4. Hera

“My, son of Tros, you are quite the looker.”

“So the words of the mortals are not baseless after all.”

“Our Father is as fast as always, eh? How many gods and mortals have he conquered already?”

“Ares, you would do well to watch your mouth in front of him.”

“Certainly more than me, but I’m not complaining.”

“Brother, what a way to boast.”

“Ah, but to think he would allow you to stay with us… You must be more than just any most-beautiful-in-whatever-land, right? What’s your name again?”

Oh, they finally talked to me.

“It’s Ganymede.” – The king of Olympus finally spoke, and all the gods returned to their posts, taking that as a cue to leave me some space.

“And while we’re at it, Poseidon, would you be so kind as to give me two of your horses?”

The God of the Sea paused at the unusual request, his hands stopped spinning the gold trident:

“Why, Zeus, I thought the ones I provided for your chariot can last another two hundred years?”

“If he is to stay with us here, it’s only right that his father gets compensated for.”

“I see. Will the white ones do, then?”

“They are good enough, thank you.” – Zeus replied, and before he could continue Hermes had already stood up, the tiny wings on his sandals flapping gently. The Messenger God was more than familiar with the routine, and Zeus looked at his son in approval as he gave his orders:

“Hermes, go at once to Poseidon’s stables and pick out the horses, then give them to the king of the Trojans as my compensation for his son. Tell him that Ganymede is safe and healthy, and will forever be among the gods as an immortal. Lastly…”

“Yes, Father?”

“Make sure Hera does not know of it.”

I registered a few chuckles among the gods as the Queen got mentioned. Hermes tried his best to make his smirk look more like an assuring smile.

“Certainly. Then I’ll be o…”

“WHAT IS IT THAT YOU CAN’T LET ME KNOW?”

A loud, indignant voice came bursting through the ivory doors of the Pantheon, bringing along an enchanting lady clad in the most magnificent red silk robe. All was brought onto their feet as Hera made her entrance. She had a fierce gaze directed at Zeus, and for the first time I saw him grimaced as her severe tone hinted an impending outrage:

“I knew you’re at it again.”

She was as beautiful as a goddess could be, and everything in her demeanor spoke of unquestioned authority. For indeed no home was complete without the hand of a woman, even more so in Olympus, where Hera the legitimate wife of Zeus reigned as the Queen. She was the goddess of marriage and family who oversaw the happiness and sorrow under every roof, and with the same dedication she had been keeping the divine household together despite her husband’s ever-growing list of lovers. With barely half a glance across the room she had already confirmed me as her next enemy, her rival for the love of Zeus, and I braced myself for the unavoidable clash as Hera strode towards her throne beside him, her eyes on me as if she was forced to look at a disgusting worm. Even Athena the goddess of war and wise counsels could not rival the scheming head of a jealous woman, and as Zeus’s infidelity continued unabated his bitter wife only grew more discerning and merciless.

“So, this is your new interest.” – Hera spoke haughtily, now settled beside Zeus – “Has the mortal realm ran out of women for your adventures already, that you must turn to this average boy to satisfy your pleasure?”

“I never said I prefer women over men, but I did say I’d prefer anyone more than you, my wife.”

I closed my eyes as Hera, quite expectedly, exploded, her regal voice turned shrill and grating as it reverberated throughout the room.

“How shameless of you, forgoing your conduct as ruler of all the gods! Why, how many times must I repeat myself…”

No amount of forethought could have prepared me for the wrath of the goddess that was sure to come, and fear began to seize my heart. Yet strange enough all the other gods more or less maintained their composure, either because non-involvement meant innocence, or because they themselves had witnessed Hera’s wrath for far too many times to even bother.

“Why do I, the most venerable goddess in this Olympus, have to chase the skirts of your detestable lovers…”

Athena, beloved daughter of Zeus in her shining armor, gave me an encouraging smile. Poseidon, great ruler of the sea and a married man with many affairs himself, gave his brother Zeus a shrug as he sat down near one of the pillars, and started spinning his trident again as they all endured the ongoing verbal assault.

“And what exactly are you planning behind my back, sending Hermes on some errand without my knowledge! Where is that mischievous brat…”

And earlier I had caught a glimpse of Hermes slipping through the doors of the Pantheon, following the barely perceptible gestures of Apollo and Artemis lest Hera caught him by the sandal and launched a full-on interrogation. Ironic as it could be, I now pitied the Queen of the gods, not because she no longer held the heart of her husband, but since so obsessed was she over something she had lost, no one could remember her as anything but full of ugly spite and pointless vengeance.

“And now after all those episodes of turning into a bull, into golden showers and whatnot, you are defiling our sacred home by bringing that horrid mortal boy here…”

“Ganymede, come here.” – Zeus suddenly raised his voice. He was clutching his scepter, and upon seeing his dark face I wasted no time rushing over to his side. For I knew, by instinct, that Hera’s rage was nothing compared to that of he who wielded the thunderbolt.

Once I was by his side the almighty god held out his scepter, and before anyone could understand what was happening, he gently knocked twice on top of my head. I shuddered as an invisible swarm of ants seemed to crawl from the top of my head to all parts of my body, my skin glowed brightly wherever it reached. Hera went livid, her eyes burned with uncontrollable rage as her shout shook the Pantheon.

“ZEUS!! HOW DARE YOU! Y-You made him immortal!!”

Thoughts on GP

At this very moment, let me be frank. There has never been a time in my life, as a (most of the time) hardworking student and a (fairly good) English learner, that I hate English this much, No, not English, but General Paper, to be exact.

General Paper is a H1 subject compulsory for all students pursuing A Level in Singapore. It is basically academic English with essay and comprehension paper. While I do not hesitate to admit that I am not doing so well with  my GP, that is not the main reason why I’m so fed up with it.

At times, it seems to our English teachers that we deserve no rights to be free and more creative in our expressions and arguments, simply because we are not native speakers and most of our attempts of being “creative” may turn out as a disgrace to the English language itself. I recall a time when I used a less common word found in the dictionary in my essay, and it got scratched out in red with a remark: “?” Clearly we are advised to stick to more “mainstream” vocabulary in the exam, but seriously, if the word I use is English and the one who will be marking my script is a Cambridge examiner, what’s the big deal about it unless my expression is truly awkward?

Then there’s the issue about application question in the comprehension paper. You told me to extract the author’s observations in the passage and argue how they apply to me and my society. I saw that a statement does apply to a larger part of the crowd, but not me. I said it. You asked for it so I said it. I wrote it down and the comment I received later was neither about my grammatical errors nor my incompetence in clarity, but this: “Really? You are an exception?”

Dear whoever marking my midyear script, WHAT IS SO WRONG ABOUT ME BEING AN EXCEPTION? Is there any single being in this world who is not an exception in any area/ issue/ norm at all?

You demand authenticity and originality from my writing, but you mercilessly shoot me down when I want to be honest. You want us to give you constructive feedback on your teaching, have you ever done so on your students’ papers? You frown and sigh when we don’t pay attention to your words, do you not see only question marks on their faces after you explain your markings earlier? And when you say you want us to be more creative in our expressions, have your lessons reflected the same standard?

Not all of us are gifted in writing, that’s why we need you. We need both your kind and harsh words to light our ways and improve our linguistic skills, not to shut down the already damp and dark tunnel. We want to enjoy studying GP as much as you want to enjoy educating us. So please, do not stamp out our efforts to explore English and loving it. Do not shun our attempts at being fluent while staying true to ourselves. You always say that you are not here to make life harder for us, please mean it.

All of us know that in the end, only the grade matters. It matters to our A Level certificates. Our journey with the language that you are teaching matters to our hearts. Therefore, let us try our best to make it a wonderful journey, which we all will fondly remember.

Since it will, most definitely, be life-long.