Goddess of Love
Venus at the Parking Lot
Venus walked back and forth across the dimly lit parking lot. The clicking of her high heels mingled with the sound of the river which gave life to the city.
The people had long since forgotten the old gods and Venus, as goddess of love, missed their adoration most of all. It hadn’t mattered so much at first. As long as people searched for the ideal of love without ever quite finding it, their prayers had been made to Venus anyway, whether they knew it or not. But now, in this city, they thought they had found the ideal. A young woman, a mere mortal, was worshipped as only the goddess of love may be worshipped, and Venus felt her strength dwindling.
She had come to this city, accompanied by her son Cupid, determined to see the girl with her own eyes and think of a plan to render her harmless.
Earlier that night, Venus had sat at a café watching her rival, Psyche. The girl had sat near the window, staring at the rain outside and warming her long, pale fingers on the cup that held her tea. The waiter, hovering nearby, had worshipped the girl’s reflection in the glass, ignoring the other customers.
Now, walking back and forth near the river’s edge, Venus was plotting. Having seen the lost look on Psyche’s face earlier that night, Venus had understood that, though worshipped by all for her heavenly beauty, no one truly loved the girl. No human being could bear to be put on a pedestal, burdened with the impersonal love that belongs only to the gods, and the girl was obviously lonely.
Suddenly determined, Venus turned and walked away from the river. Soon she entered the hotel where she was staying with her son. She unceremoniously entered his room and smiled as she saw him, sitting on the couch, supporting a newspaper on his crossed legs and nursing a brandy.
‘I’ve come up with a plan,’ she said, sitting down next to him. ‘You will simply have to make the girl fall in love with a kind, humble man. And you will have to make sure he falls in love with her. Once Psyche is safely married, the people will soon enough lose interest in her, and they’ll come back to me. Besides, the girl will be happier that way.’
Cupid sighed. He had enjoyed spending time in this city, making people fall in love without having to get further involved himself. He found his mother’s crusade against this girl too personal, and it bored him. However, he smiled tiredly at Venus and agreed to execute her plan.
Venus told him about the café Psyche frequented, saying it was as good a place as any to find the girl a husband.
The next evening, Cupid went to the café and stood across the street looking at Psyche through the window. He fell head over heels in love with her. Knowing she must never get a chance to see who he was, he ran away, back to the hotel. There he arranged for a chauffeured car to go to the café and pick the girl up. He told the chauffeur to bring the girl to an address far away from the city, and cast a spell of temptation over the car to make sure Psyche would come.
When Psyche left the café, the car was waiting for her. It was a beautiful vehicle and she stood still to look at it, wondering where it had come from, and where it would go. At that moment, the chauffeur lowered the window, and asked her if she needed a lift. Unable to resist and throwing caution to the wind, Psyche opened the door and got into the car. As it drove off, she promptly fell asleep.
When she woke up, the car was parked in front of the most wonderful mansion she had ever seen. Trees and flowers filled the garden and a warm light shone out of all the windows of the house.
She went inside, where she was met by a servant who told her to consider the house as her own. He filled her a warm bath, served her dinner, and later showed her to her bedroom.
There she was woken from her sleep by the sound of the door softly closing. She couldn’t see a thing in the dark, and there was no lamp next to the bed.
‘Don’t be afraid,’ said Cupid, and Psyche felt him take her hand. ‘I saw you at the café near the river, and I fell in love with you. But you may never see my face, may never know my name. You must think it strange... If you want to leave, I’ll let you go.’
But Psyche had fallen in love with his voice, with the touch of his hand, and she stayed.
Brief Moments of Happiness
She spent her days alone in the luxurious mansion, looked after by the servants. Cupid came to her each night, and she grew to love him more and more.
In the dark hours, she told Cupid about her life. She spoke of her two sisters, both married, with whom she spent much of her time; of how her parents were worried about her lack of suitors and feared she would continue to drift and eventually throw in her lot with some undesirable man; and of her loneliness and the impersonal way people admired her, as if she wasn’t quite real.
But the days were long and empty, and Psyche missed the company of her two sisters.
One night, she begged Cupid to let them visit her.
‘I can’t refuse you anything, but I know that one way or another, your sisters will bring reality to our dream and wake us from it,’ he warned her. But Psyche felt sure that their love was inviolate, and she insisted.
So one day her sisters were driven to the house, and they greeted each other with cries of happiness. But when her sisters had been shown the house and garden, they felt jealous of all the splendour and began to ask Psyche many questions about her husband. They soon found out that she had never seen him, didn’t even know his name. ‘He could be a murderer, or an awful creature! How can you trust a man who only loves you at night?’
After they had left, Psyche realised that she would love Cupid no less even if what her sisters had said turned out to be true. But she wanted to know, wanted to see, who the man she loved was.
That night, when Cupid was asleep, she left the bed and lit a candle. She gazed at his face, spellbound by the countenance of the most beautiful man she had ever seen. But the light of the candle had woken Cupid. He sat up in bed and took her hand in his.
‘I knew something like this would happen,’ he said sadly, and explained how he, the immortal son of Venus, had come to fall in love with a mortal woman. ‘I told my mother you were safely married to a farmer, but of course she knew I lied. As long as you didn’t know who I was, she couldn’t read the truth form you heart. But now she knows, and she’s pulling me back to the realm of the gods. I will have to obey her call. We were living in a dream and there’s no room for morning, love.’ Cupid got up and left the room, broken-hearted. Psyche threw herself onto the bed, crying desperately.
When Cupid arrived at Venus’s palace, she looked at him with stony eyes. ‘If you ever try to see or even contact that girl again, she will be the one who suffers for it.’
Cupid knew well what his mother was capable of, and said he would obey her, even though he hoped that he would find a way to win back his beloved.
By the time Psyche could cry no more, the mansion had disappeared and she was lying in a grassy field.
There was only one thing she could think of doing: pray to Venus. She remembered that there was a cave, far from the city, where people used to worship the old gods. She could think of no better place to call on the goddess, so she stood up and started walking.
Venus on Immortality
When she finally reached the cave, she entered the dark, damp space and fell down on her knees to pray.
Far off in her palace, Venus heard the call and felt a chill of happiness run down her spine at the thought that someone, anyone, was praying to her once more, in the old temple that had been abandoned for so long.
Soon she appeared in front of Psyche. She wanted to be angry with the girl and punish her for stealing the worship of the people, and even stealing her own son, with her beauty. But Venus couldn’t feel any anger. She just felt sad and so very tired.
Psyche, feeling the presence of the goddess, raised her head and looked at Venus, seeing a beautiful woman dressed in an expensive black dress and high heels, wearing red lipstick.
Venus looked back at her, sighed, and said, ‘Listen to me, girl. I can either marry you to a farmer and make the lie my son told me come true, or I can let you drink the mead of immortality so you can marry my son. Making you a goddess is another way to rid myself of a rival, after all. But remember, though you will be immortal, your strength will dwindle as the people forget us. We depend on their memory, and when they cease to tell even our stories we will be no more than ghosts. It isn’t easy for us, and immortality is not much more than an eternal lack of change. Only the minds of mortals change, we do not. The choice is yours.’
Psyche jumped up and threw her arms around the goddess. Venus sighed once more. ‘Come with me, to the café where my son and I first saw you. I will change that tea you favour into the drink of immortality.’
At the café, where the waiter stood behind the bar staring at the two beautiful women, Venus held the palm of her hand over Psyche’s cup, looking straight into the girl’s eyes. After a few minutes, she drew back her hand and told her to drink. ‘You won’t feel anything. Later, you will develop your own special powers, but for now all you’ll feel is a certain sense of detachment from your surroundings. Though I suspect you’ve felt like that for a long time, anyway.’
When Psyche had finished her tea, they left the café and walked to the parking lot next to the river. There, Venus took Psyche’s hand and told her to close her eyes.
When she opened them again, they were standing in the hall of a palace. The floor and walls were made of marble and lapis lazuli, and the ceiling was made of amber, allowing a honey-coloured light to filter into the room.
‘My tears created the amber for that ceiling,’ said Venus as she led Psyche to the stairs. ‘My son is upstairs. Go to him, and be happy. But always remember that I, and I alone, am called the Goddess of Love. Even though men will forget my name, even though they know the promises of the past never quite come true, they will always seek for love, and when they do, they pray to me.’