T

Katy Trost

Hr: 3

he Restless Dreamer

Quick Summary: Odysseus is back, but Penelope senses that something is missing. Will her discovery satisfy or destroy her?

I let go of his hand as he rose to leave. My mind was jumbled while I attempted to sort out my thoughts. There was so much to absorb, so many things to contemplate; I did not know where to start. Odysseus, the man whom I had loved from the day we met, had just returned after a twenty year absence. Words cannot begin to describe the pain I felt during those years. I had nothing to tell Telemachus when he asked about the father he never knew. What could I say? I wanted to assure Telemachus with a definite answer, and it broke my heart to see his eyes so full of questions. Now that Odysseus was home, Telemachus had found all the answers he needed. The problem was that I had not.

I had asked Odysseus to tell me everything that had occurred during his time away. It would take time, but I was willing to wait. Odysseus carried many burdens, and by talking about his memories, he could let go of any guilt and begin to heal. Unfortunately I had underestimated how much he had endured. His accounts left us both physically and mentally exhausted, and it brought more questions than answers. Though his accounts were very detailed, there were places where Odysseus seemed to hold back. Do not get me wrong, I trust my husband, but I know that he can be a very convincing liar. Fortunately for me, there are a few miniscule signs that I know to look for. Before he left for Troy, I had noticed that Odysseus looks down for a split second when he is lying. He also drums his fingers on his lap or the tone of his voice lowers slightly. Odysseus had obviously gotten better at hiding these giveaways, and I could not tell whether I was imagining them or not.

Odysseus had gone to bring a gift to Eumaeus in thanks for sheltering him while he was a beggar, so I planned to take a nap before supper was prepared. Despite how drained I was, I tossed and turned, a knot of unease forming in my stomach. Could he really be keeping information from me? Not knowing what else to do, I pleaded to the gods: "O Zeus, son of Cronos, lord of lords, see how I continue to suffer. Please, I beg of you, reveal to me what it is that my dear Odysseus is keeping from me. I understand that I may not like what I see, but I cannot bear to live with this worry in my heart." About five minutes went by, and just as I was beginning to lose hope, I felt a deep sleep overtaking me. Darkness filled my vision and there was silence. Suddenly I was approaching an island. There were wolves and other creatures roaming around. As I moved closer, I saw a grand hall. The doors flung open, and in front of me was a beautiful woman. Looking to my left, I saw my husband. "Odysseus!" I yelled, but it was as if he could not hear me. I reached out to touch him, and my hand passed right through his shoulder. Understanding that I was only an observer, I stepped back. The goddess, smiling, took his hand and led him to another room. Curious, I followed them into a grand bedroom, but when I saw them climb into the bed, I halted in my tracks.

I was shocked, hurt, confused, and angry. He slept with another woman? I ran to the window, leaning against its frame for support. I looked outside and saw the seasons change before my eyes. As summer changed to fall, then winter, then spring, and finally summer, I realized that Odysseus had stayed here for one year. Tears began to fall, and I screamed, "How could you do this to me? Did your promise to me mean nothing? I remained faithful to you for 20 years, fending off suitor after suitor that was in pursuit of me. At least I know how little I mean to you!" As I sank to the ground, a thick fog surrounded me, and I was taken across the sea to another island.

Once I landed, I saw a cave with a fire roaring upon the hearth. Approaching slowly, a woman with beautiful hair rose from her loom, singing an enchanting song. Remembering the…incident on the first island, my heart began to dread what I might discover. Suddenly I felt compelled to look to my right. By doing so, I saw a man sitting on the beach, staring off into the horizon. Sure enough, that man was Odysseus. The anger began to simmer within me, and I ran over to where he was sitting. Despite how much I wanted to slap him, I knew he could not feel or hear me. Looking into his eyes I saw a mixture of despair and uncertainty. If I remembered right, this was the island where he was held captive for seven years, but after seeing the woman, I wondered if Odysseus had forgotten to mention something. I whirled around as I heard the soft patter of footsteps on the sand. Looking at the woman more closely, she appeared to be a nymph. My anger burned as she caressed Odysseus. She proclaimed that she did not wish to harm him, and that she felt for him and his needs. She left, and Odysseus quickly followed, with me not far behind. Reaching the cave, Odysseus sat in a grand chair, and the nymph placed rich food before him. She then sat opposite of him, eating ambrosia and nectar. The woman was the first to speak:

"Do you still wish to leave? I give you my blessing, but I know you would choose to stay with me and live immortally if you knew the dark trials ahead. Despite how much you love your wife, you cannot claim that she is superior to me in form or stature. I have kept you safe for seven years, right?'

When Odysseus looked up, I saw determination in his eyes: "I am well aware that you are right: I, too, know that Penelope, however wise, cannot compare to you in grace or stature. Even so, each day I hope and hunger for my house. I will survive the trials I am given."

With that, they both rose and moved toward another part of the cave. Remembering the first island again, I stopped and listened. I could hear the sounds of love-making, and it broke my heart even more than it already was. Odysseus had just convinced the nymph to let him go home, and now he was sleeping with her.

"He has made love to her for seven years…that is longer than I was with him before he left," I whispered into the fire-lit cavern. "He must think of me as mediocre compared to the other women."

A voice whispered in my mind: "Father Zeus has granted your request, but it was not easy for him to put you through this. Though you are freed from the throes of confusion, you are now bound by chains of doubt and anger. This was our main concern. Do what you must, but remember who Odysseus chose in the end." I was shocked that a goddess was speaking directly to me, remembering that both Telemachus and Odysseus had experienced the same phenomenon multiple times.

I felt a pull on my body, and the previous darkness enveloped me once more. Slowly I began to feel the blankets of my bed and the pillows under my head. The fogginess faded until I was fully awake. I had one thing on my mind: confronting Odysseus. How do I do it? After thinking for a while, I decided to ask him a few questions specifically about his time during captivity.

I sent a handmaiden to find him, and I proceeded to the sitting room. When Odysseus entered, I saw questions in his eyes. He probably wondered why he was here again, considering that we had already discussed his journey today.

Facing him, I began: "My dear husband Odysseus, I just have a few more questions that have been on my mind. Will you answer them?"

Odysseus nodded. "Of course I will answer them, my fair wife. I promised to tell you all that I know, and I will hold to that."

Will you really? "Thank you my dear. Now, you said that you stayed on an island of a witch as you negotiated for the release of your comrades. Who was the witch?" I asked nonchalantly.

"Her name is Circe, and she is very clever. I needed to pass all of her tests in order to get Circe to release them, and it took some time." Odysseus said. I had been watching his hands closely during his answer, and I thought I saw a little drumming on his thigh, but it was too hard to tell.

"Did she treat you well during your stay?" I continued.

Odysseus seemed to falter for a split second before replying. "Yes, yes she fed me very good food, and she…gave me a good bed to sleep on."

"Is that all she gave you? Did you do anything to…return the favor?" I asked, my voice growing softer as the anger threatened to envelope me.

"Well, I am not quite sure I understand what you mean," Odysseus mumbled, forcing a smile on his face and drumming his fingers a little more.

A tear fell down my cheek. "Why are you lying to me Odysseus?"

Odysseus froze, as if he had been caught in a trap. I fixed him with a glare, waiting for an answer. When none came, I angrily continued: "I know you slept with a goddess, living in luxury for a year on her wolf-infested island."

Before Odysseus could reply, I plowed ahead, my voice rising as I spoke: "You stayed on another island with a nymph for seven years, and you made love to her everyday until you were sailing away!" I paused, letting it sink in. "You promised to remain faithful to me until you returned, and I was the one who fulfilled this promise. How could you throw that away?"

Odysseus sat in silence for about one minute, his head bowed and his eyes shut. Finally he looked up, his eyes clouded with emotion: "The gods gave you this knowledge I presume, and it is right that you know it. Sometimes people keep things from those they care about most in order to prevent heartache. I did not tell you about Circe and Calypso because I did not love them, and it was not important. I slept with Circe as part of a deal to release my friends. Calypso has a powerful father, and for those years I feared his wrath. Finally I decided that I would take my chances, even if it meant death." He took my head in his hands. "I would have done anything to get back to Ithaca, to get back to you and Telemachus. You are my life. You gave me hope during every moment that I was away, and that will never change. I love you and only you. I am sorry that I caused you so much pain." With that, he took my breath away with a passionate kiss, and I finally felt my deep wounds beginning to heal.