Post for the Host

Even at his busiest, Alex is very good about letting me have a bit of time here and there to express myself.  For the most part, he enjoys my posts near as much as I do–that does tend to happen when one shares minds as we have for the past fifteen years.

[God in heaven, fifteen years.  Alex, did you realise?  Christ, you are getting on…]

But when I ask if he’d sit down and help me write anything even remotely complementary to him, you’d think his laptop was full of snakes.

Oh, no, he says.  That’s fine, he says.  I know how you feel about me, and that you’re proud of me, and…you know…he’ll trail off looking as though he swallowed one of those snakes.

But, goddammit, I want others to know.  So, I’ve pestered him into it, on this, his birthday, when he’s feeling emotionally overwhelmed by all the attention and inclined to let me take the helm.  Shady even for a ghost, I know, but there wasn’t any other way he’d let me at it.

Here tis, then.  A quick, but so very heartfelt open letter to Alexander…

  *   *   *

My darling sir,

I did not know when we first made our acquaintance just exactly what was in store for you.  I expected it would be grand, considering the sheer number of thoughts bumping about in your head, jockeying with me for space.  I had my sincere suspicions it would be a thing of compassion and empathy, given your open, unwavering acceptance of my presence and your quest for self-understanding.  And it took all of two seconds for me to understand your drive to finish what you start–so, I assumed you would meet your academic and creative goals, whatever those might be.

Years on, I must say it has been a true joy to watch grandness and empathy and drive collide, raising you up to this place where you have achieved your doctorate, drafted your novel, come into your identity, and envisioned your future as something genuine, gracious, and kind.

Now, as I watch you from my internal vantage point, making new goals, wading through new degrees of authority, opening new aspects of your person and belief, I can tell you that I am once again unsure of what’s in store for you.

And that is a marvelous thing.

I know that the sheer scope of your plans sometimes terrifies you.  That the unknowns seem daunting.  That the world is at times a hateful, disconcerting, and scrutinous place.

But I also know that you can do whatever it is you put your work toward.  I’ve already seen it happen.  And I know that Marcus and I will be here at your side, and on your side, through whatever it is that comes next.

So, my birthday wish for you is that in this year to come, you break storms.  I wish for you work that is real, words that are both dangerous and dignified, change that is excruciating and instrumental, and the strength of your beloved trees in your soul, rooting you to the earth when it all seems like too much.

[It will feel like too much–Marcus says that’s how you know you’re doing it right.]

And, of course, I wish for you sweet reprieves, too.  Books, tea, music, rain, oceans, gardens, and hikes.  Understanding, companionship, health, and kindness.

My new sincere suspicion is that you will completely blow me away.

Yours in true fellowship and love,

E

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I’ve a Title

Not me, personally.  Marcus would never stand for that.  But I do have a title for my first romance novel, featuring Geoffrey and I.

I’ve decided to call it Voice Lessons.

I suppose, if I were writing on any sort of managed schedule, with a date for publication, I would keep that to myself until the pertinent time for marketing.  But since I’m not, and since the decision put me in a decidedly romantic mood, I thought I’d share it here, along with a few thoughts about why I chose it.

There’s the literal, of course.  I was, and am, a singer, and that has in large part to do with Geoff’s patient instruction on matters linguistic, musical, and dramatic.  He was my voice coach as much as he was my campus-guide and academic tutor.  Our first tender moments, even before we became an item, took place at his piano, and when I think of him, he’s often in his music room, smiling at me over the keys.  He had such a smile, especially there, especially with me, I felt the need to commemorate that in some way.

*sigh*

Also, Geoff was funny as sin, and while his humor was never of the sort I could accomplish–I’m more droll than daring–he made a singular effort to bring me out of my shell a bit.  I, in turn, exasperated him by forcing him to expose what was real and solid about him, hiding beneath the silk and spearmint.

Then there’s the metaphorical, in that both Geoffrey and I gained confidence in each other’s proximity, so much so that we were both able to stand up to what had seemed like insurmountable challenges, and speak up for what we needed.  We didn’t necessarily solve everything–that’s not often how life works, you know–but we were so young when we met, so anxious and coiled, and in our time together we were able to enact pathways and make changes that would affect the course of our lives.

So, yes, rather pleased with it.  Rather a bit dewy-eyed about the whole thing, really.

Ah, Geoff.

I Met Nell Gwyn, and it was a Whole Thing

Through a roundabout series of events, it’s come to pass that I shall be starring as Velma Kelly in a London’s West End genderqueer production of Chicago.  I suppose that’s rather a story in and of itself…

The short version: I auditioned for Chicago at Toronto’s The Star—a theatre well known for its progressive casting—and they hemmed and hawed and turned me down.  My audition video was leaked, and…I suppose that’s also rather a story in and of itself…

The short version of the leak: The intern who contacted me to audition for Moulin Rouge ended up taking a job at The Star.  He filmed my audition and after his bosses nixed my involvement, he sent it to The Apollo in London where they were also mounting a production of Chicago and told them they’d be fools not to take me, and also him.  Turns out this intern—Topher—is shrewd as can be and has been rather riding my coattails all along.  We’re having discussion about the JS Brand and how he may or may not fit within it…

Back to the other short version: So, there I am in London, finding out that my boi drag Velma is exactly what The Apollo wants, and won’t I sign a contract for an autumn run?  I met their Billy Flynn—ironically, named Flynn—a devilishly charming man who gushed about the way my character would expand his role and allow him to embrace his true pansexuality.  Then I met their Roxie—Karolina—who sent me a lunch invitation signed ‘Your Frenemy’ and coyly stuck me with the bill after a bottle of champagne.  And I thought, oh yes, I am all in.

So, the main story.

The day after I signed the contract I received a letter from the woman herself, Nell Gwyn.  She asked that I meet her in one of the private rooms of The Orangery, her West End club, and requested that I wear whatever was ‘truly you’.

Naturally, I spent a day tearing apart my closet and then ended up in my usual—tight black trousers, slightly heeled boots, a loose, shimmery club shirt, and a deep red frock coat.  I put my hair up and went for old-school kohl about my eyes, and headed out feeling rather the thing.

Went only downhill from there, let me tell you.

I arrived at the club, and the bouncer showed me in, but not because he knew who I was.  Which sounds…like it sounds, but really.  He did one of those, ‘you there, you can skip line’ gestures, and made kissing noises as I passed him, which landed me firmly in a mood.

I pushed through a throng of dancers, under a load of chandeliers that had been dusted with gold so the light looked more orange—really, rather on the nose—and asked the bartender which private room was Nell’s.  Right as he was about to tell me to piss off, hand to god, some slick fellow in a velvet suit moseyed up to the bar and saved me the embarrassment, leading me upstairs to the balcony suites.  He deposited me rather unceremoniously in front of a door, knocked, and then pushed it open.

Nell Gwyn wasn’t waiting for me so much as she was lying in wait for me, oozing every bit of scandal she’d been known for in her day–

Hello, I perpetrate scandals.

—18th century gown cut dangerously low, powdered hair frothing up above her head like a cloud, dripping jewels.  She sat up slowly, eyed me even more slowly, and said, ‘tell me why that outfit is ‘you’’.

And I said, ‘no’.

I mean, bloody hell.  I know it was her club, and I know she’s likely asked hundreds of up and coming London actors and singers the same question, but for chrissake, I’m an international super model.  If that has earned me one right, it is the right to wear what I want without having to explain or defend it.

She said, ‘no’?

And I said, ‘no’.

Then I sat before she asked me to, which was probably another ‘misstep’ because she looked just scarcely off to the side and a parade of cronies came literally out of the woodwork.  As in, the brocaded wall of her suite cracked open, and no less than five powdered, decorated, foppish young men and women dutifully flew out of it like bats from a cave, and perched around her on the settee.

They all stared at me.

I stared back.

I said, ‘so, I’m here’.

One of the fops failed to hide his gasp.

Nell then proceeded to quickfire question me as to my rise to London prominence.  Yes, I knew who she was in life.  Yes, I had loads of experience with theatre as an alively.  Yes, I’ve been on the stage a while this time around, too. No, I have no interest in her agency for me in the London theatre scene.

That threw her.

‘No one makes it in the London theatre scene without my patronage,’ she said. I know, for a fact, that this isn’t true, because I’ve made it in the London theatre scene without her patronage. ‘But’, she continues, ‘I cannot possibly let you hitch to my star unless you part ways with Marie’.

It took me a minute to sort through what she could possibly mean, and when I came to the crux of it, I became rather livid.

First, how dare she think I would throw over the woman who saw my work with Marcus and decided to launch my international modelling career.  Who dazzled me with quirky humor and put me in her most beautiful designs and gave Marc a pet lizard with no explanation whatsoever and has become a dear friend to both us and the children.

Second, gurl knows I’m a model and questioned my outfit.  Confirmed.

‘No’, I said again.

‘You must’, she said.  And she sat up straighter, looking suddenly both vicious and frightened, and one of her fops looked away.

‘I won’t’, I said.  Not that I owed Nell any explanations, but I added, ‘Marie is the balance to Marcus at the heart of my modelling career.  I would never betray her trust’.

To which Nell replied, ‘Then you’re a Francophile and a traitor’.

And I sighed.  I openly sighed.  The fop gasped again.

‘Madam’, I said, ‘I’m thoroughly an Englishman, and I’m thoroughly finished with this conversation’.

I stood, right as Marc swept into the room.  I had texted him earlier on to ‘come get me’, and the man knows how to come and get.  He had on his most regal toga, his most regal expression, and he put out his hand to me.

‘Where you are want to go’? he said.

‘Oh, anywhere really’.  I took his hand, and he spared just a fraction of a second of eye contact for Nell, before kissing my cheek and leading me out of the room.

I did not look back.

No, I know, the whole thing was exceptionally done.

After the fact, I’ve come to the conclusion that Nell Gwyn is bored.  She’s bored with this whole song and dance.  Every question she asked me came from a script, all her ‘pretty young things’ looked like they wished to be elsewhere about five minutes in to the conversation, and I noticed the wallpaper peeling in a corner, which would never happen if she didn’t want it to happen.

Also, noticeably, London has not come crashing down around me after our interview went poorly.  The theatre did not rescind my contract, the tabloids have not buried me alive, and no one has actively snubbed me.

It’s like the whole thing never happened, quite frankly, which might be as Nell wants it.  I’ve decided I’ll let her have that—aside from posting about it here, where ghosts are less likely to see it and make a thing of it—and see if our paths cross again.  Maybe she’ll come around.  Maybe she’ll decide to ignore me.  Maybe she’ll give me a poor review, or snub the show.  The fact is…it doesn’t really matter whatever the case.

Because it might also be that nothing has come of the interview because Nell is irrelevant.  Which, that would be a difficult place to end up…and I do hope she finds something more fulfilling to do with her time, and something more akin to peace.

Also, I texted Marie to ask what sort of bad blood runs between her and Nell.

She replied, ‘Who? ; )’

Ah Yes…the Ides

“If I be free, I shall carry Rome along with me…for wherever liberty is, there is Rome. There is my country.” — Marcus, 42 BCE, aka, 711 ab urbe condita in the consulship of M. Aemilius Lepidus II and L. Munatius Plancus

When Marcus first manifested as a ghost, he wanted nothing more than to return to Rome.  But the matter was…rather complicated.  There was of course the need to convince Romans of who he was.  And once that was accomplished, debates raged as to whether or not he deserved to return.

One camp held that he died in exile, and in exile he should stay.  This was an attitude born out of fear for one’s power, as it was championed by the ghostly noble families that control the majority shares of land in Italy.  While the law is still that of the One World Ghost Government, the cultural and social capital of the city operates along Renaissance lines, and everyone knows how much a Medici likes to lose face.

Another camp said that since his alively body had been returned to the capitol, he had already effectively re-entered the city, so who really cared if his shade passed through the gates?  Ah, moderns, and our tendency toward indifference in the deepest and earthiest things.

A final camp, though, argued that, body aside, it was high time that Marcus come home and see about the freedoms and life of the city he had fought to defend from tyranny.  And, in the end, this was the argument that mattered the most, as it came directly from a nearly unanimous bloc of pre-Renaissance ghosts, who either grew up in Marc’s time, or in the empire, which early on came to appreciate his contributions and his honourable intentions.

It took three years from his manifestation to settle the matter, but in 2013, he received his official notice that he had been approved for movement in Italy—that everyone had been pacified and prepared.

He took another year to pacify and prepare himself.

Then in 2014, Marcus went home.

The reunion was like nothing I’ve ever seen.  He stepped onto the soil of Italy and completely fell apart.  He just collapsed, right on the beach, balled up his fists full of sand and silently screamed.

You see, many of us have loyalties that have little to do with place.  Although I love London, and my university, my fiercest love goes to my family and to the queer community, and I can find those loves wherever I am.

Marcus’s loyalties live in his family now, to be sure, but he had to learn that behaviour.  His ingrained fidelity is for his country, his state, and his city of Rome, and it’d been over two thousand years since he’d seen anything of them.

I held him there until he came back to himself.  I helped pick him up, and get him steady against Nox, brushed all the sand from his toga.  Then, together, we walked up over the banks and started a slow trek from the coast in to Rome, meeting hundreds and hundreds of ghosts along the way.

By the time we reached the city, Marc was covered in flowers, and Nox was laden with baskets of all sorts of gifts and tributes—food and crafts and coins.  I was mostly the subject of curiosity, haha.  So while I held Marc’s hand and helped him pass through the gates of the city, and I kissed his forehead on the other side, I also slipped away from him momentarily and watched his parade through the city from the outskirts of the crowd, letting him have his triumph all to himself before returning to his side later in the day.

We stayed in Rome on that first trip, in a small house provided by the city.  Marc turned down invitations from every noble family, refusing to show any favour.  He spent all of his time among the ghosts who knew him, or knew of him.  He made me an honourary citizen of Rome in a public ceremony, complete with toga, to make sure that everyone would respect me and our marriage, which remains one of the most meaningful moments of my life/afterlife.

Toward the halfway point of the trip, when he felt stronger, our mates brought the kiddos over and he carried J and Mira through Rome, showing them places where he had worked, talking to them about the weather and the plants and animals, tenderly feeling out whether or not they liked it.

When they did—of course they did—he accepted the parcel of land the city had set aside for him, and we went to the Junius-Smith villa to survey the space and make plans to transform it into a family home.  Marcus also accepted all the duties of the land—the oversight of taxes, the agricultural allotments, the protection of sacred spaces, and the performance of state ritual.

Which leads me to the major point of this post:

Per my repeated request, Marcus has agreed to let me post his notes on Roman festivals, which you’ll now find on a page at the top marked ‘MARCVS’.  He resisted, not because he lacks confidence in his interpretation—the man was/is a pontifex—but because he experiences a disjunction between his internal philosophy and his ability to express those thoughts in English.  He thinks his English is too casual and circumlocutory.

I think it’s brilliant.

I think he’s brilliant.

So, I did a bit of light editing, just because of the look in his eyes, but for the most part, I’ve left his festival notes as he presented them to me.  You’ll get the hang of his grammar and cadence and humour as you go, and hopefully you’ll experience something of the cadence of the Roman year, as well.  I know I’ve very much enjoyed learning about the cycle of the seasons with Marc to guide me—even as an atheist, I can see the appeal of recognising the earth’s mysteries and in placing gratitude in larger forces.

Please take a look when you have a chance—he’s spent many loving hours on the project.

Because he does love Rome.  He loves it so much.  That was always the point.

The Reviews!

Earlier in December I performed the role of Christian in Moulin Rouge for the press, followed by a one week preview.  Harry (the company’s first hire for the role of Christian) did, too. And because my husband is the sort who thrives on competition–and wishes I was the sort who thrived on competition–Marc collected the reviews and tallied the results.

Harry was ever just so slightly for the win.

I must be honest–I was relieved.  Marc scowled at me, but really, I was.  Harry trained for this in life.  He’s always been an actor.  He’s perfect for the role and he’s still young enough, and new enough, to need the validation.  I’m thrilled for him.

I’m also quite interested by the variation in our reviews.  I find myself learning about what it is I did well, and what it is I’m still missing, by reading about Harry’s triumphs on the stage.

Here’s one of my favourites I thought I’d share:

EJS plays naive so well, we almost believe he’s a nobody.  That makes his snap transformation into jealousy and manic anger in the second act all the more horrifyingly, wonderfully obscene.  We don’t expect a man with a grin that shy to engage in a game of ownership, and the question lurking there–but is he?–cuts deep.  We are touched by Christian’s grief, but uncomfortable in its oily origin.  Is this the tale of music and love, or of misogyny and lust?

Harry Jensen on the other hand plays the fragile arrogance of youth all the way through.  We see him falter along the way as he meets love, innuendo, and outright lies, and we watch him remake his facade over and over, overlapping versions of himself, one on the other.  We see the edges ripple and shimmer in his feverish eyes and vibrating energy.  We know the whole time he’s heading toward a pit, and that we can’t pull him back from the edge, as much as we want to.  And you’ll want to.

So, in the end, Smith is a consummate storyteller who is more dangerous than he seems, and Harry reads like a broken poem.  Both will rattle you, as the director intended, but if you can only see one, then here’s your choice: A man who loved and lost? or a man who lost his love.

This reviewer is narrowly for the latter.

It’s true–Harry is so coherent, and such a slow burn.   I felt itchy the first time I watched him in the role, and he brings out a special sort of panic in Char, who plays Satine, because she can see what she’s doing to him, and what he’s doing to himself.

With me, she plays a bit more startled, a bit more reactive, perhaps a bit more truculent, which she’s told me she finds equally interesting.  In fact, she said she’s enjoying having two Christians to play off of immensely, which is good.

But I will admit to the fact that my initial abrupt shift, although rewarded by the director, was a bit of a happy mistake on my part, haha.  I’ve enroled in acting courses for the spring so I can make more of my happy mistakes into brilliant intentions.

Also in 2018: More auditions! I’m loving this theatre business again, I really am.

And much more, but that’s for a different post.

For the moment–a Very Happy New Year, and now I’m off to the Toronto Drag Ball with my husband.

 

Ludi Romani

Today’s post is a birthday present for Mr. Marcus, so a very many happy returns to him.  Felicem diem natalem, my love.  Ubi te gaius, ego gaius.

And, today’s post is a story, starring the aforementioned–his favourite kind of story.  In particular, this is the story of Marc’s appearance at the 2017 Ludi Romani.

For context: The Ludi Romani or “Roman Games” were/are about a week long set of festivals intended to praise Jupiter.  They are Marc’s favourite set of games, for the pure and dear reason that he loves Rome and its celebrations and its people to the point of tears.  He loves the dramas, and the memory of attending them with Porcia and then discussing them long into the night over vino.  He loves the sheer number of athletic contests and the feeling of surrounding himself with people who honour their bodies and so honour their city.  He loves the opening and closing ceremonies, over which he presides as a priest of the state.  And most of all, he loves the chariot races.

In his day, Marcus didn’t race in official games.  In fact, he was known as ‘that bloke what adores his horse too much to enter into contest,’ on account of the winning horses often being sacrificed to the gods.

But he’d race Nox in unofficial games.  And he’d win.  Of course he would.

So now, without the looming threat of sacrifice, Marc and Nox race at the Ludi Romani, filling out their triga–chariot of three–with Stella and Luna, two mares.

It’s quite the striking chariot team, must say.  Nox is inky black, hence the name, and he’s impressively large for a race horse.  In fact he’s technically not meant for the chariot–he’s for war.  But he loves running, and Marc loves running him.  Stella and Luna are starlight white, and they are races horses, sleek and lightning fast and team-oriented to offset Nox’s arrogance.

You might say to me that horses can’t be arrogant, and yet you haven’t met Nox.

And then, of course, there’s Marc.

It’s a birthday post…allow me to dote…

There are handsome men in the world.  And then there is Marcus, who just scoffs at handsome on his way into utterly riveting.  There’s not a person out there who doesn’t stop what they’re doing to regard him.  Might be on account of his stature–not especially tall, but bold as can be, with shoulders for days.  (Takes forty-odd kisses to cross them entirely.)  Or it might be his features–hooded eyes, overtly broken nose, challenging lips, top thin and bottom full, and pox scars in a traceable topography.

But I happen to think it’s his personhood what does it.  The way he exudes pride, confidence, humor, genius, and joy.  I’ve seen people literally reverse direction to follow him in a daze, like he might drop a scrap of personality for the pouncing, or they might gain something from seconds more proximity.

I’m not sure they don’t…

Oh, and he’s got a smile like a sideways tornado, crimped at one corner and all teeth after that, a little bit controulled and a little bit recklessly abandoned.

Being around him is being on the constant verge of a shiver.

Christ…anyway…

So, we’ve got this team of three, we’ve got this charioteer, and they, of course have a nemesis:  Bill.

That’s right, Marc’s nemesis is a ghost named Bill, who lives in South Carolina on a picturesque farm with his adorable wife, raggedy garden, shimmery little fish pond, and an unassuming, dappled race horse named Apples.  When we went to stay with them–it’s a hilariously love/hate relationship on Marc’s side, and nothing but love from Bill–I ate no fewer than five different kinds of pie, petted something like twenty rabbits, and fed Apples his namesake without him looking at me like I was swine.

But Bill’s sharp.  He’s one of the best I’ve seen when it comes to controulling his energy in tandem with that of his horses, and he’s inventive as hell with his ‘walling’–sort of engineering energy to stay in place and behave inanimately, which is excessively important if you’re going to do things like build chariots out of it.  Plus he’s redesigned things to be aerodynamic, rather than traditionally Roman, and he’s the right size for racing–about the size of Bilbo Baggins, with slightly less paunch (but not by much, recall the pies.)

So, Marc, my strapping, traditional, exuberant Roman, did truly and very well meet his match in this man.

In fact, Bill beat him in 2016.

We speak of this often in the Junius-Smith household, but only in very specific ways, usually laced with Latin that I chose not to translate.

Therefore, Marc was out for blood in 2017.  He arrived at the Ludi Romani in full Roman splendour, all toga and swagger and opening ceremonies pomp.  He spent the first days of the game allowing a posse to collect around him–you know the type–doing very little talking himself, but watching his reputation make its way through the grounds.

I, for my part, let him have this.  Rather, I want him to have this.  There’s no harm in it, not really.  Marc’s arrogance is always tempered by his quick memory for the accomplishments of others, and he spends as much time lecturing his groupies on what it means to be a Roman as he does letting them jockey for space at his side.  He shouts out praise to challengers as he goes, compliments artisans on their contributions to the state, and never, never loses track of me or the children.

Additionally, I think he’s glorious in his Roman element, and I enjoy having a few occasions in the year where I allow myself to be mesmerised.

He won the time trials.  Not by much, if you ask the referees, but you know, by leagues, all the same.

And then came the final race.

Marc competes in his other events–sword, mace, javelin–in soldier’s leathers.  You’re welcome for that image.  But for the chariot, he races in state, toga whipping behind him, crimson and white in alternation.

Bill races in something akin to an aviator’s jumpsuit, with goggles and light boots, and they nod to each other.

I see Marc survey the field of competitors–‘competitors’–and spare a bit of pause for this arsehole who insists on calling himself The Black Night and dressing like something out of Medieval Times, TM, but manages a good race, nonetheless.

And then he moves into his chariot stance, which somehow combines grace and fluidity with every scrap of power he holds, all the way down to his bones.  Nox does the same–it’s like they’re the same entity sometimes.  They take off with the trumpet.

The field is long, but the race itself is rather short.  Chariot horses aren’t built to run themselves into the ground at length, which is part of the edge Marc has with Nox.  He can let all the other triga run themselves down, and then bolt through the pack and hold steady at the front.

Bill’s advantage is that his chariot is sleek enough to cut through the wind, so he rests in second until Marc comes galloping past, and then takes second to him until he sees his opening to attempt a coup.

This year, The Black Night–yes, The–is up there at the front, too, but he’s racing on his own, off to the side of Marc and Bill.

Marc is just scarcely to win.

And then, on the other side of the track, so far to the back of the competitors that he’s nearly parallel to Marc across the way, a charioteer loses controul of his triga as his lead throws a shoe.  The whole thing was awful.  The horse sort of screamed as it went down on its own leg, and then the other horses tried to halt, only to have the chariot slam into them.  It went up on its nose, throwing the charioteer across the whole mess, rolling him down the track under the splinters of his chariot.

I’m completely transfixed on the sight, in all its flailing, scrambled energy.  Bloody memories unfold onto the track like a grotesque film.

Except…there’s Marc.

He’s let go his hold on his reins and taken off like a bolt across the green, shedding his toga along the way so he’s all tunica and muscle.  Nox, Stella, and Luna have slowed down and veered off to the side, kicking the chariot back off their heels as they come to a halt.  Bill’s right there with him.  He’s not nearly as fast as Marc, but he’s pumping across the green just as quick as he can, heading for the mess of horses while Marc goes for the man.  The Black Knight, behind them, hollers in dismay and crosses the finish line without quarry.  No one even begins to care.  The entire stadium is on their feet for Marc and Bill.

I know from video playback that the following things happened:

First of all, I went full on aggressively proud.  I’m right at the edge of the box seats shouting to anyone who will listen, ‘That’s my husband! That’s my love! That’s Rome, right there, that’s Rome’!!

And he says I’m a terrible hype-man…

Then, I’m over the edge of the box, rushing down the stairs and vaulting over the edge of the field.  Marc sees me coming, and calmly puts his hand to the fallen charioteer’s chest to finish the energy redistribution, takes a second to stop and put his forehead to Bill’s–the crowd goes wild for that, knowing Bill just won Roman equality–and then Marc’s striding toward me, just letting me fly at him from down the track.

I slam into him without even slowing down–he can certainly handle that, he’s built like a tree–and then I’ve got my hands on his face, just kissing the hell out of him, right there in front of all the whole stadium and all its horses.  I had no idea anyone was even there, at that point.  I was so blindingly proud of him.

I mean, you would expect, if a student of history, that Marcus Junius Brutus might very well espouse integrity, justice, and actions that benefit the greater good instead of self-elevation.  You would expect him to be grand on occasion–full of explosive chivalry on behalf of his beloved city and its citizens.  You would expect that.

But then you see it–you watch Marc discard all his trappings and bravado for intense concentration and sincere fellowship, and it just cuts you down.  You wonder if you would do the same, if you really do understand honour, and if you’re really quite sure you’ve a firm grasp on your beliefs.  That’s the humbling bit.

I’m just completely undone, in awe, and if the children hadn’t slammed into Marc next I might have done any number of other things I’d later see on camera.

He hugs them up, and buries his face in Mira’s wild hair, and I’m hit with yet another wave of emotion, watching them restore him after his gesture and telling him they love him for it.  I’m amazed, in that moment, that I’m his husband, and that he’s the father to our children.

I know this is going to sound terribly self-satisfied, but I imagine any blissfully married couple has felt similarly, so we’re all in good company here…

Sometimes I look at Marc, and I try to imagine what it would be like to not be married to him, or to even be friends with him.  To not have Marc in your life in any way.  And it’s bleak.  God, it’s the worst thing.  The idea of being exterior to his light, instead of filled with it?  It’s the loneliest thing I’ve ever thought of.

I digress…

You can see, on camera, the exact moment where I pull myself together and realize that I’ve vaulted the edge of a box seat, run out into the middle of a stadium, and landed in a Hollywood-level snog-fest before a sea of strangers.  My British takes over, and I’m all, giving the crowd a little wave, straightening my hair, tugging my toga back into place, blushing like mad.  I’m also glaring sternly at Marc over the tops of our children’s head, because he’s looking at me like he’s onto me–he’s so onto me–and he’s going to give me a very particular sort of hell for ever pretending I was above Roman spectacle and ancient acts of valour.

I am going to like this hell he gives me, but I don’t need the entire stadium to know it…

And everything after that is just pure, and dear, and Roman–like I said, exactly why Marc loves the Ludi Romani.  He refused to redo the race so The Black Knight could have a ‘fair’ win, on account of it would be cruel to the horses.  He seated Bill across from him at the closing ceremonies and created him as a honourary citizen of Rome, whilst Bill clutched his wife’s hand and tried not to cry.  He fulfilled all the donation requests that attendees scratched into lead sheets and tossed in the fountain.  He handed out medals for the events, checked in on the fallen charioteer and offered lessons, and accepted gifts from the artisans and food from the farmers.

Since the event…well, he’s back to his more modern self.  T-shirts with absurd proclamations, hoodies with dino-stego-croco-shark spikes on them, behaviour casual, suppers cooked, children snuggled.

But I find I am more aware than I was prior of the actual, tangible strength of his convictions.  More aware that his niceties and joys and absurdities are gifts he gives to me, to foil the intense sincerity with which he rules his inner life.

More in love with him than ever.

A Brief Halloween Q&A

Q: Is Halloween actually popular in Ghost World, or is that just a stereotype?

In Ghost World, Halloween is high holidays.  More ghosts celebrate Halloween than Christmas–some 75-80% of ghosts.  And we have the accompanying to-dos that precede any major holiday: consumerism, dinners, costume parties, the like.

We also have a massive spike in Haunting Club recruitment September-November.

Not that you need to be a registered member to go haunting on Halloween—it’s the one night of the year that anyone can go out to haunt passersby without a licence.  But if you want to enter someone’s home to watch an advanced member of Haunting Club enact their grand finale on a groomed target, then you have to have passed a bystander exam, which takes at least a month of study.  And when you are inevitably smitten by the performance, you end up plodding through another month of paperwork to win a sponsor and start your haunting coursework.  Hence, the three month upsurge.

Q: How do ghosts celebrate?

It’s culturally specific in the same way that alively Halloween is.  And it also varies by generation and received family tradition.  But there are a few tendencies that seem to cross the board.

For instance, there is plenty of ‘candy’ a.k.a. colourful nodules of bright, pulsing, riveting energy that are specially formed to remind ghost children of the sugary tastes of alively candy and activate positive, exuberant emotions.

And almost all of us go haunting in some form.

Q: Are the veils truly thin on Halloween?

So, as you may have gathered by now, yes.  Yes, they are.

On the one hand, you have all these little ghostlings flailing about full of ‘candy’, their outlines and energies heightened by the experience, sparking through the veils.

And on the other hand, you have adult ghosts who have either trained to haunt targets, or who plan to take advantage of the open season.  The combination of intention turns the veil to nothing more than mesh for about three hours on either side of midnight as October passes into November.

Q: Will we haunt you, specifically?

That depends.  But in short…

If you are out and about for Halloween and in a public space, then you’re fair game, but unlikely to be much bothered–haunting is difficult work and the unlicenced are also the unpracticed.

If you’re out in a cemetery or battleground or whathaveyou, then you might witness a haunting, generally with some visuals or a sense of heightened energy brought on by the collective locale.

If you live in or visit a home with a co-habitant ghost–a ghost that shares space but does not intentionally haunt, and therefore does not require a licence–you might see an uptick in their activity because of the circulating energies.  It’ll pass.

If you’ve been targeted, oh you better believe we will haunt the shit out of you.  What is Halloween even for if not that?

Q: Is Halloween evil or demonic?

No.  Absolutely not.  I cannot say this enough.

Halloween, for ghosts, is one part joy and one part nostalgia–a time to play and a time to remember how we played on the other side.  It’s about connecting, to each other and to willing alivlies.  It’s about silly costumes and happy (or tearfully candy-crashed) children.  It’s lovely.

 

In Which I Return to the Stage

As a Victorian, I worked two rather dissimilar jobs: as a subscription solicitor and contributing editor for Fraser’s Magazine, a general and literary journal; as a bloody opera singer.

You might say I preferred one over the other.

Now, to be fair, there were things I didn’t like about my job at Fraser’s.  Soliciting the upper-crust was always tinged in aggravation and condescension. Chasing down contributors hours before deadline wasn’t much more fun.  (I had to shoulder a door at one point, only to find our prestigious essayist half-naked and blissed on opium.  Another time I watched a perfectionist set fire to his pages in a fit of manic tears.)

And there were things I loved about the opera, too.  Her Majesty’s may only put up one show these days, but in my time, we were known as the “Italian Opera House” and did valiant battle with Covent Garden.  We had ballet at intermission, strong ensembles (which reflected well on me as the choir-master), and star-power, all of which could be quite creatively intoxicating.

But on the whole, the journal felt like home.  It reminded me that I had worked my way up from nothing, from press boy to apprenticed mechanic to clerk to co-owner.  My employer, ‘Oliver Yorke’ aka ‘Father Prout’ was more like my Da.  He brought me in from the cold, co-sponsored my uni scholarships, bequeathed me his liquor cabinet, and loved me dearly.

Mr. Yorke

A saint among men.

Meanwhile, the opera house continually grated.

I had to perform under a false Italianate name to further disguise my heritage, despite the fact that our opera manager was as much Benjamin “Lumley” as I was Elliot “Smith” and understood exactly why it irritated me so.

BenjaminLumley

Ben in profile, because of course he was sketched in profile, because Victorians.

My voice ‘teacher’, the Michael Costa, was an exacting, conservative arsehole, with zero patience.  I was functionally illiterate when I signed on at sixteen, and had I not met Geoffrey, and had he not spent ever so many patient hours teaching me musical symbols and carefully modelling phrases of foreign language (no recording devices, you know), I would have been canned, because god-forbid Costa should make a single explanation.  Costa was also a failed tenor and despised me for my voice, and for the fact that he had to mould it and feature it and watch me receive his applause.

Michael Costa

A failed tenor.

Add to that a baritone lead who was a serial sexual abuser and constantly at my knickers, ghastly hours, a slowly disintegrating relationship between Ben and Costa, and the constant disapproval of my in-laws, who insisted on calling the opera house a music hall, and…well the day I quit the opera, I walked out the front door and suffered a sort of reverse-panic-attack.  I felt so relieved I couldn’t breathe, as though all the exhaustion I’d been putting off tried to exit my body at once.  I vividly remember a near-faint and some passing Samaritan offering me a dram of whiskey.

So…all this to say…

I was not immediately chuffed about the musical opportunity that presented itself to me this last September.

It was a bit odd, actually.  My assistant, Danny, came to my office to inform me that he had just fielded a cold call from The Toronto–our local ghost theatre–soliciting me as an understudy for their upcoming musical production.  It’d been an intern calling–some bloke who found a Bootube video of my performance at a friend’s wedding and my old listing at Afterlife Magazine and Modelling Agency and put two and two together and come up with seven.  He thought I was fresh-faced, starting out, dying to make it big.

Danny and I chuckled.

And then Marc found out.  ‘You are need call back,’ he says to me.  He says this to me about eighty times between that first call and the next.

The next call came from the Artistic Director of The Toronto.  Danny transferred him directly, and he spent a solid five minutes apologising profusely for the assumptions on the part of his intern, obviously edging closer and closer to…but while I have you on the phone anyway…

He eventually got there, which is how I ended up, at Marc’s absolute insistence, in one of those dingy offices above a theatre.  The Toronto is extraordinarily well-funded, and still.  Dingy.  I’m nervous as hell, wrestling with all these competing feelings about the possibility of signing on for a set of rehearsals, a holiday preview, and a star-run in January.

I honestly felt ill.  But that sort of illness that might be part excited butterflies.  You know?

So, I said I would think about it, and then director of the musical–this very firmly Russian bloke named Serge–calls me and tells me he wants me to meet the soprano lead and see about chemistry.  And can I show up to the meeting at about twenty-one-years-old, because that’s the age of the character I’d play–potentially, just potentially–and it’s quite clear I’m being vetted.

Chartruese–Char for short–is just stunningly effervescent and quintessentially ‘actress’ but also totally real, unlike any soprano I’ve ever worked with.  I’m a blushing mess, but also completely fascinated, and we end up friends in a matter of minutes.  She thinks I’m charming, and just a hint sly.  I find myself wondering, in this meeting, if those aren’t more excited butterflies than nerves, after all.

In fact, I’m wondering if this might be exactly what I need–the opportunity to untie all the different cords that I’ve bound around my voice.  Here’s a rock-solid, healthy theatre, wonderful co-stars, a brilliant director, a role I was essentially made for.

Also, I have Marcus, who is just pure and utter joy about the whole thing.  Not that he disregards my concerns, or devalues them.  He hears me, he knows my fears.  I know he does, because when I falter, he’s there with the exact reassurance I require.  But in lieu of advising or hashing things out or making promises on the front end, he just goes absolutely wild for my possibilities, pushes me out onto the tracks, and trusts I’ll evade my incoming insecurities.  If I’m going to do this thing–go back to the stage–I will never have a better partner at my side while I take that leap.  I will never feel more capable than I do with him.

So…I leap.

At the end of September I signed a contract with The Toronto, and found myself cast as Christian in Moulin Rouge.

And it has, for the most part, been just ragingly brilliant.  Marc is beside himself, like it’s Christmas every day.  The rehearsal schedule works around my time with the children, who are also rather excited for me.  The cast is supportive and warm, especially after I proved myself more than a celebrity hire.  The other Christian–Harry Jensen–put on a tough act but melted like sugar in snow as soon as he found out I’d argued for all the promotional materials to feature him instead of me.  The show is beautiful–gothic and magical, with plenty of stage-craft that can only happen when you are a ghost with the possibility of bending dimension.

I’m also singing, you know, and quite well.  I have a new voice coach, who is both adept and responsive.  I’m recovering that particular energy that fuels a confident prance across the stage.  I’m remembering the familial delight that comes with sharing the quirkiness of theatre with those in the know.  I’m making friends, dancing, groaning over production notes, playing tricks, bringing yet another portion of myself back to life.

I’m having fun.

Eat your heart out, Costa.

Ghost Baseball

Earlier in the summer, the Toronto branch of Haunting Club made with a few new members from the states.  Among them was this freckled, tan, blonde, too-cute-to-be-straight, dripping-in-a-southern-drawl, tall cowboy version of my first husband.  The new bloke’s name?  Kanga.

Well, he’s not really named Kanga, but we call him that on account of his name is Joey, and he bounds about with excessive energy as Americans often do.  (Whoever happens to be his girlfriend takes on the moniker Roo….)

Anyway, I immediately developed a crush, because of course I did.  And while I was head over heels, I allowed Kanga to cajole me into playing the most absurdly boring game in the entire world.

Baseball.

Fuck me.

Just to be clear, ghost baseball is not at all like vampyre baseball.  There are no excessively powerful swings, no waiting for thunder claps to hide our strikes, no climbing of trees to catch balls.

There was however a pinched-faced, grumpy British bloke pretending to be an American for a while, and it wasn’t R-Patz, this time.

baseball

That is the face of a man who regrets the majority of his most recent decisions.

Now, imagine my dismay when I figured out the mechanics and hit a home run at our first…bout?  Game?  Go-round?

It’s really not even that hard.  I mean, you just swing a bat until you hit a ball.  If you have properly aligned your ghostly form so that it mirrors accurate alively musculature, (as opposed to presenting a good facade with an amorphous internal composition), then everything works as it would in life.  Your shoulders torque, you connect with the little balled-up energy projectile, and it obeys the laws of physics, in accordance with the by-laws of ghost league baseball.  No shenanigans.

To my horror, Kanga presented me with a “Toronto Taps” t-shirt—bearing a maple leaf so unfortunately dripping in syrup—thereby inducting me onto the team.

Hideous all around.

Excepting I do look cute in a baseball uniform with the ¾ sleeves and cap with my curls poking around it.  Marc thinks I’m adorable, and loves watching me swing the bat.

So, I went with it.  I joined the damn team.

I had to meet them all, of course.  Marc and I were a little suspicious of the event—drinks at a sports bar on a Friday, and not a single other gay bloke on the team.   What do you even wear to that?

But it went well.  I fell back on my days as a boxer and had a few pints and a few laughs.  Marc, who hates beer, bought top-shelf wine and bonded with two of the player’s wives—Himiko and Didi—because they all cried at Wonder Woman.  Everyone was completely dear, and rather fun, to be honest.

By the end of the night, Marc and I realised this was actually about the best thing that’s ever happened to us, as far as team sports go.

All of our attempts to play sports together have ended in disaster.  Either, one of us fails to comprehend the parameters of the sport—Marc can’t ice skate worth a damn, which is, it turns out, rather necessary for hockey; I refuse to get on a horse to play polo.  Or Marc…um…over-participates.  Like that time he tackled a bloke a bit too hard and accidentally scrambled his energy to the point that we were ejected from the rugby league.

This baseball thing, though…

Well, it’s still the worst game ever invented, but I’m good at it.  Marc likes watching me be good at it, without any impulse on his part to join in.  Rather like when I watch him race chariots.  And that works for us.

He gets to be the rich husband who shows up with a jug of margaritas and does the player’s wives nails while he shouts encouragements and makes thumbs up and down motions.  I get to strut around looking hot for him and then smash pints with cute bros.

Wins all around.

Mostly.

There was a bit of a kerfuffle when Marc tried to leave the house in two extra gold chains, a t-shirt so tight it could be a tourniquet, and a pair of trophy-husband, bright-white jeans, which I burned in the kitchen fireplace.

[He thought it was hilarious.  He happily proclaimed he would wear a toga instead, like he was attending a gladiatorial battle, adorned with all the things he’d stolen from Egypt and Gaul.  ‘I am wear thing I am steal from Eeeeegypt. I am wear thing I am steal from Gaaaaul, I am wear all of thing I am steal.’ ]

[Consequent that conversation, I asked if the ring he gave me for our engagement was stolen.  ‘I am non know where Uncle Cato is get ring. Is ruby, babe, just enjoy have ruby.’]

[Consequent both conversations, Marc has promised me he doesn’t plunder things anymore, and that he was actually more respectful of conquered souls than his devil-may-care attitude would imply.]

[I digress.]

I’m also still growing used to the appalling method of Canadian-American celebration.  I hit a tri-run-thing and everyone shouted at me.  It was alarming.  Very ‘FUCK YEAH YOU HIT THAT BALL’ and less ‘good show chap’.

Oh, and I called a practise a ‘rehearsal’ once, so now that’s a thing…

But yes, overall, a good time.

Scene Cards

Just wanted to briefly celebrate the fact that I’ve finished all the scene cards for my first romance novel!

scene cards

There they are. Graciously transferred from word processing lists to actual note cards by my host, Alexander, who, unlike me, has legible penmanship.

I have two hopes for the project.  I’d like to a) finish it, and b) manage to make Geoffrey and I look, as dramatic adolescents, even marginally sympathetic.   Had I a time machine, I’d flick us both on the ear.