A Place in the World
Do you suppose I should be showing these epistles to Hadrian?
For several days has this question been lurking in my skull, and
I am unsure how to rout it. Actually, that’s not quite true.
I know exactly how to get rid of it: I must make a decision! But
I’ve no idea what to decide.
If I tell him that I write to you, will he be jealous? If I tell
him that these letters are never sent, will he think me mad? Will
he admonish me for setting his private world to paper? Will he be
bored by it? Will he even have time to read what I write? Do I delude
myself to think that such scribblings are important enough to the
emperor to command his attention?
And yet, why should I feel compelled to show him? Are they not a
private correspondence between you and I? (Or rather, ‘twixt
my brain and itself?) It is difficult not to consider the fact that
my chamber has been furnished with an abundance of parchment, reeds,
and several wells of ink. This must surely suggest to me that Hadrian
(Or Phlegon? Or Macedo?) is aware of my penchant for writing, and
thinks it worthy of encouragement. Perhaps it is enough for them
to know that I am kept out of trouble.
It has occurred to me that my letters, regularly deposited in the
stables, might still indeed be accessed by determined others. If
the Frumentarii approached Anaxamenos and demanded to see what I
was writing, there would be no way for him to refuse. Then again,
why would they even bother to ask? Why not simply access the cabinet
on their own when Anaxamenos was absent? Am I being paranoid? Assuredly.
And such a state is downright comic, given that the content of these
letters is nothing seditious. And yet, owing to my experience with
Gryllus, I assert that I can be forgiven for assuming that someone
with some considerable degree of imperium is reading what I am writing
and reporting (or showing) it to Hadrian. Perhaps he is amused by
it, for certainly, if he was angered, would I not be ordered to
Are you reading this now, Hadrian? Are you spying on me? Then know
this: I love you! And since you are here, O gorgeous king, you might
as well remain with me while I recount to Lysicles my most recent
days (and nights!).
As I’m sure he will avouch, Hadrian is a wonderful and rabid
lover. Our exchange of pleasures is always fun, adventurous, and
sublimely sensual. I take great pride in keeping myself perpetually
at the ready for him, and have begun to interpret his physical signals
with evermore accuracy and aplomb. There is the sideways glance
to me when he is trapped in the company of bromides; a calculating
eyebrow launched in my direction. More brazenly, there was the occasion
two days ago when we were standing amid a small crowd of courtiers
following the reception of dignitaries from Gaul. I had placed myself
to the side, so as not to be in Hadrian’s way. But he made
a point of passing close to me, and I felt the nonchalant brush
of the back of his hand across my groin. When I turned to look at
him, he was rubbing that same patch of skin upon his beard. I smiled
at him, and he returned to his guests with a knowing smile of his
own. And suddenly I grew hard, causing me much private embarrassment.
Predictably, the man took great pleasure as he casually watched
me struggle to conceal my bulge. Yet the moment his audience was
gone, Hadrian swept me into his chamber and had me. It was a most
joyous and playful afternoon!
Never does Hadrian demonstrate such physical ardour with his wife.
Yet that is not to say they are frigid to one another. Indeed, his
relation to Sabina appears quite friendly and affectionate, especially
when they are privately settled within their residences. To my person
Sabina is always cordial, and even at times warmly inclusive, which,
admittedly, came as a bit of a surprise given my first impression
of her at dinner last year. For her entertainment she dotes on the
energetic company of Commodus, but in his absence retains several
distinguished women who supply a seemingly endless stream of conversation,
laughter and physicality. Indeed, they seem to be a very tightly
knit circle of friends, for she rarely ventures into the streets
of Rome without at least three of them by her side.
All of this to preface the fact that my perception of the Palatine
has shifted. Whereas before it always presented to me a rather cold
and hostile place, I am suddenly finding it somewhat more like a
home. No doubt, this is owing to the physical intimacy that I now
share with its master. But more substantially, I believe it is on
account of a greater sense of certainty that I am experiencing with
regard to my place in the world. I am indeed the Favourite, and
as such have a clear understanding of where I belong. There is great
comfort in that.
It was alluded to in his acceptance when the Senate bestowed on
him the mantle of Father. But now it has become explicit, and Hadrian
is earnestly making his travel plans. His sights are set on a vast
crescent of provinces that encircle the eastern Mediterranean. It
is an ambitious, multi-year itinerary – one that I am thrilled
to be able to experience at his side. Plans are already underway
to arrive at Athens in time for the Eleusian Mysteries, which Hadrian
intends to embrace. “And you too shall take them,” he
casually informed me last night.
This, then, is my world, Lysicles. I am admitted to the inner sanctum
of a great, beating heart of opulence and power, where want is vanquished
at a whim and desires are easily sated. And yet, such a state is
nothing. Far more real to me is when I catch sight of Hadrian in
his most human of activities: at his toilet; in the picking of his
teeth and the blowing of his nose; at the height of sexual ecstasy
and the rumbling slumber of a body wearied by the day’s activities.
I suppose it is these things that render me truly happy, for in
them I see the authentic Hadrian that is my ardent lover. The pomp
of his purple robes is as uninteresting to me as it is, I suspect,
I think of you daily and smile. A.