Hot Metal Bridge

Current Issue : Number Twenty-Five

Men Set Out To Be Heroes


by Deborah Flanagan

Alexander wins so many battles that he loses the war.
–Punjab proverb

Alexander the Great’s twisted neck highlights his peculiar gaze, upward at an angle: he sees his Destiny. His one blue eye and one brown eye make his men feel dewy and feminine. His tactical exploits become the measure by which all generals compare themselves: Achilles is the hero of grief. Alexander wants to be Achilles. Caesar wants to be Alexander and weeps because he achieved so little by the same age. In his zeal to honor, Augustus accidentally breaks the nose off Alexander’s mummified corpse while laying a wreath at his tomb. Napoleon is obsessed with being Caesar. Byron models his carriage on Napoleon’s and buys a lock of his hair. Lawrence of Arabia rides with the Iliad in his backpack. They all follow Alexander’s desire to reach the ends of the world and the Great Outer Sea. On Alexander’s deathbed he leaves his empire to the strongest.

In a past life I am a hero, not a heroine. Naturally, I want to be Alexander and Lawrence and even Byron. Sweep over the civilized, storm the sands. Fight in a foreign land and write an epic about my conquests. The ghosts of heroes are still hungry: a dead man is revived when his name is pronounced. I am the strongest.