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.

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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.

rubicon

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

Context

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.’

‘Sic.’

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.

1_therapist

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.

Togato,_I_sec_dc._con_testa_di_restauro_da_un_ritratto_di_nerva,_inv._2286

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.

However.

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.”

Gaius_Marcus_Brutus_12

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.”

Gaius_Marcus_Brutus_12

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.”

Gaius_Marcus_Brutus_12

*VELOCIRAPTOR SCREECH*

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.