… and light spills in a flood like a hundred golden urns pouring out of the sun.
Is anyone else not ok? Like show of hands who was desperate to actually watch the boys reunite? Everyone? Ok, great.
Incoherent with relief the words sound familiar. I have thought them before. My heart races. Not the memory of my heart, but my real true blood rushing, thudding to life, pulsing heavy in my ears, heating the surface of my skin.
Patroclus! he is the first to speak. His beautiful voice. But it cracks with panic. I was distracted, too overwhelmed to ask why he does not hold me: now I wonder how many seconds his hand has been pressed to my stomach, grasping to stem the blood. It floods between his fingers, down his wrists. And the pain which has for years been a dream returns in pounding downbeats. A spear. Bruising rocks below the wall. Patroclus, you’re hurt!
He is slower to illuminate, his shadow weaker. I would cling to him but am seized with fear I cannot keep him. It had happened to Orpheus. Tears rush, the gold of his hair bleached and brittle, dangling to his waist. I cannot see this. Patroclus, y-your bleeding. A plea so strangled no one would know him but me. I am sick. He’s as skinny as the day he fell. His lips are parched. There are deep, puffy shadows beneath his eyes. He stares at me, eyes unable to land. Hector had kicked my teeth in. My skin is in rags. And the panic in his beautiful eyes. I cannot see this.
Patroclus, he chokes. And I realize what has happened. He waited for me at the mouth of the underworld. He has had years to go mad. Th-they offered me water … to forget. They said it would make it stop … that I could move on. His breath rattles. Oh, Patroclus, I couldn’t!
I can’t hear this anymore. My Achilles allowed to lose his mind when someone should have made him pass into the underworld, made him forget. They let him wait here and worry like an abandoned dog. I say, I would have found you.
He tenses, flushing to life. Patroclus, I’m so tired. There is color again, his irises a shocking green in their bloodshot whites. I reach to touch him. As gently as possible. His flesh is priceless gold to me. He seizes my hand but his grip is light. I look down and tendons stand in the ghost’s hand with the effort to make me feel him. When I find Hades, I will kill him for leaving him here. I think this and it does not even register as absurd.
And then I feel it. The sting of my wound lessening. A sharp pain in my wrist — I forgot it had been crushed by a chariot wheel- and then it ebbs away. The blood stops, and my flesh closes beneath his hand. For a moment there is wonder on his face. Then he is sobbing again. I know, he says, I thought about it. I thought—I thought that it would be easier for you.
Achilles, it doesn’t matter. You have me.
I mean if I forgot all of it. It would be easier for you if I did not know you. You were so loyal, he says miserably, if I ran to you, you would not stop me. You would never be unkind. His face blanches. I let you go.
He thinks I cannot forgive him, that at this moment I am only being patient. I take both his hands and fold them against my chest, chaffing warmth into his arms. You’re freezing, love.
He turns his face away from me. I was so selfish, he whispers You. Briseis. It was because of me. I let you go.
Hector, I correct him.
His shoulders drop in hopelessness. I breath and begin to comb through his hair with my fingers. I will see its sunshine return.
What are you doing? he says sharply, not looking at me. He’s never spoken to me this way before. Bitter.
Taking care of you.
He stands rigid, angry, as I smooth his hair, clean away his tears. When I lean to kiss his swollen eyes, he barks enough! Stop it, Patroclus, enough! You’re dead because of me don’t you understand that?!
He sees my tears.
I should comfort you he whispers. His face is scorched with humiliation. I know that face. Aristos Achaion can’t stop crying and he hates it.
My lip trembles. He is right. I do want that. More than anything I want our life together, his hand on my cheek, his lips in my hair. All this which is gone from me. How do I say you were worth my life?
He crushes me against him, rubbing his face against me like a young child. I’m sorry, Patroclus, I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Philtatos, my beloved, you can’t go. I’m sorry. I can’t do this, you can’t go anywhere from me again please, you can’t, I’m so sorry.
I listen, stroking his back the way he likes. This was his bad dream. The one I had woken to when we were boys and he has been so embarrassed. Awkwardly, I had held him. The memory is sharp and lucid again. I hold his face and press my nose to his. I remember that. The boy in my arms. Joy I will never lose, will never see taken from me again.
Patroclus, I love you.
I tighten myself around Achilles and he is again a miracle.
Listening to Damien Rice, 9 Crimes and I Don’t Want to Change You.