I started this blog on a friend’s suggestion: I wrote her too long. I wrote well? I should get a blog. I should blog about this novel I was writing, a retelling of the story of Dido, queen of Carthage.
I forget about Dido for months. But as a friend put it, she is always there, simmering slowly at the edge of my consciousness.
Then I remember: just now, watching a movie, one of those LGBTQ movies on Netflix, with the simple red wolf howling. (What was it called? “Princess Cyd.”)
In the movie, the aunt is a writer and Cyd, the girl coming of age, coming out, does not read books, but she comes to admire her aunt. So, she comes to appreciate books, as well as other girls, a “friend, friend” she makes. One of the things I like about these movies is that the lesbians who make them linger over the literary, on language. Visually, they are sentimental and nostalgic. There is light on limbs on light down on soft skin on race. A character reads from a story by James Baldwin, at length. The aunt, Miranda, defends her pleasure in cake: eloquently.
Asked a question about the source of inspiration for her stories, Miranda answers–and my mind wanders.
The answer is unrequited love.
I met Dido in graduate school, in an ancient history, by Virgil. She strode through the city she built with love, courage, wisdom, like Diana, goddess of the hunt, a head taller than her subjects. (And this is how the lover emerges in a crowd, as if taller.
Or maybe you are sitting at a table and suddenly there she is with her red hair and colors never go back the same, the light won’t, the light puffs its wings all summer long, long after love is gone. Butterflies, bees, dandelions. Eyes are blue, the river reflects the sky, and I lay there on its back, on a rock, longing. Losing.)
The hero, Actaeon fell in love with her too. But he broke her heart when he left to fulfill his destiny (oh the founding of civilization, of course.) So, Dido went mad and burned her city to the ground and threw her body into the conflagration.
There was a pop song on the radio in the months after that made me think of Dido. I would turn the song up and my chest would swell and ache. She was one in a long line of unrequited loves.
Then, years later, driving west on the I40, I think of Dido. My partner is in the seat next to me and that is coming to an end. I think of Dido. I imagine us there. Young, long before Carthage, before Aeneas or fire and goddesses. I think of us wrestling and the sun on us, of our long bones, our lithe muscles sliding over each other, over and over and overpowering one another. Always the light. Panting wings, (butterflies, bees, hearts pounding, our breath coming strong, slicing across ear lobes, muffled in hair, smashed into the ground, gasping, the taste of blood; the edge that could be hate, made us giggle insanely) light down on her cheek, a drip of sweat that falls on my face.
I look up at Dido and I want to surrender. I want to relax, let her slip down my skin, fall into my chest and laugh, with pleasure.
But she does not know me; she is all in my mind. I seek her in words. I go to her body, imagine, remember, all the lovers I have known. I make her a child. I grow up with her. I am there for every tragedy. I am at her side for all our conquests. I know every scar. Hers is the perfect body. Because it is her body. And the light, the length, the whole history of us is so real, I am searching for the right words to tell you how it feels to be with her.
And that is where that story came from. Is it a novel? All I know is I can visit this other world, where she knows who I am, where she winks at me or smiles her half smile or opens her eyes so wide I see the whites of her eyes and the sea.