The Taste of Irony
Lightning flashed in the night, revealing a house set beyond the alder thicket. The rain, rare for mid-summer, poured off the roof tiles and watered the garden beds and grape vines that surrounded it. Inside the building, the rain ran fell into the courtyard, splashing over the tiles there with a gentle, almost musical sound. It should have been soothing, and for most of those who lived in the house of Calypso, daughter of the Titan Atlas, it was. The lady of the house had sent the last of her attendants off to their rest hours earlier, and the sound of the rain and soft snoring ruled her little domain. She, though, could find no rest and sat in her lamplit workroom in front of a large loom, separated from the courtyard by only a half-drawn linen curtain. Even the clean, cool air, free of the stickiness of the day couldn’t ease her. She sought release in the rhythm of her weaving, her braceleted arms working the fine threads with a practiced ease.
Suddenly though, the quiet was shattered as the front door opened and someone stepped in. A small gust of wind flickered her lamps. Calypso knew who it was, who it had to be and sighed at the sound, feeling an unnamed tension pass out of her body as he shut the door behind him. Still, she forced herself not to turn as she heard him come in, and instead, continued to sit at her loom, pulling the heddle bar up before shooting the shuttle through one last time. As she beat the thread into place, she could hear him drop his weapons near the entryway. He cursed softly as he fumbled for something there. Metal clattered on the floor. But after that, he quieted and then began moving silently through the house.
One of her girls, not yet fourteen, was stretched out on a pallet in the workroom. Hearing the noise, the girl sat up. “Mistress?”she asked.
“Don’t worry, Ianthe. I’ll deal with it,” she said. “Go back to sleep. It’s just Odysseus coming home.”
The girl looked at her lady with a gentle, thoughtful look, as if she were about to say something, then nodded, and snuggled back into her pallet. Her servants of late had been giving her many such looks. Caring concern.
She thought about them, mortals all, the women of her household, Ianthe, Phyllis, Alea, Callisto who had chosen to grow old on the island rather than return, and the others. She was their goddess, their mother, their protector. The idea that they might see her in need of protection made her frown.
“I am the daughter of Titans, a goddess in my own right. I have the power and the beauty and the wisdom of the gods,” she said, as she wound red thread on a shuttle with a certain vehemence. “What is the concern of mortals to me?” She put the shuttle aside. “But yet...”
Standing up, she walked through the quiet building, past where her maidens lay fast asleep in their curtained off chambers. If not for them, she would be alone. She had no way off the island, thanks to the politics of her father and the policies of the gods on Mount Olympus. Once every ninth year, a ship would come, bearing offerings from the mainland - cloth and trinkets, oils and spices, play things and petitions, and nine young women, girls really, who were sent over to receive the blessing of the goddess. And seven or eight or nine would return to the mainland.
She asked the girls why they did it. They told her that it was considered lucky to have the blessing of the goddess, and the girls who returned were sought after as brides because it was believed those women would have long and happy marriages. The irony of that had amused her once. Now, living with a man who avoided her and mourned for another, it tasted bitter.
The ship would pull up to one sheltered cove marked off by red posts driven into the ground.
Past those posts, no man had ever stepped on her island. Except for one, who now waited for her behind her own bedroom door.
She left her loom, and went to face him.
Calypso, daughter of the titan Atlas and niece of Prometheus, lived on the island of Ogygia. Odysseus, on his way home from the Trojan War, was washed up on her island, where she shared his bed and promised him immortality and eternal youth, but she could never get him to relinquish his longing for his wife Penelope and his home on Ithaca. Forced by Zeus, to let him go, it is said she mourned long after his passing.