Chapter One: Aphrodite and Her Silent Touch
Before her, I was oblivious to who--or should I say what--I truly was. But who was I, really? My passport and diplomas smugly exposed my identity, a name and a picture does little to adequately define a body's soul. Aedhan Jean Dubois, the documents read--born in 1972 in Quebec City, the son of a French father and a Welsh mother. My traditional Gaelic given name, which my father grudgingly allowed my quietly assertive mother to select, clashed not only with my French middle and surnames, but also with the French culture that surrounded us everywhere in Vieux-Quebec. I'm certain this paradox contributed greatly to my lifelong identity crisis.
As an only child, I enjoyed a loving, yet disciplined, upbringing. My father, a Classics Professor at the University of Quebec, was stern yet nurturing. He had high hopes for his only son. From a young age, I enjoyed his tutelage and guidance in the rich academia that permeated my day-to-day life. It was my father's love for mythology which spawned my interest in the legends of ancient cultures, but when I pursued my own doctorate, it was a Literature rather than a Classics Degree that decorated my own office wall.
Having attended a prestigious American University, I became a U.S. citizen and settled on the east coast. Although I risked insulting my deceased mother--God rest her soul--I adopted the English version of my French middle name, becoming known as John to my friends and colleagues. Staying on as an Instructor at my Ivy League Alma Mater, I astonished everyone by gaining tenure after a few short years. Quickly securing a full Professor's title, the freedom of such early seniority gave me ample time to nurture a dormant creativity. Now, four novels later, I enjoyed unexpected commercial success; and on the surface, at least, I was happy.
Despite my achievements, a part of me felt empty. Romance, you ask? Yes, there were women--too many to count, to be quite honest. Strange, I could attract such beauties, yet find no spiritual pleasure in the intimacy which followed. They loved my body, my face, my name, my titles, and my success--a superficial attraction, if you will, that never went deeper than the facade of my mortal exterior. I searched and longed for the woman who could dive deep and shatter the ice of my human form to reveal and understand the essence of my cosmic soul.
Was this mysterious woman--this faceless enigma--my soul's goddess and my spirit's salvation? Perhaps she was; I hoped and prayed she was. Without the miracle of modern electronic communication, I'm certain our paths would have never crossed. After all, we were separated by the vastness of an ocean and the extreme difference of lifestyle and culture and without the internet, her search for me--nubile, exuberant, and fueled by the ancient secret that I imagined she harbored--would have unquestionably failed. We had the twenty-first century and its utterly incomprehensible, undeniably magical "web" of invisible clairvoyant energy to thank for our beautiful and fateful collision.
From her very first message, her uncanny insight invoked an obvious mythological comparison--apparent, at least, to me. I possessed a vivid writer's imagination, which was by necessity and habit influenced by an academician's obscure familiarity with the classics, literature, and ancient history. To me, she was a modern day Aphrodite from the moment her first speeding electronic bullet found its way across the globe into my inbox. If she told me in her first email that she, like the legendary and mystical Greek goddess, bypassed the innocent ignorance of childhood by being created directly from the elements into her adult form, I would have accepted this preposterous claim without question.
I'm the first to admit the unlikely story of our meeting. Coincidence? Perhaps. Yet the hand of fate gently tapped us both on an unsuspecting shoulder, as we stood back-to-back, totally oblivious to each other's existence until that very moment. And, in a flash, there you were; there I was; there we were, sweet darling--staring at each other with wide-eyed disbelief and unbelievable yet undeniable recognition.
But I am leaping forward, when I should embark on the task of explanation in the proper timeline and chronology. My savvy publicist, Gerry, arranged the speaking engagement in Athens. I would be the keynote speaker at the International Writer's conference, which would take place in Greece this year, and she was my Athenian point of contact. Her name was Kay, a consulting specialist employed by a top-notch Greek resource and scheduling outfit that would make all of my travel, accommodation, and leisure arrangements during my two-week stay in the Aegean. I knew nothing about her, except she was extraordinarily good at what she did--efficient, proficient, and a true pleasure to deal with. Her English, at least as it appeared on my computer screen, was perfect, much like my imagined fantasy of her physical appearance.
She was all business on the surface, yet my intuition sensed an inexplicable nostalgia and familiarity in her correspondence. Underneath the confirmations and scheduling logistics ran an underground river of mutuality that rushed ahead or behind with a timeless strength and energy.
Her emails, of course, only hinted at her true identity. Despite the anonymous flavor of her initial correspondence, her soul and her essence lingered in each sentence, word, and letter. Cronos & Associates, the message ID stated with bland professionalism, as our electronic banter became more and more friendly and comfortable. She remained playfully incognito, expertly obscured behind a translucent curtain that she fully intended to have me draw aside, but at the time of her choosing, not mine.