The point where the Emperor Septimius Severus, on a visit to "Londinium", first spots our heroine, Zuleika, among the crowd at the theatre.
The emperor was in town
and some politicos were staging a show
to suck up to him. Valeria and Aemilia
adorned me beautifully and I wore
my favourite wig, which I'd bought
off an Arabian girl who was waiting tables
at a take-away caff in Bond Court.
It ran black and thick to her buttocks.
Aemilia cut it off there and then
and took it straight to my wig-maker
in Threadneedle Street. Now it's piled up
in intricate plaits and twists
with ivory combs and jangling hairpins
guaranteed to make ears prick up
upon my arrival anywhere. Felix left
three weeks ago. Dad sent me a theatre ticket -
I wasn't in the mood, my mind wandered
inside itself where it was happiest.
Was this the highlight of my day?
My week? My month? Was this my life?
Then strangely I felt heat on my right cheek,
as if a flaming torch were being held too close.
The emperor was seated on a throne
some distance to my right, surrounded
by the excited hullaballoo of the male hoi poloi,
and I knew without looking
that his desert eyes were roaming over
my voluptuous corpus, my breasts
had become a sensitive second pair of eyes.
I glanced slyly over. I was right.