The Temple of Aphrodite
Angelica sat staring out into ocean, wondering how she had not seen it coming. She kept seeing herself in dreams as a deer running at full speed in the dark, a free being, only to suddenly realize she was standing on train tracks with a piercingly bright light blinding her and then bam!!!! It is over. It is all over. All of the fighting, screaming, painful arguments which always ended with some kind of physical assault. Every time she had submitted to him, to his stubborn ignorant views, to his insistence that he knew better, it was because she was thought every individual in a relationship was compelled to compromise. She did not predict however, that she would be doing all of the ‘comprising’ in order to avoid arguments. As his character, unravelled before her eyes she gradually came to the horrific realization that defying this brute, was to be avoided at all costs. He had conditioned her well.
The only thing she regretted now, was that she did not get away sooner. His ultimate rejection of her was the worst pain she had ever endured from a partner. It was as if he had reduced her down to the nub, then discarded her when she was just a shell, with nothing left inside. She felt it was worse to be dumped by someone like that. Even her father, who was quite easy going, had once described him as a ’καθαρμα’ – a low life; Angelica knew he was right but she stayed loyal to this man until the end because he had helped her when no one else had the inclination to. Stupid loyalty. It only served to keep her trapped in.
As she relaxed on the soft sand, picking up a handful of it and letting it slowly slip through her fingers, she felt a huge sense of relief and she whispered to herself – Thank the Gods that he set me free. At that point, it was as if the heavens were in cahoots with her as she felt the cool, ocean breeze kissing her hot skin; she took a deep breath and smiled blissfully. It had been five months since her world fell apart, but she was finally beginning to feel like herself again. Yes… the only gift he had lavished her with was her freedom… and it was precious.
“I’m free,” she joyously announced as she resolved that from now on, she would do what SHE wanted, whenever SHE wanted and that she would allow herself to have some fun. Angelica willed this promise to herself into existence and hoped for the best. It was summer in Cyprus, after all. There were plenty of tourists flowing into the beautiful island, looking to party and have a good time. What better way could there be, to get over an awful man like that, than to have lots of rebound love affairs and regain her sense of self-worth? But on second thought, she scoffed at herself, as she knew she was not capable of using people that way to work through her issues; No. Sex was not the cure. But she did need something… She did not know WHAT exactly though, which was perplexing.
She suddenly felt the urge to take a dip in the cooling water which usually helped her think more clearly. Thus, she got to her feet, proudly sporting a fifties style bustier, light blue and white bikini which enhanced her bust but also complimented her tanned skin and flowing honey, brown hair. She sauntered her way lazily into the sea completely oblivious to a few onlookers she was attracting. Angelica floated around in the calm and crystal-clear Mediterranean ocean without a care in the world, wondering if she just attracted the worst people. Then, she contemplated whether her monogamous lifestyle had been the problem. It was not that she judged people who did not live that way, it was just that she had always fallen in love and it came naturally after that, to be faithful to that respective partner. Well, maybe it was time to try something new. She was done with it all. She had dated men and women because she was attracted to both intensely and each time the dating ceased, it was natural to progress into a relationship which always unraveled into unhappiness. So, as she playfully kicked her legs in the water, she made the life changing decision to stay free from the pain and heart ache of monogamy. After all, she deserved it. “Game ON!” she yelled gleefully…. Then put her hand to her mouth as she realized some people nearby were staring at her. She giggled nervously and fell back into the water with a big splash.
She then began swimming away from the shore and away from people, holding her breath while keeping her eyes wide open so she could get a glimpse of the other, elusive, underwater world. Gradually, as she spotted a small school of translucent, silver Boop Boop fish, native to Cyprus shores, flutter by her, she knew she was there. She stopped swimming and stayed afloat on top of the water so her body could relax and just be. As her eyes adjusted, she caught sight of tiny colourful Greenback bullseyes, black Damselfish, and Mediterranean parrotfish flittering about their daily lives, blissfully ignoring Angelica’s human intrusion. But she herself did not feel as if she were an outsider because once she stayed long enough and did not harass, the inhabitants of this world engulfed her, welcoming her to it as they had done countless times before. All she had to do was hold her breath, stay still and savour it, allowing the ocean’s secrets to life, unfold. After all, Greek myths did tell of the sea originating all creatures in times before epistemology was a thing. Aphrodite herself, also known as ‘Lady of Cyprus’, was said to have been born from the foam of the sea near Paphos, her chief centre of worship.
Angelica’s mind flashed back the memory of when she stood at the foot of the Temple of Aphrodite, the Goddess of love, beauty and sexuality. She remembered how as she stepped inside this temple, the wonderful aroma of lilies, lavender and lilac had lovingly engulfed her. Home…. She felt at home as she gazed at the beautiful mosaics composed in times of old. The solid columns of the temple seemed to reach up to the sky and Angelica could only marvel at the creativity inherent within humanity.
As she floated within the depths of this ocean, this memory became so vivid that it held her safe, suspended in time, encapsulating her within it, as the water surrounded her. She remembered every detail; the way it had felt as she sat down within the safety of this temple; the overwhelming despair that had washed over her like a tsunami and how all that she could think of to do, was to wish… She wished that she had never met him. She wished for love… True love… And as she wished she began to envision what her true love would look like…. Blue eyes, not the kind that reflect… The kind of character they would possess… loyal, compassionate, kind, wise… funny. Their values… hard-working … tenacious …their needs… tenderness. All of which would make her love him or her with endless ferocity. She had wished for these things at Aphrodite’s Temple without knowing she had done it as she never breathed a word of it to anyone, nor had she even formulated the idea of it in her mind’s eye. There were no words or sentences formed, just a primal connection that went beyond the finite confines of language. Angelica would never forget however, how at peace she was, for the first time in years, smelling the flora that was now becoming one with the marble and listening to the sound of the wind rustle through the trees that surrounded the Ancient Temple of the one called the ‘Cyprian’ by Sappho. This may well have been her Elysian fields on earth.
Angelica’s mind released her from this memory as she came back to the surface again. Propelling herself expertly against the water, she kept swimming towards the small island that was home to more sea-life, protected from fishermen and as this world manifested itself to her eyes, with colourful fish swishing around her body she began to remember a time when she was content and happy, fulfilled and free. She only felt this when she was alone, without the chains of others shackling her to them. Her conscious mind only knew love as a trap she could not stand to fall into again; it was an abyss that caused her to lose herself within its chaos.