“Oh may the Gods thus keep us ever join’d!The Metamorphoses, Publius Ovidius Naso
Oh may we never, never part again!”
So pray’d the nymph, nor did she pray in vain:
For now she finds him, as his limbs she prest,
Grow nearer still, and nearer to her breast;
’Til, piercing each the other’s flesh, they run
Together, and incorporate in one:
Last in one face are both their faces join’d…
Book IV (trans. Laurence Eusden & Joseph Addison)
They fall together.
She places him beneath her, as if to remind which way the strength must flow. Her hunger is frightening, all absorbing. She enwraps him in a skin so warm his surface begins to run like sweat. Her hands are on him and his hands clench closed, elbows out to protect his face. Her breasts press through his chest and he feels the new flesh, bruised and swollen, weigh upon him. Her mouth becomes his.
He trips over the strength and length of her thigh. The bones in his hips widen and he feels the pressure between his legs bleed inward and spread throughout his belly. Inside her, the empty womb contracts, hardens into a shafted spear that pierces his side. His hair crawls off the scalp and scurries down one shoulder; her locks dissolve into a blurred memory of youthful beauty. His temple burns as her lips unlock the bone of his forehead and she slips into the unresolved, sacred pool of his mind. His mouth becomes hers.
They sigh together.
His anger cancels her shame. Her need consumes his trepidation. He is the membrane between her cruelty and his vulnerability. She is the sharpened tip that sews the pattern of their fading edge. Twined shadows, they cast a single form from the light of a cauterizing flame.
Together they are one.
A single scar remains. The pocking of imperfection wells like a tumor at the small of their back. It is the only reminder that Salmacis and Hermaphroditus had once existed apart. Before, in the ether of the other, their fates had wanted so much, so different.
They are together now, in their pain alone.