South Park was a tiny patch of green, deep in the fashionable SOMA district, just a couple blocks from the new baseball stadium called Pac Bell Park. The SOMA district had been the cheapest business real estate in town when the dot-com boom had hit, and the dot-commandos had moved into it with a vengeance. Now strange businesses fueled by mountains of venture capital and built out of software and feverish dreams and the infinite promise of the Internet and young idealists and capitalists working sixty-hour weeks had taken root here, blooming like strange tropical flowers in the midst of a district lately given over to crumbling warehouses and marginal businesses.
South Park was where these frighteningly brilliant, self-assured young people – the digerati – came on their lunch breaks to decompress and grab a burrito or a sandwich. The tiny eateries had once been pushed to the brink of extinction but were now thrust back into the middle of prosperity by forces beyond their understanding or control. They did their best to keep up with the sudden demand and the suddenly very deep pockets of their new clientele, making all the food they could make and responding to demands for even more by charging prices that, anywhere else on Earth, would have gotten them accused of price gouging.
The digerati sometimes took breaks from the office and brought their laptops to South Park, continuing to answer their interoffice emails and use the office network remotely. If they’d left the doors of their offices closed, nobody even knew they were gone. And at most of these young businesses, as long as the work got done, nobody really cared.
Today, the digerati were here in force, but suddenly, they weren’t the only contingent any more. Today, they’d been joined by hookers and strippers and dancers and a bigger cast of deviants and perverts than you were likely to see in any one place until the next Folsom Street Fair or Exotic Erotic Halloween Ball. And a lot of just ordinary people, gay, straight, or something in between, people for whom sex and love had become a dream or a hollow shell, who came here for they knew not what. The fevered undercurrent of the place had shifted. It was no longer about taking care of the digital biz. It was today, suddenly, for the first time in living memory, all about taking care of the people. The Tenderloin and O’Farrell Street lay two miles distant; a home to some, a workplace for many, and the site of injured dreams and incomplete fulfillment for the rest.
But today, the injured dreams were being made whole. Today lonely people were going home together to share the remainders of their lives. Today the brilliant but alienated engineers were discovering that they too could love and be loved. Today people who’d never been able to love were being healed, remade able to love themselves and through themselves others. Today gays who’d never been able to deal with coming out were learning to love themselves enough to stop living a lie. Today straights suffering from Catholic Guilt were being released. Today so-called pomosexuals were for the first time able to tell themselves and others the truth about who and what they were and what they needed. Today the Goddess was working.
She stood on a platform made for play, out of planks and pilings, and She called Her newfound worshipers to Her one after the other. Her white hair sometimes threw sparks with Her power, and Her skin gleamed pale gold in the sunlight. She stood naked in the sun, and Her nakedness displayed not vulnerability, but power. Her taut, corded body was filled with energy and grace, and Her eyes shone with the force of love as She did Her holy work.
One after another, she called them by name. One after another, she healed them. One after another, the Goddess used the power given Her by her worshipers to make Her worshipers stronger people and stronger in love, because that’s what the Goddess they all needed was, and could do, and it was the power they gave Her over them.
Aphrodite had been called forth by their loneliness, by their broken dreams of love, by the hollowness of their need and by their hopes that somewhere there was a higher power who would make it all right. And here She was, doing, being, what they all needed, accepting their power and using it to do what they’d wanted done, even if they’d never been able to acknowledge their own need.
Rose had come here with Marta – the woman she’d met on the Golden Gate Bridge – in tow. They’d been having coffee in the Sunset District, and Marta was telling her how she’d never ridden in an art car before, when Rose had felt the Goddess rising.
Aphrodite rising, across a whole city of people, was like the Sun rising in the East. Aphrodite grew stronger as people gave her power, as people worshiped and adored her. And Rose, without even knowing for sure what it was, had realized that Marta could go there and be healed of the thing in her that always drove her back to lovers who hit her.
In his office, the Mayor drafted an ordinance that would allow couples in love to obtain wedding licenses regardless of gender, not because he realized the Goddess Aphrodite had risen that morning, but just because, on that day and in that place, it was obvious that love was, after all, sacred. How could people have not seen it before?
Rose and Marta had parked under the Bay Bridge a couple of blocks from South Park, and no sooner had they entered the park than the Goddess called Marta’s name.
“Marta!” Aphrodite thundered, in a throaty voice that was starting to grow hoarse. “You have come here to gain the wisdom to love someone who won’t hit you!” Marta gasped with shock to hear it. She had never said out loud that anyone had hit her, because after all it was her fault. They wouldn’t be hitting her if only she was… was someone else…. But now she was before the Goddess, and Aphrodite could see her bruises as though she were naked. “That wisdom lies within you now!” Aphrodite continued. “Learn to love yourself, and to walk away from those who would possess you. Nobody hits someone they love, Marta. Those who would hurt you want you as a possession, not because they love you.”
Marta sank to her knees as Aphrodite’s words echoed in her head. It was as though something she’d known all along had suddenly been revealed to her, made clear, and it utterly changed who she was. Her ears roared. Her vision narrowed. And as she rejoined the people there, as she joined the worshipers of Aphrodite, her first thought was what a fool she’d been for so many years.
Behind her, Rose yelped, turned, and ran in terror.
This is one chapter of The Hook, a novel which is being published serially on this site. This page links to all chapters so far serialized.
The complete novel is available from Amazon.