. “And now that I know your name, I suppose it’s only fair that you know mine. I’m Trevor.”
“Nice to meet you, Trevor.” His eyes pierced through me, sending little sparks of electricity racing across my skin.
“This must be your first time in here?”
“What makes you say that?” I asked, clutching the card in my hand, the edges digging into my skin.
“I’m here almost every day. I would have noticed you before.”
My face burned. The sting of heat was now unbearable. I was so unaccustomed to these exchanges, the subtle flirty banter from an attractive man, the intensity of his lingering gaze. What did he see when he looked at me? My mouth opened to reply, but nothing came out. My words lodged like cement in my throat.
He nodded at me, that warm smile still hovering against a mouth that I had a sudden urge to reach out and touch. When was the last time I had been kissed? I could barely recall that feeling of trembling breath against lips. So long I had locked myself away, hiding beneath the protective shell of my body.
“Well, I hope to see you again, Lillian.”
Mumbling some incoherent response, I managed to dash out the door and into a day slowly growing dark with the approach of heavy grey clouds. The first drops of rain hit me as I walked down the city street, cooling the flush on my cheeks as I weaved through the growing crowd of late afternoon commuters. Lost in a sea of strangers, I was comfortably invisible once again.
My wet shoes squeaked on the worn linoleum as I trudged up the stairs to my apartment, slipping my key into the lock. Dark silence greeted me as I pulled the heavy book from the bag and placed it on the kitchen counter before flicking on the lights and making my way into the bathroom.
I shed my rain-soaked clothing on the floor and caught my reflection in the mirror. What I saw always made me avert my eyes, as if I couldn’t face the person who stared back at me. All the ample flesh, the abundant curves, the shadowed valleys of my own discontent.
Sighing heavily, I stepped into the shower and tipped my head back, allowing the pounding heat of the water to course through me, to wash away the remnants of another long day spent hunched over a computer, typing in information into a database. A job that felt meaningless and so much like my own life. Empty and devoid of substance.
My therapist had told me I should be dating. That hiding myself away was only exacerbating my condition and the crippling insecurity I wore around me like a cloak. But I couldn’t bear the thought of exposure. All the questions about myself. The judging eyes manipulated by society’s warped pedestal of beauty. To have all of me on display, my worth determined like an item at an auction. She’s too fat. She’s too much. No, it was much easier being alone.
Alone was safe. Alone was comfortable.
But how I missed the feel of being touched. The heat of another’s hands on my skin. The rush of their lips.
I watched the water swirl down the drain, my hands running across the slope of my hips. An ache coiled through me as I teased the edges of my sex with my fingers, my body longing for that momentarily sweet fall into oblivion, even if it only lasted seconds and left me feeling hollow and slightly shameful afterward. Like a dirty secret, those dark, heavy words from my childhood always lingered in the back of my mind.
Masturbation is a sin, Lillian.
With a gasp, I reached out to steady myself against the tile wall, my hand now frantic as I pushed my fingers deeper into my sex, my thumb rubbing hungry against my clit. An image rose up, dark hair, almond eyes behind glasses, the smell of books. I imagined him slipping from behind the counter and taking me against the shelves, every thrust of my fingers becoming his cock as he drove into me. Pressing myself against the wall, I rubbed my breasts between the grooves of the tile, the sensation reminding me of the roughness of his hands sweeping across my nipples.
A strangled cry spilled from my lips as my legs buckled and a spasm of pleasure tore through me, hot and fierce, leaving my sex throbbing against my hand as I slid trembling to the shower floor.
I rested my head against the wall and continued to stroke myself, my legs jerking as I drew slow, languid circles over my swollen clit, lost in the delicious ache and tease of my own body, fingers drawing out my indulgence until the water ran cold and I shuddered in one last final release.
Night crept through the windows as the rain continued to fall steadily outside. The weight of my hair lay wet against my back, sending drops of water trickling across my skin as I sat at the kitchen table with a cup of tea. The comforting aroma of chamomile drifted against my lips like a soothing caress as I flipped through the pages of the old book, the edges yellowed and brittle against my hands.
A piece of folded paper fluttered to the floor, and I bent to retrieve it, opening it up to reveal what looked like an old letter. The words were barely decipherable, blurred by heavy creases along the page, as if it had been read and tucked away countless times. But a date was scrawled across the top. May 5th 1946. And at the bottom, a name. Fredrick.
I glanced at the page the letter had fallen from, the words beckoning to me like a strange, seductive whisper as my eyes landed on the words Priapus slanted across the paper in faded red ink.
Beneath it lay an inscription.
He’ll come to you when your desire calls
Like a desperate plea to a darkened room.
Speaking in an opulent language born of fire and skin.
He will obliterate you.
But do not be afraid.
For Priapus is only the essence of all things hidden and bound.
The beauty that lies beneath the earth
A song that longs for release.
As I read the last lines out loud, the page appeared to grow warm beneath my fingers, and a low rumble like that of a subway beneath my feet built in intensity.
My hands gripped the table as it surged, watching the walls around me buck and sway. With my heart battering against my chest, I scrambled underneath the table, watching as if in a dream, the way the cups and plates spilled from the cupboards and crashed to the floor. Adrenaline and confusion swelled inside me, stealing my breath as I clenched my eyes closed and gripped the legs of the table, waiting for the movement to stop.
I didn’t know New York had earthquakes.
The trembling slowed to a low shudder, and then stillness swallowed up sound, and silence filled my apartment. Yet I could feel something that wasn’t there before. A heavy presence.
I opened my eyes, and a gasp tumbled from my mouth.
The figure of a man stood there, large, and unclothed like an imposing statue among the rubble of my kitchen. A piercing scream erupted from me, and I slid myself against the far wall. “Get out of here!”
I looked up at the ceiling, wondering if perhaps he had crashed through the floor from the apartment above, but aside from the broken dishes in the kitchen, everything remained strangely intact. The books in my living room, still meticulously organized upon the shelves. Framed photos still neatly aligned along the wall.
A chill ran through me.
I stared up at the man, unable to take my eyes off him. He was tall and lean, with well-defined muscles that ran the length of his chest and upper arms. Long ebony hair flowed across an angled jaw and down to his back, his eyes a haunting shade of green like that of the forest. He had a primal beauty about him, almost like that of a wild animal, and despite the situation, something stirred within me. A desire to touch him. I found my gaze traveling down to where his abdomen met the coarse coils of his pubic hair, the full length of him on display. The size was immense, and I wrenched my eyes away as the familiar heat rose within and spread violently across my cheeks.
Finding my breath, I attempted to quell the tremble in my voice. “I don’t know how the hell you got in here, but you need to leave right now!”
He cocked his head at me, a look of mild amusement flashing in his eyes. “Oh, but I do believe you have summoned me.”
I stared at him, my mind reeling. “What are you talking about? You need to get out of here!” On shaky legs, I stood and grabbed my purse, my hands fumbling for my phone. “I’m calling the police.”
He materialized beside me, the space between us now inches apart, close enough that I could detect the scent of smoke and earth on him, reminding me of something I couldn’t quite place. Something ancient and alluring. Goosebumps prickled along my skin as I gripped the phone and clutched my robe tight across my chest.
“Lillian, there is no need to be afraid. I promise I have no intention of hurting you.”
“Who are you? And how the hell do you know my name?” My words came out breathless and clipped.
“My name is Priapus. I come from a world that has been long forgotten. A world now hidden from mortals.” A small, seductive smile spread across the curve of his full lips, the emerald of his eyes flashing with a languid heat that seemed to reach out and press against me like a caress. “The Greeks were the last to dance among us.”
A fierce warmth blazed across my cheeks once more, and I took a step back from the potency of his gaze as broken glass crunched beneath the soles of my slippered feet. “Priapus? Isn’t that the Greek God of lust?”
My mind flashed back to my childhood. The dark confessional booths I was thrust into every weekend to purge my shameful thoughts. The bible, like a sentinel keeping careful watch over the house. My mother’s voice hissing against my ear, the rosary clutched between her pale fingers, her voice rising and falling in fervent prayer.
“Carnal lust is the devil’s plaything, Lillian.”
Priapus let out a sigh and slid himself casually into one of the kitchen chairs, gracefully crossing his legs. “Lust. You speak as if the very word itself is a sin.” He regarded me with a playful glint that danced in his eyes. “What I am is the representation of humanity’s hidden desires.”
“Yes.” He said with a faint smirk. “I am only misunderstood because my very existence threatened the puritan self-control of your ancestors. You humans live in such a state of self-constriction. The idea of releasing your own shackles absolutely terrifies you.”
I set my phone on the table and pressed my hands to my temples, wondering if I had either completely lost my mind, or if I had hit my head during the earthquake and now lay unconscious and suspended in some lucid dream-like state. This can’t be real.
“How is this all even possible? How did you get into my apartment?”
Priapus gestured over to the large leather book that still lay open on the kitchen counter. “The book of secrets.”
“Secrets? That’s just an old Greek mythology book I found in a used bookstore.”
“Ah, but it is not.” Priapus rose from the chair and picked up the book. His hands, large but elegant, cradled it like something precious and alive. “It is so much more than that. The words are only a cloak, you see. An enchantment created to disguise the true nature of what lies hidden within them.”
I raised an eyebrow at him. “Which is?”
“Invocations. Magic. The portal to the worlds that separate humans from myth.” He stepped closer to me, pulling me into his mesmerizing gaze. “Some say it was Eros himself who wrote this over six hundred years ago.”
“Yes. The God of love. Or, to be more precise, the God of passion and physical desire.”
“Really?” I bit back a laugh which wanted to spill out, hysterical and unhinged. “And did you two know each other?”
“We did indeed. We were close for many years. I have been his messenger on many occasions.” He stepped closer to me and delicately ran his fingers along the inside of my wrist. “It is your desire that longs to free itself, Lillian. That is what drew you to this book, and that is why I am here.”
Tingles spread through me like an electric current, his words reaching deep inside, plucking the strands of my thoughts apart.
What would it feel like to let myself go?
I yanked my hand back, my skin coursing with a violent heat that made my limbs weak as my eyes flickered briefly down his torso to where the massive girth of his cock hung between muscular legs. The sight of him naked, and standing so close, filled me with a confliction of arousal and discomfort. “I think you need to put something on.”
Beelining into the living room, I searched for something to cover him with as I heard him chuckle softly from the kitchen. “What is it with you humans and your obsession with covering up your bodies?”
Returning to the kitchen, I thrust a blanket at him, noticing the glimmer of heat as his eyes trailed from my hips up to the rise of my breasts. “All bodies are beautiful, Lillian. And you are quite an exquisite representation of the female form, I might add.”
My face surged with fire, my heart beating violently within my chest as Priapus reached out and lightly ran his hand down the flush of my cheek. My breath caught in my throat, and my head swam as if I had drunk too many glasses of wine. I backed away from him, covering my cheeks with my trembling hands, even though I knew this situation I had tumbled into was far beyond decorum, or any sense of reality for that matter.
“Do not hide your face, Lillian.”
I released a hiss of breath as my own truth tumbled forth, suddenly unbound from the constraints of my protective shell. “It’s a force of habit, I guess. I’ve been cursed with this affliction most of my life. Idiopathic cranial facial erythema, my doctors call it.”
Priapus shook his head slowly. “No. You blush because you do not allow your longing to release itself. Intimacy is a vital component of life. As important as breath itself. But you have become a prisoner, trapped and hidden within the cage of your own construction.” He slowly moved closer to me, the scent of him growing stronger like a musk that permeated the space around me. “All human ailments are a direct result of some form of emotional repression. The neglect of the self. The belief that one is not worthy enough.”
The truth of this hit me as my eyes skittered over to the book that lay on the table. Over fifteen years of therapy and doctor consultations. Tests and medications. Hidden fears whispered in rooms that held fancy degrees, and not once did anyone connect the dots between my condition and my own self-loathing.
“And how do you know so much about me?” I backed away from him and sank into the chair by the kitchen table, hoping the distance between us would clear my head. His presence was heavy and luring, like a shroud draped around me. But at the same time, whatever initial fear his presence evoked had dissipated. Looking up into the ethereal green of his eyes, I saw something wild, and beneath it, something inherently gentle and sensual.
Priapus draped the blanket loosely around his waist with a sly smile. “Is this better?”
I nodded as he moved to sit across from me, his hands splayed across the nicked wood of the table. “All I know about you are the thoughts within your mind, the impressions left behind like shadows. The ego’s file cabinet, so to speak. But the true essence of who you are, the fire that dances within your soul. Only you have access to that.”
I sat back against the chair. I couldn’t remember the last time I had felt any fire inside my soul. My mother’s steely blue eyes flashed through my mind. Do not laugh so loud. Do not cry. Keep your hands clean. Sit up straight. Impure thoughts are the devil’s whisperings.
When had the wildness inside been replaced with shame and submission?
“What is it that you want in your life, Lillian?”
The soft cadence of his voice stirred me from my thoughts, and I looked up at him. “I don’t want to hide anymore. I want to feel comfortable in my body.” My lip trembled and the sting of tears rose as I clutched my robe tighter around myself. “I want to feel beautiful.”
With a nod, he lifted himself from the chair and walked over to me, his hand outstretched. “You are more than beautiful.” The warmth of his fingers curled around mine as he drew me to my feet. “Once, long ago, we worshiped women like you. Women rich and supple. The manifestation of fertility and life itself. But men grew afraid of your power, of your strength. They wanted a woman small and whittled down, easily manipulated to fit in their hands.” As he spoke, his hand crept to my waist, his touch stirring a heat inside me. “You are a goddess, Lillian, and your body is a divine temple.”
I sucked in a breath as the distance between us grew smaller, the color in his eyes swirling in unearthly hues I had no words for. It was startling, and my heart began to beat wildly against my chest. “What are you?”
“I told you, I am Priapus.”
“Yes, but are you real? Or some spirit?” My hands reached out to him of their own volition, tentatively pressing my fingertips against the smooth skin of his chest, the faint ripple of muscle below, solid and almost hot to the touch.
“I am whatever you would like me to be.” He leaned forward, his words falling like a whisper against my skin, his breath teasing the lobe of my ear. “I am here to free you from your cage, Lillian.”
The blanket slipped off him as his hands slowly ran up my arms, drawing me close. I gasped as his erection pressed between the fabric of my robe and brushed against my leg, causing a rush of desire to curl through my limbs.
“You can touch me if you would like.” His voice was a smokey rasp, and I found myself boldly sliding my hand down to grasp the length of his cock, which throbbed with heat against my palm. It had been so long since I had touched the pulse of another’s desire, and his was unlike any I had ever seen, exquisitely large and commanding. And the thought of him inside me sent my pulse racing.
A low rumble formed in the base of his throat, almost like the purr of a cat, as his hands slid up my back, leaving a trail of heat behind. “I want you to go into the bedroom now and remove this confining garment of yours. And then I am going to do things to you that are going to make you forget who you are.”