Portrait of Caterina Cornaro, Wife of King James II of Cyprus, by Titian
Caterina was gazing in the far away mirror during spin class, keeping up with the electrifying classical music while her mind drifted. She began to think of her birthday party that year. She had met a girl from Holland in a club who fell in love with her. “Where the fuck are you from,” she had slurred. But the Dutch girl just purred back that she was from Amsterdam and slipped an ice cube down her shirt. Suddenly, she bent the space-time continuum.
Her sweat was stopped in mid-air. “Whoa, the Indian master in Mexico told me I would have flashbacks from that peyote, but I only had one hit!” She wandered out into the main chamber of the gym to cool off, but noticeably cheered up when she saw the thick chested men lifting weights. She couldn’t help but reach out and stroke the steely muscles and smell the sweat on her fingers before wiping it off on her gym bag, saving it for a happy memory later.
She continued out into the parking lot where she saw her Tuesday/Thursday spinning instructor in the middle of inhaling some thick smoke from a a suspicious device. She got in, sucked it down for him, checking out the outlines of his bulge in spandex while she was at it, and got back out. Little did she know, this man would end up accompanying her to India. She restarted time by concentrating very hard on a happy memory. “Oh yeah, the guy I met last week was insane. He showed his passport to me in the bar and it only said “42” where his name should be. He just said that he and his body had all the answers to the world. Later on he admitted it was just for a prank he was going to play on his friend that worked at the airport.” Just then the scent of sweat from her gym bag wafted up to her nostrils, and the whoosh of traffic and the cawing of birds started again.
She knocked on his window, and he motioned her to come in. Sitting there on the warm felt seats, they sat and listened to the radio DJ who was saying “Peter Pan…dies.” She could feel each individual palpitation of her heart, her every nerve was stimulated. “I have found my purpose in life, and if it happened while I was smoking with a spinning instructor, so be it. I must stop this evil from happening.” She looked at him and thought, “No, this was destiny, he will come with me. I can’t do it without him.” With the most coy smile she could manage she asked him out for coffee. She prayed that the ploy would work, just like she looked out the window and wished for her little brother to die every night after she said her prayers and drew naked ladies in her diary.
That night, once again covered in sweat, she held her hand on his chest, and once again began concentrating on a very happy memory, but this time his whole masculinity was involved and around them everything stood still. His cat had his arms stretched out at the foot of the bed, the Fox News pundit glared at the camera. He looked at her and asked her, “Am I dreaming?”
“No, no, you’re passed out. You’re having the coolest dream you will ever have,” she answered.
He closed his eyes and when he opened them again, they were in a foreign place, all he could hear were wind instruments and murmuring. Nobody spoke English, he very soon realized. Meanwhile she was cursing to herself “Goddamn, Caterina, this isn’t Neverland, this is bloody India, some battle camp.” She shut her eyes with all her might but could not concentrate well enough with the screams coming from what she assumed to be the infirmary and the smell of mountain lion waste. She was just thinking that she would have to spend years there, learning the language, when she was approached by a man, muscular and seemingly a Greek hoplite. She smiled.
Her spinning instructor pulled her toward him and whispered, “I dated a Greek girl, ok, am dating a Greek girl. Let me handle this.”
“Hallow, barbarian. I am a representative of Alexander the Great. What news do you come bearing?” the tall fellow said.
“Hello, noble gentlemen. Behold, we are from the future! But don’t worry, Alexander wins” he proclaimed with his left hand raised in a salute, not realizing, yet, that it was not a dream, and that actions have consequences. Seeing no response on the man’s face he beat his chest twice with his fist.
“Come with me.”
They were dragged before the King himself. He was not a gorgeous, muscular blond, as he is sometimes shown in the movies, but more like Danny Devito, a gay one dressed in costume for a low-rent Broadway play and covered in blood and horse manure. “I guess money really does work miracles,” she thought to herself.
An interpreter with his head bowed spoke very quickly, making it difficult for the spinning instructor to understand the dialect.
“I’m pretty sure they want us to be the court fortune tellers and snake charmers” he told her, seeing the confused look on her face, then turned to the man and demanded, “What! Why snake charmers?”
“It is custom”
But he just looked away and put his thumb to his left eye ball and grimaced, “Please cooperate or I will die, right now.”
Seeing no other course of action he nodded his head. Just then a crazy man ran into the room brandishing a knife screaming in a language he assumed to be Aramaic until his eyes rolled back into his head. Caterina concentrated as hard as she could to get out of there, but there was a tyranny of motion all around her.
“He has cursed you but…I cannot believe this, you are still standing!” the interpreter screamed with his hands on his cheeks.
When she turned around she could see that the once lush landscape was now barren. A tumbleweed blew into the tent.
“Oh, by the shield of Achilles you must have deflected the curse onto the land!”
She laughed at the sight of his face and finally she felt spacetime bending around her again. The Indian reds and golds morphed into a beach and a gaggle of what she presumed to be bridesmaids. She judged that it was around the time of the Renaissance. “Shouldn’t St. Thomas be around here somewhere? Or Martin Luther, or something? ”
“How did a street walker get in here!?” one of them demanded, pushing her out of sight. But a stocky man silenced her by raising his index finger from his glass. “Her skin radiates dew and the fresh morning sun,” he thought. “My, what shapely ankles, so unlike my sister’s,” he noticed.
“I demand an audience with you” he said in Catarina’s general direction.
“What a silken accent the vixen has!”
Without realizing what he was doing he pulled her aside and got down on one knee.
“Please, consider me, creature from another world, my tender alien, as a husband. Let us be as two chess players, thinking of the other’s moves at all times. Let us be as the pages of a book, stuck together until one takes a knife and cuts them apart. Let us..”
Seeing no choice of action while the knights surrounded them Catarina responded “OK”
Immediately he whisked her away to find the artist for the ceremony who was to paint the swarthy bride. He paid him a handsome sum and he began to paint Catarina’s portrait instead. (It now hangs on her bedroom wall as the only memory left of a happy matrimony)
After the consummation of the wedding, she lay watching his ball of a belly move steadily up and down, and thought of the gold coins in her pocket. With a shocking pain, she was able to return to her spinning class again in the year 2009, just as she had left it. She finished the class and went to do some bicep curls. During rep number two, Cooper Anderson began panicking on screen, “The worst case of drought in 500 years has struck India…” She moved closer to the television and thought to herself:
“Man, India’s fucked.” She had forgotten all about Peter Pan.