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.

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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.

 

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.

Roman Escapades

Alex’s guest post makes it sound as though I spent two weeks gallivanting through Rome with nary a care.

That’s not entirely true.

I spent two weeks gallivanting through Rome with precisely one care, namely, the dearth of tea in Italy.  I was nearly forced to drink a cappuccino, the horror.

No, but really, it was a rollicking good time.  And I suppose I should explain a bit more fully what I was up to.

You might recall my mentioning, earlier in the summer, that I was slated to appear in a fashion film for Richard’s line, Cavalier.  Normally, we advertise by dressing as piratical gentleman and commandeering pleasure yachts in the Mediterranean.  (No, I know.) But Richard decided he would like to try his hand at land-based conquests, and so this film was born.

The script was…well there wasn’t really a script.  There was merely a scenario: two Lotharios, one gay, one straight, go to a party as each other’s wingmen where they end up meeting their objects of pursuit and proceed to chase them across the gorgeous Italian countryside until conquests are made and everyone falls in love.

The bloke playing the straight lead–this sort of vaguely rakish Ken-doll who insisted upon calling himself ‘Britain’–thought it was charming.

His counterpart–a spunky American model named Molly with hair straight from the 1930s and a queer girlfriend named Lamplight–thought it was horseshit.

And I, as well as my counterpart Fox, saw it for what it was–the absurdist theatre of Richard’s most tongue-in-cheek dreams.  We were able to convince Molly of this, with Lam’s help, and so filming began.

The first day of filming was a bit stressful, I must say.  I’m quite used to being dressed up and paraded about at this point, but moving cameras are quite different from stationary ones, and the pace was arduous.  Then there was the lack of tea.  And the fact that I can’t ride a damn bike let alone a Moped.  And the sheer weight of performing ‘macho’ all day, as Fox played the more effeminate role on account of his delightfully elfin appearance.

But I hit my stride fairly quickly, and ended up rather enjoying myself.  The countryside is truly magical, with all its rolling hills and climbing cypress.

roman countryside

Now imagine a warm breeze ruffling your hair…

Marc joined me on set at least once a day, as well, to giggle at my ‘sexy face’ and make eyes at me whilst I marched around in jodhpurs and jackets.  And Fox was a delightful companion once he overcame his nerves about playing opposite ‘Mr. Brutus’, as I’m known throughout ghost Italy.

Meanwhile, the kiddos took to Rome with renewed fervor.

J went about everywhere in his little tunica and bulla, accepting parcels from townsfolk with the seriousness of mind that becomes the son of a Roman priest.  He also quite bonded quite with Claudius this visit and spent a great deal of time in the barnyard, learning to corral animals and read weather.

Mira did a bit of solo wandering, getting to know the land and the landscapes.  She also spent some time on horseback, introducing Nox around–Marc’s sneaky method of drawing her out into the town and forcing her to socialise.

And in all, we managed to use the time away to check in with a number of other friends.

Marie and Girafe came down from France for a ‘picnic’, which I should have known wouldn’t be a mere picnic.  They arrived with a boatload of lavish pillows, which Marie flung about a clearing in the countryside while Girafe made mysterious calls on his feather-covered mobile.  All of a sudden we had an oddly poofy, organic gazebo effect happening, and a vast array of food trucks from which to choose.

Delphi came out from the city no fewer than three times a week for afternoons that bled into suppers that bled into cocktails.  He and Claudius are no longer hiding their item-hood. They were as cozy as could be, and utterly sweet besides.  My favourite detail of their relationship: as Claudius is prone to forgetting to clean his spectacles, Delphi wears a soft cloth as a pocket square these days.  My heart!

And at the end of the trip, yes, we did go laze about in New Zealand with Matiu and Teddy and their son Miri.  I was quite ready for the time away from cameras and back in nail polish and loose tees.  Marc was ready to shed the immediate responsibility of representing Rome back to itself.  Mira and J were greedy for our time after all the excitement–quite gratifying, hehe–and I scarcely went ten minutes without a tiny hand in mine or a sleepy little face on my shoulder.

Now all that remains for the end of the summer is Marc’s participation in the war games.  He didn’t ‘play’ last year on account of the WWII theme, and he’s actually not leading any troops this year, either, to give other generals a chance to enjoy their moment in the sun.  But he will be providing live commentary from the stands this weekend, which is bound to be both enlightening and hilarious.  It’s a sea-battle, and he’s hoping they provided for ghost sharks to eat the fallen, because of course he’s hoping for that.

sea battle

Oh shit is ghost shark get out! – Marc

Oh, and I suppose I also have a birthday coming up, but I’m not terribly anticipatory.  It’s 199 this year, and I begged for a small gathering since I know for a fact I’m not escaping some monstrosity for my 200th.

My Husband Thinks I’m a Serial Killer

…and I’m not discouraging this belief.

I mean, really, I was going to write about an oratorio in which I recently performed–tenor soloist–but this is far more interesting.

It started, I think because Marcus and Alex and I had been listening to far too much First Podcast on the Left.  After a time, Marc begged the Facebook question, ‘Who is be more like be secret serial kill, Elias or me?  We are be talk about for four hour and can non decide.’

Alex declared, definitively, ‘Jesus you’re weird.  Also, 100% Elliot, how was this even a question’.

‘See, I am think so, too’, says the husband, ‘but then Elias is convince me I am be equal like to be serial kill.  Which is like…so serial kill thing to do, shit’.

That’s fine, I think to myself.  But curious.  I ask for clarification: ‘ I feel like Marc would be so much more successful in this endeavour—he’s charming, seductive, and lethal’.

‘I am mean, I am think you are be exact same.  AND you are coach young model for total murder.  AND you are be super nice so no one is expect.  AND you are be kind of creep sometime, #shrug.  Now we are need police name for’.

He thinks about it…

‘THE MODEL KILLER’

I admit, there was a split second where I was a bit miffed.  I would never, never in a thousand years, hurt anyone who wasn’t an immediate threat to me or my family.  And I take the mentoring of my models very seriously—in an industry where it is so easy to feel unsafe, unwanted, I think it is massively important to have established models looking out for your well-being and showing you the ropes.

But of course Marc and my mates know this, which is why the irritation only lasted a split second, quickly morphing into a desire to prank the Good Christ out of them all.

I spent the rest of the night and morning trying to google ‘Creepy Victorian’ to pick out a new serial killer profile picture without unnerving myself.  Jesus God, it really was an odd time.

creepy-headless-portrait-6

This was a trend. Fuck me…

Next evening, a mate texts Marcus—has Elliot killed you yet?

‘Non, but he is keep look at me weird’!

I sigh over his shoulder at the text. ‘This is my normal face. This is the face you see every day, you’ve just convinced yourself I’m a serial killer. You neurotic crazy person’.

‘Face of serial kill. IS BE SO FACE OF SERIAL KILL’.  He turns back to his mobile. ‘Elias is total have dead model in basement of townhouse’, he texts. ‘Like for take bath in blood for look young’.

‘That is absurd. I’m a ghost’.

‘So is be absurd because you are be ghost, non because you are non kill anyone’?

I take a sip of wine. ‘It’s absurd for both reasons’.

‘IS WHAT SERIAL KILL IS SAY’.  He’s texting furiously ‘…he is so serial kill me’.

Now was the time, I decided.  With that panicked set to Marc’s shoulders, the grimace on his lips while he texted, the wariness in his eyes as I slid down onto the couch beside him.  He was ripe for the pranking.

‘First of all, I can’t serial kill one man’, I explain.  ‘That would have to be a singular kill’.  He shakes his head, as if to say, you are not making this better.  Which is entirely the point.  ‘The name you came up with for me is enticing, I’ll admit’.

His fingers freeze up like claws around his mobile.  ‘OMG, you are total be kind of serial kill who is write police and be like, good show police cop, try again, here are be detail of where I am bury model and who they are wear at time of death’.

I laugh.  ‘And the police say, dear god, he dressed them in human skin suits’!

‘WHY YOU ARE EVEN THINK OF’

I blink at him, the very picture of calm reason.  ‘They’re police.  They wouldn’t be inclined to know the phrase ‘who are you wearing.’  They would assume I had skinned someone alive, and dressed someone else in that skin.  For Heaven’s sake, have a glass of wine, you’re so jumpy’.

The phone dings, and Marc starts and looks down at it in flashes, trying to keep an eye on me as he does.  ‘Does Elliot have any rooms you’re not allowed to go in’? he reads. ‘OMG at townhouse! There is be room’!

‘Oh for, that’s the boys’ common room! I told them I wouldn’t infringe upon it. I don’t go in there either’!

‘You can non spell serial kill without LIE’.

‘Profound’.  I fetch wine for Marcus, and slide it into his hand.  He doesn’t drink from it. ‘The fact that you find this even slightly possible is hilarious to me. You could murder me in your sleep, and have, in fact, tried to do so’.

He relents to my statement with a careful sip.  ‘Like one time, before I am be used to sleep by someone again and I am think you are be wild animal attack’.

‘Also the beheading, which wasn’t in your sleep.  And I think you’ve ‘accident killed’ me a third time’.

He thinks about it.  ‘Non, you are fall off roof’.

I nod sagely.  ‘Right.  Anyway. Come on, let’s have a bath.  I promise I won’t strangle and drown you’.

‘O.M.F.G.’

‘I said I won’t! I WON’T drag you under the water and watch the life leave your eyes, Jesus’.

The look on his face clearly states that he never expected me to say such a thing.

Naturally, I spent the next few days deepening his psychosis.  It’s actually not hard to do, once you have your significant other on eggshells.

Step One: Begin complimenting them in an entirely clinical fashion.  ‘What a nice torso you have,’ you say, running your hand across their shoulders.

Step Two: Calmly sit by the bed and wait for them to awake.  Smile wordlessly and walk from the room.  As though you watched them sleep all night.

Step Three:  Do chores, as usual, but make sure to pick the creepy ones—the ones that involve time spent in basements or sheds.  You must return from these chores with some small amount of blood on you, that’s key.

Step Four: Disappear entirely from time to time.  When you return, to flying accusation, recommend some yoga or meditation.  That goes over reaaaaal well.

Step Five: Decide on an M.O. and casually work it into conversation.

For instance, I suggested that a mate deal with a problem at work by making a bullet point list for her boss and then feeding it to her.  And when Marc gave me the up-and-down, I clarified, ‘Don’t worry, honey, I’m not recommending she murder her boss.  My modus operandi is to fill people’s lungs not their stomachs.  Although, I suppose I could buy up all those devices for soaking up industrial spills and just feed them to people until they exploded like seagulls’.

‘What. in. Fuck’.

‘Not you’.

Pat their leg reassuringly.

Step Six: Give in to cute aggression.  It reads entirely differently when your S.O. thinks you’re a serial killer.  And for that matter, act on all those smothering, squeezing, biting urges that would otherwise seem totally normal.  Offer to help cut up the vegetables for supper.  Decide that now is a good time to sharpen the knives.  Indoors.  Remark on the strength of your shoelaces or your new workout routine.  Do you keep a journal? Start keeping a journal.

Step Seven:  The caveat? You love your partner, or you wouldn’t be teasing them thusly.  So make sure to spread out the above steps over time so that they don’t toss you over for less serial killer infested waters.  And let a month go by here and there without any activity.  It’s about the long game.  And about the possibility of a love life during these trying, prank-filled times.

Quoz, I think I might be a horrible man?

But I won’t tell Marcus, as psychopaths don’t feel remorse.

Sexy-ennial

Last year, for our fifth, Marcus and I threw an enormous party full of friends and family, yes, but also photographers, acquaintances, fashionistas, and journalists.

As a consequence, this year we decided to dial things back as far as possible…

We spent our actual anniversary with the children–Mira made us a lovely salmon supper, which we ate off iron plates, imparting wisdom and strength into the next year of our marriage.  J made us dessert (a pile of marshmallows covered in chocolate syrup and sprinkles) and drew us a portrait.  After supper we cleared things away and snuggled the hell out of them both while Mira practiced her reading skills on a selection of love poems.  Perfection.

After that, Marc and I O. Henry’d each other.

We do this every. year. without. fail.  Our gifts always cancel each other out.

For instance, this year Marc made me the most beautiful dressing gown I’ve ever seen.  It’s grey and silver and charcoal with dusty rose quilted silk for an interior lining, and the whole geometric exterior is covered in the golden moons of Minerva, as our anniversary falls on Quinquatria.

But I, knowing my love hates to be cold, bought two days of privacy at the tropical resort we haunted back when we were fledgling, unknown ghosts, newly venturing from our host and learning the energetic joy of afterlife intimacy.

Not exactly the place for a dressing gown, the tropics…

Even though I had to leave the housecoat at home, though, we had a lovely time of it.  We paid off the staff at the resort, set up a security detail to keep telephoto lenses out of our business, and found our original slip of beach with the little cabin in the dunes.  We didn’t see a single soul for forty-eight hours.  Bliss.

After that we ventured into the nearby town, sunburnt…sandburnt…and exhausted, and had the most delicious coconut-laced meal.  Marc told everyone we were on vacation for our Sexy-ennial–*eyebrow waggle*–and yet I still love him.  In fact, I almost think it’s funny, such is his ridiculous influence on me.

…alright, it’s funny.

Now it’s back to the real world again, for another year hand in hand with my husband.  We sat down over wine and made out a list of relationship goals, things silly, sexy, and serious, and pinned them to the bedroom mantle.

I haven’t taken off my dressing gown since I arrived home…I’m torn between sleeping in the thing or hanging it and brushing it out every night like a valet.  I love it so much.

Marc says I look like a wizard in it.

And so goes the sixth anniversary.  On to year seven.

Drugs after Death

Let’s say, hypothetically, there lived a Victorian man named Eliot Smyth.  He was a pleasant enough chap, but on the whole, rather subdued.  So, he took a shine to alcohol when out with friends, because it enhanced his extroversion, inspired conversation, and led to small adventures.

He may have climbed the statue of Queen Anne outside of St. Paul’s Cathedral and toasted her with a bottle of whiskey.  He may have streaked through St. James’ Park.  He may have targeted any number of other saints in his frolics, come to think of it…we’ll never know for sure.  Purely hypothetical, you know.

Let’s say this Mr. Smyth also discovered opium, laudanum, and hash along the way, because why not?

Let’s say this Mr. Smyth was, in fact, a recreational drug user with a penchant for seeking out safe but surely world-altering experiences.

Now…

Let’s also say that this Mr. Smyth died and became a ghost.  And once a ghost, he realised three rather important things:

First, when one is a ghost, the risk of death by misadventure decreases significantly.

Second, in the years after his death and prior to his manifestation, the alively world created a vast number of new substances.

Third, in order to experience these new substances, all one had to do was borrow the happy memories and best trips out of vast memory banks, find a suitable club, and summon up instant bliss, just prime for personal variation.  Instant legal bliss. (See realisation number one, and consider its applications to bodily autonomy.)

What would you do, if you were Mr. Smyth?

If you said that you would find yourself a fantastic club full of blinky lights, collect the memories to match little pills that make you feel like velvet houseplants are touching your eyes, and switch out your cravat for leather trousers, you’d be accurate in your estimations of Mr. Smyth’s character.

Now suppose, hypothetically, of course, that Mr. Smyth was having a rather excellent trip that resulted in the belief that he was, in fact, a mushroom.  Leather pants wouldn’t do at all for a mushroom, right?  So he locates another gent on the dance floor and suggests they should switch trousers on account of said gent wearing suede–much more mushroom suitable.  Gent says, by all means! I’m actually a snake! I think leather would be perfect!

Trousers are switched.

And let’s suppose that the following morning, Mr. Smyth watches footage of the trouser exchange on his husband’s mobile, shakes his head at himself, and giggles into his cereal.

But later in the day….more footage comes in.  Along with a memo from Mr. Smyth’s PR firm alerting him to the ongoing Twitter auction for a pair of his leather trousers worn home from the club by one @YASSLAYJOSE.

Mr. Smyth may have swaddled himself in Victorian attire at this point, picked out a stuffy book, and considered the merits of clean living.

AND LET’S SUPPOSE that this bloody Twitter auction ended at $80k Canadian for a pair of damn trousers.  And Mr. Smyth had to pony up for the quid, to keep the designer of said trousers happy.  Mr. Smyth also had to take meetings with his charitable board of investors, who allowed he should blow off steam on occasion, thank god.  And Mr. Smyth also had to contact each of his contractual designers and explain the situation to chortling fashionistas, as well as apologise to his mentored models, because while drugs are legal in Ghost World, they are still surrounded by bullshit moralistic tripe.

So…depending on the sort of person you are, and whether or not you become a ghost, these suppositions could read as either a cautionary or curious tale.  Choices between libertarian and sober lifestyle will be entirely up to you.

I think I shall keep my boots laced and my cravat tied for at least another little while, as dealing with hypotheticals can become rather time-consuming.  And I promised my PR consultant a vacation at the winter holidays…

It’s Just the Wind

Hail October! Ghost High Holidays! Mmmm…you can smell the haunting in the air.

Unless your name is Jacques, and then you’re buried under a pile of Haunting Club paperwork.

The story…

The haunt started as any other. Jacques selected his newest target–a sixty-three year old woman in an aging farmhouse–and filed the paperwork.  Everyone was quite envious of his target.  He has a knack for finding the perfect specimens while the rest of us scramble.

We swallowed our envy, though, and threw a Paperwork Party once everything processed.  After a roaring good barbeque, we sent Jacques off to begin his haunt.  And later on, when we were all well and truly drunk, he returned with tales from his first foray, and we laughed and laughed and passed him the bottle.

Things always quiet down after the initial contact.  As a haunt, you want to make yourself known, and then build psychological steam with a drop, about three months of small measures, and then a sharp incline toward the end of the six month haunting allotment.  So, for a while, Jacques was simply ‘the wind’.

jacques-window

Pictured: Jacques

At the change of seasons, early September, he picked up the pace and the presence.  He slipped breezes in between cracks in the walls, rustled rugs and bedclothes, and blew open the ties on a set of curtains in the kitchen.

And the woman–Sheila–took it all in with great and glorious hysterics, calling friends, setting up a camera, and notifying a local priest.

Jacques was delighted.

And then it all went south rather precipitously.

If one remembers no other rule of Haunting Club, then one remembers the rule set in stone: No haunt shall bodily harm the selected target.

Jacques didn’t, either.  Not really.  I mean, he didn’t touch her.  And how was he to know that blowing a window open at the top landing of the house would result in Sheila flailing and fainting and falling down the stairs?

Alright, fine, he might have suspected…

But the fact that he was building to a Halloween finish means that he certain didn’t intend for such a thing to happen.  And when he was called before the Haunting Club tribunal, his filed timeline proved as much.  That, in combination with the fact that Sheila only broke an arm, led them to slap Jacques with a temporary ban, instead of an after-lifetime cease and desist–essentially, six months of paperwork duty at the offices.

Now, Jacques is not an entirely unreasonable man.  If this had happened any other time of year, he might not have drown himself in a week of bad television and jaegermeister, the worst of all possible alcohols.

But it happened right before Halloween.

Oh god, the post-humanity!

So, while the rest of us (including his stubborn ‘I-told-you-the-window-was-too-much’ husband, Ed) continue with our selections, pick Halloween targets, and head out for a romp on the Queen of all days, poor, poor Jacques has to file all our paperwork and assist with the post-Halloween flush of contingency reports and damage control.

I do feel badly, but…nothing can keep me down in October.

More ghost posts to come!

 

 

Ghost Telly

When you look at the ghost population, the numbers are greatly skewed toward ghosts who lived without television.  I would say a full three quarters of us lived before the advent of television, and at least half of us lived before such a thing even seemed possible–before electricity, radio, or monitors.  And yet, the GCN (Ghost Cable Network) is by far and above the most profitable segment of the entertainment market, attracting more users than all the libraries, museums, and galleries combined.

When I first saw this statistic, I did have a bit of a fit, lamenting the poisoning of the human mind, the laziness of entertainment seekers, and the death of imagination. I became determined to be a bastion of Victorian entertainments.

The lofty ones, mind you.

But there was a problem…

As it turns out, ghost libraries, museums, and galleries are few and far between.  Not because they are undervalued–on the contrary, their rarity assures they are constant sites of pilgrimage–but because they are difficult to fill, maintain, and use.

If you want to read a book that you did not read in life, you must find a library where someone has checked in the memory of that particular book, download the memory, and “read” someone else’s interpretation of the piece, which may or may not be accurate.

reader

“And then the clown looked at Mr. Darcy and said, I can play your birthday party, but it’ll be $500 plus travel expenses.”

If you want to view a painting, similarly, you must go to a gallery that has purchased the viewing memories of a plethora of artists and interpolated them into a fair representation of the original piece.  Famous paintings look fairly accurate–Mona Lisa still smiles–but lesser-known artists are difficult to find on the walls and harder to faithfully represent.

Ecce_Mono_-_restoration_of_Ecce_Homo_by_Elias_Garcia_Martinez

Not entirely a ghost problem.

Museums have greater success on account of the fact that ghosts are excellent identifiers of artifacts-cum-things we used in life.  But even then, there is a hitch that keeps us from full appreciation.

The hitch: Items and experiences with electrical impulse are far, far easier to see, share, and use.

This explains why, as I wondered, and you might be wondering, ghosts do not simply go and walk around alively galleries.  When we do, we see a mere shadow of what you are able to see.

It also explains why television and film and live theatre have become our wild successes.  We are able to actively share these spaces and experiences with alivelies, because not only can we see movie and TV screens, but we can also watch the outlines of great actors, and their electrifying emotions.

[Remember that time you were alone in a theatre? You were not alone…ohhhh, yes, we saw it all.]

theater-105573_960_720

I know what you did last summer.

We can also easily channel your viewing experience for display on the GCN, taking whatever electrical and digital codes make up a show, and mirroring them in our world.

After a while, even the bastions of Victorian entertainment wear down.  You can only peruse so many grey-scale walls in galleries you once knew before you say, fuck it, I’ll just watch Dance Moms.

We all know the real star was Chloe.

But as it turns out, television is not the brain rotting ridiculousness that a certain segment of ghosts warned it would be.  Sure, Lifetime is full of sap, the reality TV shows run rampant, and Friends has its own goddamn channel, but I was amazed to find shows of real quality, as well.

Not only that, but ghosts also make their own versions of alively programming–Deathtime (still full of sap), Dead Friends (still full of Joey), Days of Our Afterlives, etc.–which are quite hilarious.

And we also make our own entirely original shows, such as How Did You Die?, FUNerial, and this bizarre cartoon called Adventures of Birds where Fire Eagle and Steve Sting (a hawk with a scorpion tale) fight mythical creatures with the help, this season, of Raven, hard-boiled PI and birdseed fanatic.

[Who would come up with such a cartoon? Marcus Brutus.]

Not all bad.

Oh, and it’s worth mentioning that these digitisation projects that have everyone so up in arms are actually making books and artwork more accessible on the other side.  Maybe throw in a buck or two next time you visit a library doing a scanning project or a museum with interactive maps and displays.  My children (and yours) will thank you.

Dinner Party Success!

(Marcus tried to make me name this post ‘Dinner Party is More Like Winner Party’)

So, May 1st was my big debut, and I am delighted to share that it went off without any major hitches.  In fact, I’d say it was a success!  A few of the most delicious details below…

I must start by saying that I am immensely proud of my family and grateful for their help in the matter.

Marcus was excellent moral support–every time I looked for him, he was at my arm, gracefully reentering conversation or just brushing shoulders long enough to remind me that he was watching out for me.  Also, the guests were obviously enamoured with the idea of a Roman in their midst, and he was more than happy to play the part.  He skulked about in a toga, sipping wine and looking ‘so mystery’.  And he only had to leave the room and giggle about it once or twice.

The children were also wonderful.  Mira gave a beautiful toast to Beltane over supper, and she looked absolutely smashing in a baby queen ball gown reminiscent of the 1920s–a sage green and lavender number she selected herself.  And J refused to move down table for a stodgy bastard who thought he should have been seated closer to me than my own son.  He just looked right up at this man and said ‘this seat is for faeries’ and continued to eat decorative parsley, and my heart soared.

I am also just thrilled with my two doorman/models who put on a good show.  Chauncey, shy and brilliant, worked the corners of the room, while Jerome, outgoing and…airy would be a nice way of putting it, charmed the milling centre.  And while their walks were still those of budding amateurs, that was really rather the point.  They’ll walk again when we open season in the winter, to demonstrate improvement.

And finally, I would be remiss as a ghost, Englishman, and moonlighting libertine, if I didn’t mention that Lord and Lady Rochester came to the party and left in incredibly high spirits.  That’s John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester of the court of Charles II, and his new wife/open-marriage-compatriot Drizell; Willy and Dizzy, known collectively as Lord and Lady Rooster, on account of them crowing gossip all through society.

John_Wilmot

I went to Elliot’s party.  Pinnacle moment of my afterlife, must say.

He wears less armour these days, but his hair is the same, as is his preference for satin.  He showed up in a tight-fitting blue satin suit with frothy, cream cravat and long black dress shoes with a bit of curl to the toe.  Very updated London.  And Drizell, a ghost from the 1940s, wore a gorgeous, ephemeral, glittering cream gown cut on the bias.  Both of them flirted shamelessly with Jerome.  And Lord Rochester invited me to one of his upcoming salons–he still writes unctuous poetry, which, while almost necessarily terrible, I cannot wait to hear.

And, in general, I would say people had a good time, myself included.  I was able to dispense with nerves as the supper progressed, falling totally into my role as society home owner and gentle eccentric.  Marc surprised me with a newly designed JS jacket for the occasion, which I debuted on the runway after dinner–russet leather lapels and pointillism grey wool.  And the house stood up to guests, with only one broken piece of pottery and a bit of spilled wine on the stairs.

Would I host again? Oddly enough, yes.

Am I looking forward to other society parties? Again, oddly enough, yes.

It’s a new age for Elliot, haha.