Old character sketch
Something I read on another blog made me remember this character sketch I wrote about Poseidon last spring. I've since put the book aside, but I really love this, so I thought I'd share.
Poseidon has been in love with Demeter for thousands of years. Thousands. When he makes the seas storm, it’s to drive water to her crops. When he makes the kelp bloom in bulbous clumps along the shore, he’s offering her his own salty bouquet. And when he sees her around Zeus, his green eyes turn cold and he turns away, because of the mistake he made, so many years ago.
Poseidon drinks gin to forget; he smokes pot and wears his silvery hair in a little ponytail. He tries to keep it neat but there are always little bits of twig and moss in it. He can’t seem to help it; when he tramps through the woods by his house on the sea, he doesn’t see the branches that catch him across the side of the face, or feel the bark on the tree he leans against, tired, always tired, from a lifetime of trying to forget her.
Because she has forgotten him, if she ever thought of him. She doesn’t realize, when she walks along the sea wall in their little hidden island, that he sends the bright orange jellyfish alongside her, part honor guard and part protection. She doesn’t realize that he sends starfish to mark her path, so that he can come along behind, just to be in the place where she was.
And then there are her two girls. Poseidon knows they’re Zeus’s; he knows it. But he can’t accept it. If that love spell he cast hadn’t gone wrong, they would have been his, both Persephone and Marigold, those two flowers, bright as little suns in their mother’s wake. And if wanting were enough, they would be his, just as surely as he makes the waves roll and the fog sneak in each night and wisp away each morning.
But until he can find a way to take it back, to reverse that spell, to make things right, he’ll have to watch them from afar, shielding them from squalls when they sail, showering them with little drops of salty water as if to baptize them. As always, Poseidon is too late.
When he can manage to forget them, those three girls he considers his, he works. There’s no dope then; he charges through the water down to the depths to make sure the volcanic fissures aren’t full blast and aren’t stopped up, either. He gets the Nereids together to try to balance the sea life—an impossible task, since those humans are always overfishing one species and completely overlooking another. But he tries. If he didn’t, the seas would have been devoid of life long ago. When he’s working, he can forget her.
So he drives the Nereids, his daughter-workers, to distraction: What about this? What about that? Did you remember the vampire crabs or were you too focused on the pretty flashing tropical fish? All the sea’s creatures, no matter how ugly or blind or ill-tempered or small, have a watcher. He insists on it, he and his major-domo, Amphitrite. He is the only one who doesn’t have a watcher. He tells himself he doesn’t need one, but he does.
That’s why his clothing is torn, it’s why he forgets his sweaters are stained until he puts them on. That’s one of the things Demeter does so well: she always looks soignée, taken care of. He yearns for her, and forgets himself.
And at the end of the day, he always goes home. He lives in a modern, glass-walled, cement-floored house on the very edge of the sea, just as modern as you can get. It’s always chilly and always damp, but Poseidon burns so hot from the mistakes he’s made—mistakes it seems like he’s made his entire life—that he doesn’t notice. It takes someone else to point it out to him, and he’ll build a fire and try to fix it, but then they’ll go away and he’ll forget. It’s just him, after all. And maybe he doesn’t deserve heat and light and warmth. Just look what he did to the woman he loved.