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.


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.


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.

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.

Sword Eye

If you have indulged me with readership for any length of time, then you know, for certain fact, that my husband is absolutely insane.

It bears repeating.

Absolutely insane.

Most of the time, he’s a happy sort of nut.  He dresses up in costume–primarily as a dinosaur (dino), crocodile (croco), or godzilla (zilla).  He creates massively imaginative projects–as with his Dead Cartoon Network smash hit Adventures of Birds.  And he engages in purposely wild acts of eccentricity.

Most recently, he bought up a hundred model Rubicon jeeps and decimated them by drowning in a shallow stream, working out whatever angst he still harboured over Caesar’s crossing into treasonous territory.  And he filmed it all.  While wearing a zilla-tail and shouting like a newscaster about the humanity of the thing and oh the horror and dear god won’t someone please tend to the scene.


Site of first European Godzilla encounter

But then there are other times where his crazy goes in the opposite direction.

He never means for this to happen, to be sure.  These are the moments that spring from misunderstandings over custom, modernity-inappropriate behaviour, or lingering militarised aggression and corresponding worldviews.  These moments require a lot of psychological untangling on his part, and a great deal of patience and support on mine.  Because they are often so tender and traumatic, at their core, I rarely mention them.  Marc is a man who requires context and consideration.

roman war


Two weeks ago, though, something happened that I believe expresses the depths of his occasional psychosis without creating him as some sort of monster.

Besides, he thinks it’s hilarious, and bid me share it…

The Scene:

It was the afternoon, and Marc was outdoors drilling.  He drills every day, and I go through periods when I observe (leather, thighs, shoulders, please) and when my pacifism overcomes me and I must refrain.  This particular afternoon, he was on his own, and I’d taken to the sofa with a book and a spot of tea.

The door opened.

And there was Marc with a SWORD THROUGH HIS EYE.

As in, his gladius somehow shattered, ricocheting the tip through his eye, and instead of ghostly magicking it away, as would have been sane, he determined it would be a better course of action to come into the house and show me.

‘Look Elias!’ he throws out his arms in weird triumph ‘is sword eye!’

I’m over the back of the couch in recoil at this point.  Tea’s on the floor, book’s in the air, heart’s in my throat.  My legs are taking me as far away from this madman as possible.

Then I remember that this madman–this creature dripping blood onto the rug from a SWORD WOUND IN HIS FACE–is my husband.  So, my brain catches up with my legs and reverts me back toward him.

I’m not squeamish.  I’m really not.  I don’t like when people vomit, but I can very well handle just about anything else.

But, you know, I’d never seen a man pull a sword out of his eye before, severing and popping the eye out along with it.

I hit the ground before I even knew I was fainting.

It was a quick faint.  Just a sort of temporary fog that ended in that vomit act I hate so much, and then I was working my way up the wall, with the intention of strangling the ever-loving-shit out of Marcus.

The eye.  The eye on the shard of sword.

He’s handing it to me, and for some unknown, shock-riddled reason, I take it from him while he casually unties my cravat and STUFFS IT IN HIS EYE SOCKET to stem the flow of blood.

I pitched forward again, caught the edge of the entry-way table, and landed in Marc’s arms.  I remember him looking down at me in surprise–with his good eye; the other waving blood-stained lawn as he shook his head–and then I was out for good.

When I woke up…Lord, twenty minutes later?, he’s perched on the edge of the bed holding my hand and wearing an eye patch.  Because of course he wouldn’t just fix the damn eye when he could pretend to be a pirate for a spell.

He grimaces at me, pats my chest, and says, ‘I am be sorry about sword eye.’

‘Really’, I say.  ‘You’re sorry for announcing a mortal wound like some sort of fucked up party trick.’


And later, when I checked my mobile and discovered a cascade of outrage, he was fake sorry for texting all of our mates a picture of the carnage, #swordeye.

I add my own apologies to the group text.

#Romancray #fuckinghell

Ghost Therapists

For the past six years, Marcus has laboured assiduously to learn the English language.  He’s been downright fearless, immersing himself in any conversation that presents itself, and he’s been steadfast, drilling note cards in the mornings, working crosswords in the afternoon, and regaling me with “word-a-day” vocabulary over supper in the evening, all while reading his fool heart out, tackling books like the warrior he is.

And until very recently, I put off the study of Latin.

I assure you…I’m not proud of this fact.   Every time he says something in Latin, some little phrase that I know I should be able to commit to memory, that I know I’ve heard before, and yet it escapes me, I feel guilty and ashamed.

The guilt surfaces out of lack of effort.  I’ve done many, many other things to be the best possible companion for Marc, but on this point, I’ve faltered.  I failed for years to even try to understand the language of his inner thoughts and of his beloved Roma.

And the shame…well that’s a bit more complex, and it brings me to my central point.

Ghosts can hire therapists.

We can hire therapists to help make sense of our deaths and to help make sense of our lives. We can hire therapists who specialise in types of death, we can hire therapists who specialise in certain age groups, and we can hire therapists who specialise in certain eras.  We can even hire therapists who specialise in passing you on to final death.

Jasmine is mine.  She’s a fucking saint.  And although I have no intention of passing on–I’m quite enjoying the afterlife thanks very much–I do have every intention of working through all the shit that followed me when I died.


Let’s start with…Jesus, I don’t even know, the first time you had to eat a rat??

To be sure, this was not my original intention.  I lived before psychology, counselling, therapy, when the going advice was to just push things aside and soldier on.  And so I assumed I would do the same now.

But through a round-about series of intersections, I came to know Jasmine, and she came to know me, and now I’m coming to know myself.

In particular, I am coming to know that I must be more self-compassionate.

To return to the Latin, for example…

As it turns out, I did not have an affluent childhood.  I had the opposite of an affluent childhood.  I didn’t see an actual book until I was twelve years old, I didn’t really learn proper reading skills until I was sixteen, and I was still making my own flashcards to cement spellings long after I was married.

Not that I wasn’t a quick study–I was–but I was terrified that such speed made the whole endeavour out to be a fluke.  I thought that if I ever stopped reading or writing, often frantically so, that I would lose my ability to communicate with the people who had become my world.  The world of polite English and conversational French and polished, scholarly Latin.

To make matters worse, I was convinced that even with a burgeoning vocabulary, my accent botched the whole thing beyond repair.  I spent years perfecting my disguise, only to have it slip in moments of great emotion.  The cockney streets or the Yorkshire almshouse were always just over my shoulder, no matter how much Keats I devoured, no matter how many articles I edited for the paper, no matter how many times I read aloud to my son.

And there are other things in this hodge-podge pile of shame: the fact that Latin reminds me of the Catholic church and my assinine mother-by-law; the fact that the study of languages reminds me of having to literally sing for my supper–music being the only college scholarship I had even a remote possibility of winning; the fact that my son surpassed my language skills by the time he was four, entering into a world of code that I could never be a part of.

It gets a bit overwhelming.

But having Jasmine around to remind me that I lived, succeeded, offered lingustic opportunities to my son, culminated university with a literature degree aside my music, ran a press, etc….well it helps immensely.

And her gentle reminders to take a breath, to address the underlying trauma, and then to raise my head above it…that helps immensely, too.

It also helps that when I finally cracked a textbook in 2016, Alex agreed to patiently study Latin alongside me, moving at my speed, and granting me partnership.

And, lets be honest, it helps that my tutor is a Roman dreamboat, and that through his own series of self-explorations he has come to own his affluence and privilege and a childhood full of words, and to grant me the patience I need, thus making my study a gift, not a demand.


Look, I’m not saying we *must* play strip conjugation, I’m just saying the word ‘conjugal’ had to come from somewhere…

So, to close on three points:

1) Thank heavens for professional problem-solvers.  If you are at all concerned by your place in the world, or within your own mind, please, go get help.  Please don’t wait for (or god-forbid seek) the afterlife for your chance to fix everything.  Live fully.

2) That said, thank heavens for ghostly therapists.  If you have someone who left the world in turmoil, know that they have opportunities to seek aid.

3) And, thank you for this opportunity to speak truthfully, and to hold myself publicly accountable to my new efforts with language.  Mille gratias et bonam dei.

Brutus: A Corrective Character Study

I’ve mentioned Marcus any number of times on the site now, and upon review, I’m afraid I may have done him the favour of implying that he is something other than a ridiculous man.

Entirely unintentional believe me.

Now, to be sure, there are aspects of him that are quite proud and quite Roman.  In fact, if you met him, you might be convinced for an hour or so that he is the stereotype of which you think.  He has hooded eyes, an aquiline (albeit quite broken) nose, and some of the broadest shoulders I’ve seen.  He wears togas and tunicas, many days, and confidence rolls off him like a derecho.

Oh yes, he can be very much the general, the senator, the soldier, the politician, the judge.


As that introductory hour wears down, you find out that the next twenty-three in the day are about to reveal to you that Marcus Junius Brutus–avenger of the republica, stoic philosopher, noblest of Romans–is, without a doubt, the most wildly, joyfully, purposefully crazy man you’ve ever met.

This is not to belittle his alively days.  He often reflects in ways that are deep and real upon his time in Roma and his actions therein.

This is to say that there is also a massive part of him that is simply exhausted by the name he owns, the expectations that accompany it, and the memories.

That his palliative, his curative, demands that he be as nutter as possible, walking right up to the line that demarcates the eccentric from the certified, and grinning that grin back over his shoulder.

The grin that says, “Sic, I am total make supper for and is be so best, but fiiiiiirst, I am throw grape at. Look out is GRAPE EYE.”


I am total throw grape.

Or, “Where the fuck is be catus? Shitty Kitty, where are be??? I am have thing fooooor. Is total non be throw into poooooool.”


Also, I am total throw catus.

Or, “You are like cardboard stand velociraptor butler? Non!?!? What you are even fucking know.  Here is be basket. Is be full of shut up.”



Also, lest you think I am boiling him down into some sort of exaggerated dialect, a la Bram Stoker’s Dracula, let me assure you that he really, truly speaks that way.  He thinks articles of speech are a waste of time, he waves his hand dismissively at tenses and gerunds, and he uses elaborate circumventions to avoid words that he finds difficult to pronounce.

I call it Marc-speak.

Once you spend any amount of time around him, I assure you, you find yourself slipping into the pattern.  It’s charming and easy and often results in giggles.  Shouting “you are worst!” at someone fills you with delight.  Do highly recommend.

So, it’s not really the Marc-speak that paints him as odd.  It’s the things Marc thinks and imagines and does that paint him as odd.

Some examples…

I have yet to engage my husband of four years in calm, romantic pillow talk because he comes up out of sleep a) swinging and b) full of absurd ideas that generated while he was resting.  So, instead of hearing that I’m handsome or “so love” I get to field questions like, “If witch is be like, poof now you are be squirrel, what you are do for day of squirrel time?” and “what you are think is look like if dolphin and gator are be like sew together?” and “what if I am light some thing on fire today?”

Instead of pancakes with raspberry jam, I get “murder cake.”

If he becomes impatient with a complaint, he asks me, “You are cry? you are cry ocean of tear? is drown whale?”

On his days out of tunicas he wears T-shirts with toads, alligators, exploding death stars, dinosaurs, and slogans like “TEAM BRVTVS.”

He has a pet ghost shark named Pistrix who swims around with him in the pool. He feeds it cheese and crackers.

He makes his own wine (which I call Older-than-Jesus Wine) and gifts it at parties so that he’s assured to get a decent glass of red.

On any given day he might pretend to be a bird and speak in nothing but shrieks, or he might be a crocodile and spend the day on all fours, laying in wait for you to come down to the kitchen because goddammit you just wanted some tea.

He invents elaborate games like “Salt Eye,” which involves throwing peanuts, or “Pirate Time,” which is capture the flag, but in the pool and with tiny catapults.

He sent a script about the adventures of Fire Eagle and Steve Sting (a hawk with scorpion talons) to the ghost version of Cartoon Network, and they picked it up for an abbreviated first season to see how it, um…flies.

Right now, as I’m writing this post, he is lounging on a raft, wearing a homemade waterproof gator tail and flippers, sipping weak breakfast vino, and luxuriating in the fact that I am talking about him.  “OooooOOOOOooo you are write post about? Is because I am best.”

No, darling, because you are “craze.”

“Cheese fry,” he tells me.  Which is his way of saying “whatever.”  It’s the shortened version of “Whatever, I’m getting cheese fries” from Girls who are be Mean.

And so on…

But…*sigh*…here’s the kicker.  Although the gator attacks can become a bit tiresome, I actually adore all of Marc’s incredibly particular, captivating, and curated “weird.” Reason being–it’s all encompassing.

He welcomes you into it, and if you’re willing to play along, you’ll laugh until you cry.

He uses it to encourage you to find your weird, too, and then he celebrates whatever you find.  For instance, I found drag, and so Marc makes all my costumes, tells me I look “so beauty” in eyeshadow, and obligingly paints my toenails while we snuggle on the couch.

Our son, Little J, wanted to run around in faerie wings, and so big, tough Popa took him to a Roman silversmith and together they picked out the “most magic” pair, after Marc had secretly called ahead and placed the order.

Our daughter has lowered her walls, as she has finally met her match for confidence and bravery and oddity.  Marcus was her first hug in over seventy-five years…well, after J, who is, in plain fact, a tiny warlock of friendship.

Our mates have Marc on speed dial for shenanigans.

And when you need a protector, you can count on him to be at your side as whatever you need him to be–businessman, Left Shark, or husband.

…likely all three.