The minor Greek gods hung out in suburban fern bars, claustrophobically furnished with wood paneling and phony Tiffany lamps. Places where a Reuben sandwich would set you back $12.99. As for the Olympians? They seldom fraternized with the lesser gods, preferring the occasional rowdy roadhouse or ironic dive bar. Any place a random abduction and/or impregnation would not be noticed. And everyone knew the primordial gods never went out, preferring their own backyard tiki huts and sunken fire pits. But whenever some Costco mid-level manager or Bath & Body Works’ cashier deeply contemplated the constellations, looking for guidance in the matters of love, usually someone from Aphrodite’s retinue was nearby.
All seven of the Erotes (ἔρωτες) were expected at Applebee’s after 9:00 p.m. when the boneless chicken wings and mozzarella sticks were half price. Punctual as ever, Hymenaeus parked his Toyota Prius, skipped past the dinner crowd clogging the entrance, and quickly found a seat by the spacious horseshoe bar. Wearing a crisp white polo shirt with the collar popped and white cargo shorts, he spotted Hedylogos at the entrance and waved him over.
“Hey, Heddy!” Hymenaeus waved while simultaneously signaling to the bartender for two Bud Lights.
“Hi, man. How’s it hanging, Hymen,” Heddy punched Hymen in the shoulder and they mock-tussled for a bit.
“Where’s your brother?” Hymen wondered. Heddy and Potty were usually stuck together like Gemini.
“Pothos is parking the Beemer. I can’t believe he splurged for the M240i. Completely gorgeous 335 horsepower, turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six,” Heddy bragged, as was expected.
“Is Potty doing better?” Hymen asked seriously.
“You know Pothos, always chasing after what he can’t have,” Heddy looked at Hymen pointedly. “He’s not like you, Mr. I-Rescued-The-Love-Of-My-Life-From-Pirates. You make us single guys sick.”
“You try officiating at every wedding. I have seventeen this weekend!” Hymen complained, emptying half his pint glass. “So, who is Potty after this time?”
“Stop it,” Hymen stage-whispered, gobsmacked. He motioned to the bartender for two more Bud Lights.
“That is so fucked up,” Hymen started laughing. “She’s a titan. Totally out of his league. Mnemosyne’s not going to forget that. Ever.”
“Yep. Potty needs to stay in his lane. You can’t blame him, though. Mnemosyne still looks great these days, even after nine kids,” Heddy added, always ready to sweet talk someone, even if they weren’t there.
Hymen looked at his iPhone. “Oh, Zeus damn it. Shit shit shit.”
“What’s the problem?” asked Heddy, diligently perusing the appetizer menu. The spinach and artichoke dip looked inviting.
“Eros and Hermaphroditus are at Chili’s,” Hymen said. “They sound totally pissed off. I’m going to head over. Tell Potty I’ll see you guys next week. Maybe Waffle House?”
“Waffle House, right,” Heddy replied sarcastically. “Sure, let’s go dine with the satyrs and centaurs.” He chugged the dregs of his brew. “Hymen, can you even leave this place? Aren’t you supposed to be here for some lucky couple?”
Hymen looked around the Applebee’s bar and calculated each individual couple’s passion, intimacy, and commitment levels. Within moments, he had mentally completed a regression analysis, providing him with the necessary statistics including p-value and correlation coefficient.
“Yes, I can leave. No one has a chance here tonight,” Hymen declared. He’d been doing this for millenia, and Applebee’s never was a high-value target.
“Pothos will be thrilled. He loves a room full of lonely hearts,” Heddy replied. “Say hi to Eros and Hermy for us,” Heddy waved as Hymen scurried out the door.
“You said to meet at Chili’s,” Eros yelled at Hymen, as roasted street corn sprayed from his thick, rubbery lips. Most women would have found Eros’s overly ripe mouth sensual, but Hymen found it perpetually half-open, wanton, and slobbery. Though far too old for it, Eros still wore his college fraternity hoodie with acid blue Levi's® Men's 541 stretch jeans and high tops. And much to Hymen’s bemusement, Eros always scored, usually with the hottest girl in the room.
“I’m so sorry, guys,” Hymen apologized, out of breath. Hermaphroditus rolled his eyes, fingers tapping his irritation on the bar. The only thing Hermy hated more than Chili’s obnoxious red and green decor was Eros. Dressed in an olive green linen suit with a six-buttoned double-breasted design, Hermy looked fresh off the pages of Gentleman’s Quarterly. Angry at Hymen’s logistical error and his having to babysit Eros, Hermy curtly excused himself to the men’s and women’s bathrooms.
Eros slid a fried pickle dipped in house-made ranch sauce into his luscious mouth and ran his oleaginous gaze throughout the crowd, a crowd demonstrably more young and hip than the one at Applebee’s.
“Save it, Hymen.” Eros cut him off sharply. “Look at her,” Eros commanded, pointing an indiscreet finger at a remarkably beautiful young woman. Hymen watched as she returned Eros’s full gaze while smiling at him until her eyes sparkled. She purposely walked right over to Eros, ignoring Hymen completely.
“I’ve been watching you,” said Eros. “You seem like you needed a break. This is Hymen.”
“Hello, I—” Hymen attempted to introduce himself, but the young woman didn’t seem to notice he was even there.
“I’ve been watching you watch me,” she replied to Eros, taking one of his fried pickles and popping it into her mouth. She swallowed without chewing.
“What are you drinking?” asked Eros, all charm. “And what do they call you?
“I’m Psyche,” she replied, staring Eros down, even more beautiful than Eros’s mother. “And I’m feeling like a shot to kick the night off. Goldschläger? Jäger Bomb? How about a Slippery Nipple?”
“How about two of those?” Eros leered and stood so close to Psyche that he was almost behind her.
“Three Slippery Nipples,” Hymen amended. “Make it three Slippery Nipples.” He stepped away from the new couple as the pheromones roiling off Psyche and Eros were cloying. Tonight was going to be a bust, Hymen thought to himself. He hoped Hermy would return from the bathrooms shortly.
The bartender quickly combined Bailey’s Irish Cream and Sambuca into shot glasses.
“No garnish needed,” Hymen chimed in, now completely bored. The bartender dropped the maraschino cherries back into the plastic tub.
The three downed their shots. Two eyed each other hungrily. One waited for a friend.
“I’m gonna go,” Eros said to Hymen.
“Yeah, go go go. Have fun. I’ll see you next week,” Hymen waved him off.
While Eros settled the bill, he winked at Hymen and mouthed: She’s the one. To validate his claim, Eros gave Hymen two enthusiastic thumbs up, then put his hand tenderly on the small of Psyche’s back, steering her out of the noisy restaurant.
“Is he finally gone?” Hermaphroditus said snarkily, sidling up to Hymen on an open barstool.
“Elvis has left the building,” Hymen grinned. “He’s found the one.”
“The one tonight,” Hermy clapped back.
“M’am, are you ready to order?” asked the bartender. “I’m sorry, Sir. Sir, are you ready to order?”
“I’ll have the Ancho Salmon, please,” Hermy said elegantly. “Please put the sauce on the side.”
“And a Bud Light for me,” Hymen added.
They sat and watched the crowd for a bit.
“So are you here for anyone tonight, Hymen?”
“I was thinking there was one couple, and it’s crazy to say, but I think I was supposed to be here for Eros and that girl. I’ve never seen him like that before.”
“Wouldn’t surprise me. He’s had it coming for a long time, now.” Hermy shoveled fish into his mouth.
“What do you mean?”
“Hymen, we are both gods of unions. My unions are just a little different than yours, but love is love. Even Eros, whom we both know I cannot stand, deserves a little happiness.”
“Maybe she’ll settle Eros down,” Hymen speculated, drinking his brew.
“Maybe she’ll take him shopping.”
They both laughed.
“Well, like Aristotle says, we are split in half,” Hymen said philosophically.
“Destined to spend our lives searching for our other half,” Hermy sighed.
They clinked glasses as Hymen’s iPhone buzzed. He looked down at it, viewed a ten second video clip, and winced.
“Anteros and Himeros are at Outback,” he said.
“Ooh. I love their Chocolate Thunder From Down Under®!”
“It’s bad. They’re fighting at the bar. Look.” Hymen held up his iPhone while Hermy burst out laughing.
“Go get those fools,” Hermy said, sipping his chardonnay. “I’m going to have me a Molten Chocolate Cake for dessert. You know what they say at Chili’s: Big enough to share, too good to actually do it.”
For the second time that night, Hymen felt he was stretching himself too thin.
Hymen found Anteros and Himeros drunkenly hugging each other in the Outback Steakhouse’s parking lot.
“I promise, Himeros. I promise you will find someone who loves you. I promise,” said Anteros. Anteros attempted to cross his heart and hope to die, but he just drunkenly poked himself repeatedly in the chest in a circular pattern.
“No, I won’t.” Himeros replied. “No one will ever love me.”
“You need to love yourself,” Anteros attempted to cheer him, slurring his words. “Himeros needs to love Him. Him-self. Him-self-eros.”
“Gentlemen?” Hymen approached them, hands on hips.
“Hi, man!” sang Anteros.
“Hymen,” echoed Himeros. “We are high, man.”
“You guys need a ride home?”
“Our chariot awaits!” sang Anteros.
“It’s a fucking Prius, Anteros,” muttered Himeros. “But we’ll take it. Better than a DWI. Driving while immortal,” he snickered.
Anteros looked heavenward, grateful Zephyr had sent a light westerly wind to blow the clouds away so late at night. The constellations were especially glorious, even with all the light pollution emanating from the Outback Steakhouse’s large red neon sign.
“I love you, Hymen,” Anteros gave his friend a big wet kiss. “And I love you, Himeros, even if no one else will.” With that, Anteros crawled into the backseat of the Prius and passed out.
“Well, Hymen. You missed a great night. We had a Bloomin’ Onion® and it was delicious.”
“All fried food is delicious,” agreed Hymen.
“Then we had a dozen beers waiting for you since no girls would talk to me,” Himeros said matter-of-factly.
“It’s probably because you have onion breath,” Hymen explained while helping Himeros into the car.
“Sure, sure. Easy for you to say, pretty boy. Hey, look at those stars. Aren’t they something? What do you think the constellations are saying tonight?” whispered Himeros.
“The same thing they say every night,” Hymen responded.
“Wazzat?” Himeros asked, sitting askew in the passenger seat, eyes half closed.
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty, that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know,” replied Hymen and drove the gods home, whistling the refrain of an ancient marriage song.