The Triumph of Desire
Well, my friend, it is official: Anaxamenos has announced his engagement
to Palmetta. They were observed recently (by me) walking through
the Forum hand in hand, and have enjoyed the attentions of a great
many well-wishers from members of both their tribes. I knew that
something was afoot when Anaxamenos introduced me to his parents,
who had suddenly shown up from Sparta. The moment they gave indication
that they had met Maltinus and his family, I smiled knowingly at
Anaxamenos. He winked back at me, and whispered, “They have
bonded like cement!”
I laughed in delight, for with their parents’ approval there
can be no impediment: Anaxamenos is destined to be married! And
so once again was his name the centre of much celebratory attention
among the boys of the Gelotiana, and I am feeling happy at the fact
of my dear friend’s blossoming happiness.
What else shall I tell you? Mordanticus reports that Glaucia is
now showing; that she is rounder and filled with the energy of her
middle months. He is hoping for a son, and yet I myself am equally
eager for a child of either sex. What difference shall it make?
Is not a child a thing of beauty and joy, regardless of whether
it be male or female? That being said, Mordanticus has a considerable
weight of obligation upon his head to ensure the continuance of
his name. His desire for a boy is quite understandable.
I daresay that Decentius is now a proud reader of the Latin language.
Arguably, he is not without the stutter and stop of a novice, and
yet he nevertheless possesses within him all the skills necessary
to read Vergilius cover to cover. When I pronounced this very opinion
to him, I observed in his eyes a great and wordless gratitude –
not for that he was unable to express it, but on the fact that we
both understood how its expression would somehow diminish its immensity.
In response, I but smiled at him proudly, as might a father to his
boy in first armour. We have mutually decided that he shall continue
to improve his reading to the point where I am no longer necessary.
On that day, he shall renew my necessity by engaging me to teach
him in Greek. It is strange to me how a man of his age and experience
has suddenly decided to pursue a life of scholarship. And yet who
am I to fault him for it? Would that all the world thought as he,
imagine how peaceful and prosperous would suddenly breathe the bosom
of every land.
I continue to be delighted by the increasingly close company of
Vitalis, a fellow who takes a great interest in my person and my
pursuits. Even tonight while at dinner, he was overjoyed to hear
of Decentius’ progress and is very keen one day to meet him.
Additionally, Vitalis was very moved to learn of you, Lysicles,
of the story of our separation, and of my enduring campaign to reach
you by these words. That being said, I have since explained to him
that these letters are quite likely not reaching you, for I have
never received a reply.
“So why do you persist in writing them?” he asked.
“How often have I asked myself that very same thing,”
I sighed. And then I thought some more, and endeavoured to formulate
a respectable answer: “The word Lysicles has become to me
now like a signature scent from my childhood; a kind of rare and
surprising fragrance that will occasionally be discovered in the
present, which, when inhaled, will grant one swift passage by the
wings of Mercury into the brightest hours of departed days. To write
the word Lysicles again and again is merely a means to return to
a time when the world was easy and careless, filled with the pleasures
of perfect touch and the rush of a marauding friendship twixt two
boys in love. To write the word Lysicles is, I think, to write to
myself. And yet, I suppose it also a missive unto Hope. It is a
persistent belief despite the absurdity of believing. It has lost
all meaning, yet is nonetheless meaningful.”
I turned back to him to discover Vitalis looking at me very oddly.
“You think me a fool,” I said. But he quickly shook
his head: “I find in your tenacity a nobility unlike any I
have ever witnessed.” I laughed at that, for it struck me
as very inaccurate, and poor Vitalis seemed to take offense: “Do
not laugh, Antinous.” And there was silence between us, for
I was suddenly humbled by him. He reached up and touched the small
stack of blank parchment upon the table, which, although intended
as a common workspace, was openly acknowledged by the boys of the
dormitory to be mine alone. “Where do you procure such a quantity
of this fantastic stuff?” he asked.
“I have allies both upon and beyond the Palatine who are quite
ready to supply me with an endless stack of it.” And I was
thinking of Mordanticus and Maltinus, respectively. I experienced
a fleeting thought with regard to the fact that recently, it has
been Mordanticus who has replaced my former tutor as provider of
the lion’s share of my materials – something which I
suddenly realized I have taken for granted. I resolved that I would
need to find a way to thank him…).
Anyway, Vitalis asked if he might steal a leaf of paper, and I quite
readily agreed: “Do you think I am so prolific as to be able
to go through all of this stack tonight? By all means, my friend,
take it, and take a reed, and write whatever you will.” That
was half an evening ago. And lo, I have just looked up from this
and turned to gaze upon him. He, in turn, was staring at me, and
upon being discovered looked down in embarrassment. I have no doubt
now that Vitalis feels for me a great love, and I am extremely happy
to be its recipient. I, too, feel a fondness for him and a burgeoning
sense of excitement at the prospect of tasting his flesh. Although
we shall need to be quiet, perhaps tonight we shall abut our beds
together for a time.
You’ll forgive me, Lysicles, if I put this reed to rest. Though
I love you always, I am suddenly hard, and Vitalis continues to
gaze at me. By Cupid, I desire him! A.