“The ancient Romans” said Jamilla as she snapped off the tips of the snow peas and placed them in the pan of water “Connected the notion of slavery with those spared from death. The Latin word “servus” is related to “preserve”. After a battle the conquerors by all rights could commit a massacre. But sometimes they didn’t. The spared some of those destined for death and made them slaves. The slave is the one who is saved.”
Jamilla placed the pan on the stove and lit the kindling. Orange flames caressed the bottom of the pan. Tiny bubbles started to form on the edges of the peas.
“Juanitava used to say she would never be a slave. She says she would have committed suicide, rather than be a slave. Do you agree?”
I looked at her brown eyes trying to see if she was kidding me, but she seemed serious. “No. I wouldn’t.”
“I wouldn’t either. So I lost the war. Why should I die too? Existence is the ultimate gift. The greatest gift. Liberty is good, but it’s good to exist.”
I don’t know if she meant that and never did. Years later we met on the field of battle on a distant star in the Ophiuchus system. We had both learned a lot about the complex of insects and computers that created our bodies, the permutations in space time that preserved them, and world-spanning mucelidelic structures that needed to synchronize in order to maintain the splendidly illusory impression of our separate consciousnesses.
Bodies and thoughts in motion, and constantly meeting and remeeting on the field of battle. Maybe that was the phenomenon that in their primitive, rude vocabulary the ancient poets called love.
Ambrose Bierce used to say a marriage was a partenrship of two masters and two slaves, making in entirety two persons.
Jamilla laughed and with a single stroke of her gladius removed my head.