How could you never do this, bend your spine so, wrap long legs around his waist, clench one hand in the sheets—or bury it in his hair, you who treat him with no reverence—and let him take you, watch his eyes darken with lust and glimmer with pleasure, his shoulders shake as he pushes in—does he move so in battles I have never seen, with a lion’s grace?—his mouth smile in release and his face sadden in some soft sorrow?
How could you have him so long and keep him your boy and never be his?
You are a relic of childhood and youth, of Greece and Greek savagery, and if he does not put you away, it is because you are so loyal to him, and he is too kind to hurt you. You are the past, my Lord Hephaistion, and all that is left between you is a memory. A memory is all your worth, and I will give him sweeter ones, and you will be put aside, you will fade and you will wither away. Do you not know this, can you not see it, have you not eyes, have you not pride?
I have read the story of Patroklos. Patroklos died. He was forever less than his friend—less royal, less strong, less a warrior, less a man—brought up in his friend’s house, given his friend’s tutor, forever tagging along, lagging behind. His friend asked for a bride to give him, his friend went into war for glory, he for a promise his friend made on his behalf. He tried to make his friend do battle for a glory he did not want. He died for foolish pride.
I know your story. There is nothing in it to be proud of.
They go through the motions like overindulgent parents humouring a spoiled child—they saw him growing up, how many still see the lion-cub and miss the mane? Philotas did—these men who have grown great in his father’s army or in his. Their knees bend, they go down in prostration, they come up to be embraced and kissed, but never do they show reverence, these Macedonians he has let too-loose rein. They none of them understand. But you and I have lived close to the flame, Lord Hephaistion, and have felt its warmth enough to know how it can burn.
You are dead. Let go. Do what it is the dead do, go where they gather. You were given the coins, pay the ferryman and let him take you to the far bank of the Styx. Do not linger, do not remain, do not remind me that you are who he loved best, that you are the one saw him, who he cannot do without, that you hold his heart and mind and life in the palms of your dead, cold hands. You are dead, Hephaistion, let him live. Let me care for him, let him remember how to live.