Age matters little for immortals. When I met Dionysus, I was twenty-four. She was old.
We met at an after-hours club. She caught my eye or I caught hers. Her eyes were glittery and wise. She came over and laughed. I felt good.
When Dionysus laughs, it’s an all-devouring laugh, as though she is swallowing you down. It’s a fearless, monstrous laugh. You must trust her to hack you back up.
Around bars and in streets, in alleys, Dionysus swirls, administering the night. She blurs the edges of people, her own borders smeared.
I tend to maintain myself. So we were in love.
When Zeus killed her mother, Dionysus was still in the womb. Zeus killed Semele by showing her all of himself. He sewed Dionysus into his thigh.
Zeus is a god of gods. He has also birthed a child from his head.
Dionysus has failed to live up. She serves the carnival more than she rules it. Her people command her, texting and calling, insisting she show until she shows.
“I don’t want to go,” she’d complain, tossing the phone down and stretching in bed. “It’s so much work. I’d rather stay here with you.” She’d yawn, rub my back. She’d cough up mucus and swirl it in her mouth, chewing before gulping back down.
“So don’t go. We couldâ€¦” In truth, I’d grown to like having the nights to myself.
“Come with me,” she whined, wrapping her legs around mine. “Then I won’t have to stay out so late.”
In the final month of Dionysus’ incubation, Zeus’ jealous wife tried beating the fetus dead with an urn. While fucking their make-up fuck, Hera caressed the fetus inadvertently. Dionysus moved inside her father’s thigh.
In an act the physics of which I don’t understand, Zeus birthed Dionysus in the bed he shared with Hera. I imagine he unthreaded the thread that attached Dionysus to his thigh. Possibly, contractions and labor occurred.
Upon her release into the world, Dionysus scrambled over to suck the breast of her father’s wife. She sucked with mighty, toothless gums. Hera, delirious, came.
Dionysus crawled from Hera’s empty breast. She seized Hera’s glass of wine. Dionysus drank, and drank.
“You know I don’t like seeing you drunk,” I said, pulling away. When she swirled around bars and streets, she forgot about me. It hurt.
She snorted. “What do you mean? I’m always drunk. I could use a beer right now. Just kidding. Ha. No, I’m not.” She might stand on the bed and do her inebriated court jester routine. If I didn’t laugh, she’d do a grotesque striptease. If I didn’t laugh at that, she’d straddle me and make stupid faces. For a time, withholding laughter was my most effective power ploy. It worked until she resorted to merciless, profoundly unfair tickling.
Things became smeared. I had to keep reminding myself that Dionysus could live off of coffee and cigarettes and alcohol. I couldn’t. Dionysus could bike through red traffic lights, yipping, without fear. That didn’t mean I should follow her.
Dionysus could also, despite her immortality, bike home drunk and take a spill, a mistake even a god could make. Then she’d really need me.
She might need me to pick her up in a cab, for instance. She might need me to know where she lived. She might have lost her keys again; she might need me to break down the door. She might be so upset by the damage, she’d need me to get the broom. She might whisk the wood shards this way and that; she might need me to make her stop. She might threaten to throw a punch at me then, her eyeballs trembling in their sockets. She might need me to threaten her back. She might need me to go over it with her the next day. She might need me to describe it and laugh.
Maybe her glory would have killed me, I think sometimes. If she’d shown it. Maybe I’ll call her. Then I reread her last text: her pee smells like Southern Comfort, and am I ever going to talk to her again?
Our last night involved me showing up at a bar to escort her home. She wouldn’t leave. Her people were egging her on.
“Stop it, stop it,” she pushed me away. “You’re no fun. I want to have fun,” she slurred, head rolling around on her neck. “I could die tomorrow.” She flicked at me as if it would make me go away, then walked unsteadily to the bar.
She’d already been cut off, I guess, so she was taking people’s drinks right out of their hands. I grabbed her around the waist and pulled her away. I felt like her parent. I felt like a security guard. I felt dangerously, violently angry. We swayed and scrambled like a disoriented crab. Outside she started crying. “Stop yelling, stop yelling,” she yelled. I stopped. She pulled me in for what I thought was an embrace. I softened. She pulled up my t-shirt so it was a bowl. Then she puked in it.