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Love, Fully Explained

By Diomedes | Robert O'Reilly | 12 Jan 2022

Zeus, angry.

There was one other story I told to Norma’s daughter, Amaris, in those halcyon days when I was sleeping on Norma’s couch, broke, jobless and twenty four, full of poetry and dreams and careless of the hour.

There is something indescribably beautiful in the mind of a shy, quiet six year old, the way it works. It is before the dark side has turned, before they see faults in others, and doubts and logical comparisons have crept in, turning invidiously on some for their faults as that faculty improves. Their main impression of the world is still awe and wonder, loving the fairy tales you read them at bedtime.

One early Sunday morning Amaris came to me. Kim and Norma would often sleep in till ten on her day off, while Amaris and I were awake at seven. Norma at this time was still ‘moonstruck’ with Kim now that they were finally living together and in the same bed each night. She doted on him and perforce paid less attention to Amaris, knowing that I was filling the gap, as Amaris and I were daylong companions, playing card games or taking hikes, talking non-stop even while watching children’s shows. That’s why Norma invited me to sleep on her living room couch, so she could deploy more of her charms and attentions upon Kim.

On this morning, while I was lying on the couch (in both senses) she came and sat on the floor and asked me why her mother was always staring at Kim and why they were in the bedroom so much. She had a concerned look on her face.

This important query demanded a full answer and I used all my mental resources to rise to the occasion.

It’s because they’re in love, I said, not just any love, but because they’ve found each other again, from a long time ago, a time we can’t remember, when they were attached together.

This got her attention. Her eyes widened. She was silent and didn’t have to ask the question.

So I proceeded: ‘A very long time ago, so far back it’s not even in the history books, at the very beginning of time, Zeus, the main God, decided one day to make the perfect creature. The Earth was already made. It was a beautiful place, filled with all the forests and grassy hills and lakes and animals we have now, the deer and squirrels and horses and lions.

‘He lived high on a mountain and because he was a God he could see it all and loved to watch all the animals roam about and chase each other. But still, he thought , it needed something more. So he thought a long while and then created us humans. He gave us minds, much like his, which none of the other animals had, and placed thousands of us on this Earth to see what would happen, and now the show for him became much more entertaining’.

‘But what about love’, she interrupted, in an almost plaintive child’s voice. This meant ‘get to the point’. So I did.

Well, I began, after a big sigh, we weren’t like we are now. We were perfect and perfectly happy and complete, all the time.

You see, we were a man and a woman joined together, at the back, all the way up to our heads, our skin and bones there melted tight. So we had two heads, four arms and four legs facing each direction and we were sort of in the shape of a ball. But everything worked in perfect unison.

We didn’t have to walk, though we could. It was much faster and more fun when we rolled, hands over legs, tumbling over and over, our four arms stretched out and hitting the ground, pushing till our four legs hit the ground and pushed again, making us spin, almost like a rolling ball, up or down any hill and much faster than anyone can run today.

We had two heads, each facing the other direction. So we could see all around and nothing could sneak up on us. We could talk to each other all day long, but we never argued because we were the same person, like a brother and sister who always got along. We caught fish and small animals easily, picked berries with four hands, planted vegetables twice as fast, built houses, made fires at night and when we wanted a baby, just like us, we just made one, by thinking it. We we’re always happy.

Zeus loved watching us at first, as we rolled through the land. But he made one rule, that because we could talk and think like him, we should give thanks to him and sometimes build a fire and throw incense on it and say a prayer to him.

But this we did not do. We were so happy in our world and life was so easy we paid no attention when we heard his voice rumble down the mountain demanding our fires and incense and thanks to him. Some even laughed at him, saying we don’t need you, we’re perfect.

This made Zeus mad, very mad, and one day he decided to fix this disrespect. He gathered the clouds and made the sky turn completely black. Then it began to rain, the thickest rain ever. Then he threw down lightning bolts and hit every one of us, splitting us right down the middle, making us the way we are now, a man and a woman.

This storm lasted many days and nights, and when we were split apart we were stunned and confused, not knowing what hit us. We were scared and ran in every direction on our legs now. And because it was dark we got lost and wandered alone through woods and valleys, till ours senses slowly returned to us.

Now life was much harder, as it is today. We had to catch food and do everything with just two hands. We built houses like before but it took much longer. And we were lonely and sad, with no partner to constantly talk with.

This made us respect Zeus and pray to him, begging him to let us live and praying to him that we might find our other half again, which we so loved and missed. Everyone was looking for their other half, their partner, all the time. But we were so spread apart by the storm that very few ever did.

You see, when we were stuck together, we could never see each others faces, and when we talked we didn’t have to speak to each other, as our minds were connected. We only used our voices with other couples.

So now, split apart, we really didn’t know how to recognize our other self. Men would walk up to the women they met, stare in their face and ask questions and women did the same, trying very hard to see if this was their true partner. But they could never tell for sure. Some thought they found their other half and lived together for a while but then decided it wasn’t them and move on and keep looking, with a sadness in their hearts.

But some lucky few did find their other half, and when they did they ran to each other and hugged and kissed all day long, happy again.

And that’s Norma and Kim, and that’s love.

There was a long silence in Amaris as she looked down in deep thought. But then she looked into my face again, as it was throughout the whole story, and smiled, supposing, I guess, that this was a plausible explanation, or at least liking the story.

Now it was time for breakfast and we had Frosted Flakes together.

This tale, of course, was not my own invention, but fabricated from Aristophanes’ explanation of love in Plato’s symposium.

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B.A. in Latin and Greek from U.C. Berkley. Writer, Blogger and retired Electrician.

Robert O'Reilly
Robert O'Reilly

I am educated in the Western Classical Tradition, B.A. from U.C. Berkeley in Latin and Greek, English major, one year at U. of Toronto, studied under Alain Renoir and Northrop Frye, read most classics full time for many years after university in French, English, Latin and Greek to the modern day. I am interested in the near future of technology, what changes it imposes upon our heritage and character as humans. Short stories and Essays are my medium.

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