The countryside of Greece is the type of green that comes from the bottom of your ribcage to force air into your lungs only to steal it back again. The countryside of Greece must be the playground of their spitefully reckless gods and glorified heroes. Then again, the Greek heroes were questionable men, let alone husbands and fathers.
Received accolades for killing a rape victim. I learned the following tale of Medusa when I was seven years old: Medusa was a beautiful young woman who didn’t reciprocate Poseidon’s feelings for her, so Poseidon turned her into a monster who Perseus later slays.
Ten years later in a Greek class, the “real story” is explained: Poseidon raped Medusa in the temple of Athena. Athena, enraged at Poseidon, turned Medusa into a woman capable of defending herself––by turning men to stone.
Slaying Medusa was only one of Perseus’ quests. The abridged story kills Medusa twice by footnoting her into oblivion. Medusa was a monster and Perseus slayed her. The hero manages to steal the show.
Sunlight poured in through the walk-out door in a basement that had only the smell of raw cardboard. In one corner, the kingpin spider of the room kept all of his tokens, different insect carcasses hung like deer heads. Boxes stacked taller than my mother were assembled in a solid fortress, with no way of telling the contents of the innermost ones. We shared and serially misplaced a single boxcutter, a paring knife drafted into service.
We found a Pottery Barn autumnal garland crushed in a box under cleaning buckets filled with my dad’s hoarded stacks of old Foreign Affairs magazines. The packers threw everything from the old storage room into boxes sharpied “miscellaneous.” I saw: garland, magazines, baby toys, first communion dress, ponytail I have yet to donate to Locks-of-Love, cleaning bucket. My mother saw: garland, family photos, MLA conference tote bags, handmade christmas ornaments, teaching materials, cleaning bucket.
I can count on one hand the times I’ve seen my mother cry. Once, she left the house for the night, and I could see her tears when she pushed passed me. The phenomena occurred again when I asked for the first time why she was still married. She didn’t answer my question. She didn’t cry in the basement that day, but she was about to. If her emotional scale was our road-trip from St. Louis to Baltimore she was right around Wheeling. As she pulled out the contents of the “miscellaneous” box, she held the crushed garland like a mirror.
“I got this house for a great price… really negotiated them down,” I heard my father say on the phone that day. Probably to his mother. “Our beautiful Maryland home!” he posted in a Facebook status update.
After escaping the labyrinth with a ball of golden fleece given to him by his soon-to-be-bride, Ariadne, Theseus set sail for home. Dionysus, the fun-loving god of wine, forced Theseus to abandon Ariadne on an island so Dionysus could wed her instead. Dionysus threatened Theseus that should he not comply, no one on his ship would arrive home alive. So, even though Theseus allegedly loved Ariadne, and even though she was crucial to his survival in the labyrinth, he caved. Ariadne awoke one day in the middle of nowhere, left alone by a man she had trusted. In his place was a stranger who she eventually marries. Later, she hangs herself.
My mother was promised our move to St. Louis would be our family’s last. Ten years later, the promise was terminated like my father’s employment. A consequence of his actions. No divine intervention necessary. In six months, practically overnight, my mother and I found ourselves stranded. He moved across the country for a new job and waited for us to follow him. Single-handedly, she spent months clearing out rooms and scrubbing floors to sell her “forever home.”
While packing, I found a box of photos from my childhood. In one, my father teaches me to play chess at age four, the picture capturing his furrowed brow and restraint. I must have confused the pawn and king. They both are so frail. In another, I (age two) sit in his lap, and we’re both smiling. I resisted the urge to tear the picture to shreds the size of his shame. The photograph exists as an anomaly; I have no memories of allowing him to hold me.
I wasn’t old enough to mark the beginning of my father’s emotional abandonment when it happened. I’ve been told he stayed sitting in the delivery room while I was rushed to the NICU and onto an operating table, indifferent.
After I went through all the photo boxes (and my mother packed the house), she traveled to a new house to reverse the whole process. She knows better than to call this one a “forever home.” When she asks him to unpack a box, he finds another non-urgent errand to run, Facebook post to write a thorough rebuttal of, etc.
Was the quintessential Greek hero. Polyphemus the giant was a sheep farmer with one eye. He loved his sheep like children. Odysseus and his men invaded the giant’s home, forced him into a drunken stupor, and stole his sight with a blindingly hot stake. When he asked the identity of his attacker, Odysseus smiled and replied, “Nobody.”
While unpacking the new house, I would try to write from my bed. I always deleted whatever I started. Whenever I attempted to cope with the displacement––the robbing of home and creation of house––anvils would float above my chest. Getting out of bed was no longer a thoughtless task. Across the house, the thin walls told me that my parents were attempting to unpack boxes in the same room. They are popcorn and microwave. I received a text from my father, “your lack of initiative is mean and heartless.”
V. Notebook Fragments
Maybe my youthful fascination with the mythological extended beyond the Greeks. Example: A girl’s dad is her hero.
The invocation of the word “father” is the type of summoning that comes from the bottom of your ribcage to force air into your lungs only to steal it back again. It leaves you empty, or perhaps full of rage. By now, the two states feel the same.
Maybe the Greeks spent so much time practicing the oral tradition of storytelling so they couldn’t cry when they bore witness.
Adina Cazacu-De Luca is a senior in high school from St. Louis, Missouri. She writes mostly creative nonfiction, and her work has been featured before in the National Scholastic Writing Award Online Galleries. She’s the editor-in-chief of her school’s literary journal, and enjoys playing the piano, reading, and watching documentaries in her free time. In the future, she hopes to pursue epidemiology.