The Private Baths
How is it you’ve not written to me yet? Do you not receive
these letters? I have no way of knowing, so must trust that you
do, and that perhaps your life in Claudiopolis is even busier than
mine in Rome. But I should doubt it greatly, for my memory of our
lives there together is one so idyllic that I find myself too often
retreating to it for respite.
I am ten and three! And trust you marked the passing with a votive
in my name ha ha. Alas, there was little of ceremony here, and the
day both brightened and darkened with nothing noted by anyone save
myself. But there is nobody to blame for it but me, as I have been
quite deliberate in my silence with regards to it and cannot expect
people to mark an occasion of which they have not been forewarned.
Even Trenus was not told.
Well my friend, it does more and more appear that the gods are
in league against me. You will recall my intention to make myself
unclean for Gryllus so as to upset him when he tried to have me.
So it was that I put Trenus on the lookout for him, although knowing
full well that to warn of the appearance of Gryllus is akin to the
task of preparing a friend’s eye for the exact location and
time of a random meteor in the nighttime sky! Thus I knew, when
Trenus ran breathlessly up to me, that I had but moments to prepare.
On this occasion, I hastily made of myself a great mess and took
much care to be careless with my toilet. It was not easy, for I
consider myself by nature a very clean person, but I was determined
to give Gryllus a fright and make his violation of me as unpleasant
for him as for I. But it was not to be. For instead of our regular
room, Vestinus had had the household bath emptied of boys and reserved
the entire space completely for the private enjoyment of Gryllus.
Thus was I taken to him there, and as he called down for more steam
he asked what I thought of his inspired idea and commanded that
I soak with him. Then he rubbed me with oil and sand, ran the strigil
all upon me and had the gall to remark on my uncleanliness, and
that I should take from him a good lesson in preparing myself for
my fleshly duties. In short time I was scraped red and made thoroughly
raw by his blade, and once again he pulled me down into the steaming
bath and placed me like a puppet upon his prick. The mist was oppressively
hot and I felt myself becoming ill at the stinging pain and heavy
humidity of the room.
Thence to the cold he pulled me, and as I sat there shivering
beside his stubbly shoulder he decreed that he enjoyed the school’s
waterworks immensely and from that time forward would continue our
relationship there. What shall be made of this? I have no option
but to think that the gods are laughing, for I am foiled yet again
in my attempt to resist him.
back into the heat we had plunged, the monster put his arm around
me and fondled me until I was hard. I despised myself for becoming
so, for I knew it only made him think I enjoyed his attention. And
then, with his hand forever upon me, he set to talking, as if intending
to have with me a lengthy discussion on life and its many lessons.
I answered him curtly and refused to engage with him beyond what
was polite and minimal. But still he persisted, demanding that I
speak and demonstrate to him my elocution and learning. I told him
I was feeling ill by the heat, but he refused to release me until
we had conversed. I was compelled therefore to admit to myself that
I was stuck with him until he was satisfied of me, and at that moment,
amid the swirling mists, an image of that peculiar Christian hell
of which Trenus often speaks did settle into my skull. Seeing my
options curtailed, I was given to at last indulge him.
I spoke to him of my classes and of my fondness of the tutor Maltinus.
He said to me that he had conversed with Maltinus on my progress
and was gratified that I was advancing at a respectable pace. “Why
should you be concerned after my progress?” I asked him. Gryllus
but laughed and replied that he loved me fiercely and my progress
was supremely important to him. Then he told me something that made
me angry, for it felt like Maltinus had betrayed me. He said that
Maltinus had revealed to him that I was oppressed by the negative
attention of certain boys, namely Carisius and his brainless cronies
Servilius and Falconius. I protested that they were not a bother
to me, but Gryllus persisted and impressed upon me that he knew
they most certainly were. “Maltinus is a teller of lies,”
I accused, and instantly I regretted it for I knew it was not true.
“That is not true,” said Gryllus, and thus he had bested
me in honour, for we both of us knew that it was I who was lying
and that Maltinus was simply vigilant for my well-being. In my surrender
to this fact Gryllus probed for more information, wanting to know
how he should assist me to overcome their assaults.
How should I respond? The last thing I wished was to become indebted
to Gryllus and to make him think that I needed him. The second last
thing I wanted was to have Carisius know that I had enlisted the
help of my despised paramour in some cowardly attempt to overcome
him indirectly. But I knew that Gryllus was obviously in a position
to influence Vestinus the Paedagogiarch, and so told him of my suspicions
that Vestinus had a hand in emboldening Carisius against me. And
to that Gryllus but laughed, declaring the school-master to be a
man of impeccable character who would no sooner enlist the help
of another boy to oppress me as he would oppress me himself. He
dismissed my theory instantly.
“What then would you have me do?” I demanded of him.
He replied thusly: “I would have you declare your loyalty
to me, and allow yourself at long last to find pleasure in my company.”
I was confused by this, and wondered how it should have any bearing
on my relations with Carisius. Gryllus answered me loftily, proclaiming
that a true and honest demonstration of my skills at pleasing a
master would be rewarded by the other boys’ burgeoning respect
for me, and their assaults would soon disappear. I thought this
a very flimsy logic, and told him so, and told him still moreover
that I did not enjoy his handling of me for the pleasure of it was
too often only his. (I can only imagine what I should have had to
endure were it not for the goodness of Arkamedes!)
Now his face did noticeably soften, and he asked me quite sincerely
if I wished to be pleasured by him. Here again was another difficult
question to answer. If that I found myself receiving from him some
pleasure, would that signal to him my capitulation to his will?
Would it forevermore demand of me that I treat his attentions as
desirable and appreciated? On the other hand, if that I could maneuver
him to be more giving of pleasure instead of always taking, might
that not make my time with him a little less unbearable? These were
the thoughts that dashed through my mind when suddenly confronted
by his query, and I had far less time to consider them at that moment
as I do now in their recounting. And so I yielded to him, and told
him that I did indeed wish to receive what pleasures he was capable
of giving. To this he smiled, and was satisfied that it signaled
a promising first step toward my loving embrace of him. You can
well imagine how in my mind I doubted it, and resolved that I would
remain from him spiritually aloof while all the while profiting
from whatever pleasure he was willing to part with.
He sat me then upon the edge of the bath and told me to lie backward
on the stone. I did as he commanded, and propped upon my elbows
watched as his balding head bent over my groin and took me into
its mouth. It appeared to me as if Cetus was rising up out of the
sea to devour me, but this only had the strange effect to further
arouse and spin me down into a swirl of quickening pleasure. His
mouth was warm and capable, and the steam that danced upon my body
mixed with the film of sweat that had suddenly pushed through from
within. Gryllus eventually settled upon a very acceptable rhythm,
and soon I found myself thrusting up and down into it, speechless
and thoughtless, thoroughly incapacitated save for that singular
motion. And then the world seemed to burst forth from me in six
distinct waves of ecstasy before tragically subsiding, and I fell
back against the stone and exhaled. Gryllus looked up at me from
where he stood waist-high in water. His pale breast sagged and his
reddened face was awash in beads of sweat, but he smiled nonetheless
and said, “There. Antinous is pleasured.”
I shut my eyes in confusion, and to be perfectly honest am still
mightily confused, even as I write this. I know not what to think
of myself for having succumbed to the monster’s offer. Am
I now his accomplice? Have I any claim to continue to despise him?
These questions accost me, and I wish desperately that you were
here to advise me, for always you were wiser and more considered
in your words. There is of course the bendable ear of Trenus, but
I hesitate to engage him for I know already how conclusively he
shall condemn me.
One final note. When Gryllus climbed from the bath and carried
the lumbering weight of his body to drip from its belly above me,
he stared down at me for a long time. I refused to sit up, for I
did not want him to touch me. Instead I lay exposed upon the stone,
wondering if he would kick me or spit on me or find some other means
to reassert his hungry authority. But he didn’t. He simply
stared. I had shut my eyes, for I did not wish to be seen to avert
them from his gaze. Finally he spoke: “If indeed you are worthy
of a lusty spat with an Emperor, perhaps I shall find myself forced
to fight for you.” And then he left me alone in the room,
as is his demonstrated custom.
What do you suppose was meant by that? How shall it be interpreted?
Surely he is not intending to challenge the dominion of the Imperial
household! But is there any other meaning to ascribe? I am fearful
for my future, Lysicles, and fret that I’ve blundered into
some enchanted thicket from which there shall be no escape. I pray
that you will receive this and reply. A.