Under this sun stands tall the hyacinth

Under this sun stands tall the hyacinth, A love story’s epitaph and Beatus Hyacinthus 

“The love stories themselves were not told until later.”

~~~

Imagine Apollo in our world. Imagine him born and bred in a developing country, knowing thirst and hunger and loneliness and fear. Would it change him? Would he still be as golden and brave and fearless as he was in Homer’s tales?

Modern society is not kind to those who don’t hide their quirks. Imagine Apollo, uninhibited and without a sense of caution, in this society. Ostracised he shall be and the subject of many a lurid gossip over plain, white office desks in the mornings and around varnished tea-tables in the evenings. He does not mind the staring and the whispering, as long as they let him be. Unfortunately, he finds out they will not let him be. They drag him to priests and nuns, to counsellors and psychiatrists  and to astrologers and godmen to sort him out, to cast the strangeness out of him so that he would fit in. He is happy with his lyre and books, with his art and languages. He tells them so. He knows that he will not last if caught in the mire of pettiness and abstract motivations that seem to constitute the people around him. They succeed in binding him all the same, and he chafes, and endures. Apollo is all brightness and fury and spontaneity. Endurance does not come naturally to him. He grits his teeth, squares his shoulders and tries to keep himself afloat in the madness of society promising himself seclusion and arts and music and books as soon as he leaves this hell.

Thirteen years of this ordeal and the fight has long left him. He struggles along as best as he can and finds merging easier with each passing day. He knows that he has turned as petty and miserable and bleak as those who tried to reform him. He looks at himself in the mirror and realises that he does not know this new fellow glaring back at him.

Then he finds the hyacinth. That is not right. It is the hyacinth that finds him.

He likes windows. He has an especial fondness for bay windows. One day, while he is perched on one of those windows and gazing at the wild flowers dancing in the wind in yonder field, he feels the heavy weight of a curious gaze upon his neck. He turns half-about, with instincts finely honed from years and years of watching out for himself, and sees a young, ugly fellow staring at him. He spares a scowl and returns to his contemplation of the wild flowers when soft words are carried to him by the same wind which makes the flowers dance.

“You look different in the sunlight.”

The words wound Apollo more than he will ever admit as they force him to remember what he once had been before society had molded him into this, but when he turns to face the speaker, the soft curiosity and the frank appraisal in those beady eyes leave him stranded in a strange, new land. He smiles, an act at which he is unpractised and untalented. Outside, the flowers dance in the bright sunlight. On a whim, he names this fellow Hyacinth.

Theirs is a careful, graceless dance. They stumble in this new land, tethered only by the thin strings of curiosity. Time passes. Apollo feels old needs greeting him with an increasing frequency. His painted exterior begins to crumble. Slowly leaves him the mildness ingrained by years in this society, slowly peels away his facade of indifference and slowly ignites in him the fire of old. Truth and determination and courage he knows once more, each stoked higher in him by every ugly, charming smile Hyacinth grants him. He walks in fields of wild flowers, basking in the sunlight and the eastern winds, and fights for justice, and when society once more directs its malice towards his renewed quirks, Hyacinth stands tall and mighty and wrathful, clearing a path for his Apollo and defending it as deftly as Moses held the Red Sea. Apollo is not a devout man, but he thinks he might have found a deity worthy of his devotion.

Apollo is hated for what he is. Hyacinth they consider an innocent lamb misled. From the west arrive men and women cruel and determined, unrelenting in their self-appointed mission to pry away Hyacinth from the guiles of Apollo. Immoral, they call Apollo, and they call his regard for Hyacinth unconscionable. Apollo pays them no care. He is bright and burning once more, and fears none. Hyacinth carries on, as bravely as ever, in the face of spite and disgust he has rarely encountered before in his short life.

Then all of it becomes too much, too heavy, too cruel, for his young heart. He is noble in mind and far-sighted. So he steps aside hoping that Apollo might be spared the ordeal of counsellors and priests and psychiatrists once again. Apollo does not understand. He rails at this cruelty levelled at him by one whom he trusts whole-heartedly. He rails and rages and makes repeated pleas for renewing what they had, for returning to that halcyon period of sun-washed bliss. Hyacinth’s will is one frontier that Apollo has to admit defeat to, and he retreats. The crowds carry Hyacinth away, back to their placid bosom, and there he becomes one of them.

Apollo rages for days and days turn into months. He spends hours each day on that bay window and stares at the wild hyacinths playing in the wind.

One day, he sees Hyacinth walking in that field with that ugly face upturned to the sun, as if seeking forgiveness. He is gaunt and grieving. Loss and regret and determination shine in those eyes. Apollo understands then what it has cost Hyacinth.

He gets up from his bay window, returns to the world he cannot bear to face without Hyacinth as his wall, and resumes what he does best. He fights with all that he is for his lost causes, he moves to a different land and he continues onward freed by the sacrifice his Hyacinth made. He finds, to his immense astonishment, that he is not angry with Hyacinth. Years later, he has the epiphany that he is no longer pining for an ugly, beautiful, flawed, perfect fellow who liked walking in the evening sun among fields of dancing wild flowers. He thanks Hyacinth, everyday, for having taught him what love meant. Before Hyacinth, Apollo did not know how to love. Now, though, he knows that he can love as deeply as any man has loved, and give all of himself to the person who will want him just as he is. He thanks Hyacinth for that, and for his freedom, and for many things besides.

Occasionally, he hears of Hyacinth. He smiles and it is no longer an awkward, unpractised smile.

~~~

And from the blood of the wound

a flower sprang, hyacinth, more brilliant

than the purples of Tyre,

for it was the truth of their hearts bound.

Then Apollo wept.


65 thoughts on “Under this sun stands tall the hyacinth

  1. I loved the 33k version of this you did for Make a wish this year. That was beautiful and made me cry with all your hallmarks of great conversations, subtleties and perfect characterizations. How the hell did you prune that monster 33k down to something so short?

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    1. The original monster was in the 1st person, Shalot. J’s 1st person is very powerful compared to her 3rd person. I don’t complain because I get why she changed it and cut it down to 1k here.

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      1. Aye to your take on her first person. Sometimes I think she must be either incredibly narcissistic or incredibly aware of the character’s psyche to make that work the way it works for her. She says “it just feels right that way” when asked.

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      2. Whatever does narcissism have to do with that, I ask each time you suggest this, and you keep making vague references to Dostoevsky. One day, I shall understand and you will dearly pay for it!

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    2. I had to prune it 🙂 I am glad that you liked the monster draft. It exceeded 50,000 words or so at the final reckoning before submission. You might not have missed much, though, since the additions were mostly to the beginning for contextual clarity. It might have ended up as appallingly boring as the Mormon preface to A Study in Scarlet.

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  2. Let me have this in the language of love! If you get me that you’ll get the tweed coat you’ve been wanting for months 😉

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      1. ROFL! We only need Ichor for this to get worse! Make it calf leather while you are at it 😛 Seriously, good to see you all out and talking! It’s been forever! My love to all of you!

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      2. Thanks Hal! This has been a frustrating time but I think things are looking up and maybe we’ll be back sooner than later. Lovely to see you too! (dragonflies)

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      3. Ichor would have called me three kinds of a blackguard for not having a happy ending and then threatened me with that infamous rack of his. He was rather predictable that way.

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  3. You should have changed this from Apollo to somebody else! Everybody who knows you are going to automatically make a connection to the sun motif. I didn’t get to read the original yet but I heard that it was really beautiful as all your romance stories are. The previous commenter had a point about the change in narration. You write the best in 1st person. Not biased by original so I really like this. You’re courageous to have the guts to post this knowing the kind of people whom you’ve got to live with on a daily level. Not surprised by that since the one thing you don’t lack is courage.

    His painted exterior begins to crumble. Slowly leaves him the mildness ingrained by years in this society, slowly peels away his facade of indifference and slowly ignites in him the fire of old. Truth and determination and courage he knows once more, each stoked higher in him by every ugly, charming smile Hyacinth grants him. He walks in fields of wild flowers, basking in the sunlight and the eastern winds, and fights for justice, and when society once more directs its malice towards his renewed quirks, Hyacinth stands tall and mighty and wrathful, clearing a path for his Apollo and defending it as deftly as once long ago Moses held the Red Sea. Apollo is not a devout man, but he thinks he might have found a deity worthy of his devotion.

    Kudos! I want to read the original.

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    1. We hope to see it in an anthology after the “big” one. It’s taking more than it must. I can’t say I’m surprised given the subject but she’s got the spunk to see it through.

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    2. It had to be Apollo! I couldn’t have had Zephyr in there, could I? I may not be able to get the monster version out into the public domain any time soon. There are hassles.

      Thank you for picking out the part you liked!

      The original was better, if only because I had more words to play with and bring about a half-decent plot.

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      1. I didn’t get the west wind reference. Had to look it up! It’s one of those things I like best about how you write: the way you sprinkle plot threads all over the story. Good luck with your efforts! I’m confident it will work out for the best. I also think the origjnal is way better than how you make it sound, lol.

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    1. Thank you, Sam! *hugs* It is a shortened, pruned, watered-down version of a monster story I had been working on and off for the better part of last year. It started as something for 2010’s Nanowrimo, but got stuck here and there and finally reached some level of coherence in last October. It still is a mess, for the most part. If it goes anywhere, I will let you know! There are horses for Apollo there, which was my favourite part to write.

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      1. 🙂 *hugs* The path you led me down with plot bunnies and carrots, Sam, is a dangerous, lovely one. Remind me to blame you when I eventually get into trouble for writing something scandalously, outrageously immoral.

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  4. You write love well. You write forbidden, painful love better than most others. Having had the privilege to read the original, my opinion is that you did a decent job of sparing it down to this for public consumption.

    Where it comes full circle? “You look different in the sunlight.”

    I caught the west wind reference. It’s one of those ‘quirks’ of your writing how you meld subtle into painful and honest. Well done, sunbeam.

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    1. Forbidden, painful love is the love that deserves to be written about the most, I think. This love has no support from men. It should at least have the support of words and music and art.

      I do wonder if the original will ever be complete to my satisfaction. It looks complete as it stands now but I have this instinct that it needs more to be truly complete though I am yet to realise what exactly it is that it needs.

      Truly, when it comes full-circle. I owe you for not vetoing that one.

      You caught the west wind reference, of course! It would have been unforgivable if you hadn’t, given the sheer number of times you have discussed the story with me.

      Your sunbeam.

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    2. You are entirely responsible for this version of it, given how you trapped me yesterday and had me do this quoting a thousand and one reasons for the necessity of doing this.

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      1. ninte pazhaya asukhamalle! you write each story from your heart. athu kondannu ithra nonstop drama. poyi sleep viddi!

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  5. Henri must be proud of you for writing this story. His brave muppet! Love from us all. Piece of le roman de la rose for you =

    C’est reson toute forsenable
    C’est forcenerie resnable
    C’est douz perilz a soi noier
    Grief fes legiers a paumoier
    C’est Caribdis la perilleuse
    Desagraable et gracieuse,
    C’est langueur toute santeïve,
    C’est santé toute maladive,
    C’est fain saoule en habondance,
    C’est conoiteuse souffisance
    C’est la soif qui touriorz est ivre,
    Ivrece qui de soif8 s’enivre,
    C’est faus deliz, c’est tristeur liee,
    C’est leece la corrouciee;
    Douz mal, douceur malicieuse,
    Douce saveur mal savoreuse,
    Entechiez de pardon pechiez
    De pechiez pardon enthechiez;
    C’est peine qui trop est joieuse,
    C’est felonie la piteuse,
    C’est li geus qui n’est point9 estables,
    Estaz trop fers et trop muables
    Force enferme, enfermeté fors,
    Qui tout esmeut par ses efors,
    C’est fol sans, c’est sage folie,
    Prosperité triste et jolie,
    C’est ris plains de pleurs et de lermes,
    Repos travaillanz en touz termes
    Ce est enfers li doucereus
    C’est paradis li doulereus”

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    1. Le Roman de la rose! And one of the most brilliant parts of it! Oh, how I love you! If Ichor were here, he would definitely have recited it with grand flourishes to his captive audience. (remember when he had a cold and his voice was all harsh and jerky and he still managed to sound le roman de la rose magical?) Il me manque…

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      1. That part I don’t miss about him. He sang that when we were writing about blood and rape. That was just plain wrong.

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