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September 11, 2023

Orpheus Looks Back

Heather Talty

In the moment before he turns, she is both dead to him, and alive. Schrodinger’s Eurydice, with soft footsteps on the winding path from Hell  he may or may not be imagining. Isn’t that always the way, though, with love? Before the asp at the altar, before the promises, the vows, the lyre draped in ivy, wasn’t he always wondering, considering her behind him, him behind her, fighting the temptation to turn back, to stop, to ask her to account for herself, once and for all, once or several times in one particularly distressing month? 

Do you love me, really?
Does anyone love me, really, at all?

What’s once more then, especially now that the ceremony has been interrupted, the promise that certainly would have put all doubts to rest? 

In the moment before he turns, Eurydice is right behind him, a sliver of space between their hands if he moves it right. In the moment before he turns, Eurydice is in the underworld, scratching Cerberus under his chin, lounging, popping pomegranate seeds with Hades and Persephone. 

In the moment before he turns, Orpheus knows the wedding, when they return and finish it, will finally bring him peace, and he knows that he’ll never truly know whether Eurydice, or anyone, actually loves him. 

She loves him.
She loves him not. 

She lives. 
She lives not.

After that moment, he turns, there is a faint whistle, a whoosh, and no one at all is behind him. Was she ever? 

When Orpheus returns, with nothing, he is not sure what he really lost, after all.