'You two have history.'
History. Like it's as simple as that. I smile from somewhere else, let her draw her own conclusions. It's so much better to watch someone inflict the worst they can on themselves than to try and fail yourself.
'If you like.'
History. His story. Not really. Linguistic ships crossing in the dark and blindly signalling to one another. Written by the winners. History; from the Greek 'historia'. Inquiry. That's where it comes from. Ripper could probably tell you the book and chapter reference for the first mention of it in context, but I only know the vague outline, the shadowy ghost-pictures of the work as a whole; plot, theme, unity coursing through the threads of narrative and jumble of words.
Greek is a wonderful language for a wonderful people. Full of nice words to catch the tongue and throat as you spit deprecations and string together the images - any images- to form the picture you want. A lot closer to English, actually, fluid. Which may or may not be surprising considering the people.
You wouldn't think it to look at the books today. The American propaganda painting the first democracy as a foreshadowing of its corrupt core, using the veneer of senators and the like in a mock-history of their own. Borrowed culture. The brightly painted buildings and statues washed pure-white over time to look stately and dignified. Which they were, most of the time.
But then, at licensed times all hell broke loose. Dionysian orgies: the Woodstock and then some of their time, phallus-waving actors alongside the solemn old Aeschylean chorus-leader, the pent-up women roaming free and uninhibited... Wonderful, really.
The Romans didn't really have the same scope. The Saturnalia, of course, where the masters waited on the slaves, the neoterics and their new message of love and sex over war and office- but the Romans liked to take from the Greeks with a wary suspicion and temper it down to suit their nature. The idiosyncrasities ironed out of the deities until they were little more than a name. The only lively gods were the cult - imported - ones: Isis, Mithras...
The old gods died and were forgotten, kept on the mantelpiece and paid lip-service. The spirits of rivers and trees had pagan, pastoral tribute but nothing more. Old dictators deified and a mockery made of the religion the new princeps tried to revive. The only names which interested me were Terminus and Janus.
Terminus, the old stick-in-the-mud. The god who would not move for Jupiter himself. Janus. The two-faced god of opposites united. Gods of beginnings and ends.
'You studied together.'
'Yes, we did.'
Although any real student will tell you it isn't what's in the lectures you learn at university. It's the times in between. The lonely times when there are shelves of books, endless tasks and you. The times when it's just you, and the books and the tasks are all gone. The times when you're learning how to live with others, learning how to interact, how to fit together. Or not.
We studied together, he and I. Ablative absolutes, modals, optatives, actives and passives... Studied theology too. A chorus of 'Oh god's in different keys and to who knows and who cares what deity. Reliving Alexander's quest, Achilles' siege (and anger). Learned of the world outside and inside...
History, yes, the history they don't like to tell you about. The Knights Templar. The human sacrifice. The massacres and botch-ups. The small misunderstandings no one ever knows about which lead to bigger- more important things almost everybody does. Not the bits everyone remembers, the bits no one does, or cares to.
'You know him.'
'Of course I know him.'
Out of sequence, out of order, even the son of grey dawn-twilight chaos knows that. But still, there's order in everything. The human mind seeks it, clings to it desperately. The planning behind one of my... presents, the compare and contrasts...
Of course I know him. Know of him. Know him of old. Biblically so, although I'm sure the Bible would never approve of our particular form of knowledge. I'm pretty sure we aren't alone in knowing of the fact, if not knowing it so vividly, larger-than-life and ten times as scary as life and death itself.
There's a reason they are asking me this, now. Perhaps an attempt to wear down the faculties of reason, cut through my self-control, excise me from the loop. Maybe just to see my reaction. Maybe none of this matters to them any more than what it does to me. I could sit here and refuse to answer and the questions would serve them enough.
I know I am being deliberately stubborn, know that in another time, another place (soon, perhaps, and here- or somewhere like here) that stubbornness will come back to haunt me in my sides and in my bones as well as my dreams. For now; questions. Tomorrow?
'We want to know him.'
Ah. So maybe it isn't about me, never was. Maybe that's another line, an attempt to make me react. One way or another. Maybe this isn't important at all. Possibilities, endless possibilities, every moment, every second ripe for the taking, the seizing, the crushing, the swallowing whole...
Nunc est bibendum. Carpe diem. Vivemus atque amemus. Nihil igitur mors est ad nos. Ave Caesar, morituri te salutant.
Now is the time for drinking. Seize the day. Let us live and let us love. Therefore death is nothing to us. Hail, Caesar, those who are about to die salute you.
Funny that the old, stolid, clunky building-blocks Lego-Latin with adjustable order, rearrangeable positions and alignments, shifting emphases and un-poetic lilts is the one we use for magic. I always preferred Greek.
'Of course you do.' So did I.