All of you slack-jawed looky-loos make me long for the days when 15th-century Christian religious zealots wanted to toss my pagan goddess ass into a bonfire. Demise by flame would have been quick and a bit spectacular. Instead I am slowly roasting to death from the body heat generated by record numbers of you Uffizi Gallery visitors metabolizing your gelato and agonizing over your bucket lists.
I, the early Italian Renaissance’s most exquisite representation of womanhood, am cooking like a plucked duck on a spit in some middling Dutch still life.
The once-cool waves from which I rise now simmer like a pasta pot in a cheap tourist trattoria. The zephyr that has been refreshing me for more than four centuries emits only the weak exhalation of a table fan in a budget hotel. My shell is hotter than the Piazza del Duomo pavement in August.
I want to strangle each and every one of you with my hair ribbon.
And all of my suffering is for what? It isn’t as if you love art. You come to gaze at me only because I am famous from greeting cards and coffee mugs and (shudder) posters. I am a must-see before you die or a just-do-it before you can live or a what-the-hell-our-tour-bus-stopped-here-let’s-go-see-that-naked-lady-from-the-shampoo-bottle.
Even when the rare appreciative visitor who truly understands Botticelli’s artistic genius weeps over my beauty, the tears do not move me. They just shorten my lifespan. They create heat, you know.
Where is a good bubonic plague outbreak when you need one?
I haven’t always hated human company. Before I began my career as an object of public gawking under the gaze of the growing global middle class, I adorned a bedroom in a villa belonging to a decadent Medici duke. There was much sweating there, too. Sometimes there were just three people but usually at least five and up to 17. (The Medici liked odd numbers.) Like you, the Medici guests jostled and twisted and breathed heavily. Unlike you, they were doing something interesting.
Wake up! You are in the presence of the goddess of love! Have an orgy! Don’t just stand there perspiring in your nearly identical mass-produced summer clothing, creating heat as I deteriorate bit by bit like one of those lepers who used to sleep by the Arno. Why are you not like Lord Byron and his girlfriend, who took each other right behind the potted palm that used to stand in that corner?
As a goddess, I command you! Go! Worship me in your cheap hotel rooms with their lump-filled beds; your package tour busses with their crumb-filled seats; your bargain ferries with their chum-scented berths. Make offerings to me at overrun beaches and abandoned monuments. Do it with your spouse or the person or people you met yesterday at the gelateria. Fornicate! Copulate! Alleviate my suffering! Make mad passionate love to each other. Just get out of here before you kill me.