WHO: Antigone and Melpomene WHEN: Tuesday night, Wednesday morning WHERE: Melpomene's place, and the Manhattan Bridge WHAT: Antigone is tired of being tired WARNINGS: Talk of suicide, and pro-life crap.
Antigone felt lost.
There were processes and protocols for a funeral, a map laid out by the gods so neither the mourner nor the deceased were alone, not walking blind, not abandoned. Antigone knew those.
She did not know what rituals to follow when you found yourself hiding from the world, in the home of a muse, and had been living in fluffy bedsocks for days.
Though her belief in the existence of the gods was a solid a belief as in her own bones, praying to the gods for guidance was not something she could do. Gods, these days (gods, any days) were as likely to play with you than help you. Antigone would not take the risk of drawing divine attention to herself right now, she didn’t know how much more of her self they might take.
Call your father her mind suggested. Out of all the world, he’d understand.
Yet, she didn’t. She curled her legs up on Romeo’s couch and picked at the fluff on her bedsocks, staring out the window.
As the sun made its way across the sky, she thought: I am sick of myself.
I am sick to goddamn death of myself.
Was she surprised that her brother had died? That was what brothers did. Especially mortal ones. How many siblings had Antigone buried? All of them. All but Ismene.
Was she surprised that the world was pointlessly cruel and slung bullets through the hearts of sweet boys?
No? Then why this funk? Why this heavy heart caged in heavy bones?
She needed to break out and she didn't know how.
Very well, thought Antigone, setting her jaw.
I will make my own goddamn rituals.
Step one: say goodbye.
Antigone poured two glasses of wine, and carried them out to the balcony, where Romeo was writing at the little round table. It was a warm night, and the sound of traffic and voices from the street were bright and close in the air, despite the solid drop below.
“Thank you,” said Romeo, without looking up, without breaking stride. Her fingers played the keys like she was writing a symphony, thought Antigone, who had little knowledge of symphonies or the manner in which they were written.
She stood at the edge of the balcony, her bare arms resting on the top of the safety rail, and looked out into the night.
She had killed herself once. It might have been more than two thousand years ago as the rest of the world marked time, but the feeling that had propelled her then was still very much a part of her now. The absolute fear of dying slowly alone in the dark. The need to take her life, even the end of it, into her own hands. She sipped her wine slowly, watching the night.
Her death had been one link in a tragic chain of them. What came before: her brothers, Eteocles, Polyneices. And after: Haemon, Eurydice. And Creon’s spirit, she supposed, (with a bitter twist of millennia old satisfaction.)
And then everybody else, for hundreds and hundreds of years.
It took her a while to realise the typing behind her had come to a stop. “What are you thinking?” Romeo’s low, husky voice asked behind her.
Antigone looked down at her hands, pale, and the wine, dark. “Suicide,” she said. “Death.”
After a moment, there was the sound of a chair, shifting, and after another, Romeo joined her on the balcony’s edge, mirroring Antigone’s posture. “Are you going to kill yourself?” she asked.
“I don’t think so,” Antigone said, and took a slow drink of the wine. It was Richard’s last bottle. “Not in the traditional sense.”
Romeo laughed, surprised. “What does that mean?”
Antigone, just as surprised by the laugh, gave her a crooked, self conscious grin. “I don’t know, it felt right.”
“Well, I approve,” Romeo said, with half a smile. “It was very pretentious. You could write for my show.”
“Pff,” said Antigone.
The eyebrow that Romeo raised at her was thick, and sharp, and knowing. “You should write again,” she said. “I looked up a few or your articles. They’re good. They bruise.”
“Mm,” said Antigone, this time. Yes, was planning to write again. Or, she was planning to want to write again. Soon. But she had to cast this pall off herself first.
“At the risk of sounding pretentious twice in a minute,” Antigone said, looking not at the muse but up into the orange-black clouds. “Tomorrow, my life starts again.”
A hot gust of wind blew across the women; Romeo let her hair tangle across her face as she lifted her glass. “To tomorrow, then.”
Antigone raised her glass before taking the final mouthful. “To tomorrow.” And good-fucking-bye today.
Step two: prepare the body.
Romeo’s showerheads were wide as dinnerplates, and the water was tropical-rainstorm warm as it sluiced over Antigone’s body. She had no scented oils, but if she closed her eyes and was determined enough, wasn’t a stick of roll on deodorant the same thing, in the end?
There wasn’t anything she could do about a shroud; she was not about to strip the sheets from the bed and walk around robed in Egyptian cotton. But a simple white tank top, tucked into dark jeans, all of it clean, it would do.
A wreath? She was loathe to take more than she had from the muse, but the plant looked so healthy, it wouldn’t hurt, losing this one tendril she could twist into a circle and drop over her neck. Antigone snipped it carefully, and thanked the plant sincerely.
Step three: the procession.
Before dawn, she stepped out onto the street. Her hair was still a little damp, pulled into a ponytail away from her neck. She had a small bag slung across her shoulders, she had sensible shoes, and for the first time in a while, she had direction.
Antigone did not have the Styx to cross, but the East River was not far.
She placed a coin on her tongue, sealed her own lips, and started walking.
Dawn rose as she walked across the Manhattan Bridge. Aside from a few early morning joggers, and the cars and overhead subways shaking the air as they raced past above the walkway, she was almost entirely alone.
She paused, near the middle. Someone had cut through the high chain link fence to create an unobstructed view toward Lower Manhattan. It was easily wide enough for Antigone to pass her hand through, and tip, from a hip flask, a libation. It was the last glass of last nights bottle, the last wine that Richard had ever purchased. In the dim morning light, Antigone didn’t see it hit the river. She just had to have faith that it did.
At the next hole in the fence, Antigone took out a pair of scissors, and let a lock of her hair disappear into the morning as well.
She kept walking, feeling lighter. A very small part of her had worried that bastardising these funeral rites wouldn’t make her feel any different, that she’d get to the end of the bridge and turn around and slump back toward Romeo’s and continue to fold into a smaller and smaller version of herself under the weight of the world. She was grateful to discover that while she didn’t know what she did want to do with herself, it wasn’t that.
The bridge set her down in Brooklyn, where the streets were filling with people and carts of food and coffee and taxis and buses and horns. Antigone stopped, and breathed in. Yes, she thought, that’s enough. I could turn around and walk back, now, and not feel like I was walking backwards.
She turned around, and her eyes fell right onto a billboard. It said: it’s not just your body, and the image of a woman's pregnant body made it clear what it was talking about.
“Well,” said Antigone, out loud, and spat out her coin. Her mouth tasted bitter, and metallic, but she felt stronger than she had in days. “That’s coming down.”