Steve Heronemus

Rewriting Leda And The Swan

Suzanne and I met in an honors class about interpreting art taught by a professor from Germany I knew from my time there. She sat next to me the first day and became interested in pursuing a friendship with me and, although we talked, I was pretty standoffish. “Aloof” would be kind.
The class started comparing different artistic representations of the Greek legend of Leda and the Swan, where the Greek god Zeus becomes attracted to the mortal woman Leda. Zeus appears to Leda as a swan and, depending on the interpretation, either seduces or rapes Leda on her wedding night.  Spoiler for anyone writing a paper – Leda was raped. Only a male author or artist would suppose that she somehow consented to having sex, on her WEDDING NIGHT, with an overly-aggressive bird. If this story just surfaced on the internet today I would put money on it being some twisted incel fantasy.
Anyway, Leda becomes pregnant and gives birth to two sets of twins, one set each from Zeus and the mortal father. Commence blended family drama. One of the children was Helen, the girl who grew up to be so beautiful that 1000 ships were launched from Athens to take her back from Menalaus, king of Troy, leading to the battle of Troy.
Suzanne had studied a poem in high school by William Butler Yeats about this subject of Leda and the Swan and gave me a copy of it that she wrote out as a means of breaking my ice. Suzanne, being the naive and practical Catholic girls school graduate, thought this was a totally innocent gesture.
I, on the other hand, who lives in the world of metaphors and hidden meanings, read this poem and immediately interpreted it as filthy dirty, what with its burning towers and crumbling gates and suchSo I was thinking that her giving me this poem was about the biggest, brightest, green light that ever green lighted. Suzanne created the ice-breaking effect she wanted, but for totally the wrong reason.
Suzanne, after having set me straight and not kicking me to the curb, has let me hang around to write our own version of Leda and the Swan. Our tale defInitely begins with parallels as we were and are still two very different creatures, Also, even before I started talking to Suzanne I thought her the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. She still is.
Our tale does have us, in fact, come together to have four children, though it is far from the classical story of Zeus swooping in to violently steal a pleasurable moment in his immortal life from a likely unwilling woman. We have now been together for more than 37 years in a relationship I would describe as a near-perfect partnership.
We respect our differences while seeking common ground, accompany each other on the tangents that we take in life, and approach each day with gratitude and love. We do not avoid the hard conversations or the apologies. We understand that we are here first for the Other, not ourselves.

​I am incredibly blessed to wake each day in Suzanne’s presence and will often revel in watching her sleep, which she still thinks is weird and a little creepy but so it goes. Suzanne is, and always will be, the beautiful woman I would change anything about myself to be around, and she has sacrificed much in rescuing me from the many Troys I have chosen as well as those unchosen.
Should you come to our home, take notice of all the depictions of swans we have throughout. They have become something we like to have around as a tender reminder of how we got together and of the love that continues to grow between us.