Astro Yin Yang
Mars Merc! What are you doing?
Merc Backtracking; making people revisit the past to get a fresh perspective.
Mars That’s why it’s so quiet; they’re all window cleaning.
Saturn I’d say they’re pruning dead branches; leaving things that aren’t working behind before moving forward with new ideas.
Venus and Jupiter New desires.
Sun Major life revision for some.
Neptune They’re getting in tune with their inner compass.
Pluto They’re looking back and forgiving themselves for their sins.
Moon Accepting them.
Pluto Yes, that’s better.
Jupiter Funny you should say that, Pluto, since you’re the one pushing everyone to break taboos and to sin.
Pluto Look who’s talking: Mr. Taboo Breaker himself. The history of art is filled with your indiscretions.
Venus Filled with the remarkable metamorphoses you’ve undergone to seduce women.
Neptune I inspired those artists. They were in tune with their inner compass.
Venus With their root chakra.
Sun They knew exactly why they were waking up every morning.
Saturn They had purpose.
Mars They had drive.
Venus They had passion.
Merc They had talent.
Mars They had arete.
Uranus They had me.
Mars What did you give them?
Uranus Electricity. Think of me as their electrical plug.
Merc That could sum up my retrograde cycle. You could call it a recharge.
Jupiter You’re forgetting something here. My seductions are purely symbolic; they’re symbolic of how I reward people for their –
Venus Sensuous beauty?
Jupiter Hard work and relentless efforts.
Mars You reward them with – ?
Venus A shower of gold –
Jupiter Promotions. In fact, many people are preparing to start new jobs when Merc goes direct.
“Ahhh,” said the planets.
Jupiter impregnating Danaë in the form of a shower of gold by Titian, 1544-46
Jupiter In self-defence, I have to say that the god Jupiter impregnated Danaë to fulfill the Oracle of Delphi’s prophecy. When the Oracle prophesied that Danaë would give birth to a son who would one day kill Acrisius, Acrisius imprisoned Danaë to protect himself. He kept her in an enclosed chamber with only a skylight, so the god came to her in the form of golden rain.
Moon How romantic.
Venus But Jupiter was married to Juno.
Mars Uncle Jup, aren’t you the planet of wisdom and faith, and faithfulness?
Merc He’s the planet of exuberance, opportunity, good luck and fortune.
Pluto You can’t forget his shadow side; he’s also the planet of exaggeration, excess and indulgence.
Saturn That explains Io.
Venus Temptation explains Io.
Jupiter Again, to clarify, it was the god Jupiter who was tempted by Io. He disguised himself as a cloud so that Juno would not find out about his escapade.
Saturn One of his many escapades.
Merc When Juno found out, she turned Io into a heifer.
Jupiter But I freed her as soon as I could.
Mars So there’s correlation between you and the god.
Saturn You even have a moon named after Io.
Jupiter You’re just jealous, Sat, because I’m such a good lover.
Jupiter and Io by Antonio da Correggio, 1533
Saturn That’s not why I’m jealous. I know I’m a good lover; don’t need to boast about my sexual prowess.
Jupiter Then what is it?
Saturn I’m jealous of your adventurous spirit. You don’t feel bound the way I do
Jupiter That’s your fate, Sat. You’re named after the god of agriculture. Discipline is needed.
Saturn They kept the legs of Saturn statues bound in wool until harvest time, can you believe it?
Pluto Careful with jealousy and resentment; it brings up your shadow side.
Mars Which is – ?
Merc Imposing unreasonable discipline on others.
Pluto Tyranny, at its worst.
Sun Cheer up, Sat! Think of harvest time! When all bindings come loose!
Saturn (smacking his fingers) Yes.
Abundance by Peter Paul Rubens, ca. 1630
Merc Thanks for giving me wings, dad.
Sun They’re to bring me messages –
Moon Not to go from bed to bed.
Merc But I’m experimental in that department.
Saturn Find someone who’ll experiment with you for life.
Merc Sounds like a prison term.
Pluto Remember your shadow side is dissatisfaction. Learn to feel satisfied.
Cupid and Psyche by François-Édouard Picot, 1817
Mars That’s exactly what I say.
Merc You don’t have a choice because Venus has you in chains. Whenever I see Andromeda in the sky, I think of you, my poor brother. As a matter of fact, we should rename that constellation Mars-in-Chains.
Mars (dreamy eyes) Whenever I see Andromeda, I picture Venus in chains waiting to be rescued, not by Perseus, but by me. I imagine myself slaying the sea monster and cutting her chains with my diamond sword.
Venus Oh, my hero! Tough on the outside and so tender inside.
Pluto (aside to the Sun) I thought I was the one with an overactive imagination.
Sun You’re imagining what comes after you free Andromeda. Mars is imagining the action of rescuing her with his diamond sword.
Oath of the Horatii by Jacques-Louis David, 1784
Uranus What kind of lover are you, Pluto?
Pluto You’ve heard of Helen?
Uranus Trojan War?
Pluto Yes. In one of his escapades, Jupiter took the form of a swan and seduced Leda. Helen was born of that union and she grew up to become a woman of alluring beauty. She attracted men like a magnet because she embodied all their secret and unconscious fantasies.
Pluto Think of me as Helen. I’m the perfect lover. How about you?
Leda and the Swan by Fernando Botero, 1996
Uranus Disappointed. Nobody meets my standards.
Sun Your ideals are too high, Uranus.
Pluto Don’t tell me you’re still –
Pluto It’s because you rule Aquarius, the cup-bearer. When Jupiter –
Uranus Not another one of his escapades!
Pluto This story’s different. Jupiter took the form of an eagle and abducted Ganymede, a wondrous youth of ideal form. He made him cup-bearer to the gods, and Ganymede served the gods nectar and ambrosia forever after. To console Ganymede’s dad who missed his son, the gods put the cup-bearer up in the sky for him to see. That’s the constellation Aquarius.
Uranus You think Ganymede’s beauty is influencing my expectations.
Pluto You need to let go of your ideals of perfection and focus on the sensual.
Ganymede and the Eagle by Bertel Thorvaldsen, 1817-29
Neptune I’m innocent too, in terms of carnal love. But I had a mystical experience that felt… that felt –
Neptune Yes… I feel a tremor run through my body as I recall the experience of connecting with… connecting with –
Sun The divine?
Pluto Sacred and profane love seem to have the same climax.
The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa by Giancarlo Bernini, 1647-52
Venus No one knows that better than me.
Sacred and Profane Love by Titian, 1514
Merc Have you ever thought about bathing in the spring waters of Kanathos in Nauplia? That’s where Juno used to bathe to restore her virginity.
Venus Actually, I’ve never thought of that.
Moon Kanathos doesn’t restore your virginity; that’s a myth. It simply rejuvenates you. Besides, we already have two virgins in the sky; we don’t need a third.
Venus Moon, what kind of lover are you?
Moon I have a tendency to absorb the energies around me, so it all depends on where I am. If I’m in Cancer, I’m sensitive. In Leo, I’m leonine. In –
Sun Now I know why you’re always like, “don’t touch me” when you’re in Aquarius. I don’t meet your expectations when you’re there.
Venus How about you, Sun? What kind of lover are you?
Sun You know, Venus, besides being the best looking guy in the solar system, I’m fun and vigorous in bed. Yet many women have rejected my advances because I shine too bright. They want me to turn the light off; imagine that. The only one who appreciates my light is the moon.
Apollo and Daphne by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, 1622-25
Pluto Moon, it’s because of you that Cancerians are always protecting themselves and trying to control their environment.
Moon They absorb too much of what goes on around them; they absorb what’s on the surface and what lies hidden, the conscious and unconscious stuff people carry. The challenge, though, is not to shy away from it all, but to open up bit by bit, and expand their horizons.
Pluto The shadow side of Cancer is the inability to take that challenge.
Moon We’re similar in different ways, Pluto. It’s because of you that Scorpios are drawn to a side of life most people would prefer to leave alone. Scorpios make some of the best criminal investigators and psychologists.
Pluto The shadow side of Scorpio is to be drawn to that side of life and become a part of it.
The Nightmare by Henri Fuseli, 1781
Neptune Since you’ve been delving into water signs, tell me, what’s the shadow side of Pisces?
Moon Well, let’s see; in Cancer, you learn to deal with the reality of life –
Pluto In Scorpio, you soak yourself in it –
Sun The shadow side of Pisces is escaping reality.
Venus I’d say it’s missing the opportunity of making intimate human connections.
Mars I had no idea Mercury retrograde was about sex.
Merc It’s not. It’s about getting a fresh perspective about your past, running into people from your past, doing things you’ve been postponing for ages, getting your life in order –
Jupiter Your inner life and outer life.
Sun Add self-analysis to your list, Merc.
Mars Before Merc goes direct and we lose interest in self-analysis, could we discuss me a little further?
Pluto Let me tell you a story, Mars. Jupiter-
Merc (aside to Mars) Pays off to be a god, doesn’t it?
Mars Sure does.
Pluto Jupiter fell in love with the mortal Alcmene and she gave birth to Hercules, a demi-god. Neptune too fell in love with a mortal by the name of Aethra, and she gave birth to Theseus, another demi-god; and what do demi-gods do?
Merc and Mars Labours.
Pluto Yes, they embody the hero archetype. They need something or someone to rescue. They start with a vision of what they want the end result to be, and they use strategy and steadfast power to manifest their vision. It could be a hotel going under that needs rescuing or a town being terrorized by bad guys that needs rescuing. Heroes need labours.
Sun There’s innate nobility in the archetype.
Pluto The shadow side is not being able to tolerate limitation.
Sun Do you understand yourself better now, son?
Mars (dreamy eyes) Yes. I do.
Hercules fighting the Nemea Lion by Peter Paul Rubens, ca. 1638
Neptune So how do the fire signs work?
Mars Aries initiates –
Sun Leo chases after –
Jupiter and Sagittarius consummates.
Neptune Jupiter used to rule Pisces along with Sagittarius before they discovered me.
Venus That explains the ecstasy of saints.
Neptune What’s your shadow side, Venus?
Venus In Libra, I can be judgemental.
Neptune If you’re judgemental –
Uranus Aquarius ends up with a crushed ego –
Merc And Gemini has an affair to cleanse the judgement.
Venus But those are the shadows of the air signs. Usually, they’re all about pleasing their partners –
Gemini and lighthearted fun.
The Swing by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, 1767
Saturn Such exquisite frivolity in Fragonard.
Sun Sat, I’m curious to hear how you’ll describe Capricorn’s sexuality.
Saturn I think I’ll do it by describing the Constellation of Capricornus. The symbol is a mer-goat: a goat whose hind legs have been replaced with a mermaid’s tail. Goats are naturally equipped to climb the steep slopes of a mountain, and they have the endurance to slowly and surely reach the top. As for mermaids, legends say that they controlled the waters of the great oceans. If sailors answered their questions correctly, they’d keep the waters calm for safe passage. Natural ability, endurance and control. I’ll let you translate that into Capricorn’s sexuality.
Venus The symbol for Taurus is the bull, robust in every way. Bulls don’t just finish their meal and leave, no way. They spend the whole day out on the meadows, chewing cud. When they graze, they’re sure to leave the roots of the grass intact, so they can come back for more.
Merc The symbol for Virgo is the farmer, holding a sheaf of wheat. Saturn may have been the god of agriculture, but Virgos worked the virgin land with their bare hands. They know the earth intimately; they know what it needs and when it needs it.
The Youth of Bacchus by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1884
Neptune Okay, the three of you, out with their shadows.
Saturn Caps can be rigid.
Venus Taureans can be lazy.
Merc Virgos can be finicky.
Moon Look at this; I found an old picture of Uranus with Earth and the four seasons.
Sun Look at you, Uranus; ruler of the zodiac and the spirit of the times.
Jupiter That’s a picture of you as the sky god and husband of Earth. The little ones are your children.
Pluto Not so innocent after all!
Uranus It was only rain.
Moon Some people think that the Adam and Eve story has its origins in your story, Uranus. You rained on Earth and made her fertile, and she gave birth to the first generation of people.
Mars Merc, why are you slowing down?
Merc I’m going stationary; getting ready to move forward in a couple of days.
Mars About time!
Uranus and Terra. Central part of a floor mosaic from a Roman villa in Sentinum, ca. 200–250 CE.
Earth Wait a second, I remember that picture. Those were good days, weren’t they, Uranus?
Uranus I suppose.
Earth The rain was refreshing. Still is.
Venus How come you don’t join our conversations more often, Earth?
Venus Busy with?
Earth I have a new beau.
Venus Who is it?
Earth It’s- I’m sorry, Venus, but he’s so young and I’m embarrassed to tell you.
Venus Oh c’mon Earth! You can trust me!
The Solar System Yeah! You can trust us!
Earth whispers his name.
Venus and Mars Our son!
Merc How do you even keep a track of your kids? You have so many, and they all look like potatoes.
Venus Not this one; this one turned out pretty shapely.
Mars We named him well.
Asteroid ‘433 Eros’ (Image by NASA)
Asteroids belong to families, and mine is the Amor family. We are the offspring of Venus and Mars and the most luminescent of asteroids. We radiate dad’s will to live and mom’s passion for life, though I must confess there’s a lot of inbreeding going on in our family. But don’t judge us for it till you get the wider picture.
Imagine you’re on an escalator going up, surrounded by people who won’t budge till they reach the top – and reaching the top takes a million years. Chances are you’ll hook up with the person next to you, above you or below you, right? That’s the kind of situation we’re in, except we’re more like on a moving belt, circling Mars and kept in place by his gravitational pull. If you’re stuck on that moving belt and there’s an asteroid beside you for a million years, well, things happen.
Nothing happened for me because there was no one near me. I was a real loner and spent aeons daydreaming. I pictured myself as the main protagonist in a highway movie, a journey of self-discovery. There I was on a lone highway in my little blue car when a robotic space probe landed on my surface. It’s true that every action has a reaction because that landing threw me off balance and disturbed my course. I was ejected from Mars’ gravitational pull and drawn towards Earth. You should have read the headlines: Eccentric asteroid heading towards Earth!
Earth took one look at me and said no way was she letting me out of her sight. I now circle her and make her happy. I may not be important enough to be at the table, like the major planets are, but I’m good enough to be on the menu.
The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago, 1979
I’m not a force like the Sun and his people: people who attract people, and I’m not a force like the Moon and her people: people who possess people. I’m an influence, a spark of desire that reason and destiny can easily extinguish.
I’m named after the god Eros, the god that plays with a bow and arrow. He ignites desire with his arrow, sometimes between people whose liaison causes a scandal. When he pricked his finger with that arrow of his, he caused a scandal himself. He fell in love with Psyche, a mortal. His mother, the goddess Venus, did not approve – but he didn’t care. The one thing that can make anyone ignore mom’s opinion is Eros; it’s like a temporary blindness and deafness as well. There was a catch, however. For their marriage to work, Psyche had to carry out a number of labours and earn his mom’s approval.
Desire won’t evolve into a solid union without Venus giving her consent. The arrow that leads to everlasting love depends on her.
Merc You ruined it with the kiss.
Eros Why? The kiss represents the fulfillment of desire.
Merc It’s over now.
Eros It’s the beginning of what could be everlasting love.
Merc Face it Eros, the magic ends with the kiss; that’s why the snakes on my caduceus never kiss. They hold each other with the expectation of a kiss.
Eros Merc, you’re such a flirt.
Merc Flirting and foreplay are the key to –
Merc They’re the key to excitement! That’s why the snakes never let go of each other.
Eros They’re entwined, waiting for the kiss of Eros.
Merc If you want to understand me and my people, you need to understand what lies in the space between them.
Merc Fun! Endless possibilities! Never really knowing but imagining what that kiss would taste like.
Merc Now you’re dancing with me, Eros.
Mars If I were holding a caduceus –
Venus We’d be kissing; well, the snakes would –
Mars No, no; it wouldn’t be about love. It would be about –
Merc War and peace!
Mars Yes! The snakes would be held by the idea that… that the end of peace is war, and the end of war is peace.
Merc Like your lights take turns flashing red and blue, war and peace.
Venus What about the space between them? What would it mean?
Eros A ceasefire! What colour’s a ceasefire?
Mars Not a ceasefire. More like, one snake saying to the other –
Merc You end where I begin.
Eros You make it sound like a power struggle.
Venus If I held a caduceus, I picture myself standing in the space between two sides of one story. I’d weigh the facts before tipping my scales.
Mars Lady Justice herself. What about your gut feeling, your instincts?
Venus I wouldn’t let any of that play a part in reaching a verdict.
Mars You should trust yourself more, like I do.
Venus I’d cause trouble.
Merc That’s what the judgement of Paris did.
Venus Paris wasn’t the cause of the Trojan War.
Mars Who was?
Venus Themis, goddess of good counsel. She told Thetis not to invite Eris, goddess of discord, to her wedding. Then she went and told Eris that she wasn’t invited. Hurt by the news, Eris crashed the wedding, threw a golden apple among the guests, and you know the rest.
Mars What kind of good counsel is that?
Venus The result was a war.
Mars Best war ever.
Merc An epic.
Mars A war fought by heroes.
A faraway voice Someone said that the end of the Trojan War was the end of the Age of Heroes.
Mars Who said that!
Dwarf planet Eris (centre) and her moon Dysnomia (left of centre), taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, NASA
Moon If you were holding a caduceus –
Sun I couldn’t, my sugar. Can’t let go of the reins of my chariot.
Moon But if you were –
Sun It would be a symbol of our dance around the zodiac.
Moon The dance of the ego and the soul.
Sun Joined together at the new moon, then rising and culminating with the full moon.
Moon Looking at each other from across the skies.
Sun Love filling the space between us.
Moon Then slowly making our way back home again.
Canadarm on the Space Shuttle Atlantis (10 Sept. 2006), NASA
What are your eyes made of? Mine are made of fire; fiery eyes, combative. When I look at you, I look for flaws and find them; you become aware of them through me. My eyes ask you and answer at the same time, “Who’s better? I’m better.” I’m the brightest star, the Alpha.
My eyes are made of water. I pierce your skin and look at your soul, searching for that thread that will connect us. When I find it, I tug at it and feel your discomfort, your unwillingness to connect with me. But my eyes insist; my eyes insist. I’m the second brightest star, the Beta.
My eyes are made of earth. When I look at you, I touch your skin; I feel the curve of your nose and the moisture on your lips. I run through the coarseness of your hair and circle the freckles on your cheeks. Don’t look away! Let me touch you with my eyes; let me, the third brightest star, the Gamma.
My eyes are made of air; they do not fight, pierce or touch. When I look at you, it feels like I didn’t look at you at all. Offhanded. Nonchalant. But that’s all it takes for me to appraise you, to see your potential; to wish you were the desert and my eyes the wind that molds you. I’m the fourth brightest star, the Delta.
Mírame (Look at me) by Gisela Velásquez, 2017
I felt self-conscious when Alpha looked at me; I became aware of my shortcomings. I felt that I was less. It took every bit of me not to get up and leave.
Beta’s eyes were intrusive; wanting more from me; of me. But I wasn’t willing to give more. Those eyes repelled me. It took every bit of me not to push them away and slam the door.
Gamma’s eyes never left my face; they studied every detail of me, as if engraving them to memory. I thought I had made a strong impression. But then I saw those eyes look at every one with the same intensity. Gamma’s eyes are special; not me.
All the trouble I had taken to look good didn’t seem to make a difference. Delta’s eyes hardly rested on me, hardly took me in; or so I thought. The whole time I was there, I wanted to scream, “Look at me!”
Discordia by Gisela Velásquez, 2018
She boarded the plane when they called Zone 1. I waited until the very end. When I walked in, I saw her seated in a window seat in business class. She turned and caught my look of surprise. Her eyes were now like mine, asking and answering, “Who’s better? I’m better.” I put my backpack in the overhead compartment and sat down next to her. Her turn to be surprised.
I heard a rumour that he was leaving. I stood outside his office, waiting for his office hours to begin. The minute they did, I walked in and asked him if it was true. Yes, he said; he had been offered a position in the same college his girlfriend was teaching. “Don’t go,” my eyes begged him, but he shrugged them off. I left his office with a broken thread in my hand.
She studied me as I walked from guest to guest; I was sinking into her. By the time I stood in front of her again, she understood me. I believe you can get to know people by their outer appearance. Your face tells me who you are. Hers told me she wanted to belong to something bigger than herself. I asked her if she’d be my personal assistant. “Absolutely,” she replied.
We were sitting in an outdoor cafe and the sun was making me drowsy; but I was enjoying myself. I was watching the light play with her red hair, and catching glimpses of her green eyes. Were they really that green or was she wearing colour contacts, I wondered. She really didn’t need to wear all that makeup. If something happened between us, it would end up on my bed sheets. I put my shades on and dozed off for a bit while she told me a story about her cousins. Her laughter woke me up and I laughed along with her. She was so animated.
He plopped down on the seat beside me with a smug grin, and there went my moment of victory. I began to boil inside. I couldn’t believe that out of all the seats on the plane, his was the seat beside me. The problem was that what happened between us at the gate was nothing I could complain about; it wasn’t bad behaviour or a bad word. It was the look in his eyes.
“You gave me the same look.”
“You brought it out in me.”
I turned away from him and opened my book. A second later, he leaned toward me and asked me what was I reading. None of your business, I answered. Can you believe it? How could I be so rude! It went against my upbringing. I felt terrible.
“You were mean to me.”
“You deserved it.”
I told him I was sorry; I didn’t know what had come over me. But we both knew what had come over me. We were now more or less even. He said he was planning on watching a movie; did I want to watch it with him? Which one? I asked, and he said, ‘La chute de l’empire américain.’ He had a small part in it; he was the guy looking for a yoga class; the guy opening and closing doors, and connecting all the action in a building. Sure, I’ll watch it with you.
We set up our tablets and pressed play at the same time. He’d pause both tablets to make comments and I’d pause both tablets to ask questions.
“We were in sync.”
“It took us 6 hours to watch the movie.”
By the time we finished, the plane was landing and he was holding my hand.
“I thought you were the one holding my hand.”
“I touched your hand when you came on screen, and you wouldn’t let me go.”
“I can let you go now, if you want.”
I finished writing the book I had spent two years working on, and I remembered Beta’s eyes; begging me to stay. Strange how time softens us; I now find the memory poignant. I pick up my pen to write the preface, and I acknowledge her as a student I most vividly recall.
I’m now Gamma’s personal assistant. Anything to feel the touch of his eyes.
I didn’t know how shy he was until he put his shades on, not long before we left the cafe. I had no idea men hid shyness behind shades. With his shades on, Delta really looked at me; his eyes rested on my face easily. He laughed at the stories I told him about my crazy pets, and then he commented on my eyes; said he’d never seen eyes as green as mine. I told him I was wearing colour contacts; my eyes were really brown. He loved brown eyes, he said, and then asked me why was I hiding behind so much makeup. I went to the washroom and came back without contacts and without makeup, and he called me beautiful. He ran his fingers through my hair and hoped my red hair was natural. I got up from my chair, took his hand, and invited him to find out.
Tú y Yo (You and Me) by Gisela Velásquez, 2018
Do you see the toucan peeking from behind the horses? It’s a detail of a painting called
The hottest stars, the brightest stars are Alpha stars like me; explosive. Talk to me kindly; I’m sensitive. Say what you have to say to me nicely; I take things personally. Me escuchas? Do you hear me? I need your full attention. Agree with me and do what I ask you to do; I shatter easily. I need your reinforcement.
I’m Beta and I don’t always say a lot, but I listen well. I listen so well that I often hear things left out of conversations, things left unsaid. I’ll correct you if what you say does not make sense, or if you don’t use the right emotion. If you tell me, in an agitated voice, that you escaped a devastating mudslide, I’ll say, “What more do you want?” I’ll make you wash away your agitation and replace it with relief.
I’ll bet anything that an earth star like me, Gamma, invented chronology. When I talk, please don’t interrupt me. Let me start at the beginning, and I’ll take questions when I reach the end. I’d do the same for you. If you came and told me that you escaped a devastating mudslide, I’d want to hear the whole story; how did you escape? What happened next and what came after that? Details are important to me; I always remember them. I’d mistrust you if you modified and changed your story.
I’m Delta and I won’t pay attention if you tell me what to do, give me chores to run, boring stuff. But I’ll listen to a good story. Sometimes, I’ll hear a story and see it so vividly in my mind that I’ll appropriate it. I’m not guilty of copyright infringement; I just feel that I’ve lived the story and it’s mine to keep. Like the story about the mudslide; I feel that it was me who escaped it; a powerful experience that left me both agitated and relieved. I’m a good storyteller too. I enhance reality, spice it up and do everything Gamma doesn’t like.
¿Escuchas? (Do you hear?) by Gisela Velásquez, 2018
In the beginning, we had senseless fights. Alpha would tell me about a problem he was having and I’d try to find a solution. He’d say that I wasn’t understanding the situation, and that my solution would make things worse. I’d bring up his faults and he’d bring up mine and we’d ruin our evening together. Then one day, I listened. Something was troubling him, and I listened and it clicked. He wasn’t asking me for help; he just wanted me to listen and be there for him, on his side. He’d figure things out himself.
I sent a copy of my book to Beta. She called when she received it; apologized for how much she had insisted on being a part of my life. I told her that I had appreciated her as a student, but had no interest in her in any other way. Why didn’t you tell me? she asked me. Why the silence? she wanted to know. I said I didn’t want to hurt her feelings; she was important to me as a student. But she didn’t believe me; she felt there was more to it than that; I wasn’t telling her the truth. The truth is she made me feel desirable. I kept her desire for me alive by pushing her away.
Every morning, I sit with Gamma in his office and go over his schedule for the day. He nods attentively as I walk him through it. Sometimes he’ll ask me to make minor changes; switch a couple of things around, deduct a half hour from a meeting and add a half hour for lunch. He always draws a little star around the time he wants me to remind him to call his wife. After he calls her, he tells me the chores he needs to run before heading home. When the day’s done and he’s about to leave, I hand him a pen and dictate: dry cleaners, milk and eggs. He writes them on his hand so he doesn’t forget.
We got into our cars and Delta followed me home; my place was closer to the cafe. You should have seen the look on his face when he walked in and found himself surrounded by my pets. I must have enchanted him to the point that he forgot all about them. His eyes began to water and he started to sneeze; he had severe allergies, he told me. He needed to take his medication, so we got back into our cars and I followed him home. He must have sneezed all the way because he didn’t drive as smoothly as he had before. When we got to his place, I couldn’t believe how spotless it was. He took his medication, pulled me into his bedroom, kissed me, and fell asleep. I checked what he had taken; strong stuff; the kind that makes you drowsy. I thought of leaving my phone number but changed my mind. I’m a vet; my whole life’s about hair, feathers and fur.
Don’t just sit there quietly, holding my hand; I need your input.”
“The guy’s an idiot, Alpha. You’re letting him push your buttons.”
“The guy’s an idiot and I’m not letting him get away with it!”
“The idiot’s getting you to react, spoiling your day, and making you look bad.”
“So what do you want me to do?”
“Don’t react; walk away.”
“Hard for me to walk away from battle.”
“Save the battle in you for something else.”
“The gym, or…”
“I was good for your ego, wasn’t I?”
“I’m going to be in your area, giving a lecture in a couple of weeks-“
“I’d like to take you out for dinner.”
“I’ll see how I feel.”
“You’re the best personal assistant I’ve had, but I have to let you go; my wife’s jealous of you. Her jealousy is eating her up and breaking our marriage.”
“Don’t cry, my dear. I’ve recommended you to a business associate who’s ready to hire you.”
“Please let me stay, Gamma.”
Delta woke up feeling refreshed. He couldn’t remember the last time he woke up feeling so good. He remembered the redhead and burst out laughing. It would make a good story, he thought to himself. He couldn’t wait to tell it.
He made a cup of coffee and stepped out on his front porch. He saw a woman standing there; beautiful, elegant, crying.
“What’s the matter?” he asked her. “Let me help you.”
“I have a broken heart.”
“I may just have the story that will cheer you up. Please sit with me; I’ll bring you a cup of coffee. Back in a minute.”
She sat down and waited for him.
“Life is like… a watermelon” by Gisela Velásquez, 2017
Wait for me
Alpha was ready, and I, almost. I could feel him waiting by the door, growing impatient. It made me nervous if I allowed it. I concentrated on the finishing touches, and turned the lights off. I came down the stairs, looking at his fiery eyes; eyes that brought out the fire in me. He looked dashing.
She was late as usual; always making me wait. When she came down the stairs, I looked at her, at all her flaws, and realized that I loved each and every one of them.
“I just need to choose my shoes; please wait for me,” she said.
“I’ll choose them for you. These.”
“Yes, they match perfectly. Thank you.”
She kissed me, and rubbed her lipstick off my cheek. We walked hand in hand to the car, and I opened the passenger door for her. When we’re together, I drive.
I’ll go with you
When I sat down, I felt someone’s eyes on me, insisting. I gave in and looked at the man they belonged to. I recognized him; we had met at a conference not long ago. I smiled at him and he got up and sat next to me.
“Hey Beta; what’s your connection?” he asked me.
“He was my professor. What’s yours?”
“Your professor’s girlfriend was my professor,” he answered. “I was in love with her, you know; so in love, I begged her to love me back.”
“I was in love with him, too,” I confided.
He nodded and studied me, “Tell me, do you still love him? Is that why you’re here?”
“No. He sent me his new book, told me he’d be in my area, and invited me to dinner after the lecture. What about you? Are you still in love with her?”
“No. She called me up, and same as you; said she’d be here and was organizing a dinner party. My guess is half the lecture hall’s invited. Are you going to go?” he asked me.
I looked down, unsure, and he squeezed my hand and said, “You’re going; you’re going with me.”
Already he was holding one of the many threads that would connect us. I looked up at him and said, “All right, I’ll go with you.”
Whatever happens, happens
I gave my wife the task of hiring my personal assistant, and my secretary took over the responsibility of keeping me on schedule. I actually preferred this arrangement better; less intimate, but I did not tell my wife. She was having the time of her life with the hiring process.
She had decided to hire a male PA for me, and the only males applying for the job were fresh out of college. She, along with the rest of the staff, would watch these kids prim themselves up in the parking lot and elevator; there were cameras everywhere. I joined her once and watched a kid reach deep into his pocket, and reach under himself to fix his bulge. I heard her giggle; I hadn’t heard her giggle in a long time. I decided to release control of the situation. Whatever happens, happens.
Catch me if you can
Delta didn’t just tell me his story, he re-enacted it for me; like a skit. I laughed, covering my face; a feeling of embarrassment washing over me.
“Why are you hiding?” he asked me.
“The redhead could have been me,” I answered.
“Really? Then let me make it up to you,” he said, and I hid my face some more.
“Come on,” he told me, holding me and getting me to stand. “Are you hungry?”
We went inside and it felt like home. I watched him fix us breakfast, and we ate in silence, observing one another; me directly, and he in fits and spurts.
When we finished, I said to him, “You’re the one I’ve been waiting for.”
He came close to me and whispered, “Then catch me if you can.”
We played the game until we fell exhausted on the bed. This time, he didn’t fall asleep; not with me; he didn’t fall asleep.
Libre… Siempre Libre (Free… Always Free) by Gisela Velásquez, 2018
My pot of gold
Shame has a long tradition; it dates back to the gods on Mount Olympus, to the time when Venus was unfaithful to her husband Hephaestus. She had an affair with Mars, and the Moon kept her secret, but the Sun did not. The light of day told Hephaestus, and Hephaestus trapped the lovers in a net for all the gods to see, and to shame. Neptune intervened; he cut the bonds that tied Venus to her husband, and set the lovers free.
That’s what I was thinking about when I ran into Delta at the grocery store.
“Delta! How have you been?” I asked him.
I saw him feel awkward and quickly get a grip on his emotions, before he answered, “Fine, fine. How about you?”
I was about to answer when his girlfriend joined him, and I introduced myself to her.
“Oh!” she exclaimed. “You’re the redhead who threw herself at-” She caught herself and blushed, feeling the shame that was supposed to be mine.
It was a day of interruptions. I didn’t get a chance to correct her because Gamma joined me just then, putting whatever he was holding in our shopping cart. When he looked up, he was truly surprised.
“It’s you,” he said to Delta’s girlfriend, reaching out to touch her face. “I’m glad to see you looking so well; the last time I saw you, I was worried -” He stopped and told us the story from the beginning. Delta’s girlfriend had been his personal assistant; but his wife had grown jealous of her, and he’d had to let her go. He had left her crying the day he told her she could no longer work for him.
Delta raised his eyebrows and asked his girlfriend, “Is that the day you and I…?” But his girlfriend directed his attention back to Gamma. She knew as well as I did that no one interrupts Gamma.
Gamma continued talking; he told us his wife decided to hire a male to assist him; she didn’t want to take a chance with another female. Indeed, she hired a young man, and run off with him shortly after. The only thing she left behind was her dog.
“He brought the dog to me, and asked if I would adopt it. I’m a vet,” I explained.
“I was immediately enchanted by her wild beauty,” Gamma said, looking at me. “Her red hair and the green eyes she sometimes wears. She made me think of the Sirens that attracted sailors in the Odyssey.”
Gamma was about to put his arm around me when someone else beat him to it. I looked up and saw my brother.
“Alpha!” I said, hugging him. He was in uniform and I asked if something was wrong.
“No; it’s taken care of. How’s my baby sister? Everyone here treating you right?”
“Don’t be silly,” I told him, and he did that thing that intimidates people; he rested a hand on his radio holder and the other on the butt of his pistol. I caught Delta look at the ground and wish he wasn’t there.
“Did you watch the movie?” Alpha asked me.
“Yes! You’re a natural, Alpha.”
He grinned and invited the four of us to his engagement party the following weekend. “Let me take your names down,” he said, grabbing his pocket notebook and pen.
“Thanks so much but I’m not sure we can make it,” Delta quickly interjected. “My girlfriend’s sister is coming for a visit.”
“You can bring her too,” Alpha told him. “What’s her name?”
“Beta,” said Delta, and Alpha wrote it down.
The Mermaid of the Risacua River by Gisela Velásquez, 2017
“When we met, you were crying of a broken heart. Was that the guy?” Delta asked her.
“Yes,” she nodded.
“He caressed your face… Did you guys ever – “
“Never; it was always very professional.”
“But you were in love with him?”
“He gave me something I needed; I don’t really know how to explain it.”
Delta turned to look at her. He very rarely looked at her with such insistence, and it made her feel as if she’d done something wrong. She tried harder to put into words what she preferred to leave behind, “The way he looked at me and treated me; he gave my life meaning.”
Without taking his eyes off her, he asked her, “Do you still need that? Because I’m not sure that I can give you that. Don’t get me wrong; I’m here for you, but man, that guy, that guy… he was creepy.”
She laughed and said, “I don’t need him anymore. When we met, you cut the ties that bound me to him.”
Delta breathed a sigh of relief; he went back to looking at her the way he normally did. “What about this party?” he asked her. “Do you want to go?”
“Yes, I do. Beta’s getting married soon and I’m sure she’ll enjoy attending. It’ll give her some ideas. Us, too.”
“Wait a second,” he said. “It’s a trap!”
“She’s very beautiful,” she told Gamma.
“You’ve met my wife?”
“I mean, your ex personal assistant.”
“I don’t know,” said Gamma.
“Was she special?”
“She was the best personal assistant I’ve ever had.”
“Did you ever -“
“I treated her like my daughter,” he said firmly.
“Who’s your personal assistant now?”
“I don’t have one anymore. My secretary takes care of me.”
“How is she?”
“Now there’s a beautiful woman; stunning, actually,” Gamma said, understanding the undertone of her conversation.
He watched her and enjoyed the transformation. Her face grew tense; her eyes became droopy and her breathing shallower. Was he imagining it or was her hair getting frizzier? She was electric with jealousy.
“Are you attracted to her?” she wanted to know.
“To my secretary? Why are you worried? I’m a faithful man.”
She came closer to him; held his hand tighter, and he knew that this woman would never leave him. She wasn’t just jealous; she was possessive.
“I’m looking forward to attending your brother’s party,” he said casually.
“I need to buy a new dress for it.”
“Let’s go buy it now.”
“Really,” he reassured her.
She picked up the phone and called her sister, “Hi Beta; can’t wait till you get here.”
“Hi sis; I just finished packing.”
“Oh; pack something nice; we’re going to an engagement party.”
“Whose?” Beta asked.
“My ex-boss’s girlfriend’s brother.”
“That doesn’t sound like you; going to a stranger’s party. What’s going on?”
“I’m trying to inspire Delta to propose. How did you get yours to do it?”
“I asked him once if I could count on his love; if my search for the right guy ended with him. He said yes. A few days later, I heard him get up early, and felt him measure my ring finger with a string.”
“So, really, you’re the one who proposed.”
“I guess I did. Unofficially.”
“You know what Delta said when I told him it would be good for us to go to this party?”
“It’s a trap!”
Beta laughed, “He’s funny.”
“He likes to be chased.”
Alpha walked in and said, “Sweetheart? I solved the problem.”
She kissed him and asked, “Which one?”
“Not wanting to sit with our parents at the dinner table.”
“But we have to.”
“No we don’t. I ran into my sister and invited four of her friends. Here are their names,” he said, tearing a page from his pocket notebook. “How many does a table seat?”
“Four, my sister, you and I; we’re seven. We’ll leave a chair out of ours.”
“We’re going to sit with total strangers?”
“We’re going to save me from having another talk about the future with my dad, and a talk about the economy with yours.”
“How am I going to explain this?”
“Just say these were the people that brought us together.”
“Okay,” she agreed. “One problem solved.”
Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta
Beta I don’t talk about the conscious and the unconscious in my practice. I talk about day-consciousness and night-consciousness; two states of mind we’re all aware of. We use our day-consciousness to fulfill our obligations; to look at the facts, and to organize them in linear fashion so we can make sense of them. We use our night-consciousness when we retreat to our private worlds, and when we bring up memories; memories are never linear. We also use our night-consciousness when we enter the world of hidden things and secrets. People who come to see me come with the shame of having their night dynamics brought to light; the shame of having been caught with a secret.
Alpha That’s what I do. I catch people with secrets. I’ve been trained to stay in day-conscious mode 24/7. I look at the facts and know who’s guilty and not guilty; end of story.
Delta That’s not what you were doing at the grocery store. I saw you talking to the kid who did some mischief; looked to me like you were telling him a story-
Alpha You saw that?
Alpha I remembered doing the same stupid thing he did when I was a kid, and I told him about it. I said I’d give him a chance to do better, like me.
Beta Your night-consciousness helped you out; it brought you the right memory.
Gamma When my wife left me, I had to force myself to stay in day-conscious mode; I kept having to push the memory of her betrayal away. But one day, the memory just dragged me down and I had to take the day off.
Delta Your night-consciousness usurped your day-consciousness.
Beta You’re getting the hang of this, Delta.
Alpha But now you’re with my sister, Gamma, and she’s a treasure. Better take good care of her. She’s been looking for love for a long time, and been hurt plenty along the way. (a memory comes to him) Once… (he smiles) Once, a guy… (he starts to laugh) Once, a guy fell asleep-
Alpha’s girlfriend Alphi, stop!
The Redhead Alpha! I told you that in private!
Delta gives the Redhead a furtive look
Gamma (points at Delta and starts to laugh) You’re talking about this guy?
Alpha (looks at Delta in shock) It was you!
Beta (joins the laughter) Oh! My sister told me about it!
Delta looks sheepish and raises his hands apologetically
Gamma (putting his arm around the Redhead and addressing Delta) She told me about it after we left the grocery store. She’s definitely not the girl for you if you have allergies; her house’s a zoo.
Delta’s girlfriend I’m the girl for him. (she holds Delta’s hand)
Gamma (looking at his ex-personal assistant) You’re a fortunate man, Delta.
Alpha (hugging his girlfriend) So am I.
The Redhead gives Gamma a nudge
Gamma (looking at the Redhead and addressing her) I’m the most fortunate of all. I’ve been living in twilight zone since I met you. Every day, my night-consciousness sweetens my day-consciousness.
Alpha’s girlfriend whispers something in Alpha’s ear
Alpha Okay, you guys, you’re all invited to our wedding, and you’re sitting with us at the main table, like today. If anyone asks you why, say it’s because you brought me and my girl together. If they ask you to elaborate, interrupt them with questions of your own. Understood?
Alpha Good. Now let’s go dance.
Mother Earth and Mother of Time by Gisela Velásquez, 2019
The Romans were a solar people. When they adopted the Greek gods, they changed their names and only kept their solar attributes. They forgot that the gods, like us planets, are with you day and night. Hermes became Mercury, god of communication, and god of merchants and craftsmen; totally solar. Mercury is the god I’m named after, and I’ll tell you now that I’m not totally solar. You can’t even see me when the sun is shining, and to be honest, you can’t even see me at night. You can only see me at twilight, if you’re lucky. The Greeks knew me better than anyone else; they understood my twilight qualities, my ability to bridge your day and night, your linear and non-linear mind. It’s me who reminded Alpha of what he’d done when he was a kid, so he’d give the kid at the grocery store a second chance. It’s me who allowed Gamma to be engulfed by the memory of his wife’s departure, because he needed time off to come to terms with it. It’s me who reminded Alpha of the story his sister had told him, to finally let the cat out of the bag and release the tension in Delta.
The Greeks knew more than anyone else that I’m also the god of mischief; a trickster. Let’s say you’re hanging out with your friends at a parking lot, discussing a topic, and it’s your turn to listen to someone else’s point of view. While you’re listening, I’ll have the memory of what you did the previous night creep into your day-mind, and you’ll miss some of what’s being said before you can put the memory away. I won’t just do it to you, I’ll do it to everyone in your group, one by one. When you meet the following day and go back to the same topic of discussion, this is what you’ll sound like:
“I never said!”
“Man, you missed the point entirely.”
“You weren’t listening!”
“You didn’t hear me at all.”
I plant the seeds of discord, like I planted the seeds of all the Greek tragedies. You owe those beloved stories to me. My essence is Greek.
I’m the most handsome planet in the universe, and I find it incongruous to have been named after a god that castrated his father and ate his children. That was obviously the god’s Greek side, his Cronus side. I’m nothing like that. I’m Saturn and I’m solar and I’m on the Roman camp. Take my advice always; do what I say always; it’s for your own good; it’s to protect you. I won’t castrate you or eat you if you don’t listen. You’ll just learn to listen the hard way.
That’s what happened to Delta. When the sun was hitting his eyes and making him sleepy, I told him to switch chairs; switch chairs and pay attention to the redhead, I said. He didn’t listen and look what happened. He took the wrong medication.
Gamma, on the other hand, listened. He did his duty when his wife was jealous of his personal assistant; he let his personal assistant go; he set her free. When he saw his wife giggling at all the male applicants, I told him not to stop her, not to control the situation. He listened, and he set his wife free. He was then free to start all over again, to fall in love and find happiness all over again. Changing and improving structures; that’s what the Romans did. Tragedy was for the Greeks.
I must be Greek
I’m sitting here all alone in a remote corner of the universe-
That’s actually not true. I don’t know why, but I often find myself exaggerating. The truth is I’m surrounded by asteroids yakking away. I’d compare it to having the radio on all day. After you listen to it for a while, the sounds disappear. Same thing with the asteroids; their noise has become silence to my ears. So it feels like I’m alone, in a remote corner of the universe, thinking about creation and religion and why we’re all here. That’s what I encourage you to do too; to rise above the mundane and reach higher. I search for knowledge like Zeus did. The Romans acknowledged this side of Zeus when they turned him into Jupiter, the god I’m named after. They tried to bury his controversial side, his promiscuous side, because he was married. But the more they tried, the more it resurfaced, in a story, in a painting.
There’s just something alluring about having higher knowledge. Students fall in love with their teachers all the time. Look at Beta; she fell in love with her professor. She still loves him, even when she’s about to marry someone else.
The Greeks knew that you can be in love with more than one person at the same time, and so do I. I must therefore be Greek.
I have one foot in Rome and the other in Greece
I can’t believe they changed my name to Venus. It doesn’t even sound romantic. Ve-nus. It really has a sharp edge to it.
When the Romans pointed at me and said, ‘she’s the goddess of beauty,’ I became very popular. People prayed for me to guide them to the right trainer, the right dressmaker, the right barber and hair dresser, and the right shoe maker. It was as if love depended on the arrangement of colour and form. You had to be beautiful and look beautiful to find love.
We’ve inherited this form of solar thinking from the Romans. We’re even surprised when we see an ugly person with a beautiful man or woman. How can it be, we think to ourselves. What does he see in her?
To understand what brings ugliness and beauty together, you need to move your eyes away from my manicured foot to the one in flip-flops. You need to get to know me as Aphrodite, Greek goddess of love. When you pray to me for love, and you’re ready to find your soul mate, I blind you. I initiate you to the mysteries of love by blinding you. I do not match bodies, I match souls.
Whenever I go back to being my old Greek self, my wife kicks me out of the house, and it’s that whole Miasma story all over again. Funny thing is that all the behaviours she reprimands me for were considered to be the solar attributes of Ares, Greek god of war. The Greeks were enamored of their unruly god, the enfant terrible among gods, and of all his torrid love affairs.
When the Romans adopted him, they saw him as trouble.
“Won’t be enough to change his name.”
“Get him married. That should tame him.”
“I hear he’s having an affair with Venus. Let’s have Vulcan catch them in the act.”
“We need a benevolent god who’ll intervene.”
“Neptune’s the god you’re looking for. He’s priestly.”
“Neptune can break the ties that bind Venus to Vulcan, and set her free to marry Ares.”
“Let’s call him Mars.”
“Mars, Roman god of war.”
“Venus and Mars; I like it.”
“Venus has a sharp edge. She’ll discipline him for us.”
“Okay, that’s settled. Now let’s talk about the things we’re leaving out. What are his night attributes? Can’t have promiscuity or cannibalism associated with our god of war.”
“Nothing like that. He’s sensitive; needs to feel felt; has a fragile ego; needs attention.”
“Have him dress in Roman armour. Girls like that. It’ll boost his self-confidence.”
“He’ll be tempted!”
“Venus will keep an eye on him.”
So Ares became Mars, the god I’m named after; married to Venus and her sharp edge. She keeps me disciplined and Roman. But at night, when she undresses, she’s curvy and mysterious like her Greek name, Aphrodite.
Mars and Venus surprised by Vulcan, Alexandre Charles Guillemot, 1827
The Greeks and Romans weren’t even aware of my presence in the sky; and I don’t really fit into the mythology of Uranus or his Roman counterpart. I was discovered much later, in 1781. Before that, Saturn ruled Aquarius along with Capricorn. There are still many stuffy Aquarians who prefer Saturn’s rulership, but most Aquarians are quirky like me. Some, of course, are a bit of both, like this guy here.
Like I was saying, I was discovered in 1781, by accident. An astronomer, looking for comets, found me instead. There I was, rolling around the sun. I came into people’s awareness when the world was on the brink of revolutionary change. You should put me down as revolutionary.
“Don’t have that category, sir.”
How about Flash of Genius? You owe me for all those light-bulb moments.
“Don’t have that one either.”
What do you have again?
“Greek or Roman.”
The Greeks and Romans could observe Jupiter, Saturn, and the three personal planets in the night sky. The stories they told about the gods they’re named after have a direct connection to them.
That wasn’t the case with Uranus, Pluto and me. We were discovered later, with the use of telescopes. We feel more connected to the stories told by the people who became aware of us, than to the stories told by the ancients.
I was discovered in 1846, and my discovery caused a sensation around the world. I was farther away from the sun than any other planet at the time, farther away than anyone had thought possible. People imagined me to be a portal to the divine, and I became what they imagined.
I am the source of divine inspiration. When you want to express the love you feel for the man or woman of your dreams, I open the portal that connects you to god.
Hades was the Greek god of the underworld, and the Romans adopted him with reluctance. He didn’t have any solar attributes, and the Romans couldn’t have such a gloomy god. They had to change his name and make him shine in some way. So Hades became Pluto, Roman god of the underworld, and the god of wealth, ruler of the minerals found beneath the earth.
That’s the god I’m named after, but the Romans didn’t name me; I was only discovered in 1930. I was the first trans-Neptunian planet to come into view, and the timing was perfect. The world had taken an interest in exploring the mind, and the mind is my specialty. It is here where your hidden treasure lies.
When you’re ready to go on a treasure hunt, I come into your life and hand you the key that unlocks your mind. I hold the flashlight and watch over you while you dig deep and get to know yourself better, face yourself better. Everything you discover is treasure unearthed. Your wealth lies in knowing yourself and your imperfections; it leads to understanding and compassion.
But guard your treasure well. Reveal only what you must. Not everyone is ready to face the truth of who you are, because not everyone has faced the truth of who they are. They haven’t all gone treasure hunting with me yet; I’m still holding a bunch of keys.
Sun Lets see… Saturn, Venus, Mars and Pluto makes 4 Romans. Merc, Jupiter and Venus makes 3 Greeks. I WIN!
Moon Darling, we play this game every year and you always win.
Sun Yes and I love it! You know that moment when Pluto declares himself a Roman in that smoky voice of his? I crackle all over with victory.
Moon You’re getting all emotional, my love. Must be because-
Sun Where are you tonight?
Moon Full moon in Pisces.