Feb 28, 2006

Under the silence of Remus

When they told him his brother was dead he didn't cry. Sometimes I wake up wondering about that. Worrying about them even though it doesn't matter and even though the brother who lived has been dead now for thousands of years. It doesn't matter but I worry about the holes. People tell different stories and in different ways but they never come to what worries me. There are these holes, these gaps they leave in the stories.

They were brothers. Twins. Born together and together thrown into a wilderness river and washed up under the twin signs of their god, the wolf and the woodpecker. Together they were raised by a shepherd and when they came of age they warred together, the two of them, they won together and they lead as twins. As a pair - Remus and Romulus, Romulus and Remus.

And then the stories cut to the day, the day they were standing there and Romulus turned to his brother and said there doesn't need to be any war between us. Even though so far as we know there isn't war between then, though until he declares this peace there had always been peace between them. His brother was silent. In the stories he doesn't speak. Romulus speaks, separating himself from him brother.Let us see which of us the god favors, Romulus said, which of us ought to found a city.

And so they did. They went looking for the favor of god, one up to a hill and the other down to a wood, looking for the god's word carried by birds and counted by their number. They hold the contest, the count, and this contest wasn't like when they wrestled as healthy infants. This was a contest for keeps, a match marking the space between them that will never close. This is the hole: we don't know why. The stories say what was said and then they say they did it and they don't say why, what happened between them.

Romulus won. The god favored him by double, by 12 to 6, and the city was his to start, his to name, his to rule alone. And so he did. He laid out a square, in full ceremony he plowed with a golden plow hooked to a white bull and a white cow. He sacrificed the white bull and he sacrificed the white cow and called upon the god and he gave it his name. He set to work on a wall and his farmers set to work on the wall. As they worked he told them stories, about how it would be. This wall, he said, no one will cross this wall and if they do they will die.

While they were working his brother came back. He came back and watched and didn't know what to do with himself and was he, I wonder, just lonely. Just bored. Remus watched and thought of something funny and laughed. He jumped over the line, and jumped back to the other side. I'm jumping over the wall of the great city, he said. One of the farmers heard him, saw him, and hit him and he died Remus mocked the wall, he would say. He laughed.

And when his brother heard he didn't cry. This wall will keep out enemies, he said. If you cross this wall you are an enemy and you will be struck dead. He ignored the taboo about killing your brother and called him by another name, ignored the taboo about spilling blood in the space dedicated to the god, and we don't know why. He talked about the wall, about the wall as if he'd fogotten his brother was his brother and this is the second hole: He began to build and when he looked from inside that square with his name he called his brother the enemy.

I don't know why.

I don't know why these brothers bother me. Maybe it's just the holes and the way it only feels like half a story. I worry at it like I'm worrying about that, like I'm looking for the piece that got left in the grass, for the voice that never got to speak. Remus' bad luck. The way the story turns on something I don't know. But then I wonder why I pulled up some story, some anecdote from arcania and wrote it down to worry about. And I wonder maybe, when I wake to worry, that maybe this has nothing to do with Remus or Romulus or Rome at all.