When the god, Glaucus, fell in love with the sea nymph, Scylla, and Scylla rejected him, Glaucus went to the witch, Circe, for help. Of course he couldn’t take Scylla’s rejection at face value and move on—gods never do, and mortal men also struggle with the concept. But Circe fell in love with Glaucus, and instead of helping him, she poisoned the water where Scylla went to bathe, turning Scylla into a monster.
When I say that I want to be like Circe poisoning the sea, I don’t mean that I want to poison Scylla, because I love every Scylla I’ve ever met. I want to bathe in the river and talk with her about Glaucus. We’ll each say what we hate about him. Then we’ll say what we hate about ourselves. We’ll never say what we hate about each other, because there won’t be anything to say.
When I say that I want to be like Circe poisoning the sea, I mean that I want to make a decision, carry out an action, walk away from it, and—the difficult part—believe in the validity of my convictions. There’s no poison like denying yourself power.
Maybe when I say that I want to be like Circe poisoning the sea, what I really mean is that I want to bathe in the poison myself. I want to make the potion and feel its consequences. I’ll turn into the monsters of my own imagination. I’ll live on the rock between Italy and Sicily, destroying the ships of men. Or maybe I’ll be that monster, living on that rock, without destroying anyone. Maybe I’ll live there quietly: poisoned, monstrous, but alone. Tethered to an inhuman form, but not to any human feeling.