Hania, Crete

I wondered if every landscape we casually glanced at was the outcome of an ecstasy we didn’t even know was happening, a love-act moving at a speed slow and steady enough for us to be deceived into thinking it was just everyday reality. ~ Ali Smith

We took an overnight ferry from Athens to Crete, which was more like a cruise ship – they even had a disco and a casino and a chapel and untold amounts of booze. We slept in the lounge on couches where they told us not to sleep (surrounded by people sleeping, however. It still doesn’t make sense to me). On the way across the Mediterranean Sea, I started and finished a book called Girl Meets Boy by Ali Smith, a retelling of the story of Iphis (pronounced eye-fizz) in Ovid’s Metamorphosis. I swear I had no idea that Greek mythology was central to the book when I picked it up in Athens. But the back cover mentioned lesbians and puns so I plopped down 9 euros immediately.

Iphis was from Crete. Before she was born, her mom and dad had a chat and her dad said, You know if it’s born a girl, we’ll have to kill her. And the mom silently nodded even though she obviously didn’t want to kill her baby because it wasn’t born a boy. So she went to temple and prayed to her goddess, Isis, and Isis said, Everything will be fine. So Iphis was born a girl, but her mom raised her as a boy to prevent the infanticide from happening. When Iphis was “of age” to be married (12), she fell in love with her childhood girlfriend, Ianthe, who had no idea Iphis was a chick, but was in love with her nonetheless. Shortly before their wedding, Iphis started freaking out because, as a woman, she’d never be able to please her wife (Ovid was obviously a man). So she called on Isis again and was like, Help a sistah out? And Isis said, Okay okay and turned her into a boy proper. Scandal over. Heternormativity saved.

Except in my own Greek myth, I am Iphis and I stay a woman – or maybe I turn into one around Jr. High. I’ve been thinking a lot about marriage recently, perhaps prompted by our move to California, where the battle around Prop 8 was lost, unless you were one of the 17,000 lucky gay couples who squeezed in during the five month loop hole. The Iphis and Ianthe of Girl Meets Boy get married on a riverbank in Scotland. The description made me misty, or rather, it made me swallow hard, twice.

We stood on the bank of the river under the trees and promised the nothing that was there, the nothing that made us, the nothing that was listening, that we truly desired to go beyond ourselves.”

And I think, I want to love from nothing, create from nothing, to dizzy myself on the craggy beaches of foreign isles, pummeled by wild fennel and basil in this great amazing nothing. And I will know that nothing will ever stay the same because it can’t stay the same. I will change and she will change and maybe the laws will even change, but our love, this great act, will stand stubborn as the ruins at Olympian Temples, even when it’s rubble, even when it’s bone dry brittle and carried off in pieces by wind and birds. We will carve our names into the sea and become everywhere. This is the only thing that matters – not tax benefits and pieces of paper with official-looking fonts. It’s only salt and sea and herbs and sky.

I know I should be sleeping, but I’m too shrouded in birdsong. The motion of the boat is jostling my particles. I crave it, the moving. I want to always be moving. I know soon I will be back in the land of the functioning and employed, but for now I am content to sweep up others’ fairy tales of gods and goddesses, of sex changes and lost empires, of mortals and minarets and minataurs.


8 Responses

  1. uh.

    damn girl.

    that’s some fine writing you done there.

    so good i have only trailer-ebonics to reply with.

    happy trails ❤

  2. thanks shana, i mean holla back girlfriend

  3. Swooooooooon. Love you both. And I agree with Shana–my words absolutely fail in comparison. 🙂

  4. Oh, the sweet bliss of time away from the run of the mill. It’s truly a gift and the trick is to take a slice of it back into the day to day when it inevitably comes. In the mean time, savor every second. You can sleep later! Enjoy Crete–magical place.

  5. Oh, so lovely. I was just thinking today of “the point” of marriage, of children, of why bother, and I couldn’t get beyond the idea that we serving up ourselves to something bigger than just us, bound by love and faith and irrationality and desire to not experience this beautiful life without sharing it with each other.

    So, you know: what you said.

  6. that girl-boy-girl thing is dizzying to my fragile little mind….such conflict. As Robert DiNiro would so, “Those Greeks!”

  7. when did DeNiro say that? and that’s greek tragedy for you.

    Thanks for the sweet comments, ya’ll.


  8. Analyze This, the movie.

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