Fiction

Helen Takes Stock

Written by Justin Biggi. "The etymology of her name is considered “uncertain”. Some would see it as a terrible thing. To not know where your name is from, to not be able to find roots in the soft earth. She finds it makes it easier to discover herself for her own sake."

Here are ten things that she learned (she learned them quick and well, and cunning in her woman-ways, because like all things born from an egg, she was born blind, but by the next spring she could fly without a mother or a father to assist her):

0. (“Father” is a loose term).

1. All men are the same. They like to speak about moira like she’s an old friend. She isn’t. They aren’t. At most, they’re her slave.

2. The etymology of her name is considered “uncertain”. Some would see it as a terrible thing. To not know where your name is from, to not be able to find roots in the soft earth. She finds it makes it easier to discover herself for her own sake.

3. It is much easier to fit in a wooden box when you’re sixteen than when you’re twenty-six.

4. In some versions, it wasn’t even her. It was a ghost-copy-cloud. Wouldn’t that have been so much easier?

5. Your half-sister goddess can love you just as much as she can hate you. How terribly, disappointingly human of her.

6. Neither of her husbands won the war. One died and the other one had to trick his way to victory. The trick wasn’t even his. What a disappointment, the both of them.

7. Hector was kinder to her than either of them ever were, and what good did that do to him?

8. If you leave your infant daughter behind for ten years, she will not recognise you when you come home.

9. “Home” is also up for consideration. Sparta? Troy? Egypt? Hollywood? She’s a slut everywhere, no matter which way they tell it. What story can she tell?

10. Beauty’s in the eye of the beholder. She’s covered all the mirrors she could find.

She learned other things. Things you can only know when you live through a war and a canon of myths. Things you can only know if you’ve been deified, sanctified, mystified, pried open by the Academe, cast and miscast and painted (they never seem to get the nose right).

Some say she married Achilles in the Underworld. She’s not around to ask, and even if she were around, what kind of question is that? She married Menelaus, and then she married Paris, and once the tale was done and dusted the only other name truly Remembered was Ἀχιλλεύς. So, some man married her off to him in his History because neither of them would exist without the war and a couple hundred years later a poet made her a stripper on a seedy table. Now someone’s calling her Norma Jeane Baker.

You can’t ever-even die, when you’re Myth.

Ten plus ten is twenty. Twenty years is a long time to be a ghost. Here are the other ten things that she learned:

1. Remembering is the closest one can come to making magic. Maybe that’s why she gave Menelaus and Telemachus those sweet-tasting drugs.

2. Being a goddess’ favourite is a curse. It is a powerless, useless rage. Nobody else around her seems to understand that rage.

3. When you’re a goddess’ favourite it becomes hard to know what’s you, what’s fate, what’s the way the story’s told.

4. She can be cruel, her half-sister goddess. Even if she’s family. Maybe that’s worse.

5. No satisfying etymology. Makes it harder to remember who’s who: myth or maiden?

6. Andromache did not know what to do with her. Not many of the Trojan women did. At least Hecuba had eventually recognised the visceral sisterhood that their unforgiving world allowed them. Perhaps she had because she was the last queen Troy ever saw.

7. There comes a gut-deep knowledge when one is the last of anything. Achilles knew it too.

8. Andromache had based so much of her own self on being faithful-daughter-wife. Now here came the once-Spartan queen who had left it all: faith-daughter-husband. Take all that away, what’s left? Andromache had asked. Once. Quietly and very softly by the loom. Almost scared of what that question could unleash. They had been weaving and she had been weaving the war, and while she did, Andromache had been carefully watching. Ten years in thread. Gargantuan. She had spent a few minutes thinking very hard what to answer the Trojan princess. Then she had answered:

9. Helen.

10. And that was the end of it.

Written by Justin Biggi

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