Oh Moon, Thou Climb’st The Skies
By Jeff Baker
The weather was warm, the rainbow flags were flying and I was feeling as conspicuous as hell in my “Nobody Knows I’m Bi” t-shirt.
“Relax,” Schuyler said. “You’re as stiff as…well, this is a party! It’s Pride Month! Gay Mardi Gras!”
“Yeah,” I said.” But if we weren’t 1,400 miles away from Wichita, I probably wouldn’t be wearing the shirt,” I said.
“Hey, Billy,” Schuyler said. “Coming out isn’t easy for anybody. But you’re here, you’re wearing that cool shirt and nobody’s going to…Hey! Hey! Over here!”
Schuyler waved, and two people waved from across the street full of waving flags. They were about my age, twenty-something; the girl with long blond hair, jeans and a white tee-shirt with rainbow stripes around the middle; the guy in black jeans, a black tank top and a rainbow striped top hat. Striped top hat looked like he was feeling no pain.
“Guys!” Schuyler said. “Meet a friend of mine, he’s just out.”
“Wha?” the girl said. The crowd was getting pretty loud.
“I said, THIS IS BILLY GONZALEZ,” Schuyler yelled. “WE WENT TO SCHOOL TOGETHER. HE JUST CAME OUT A WHILE BACK!”
“Hey,” the guy said, flashing a peace sign. He introduced himself as Leo. The girl was Melinda. I allowed myself a lingering glance at Leo’s bare arms.
“Let’s sit down over here,” Melinda said. “Less noisy.”
The makeshift outdoor café was further away from the street. We sat down at the table and ordered drinks. Schuyler finished his in a couple of gulps. Then he had another one. Like Leo, he was feeling no pain. He’d done the same thing when we were in college.
“This makes me think of France,” Schuyler said. “About eighty-four or eighty-three. The Queen wasn’t too crazy about me so I went there,”
“I got some queens who don’t like me, either.” Leo said.
“Yeah, but I remember us marching through France on a street like this and they were waving flags a lot like this,” Schuyler said. “Or, maybe it wasn’t France. Maybe it was further north. I think it was. Sir Phillip was with me.”
Schuyler always got like this when he was drunk. Harmless, but nuts.
“We were heading through Zutphen. That was when the Spanish came,” he said. He was speaking strangely accented English. He’d done it before. “They were going to engage us. We were near the water. I had lost one of my cuisses in the long march. Sir Phillip gave me his, saying ‘Edward! I will not be better-armored then my own men and he bade me take his.’”
“Ooooooo!” Leo said.
“Oh, Phillip, Phillip, the arrow came too fast,” Schuyler said. “And you, un-armored in your thigh. I could never profess my love.” Then he began reciting:
“With how sad steps, Oh Moon, thou climb’st the skies,
How silently and with how wan a face…”
All this sounded familiar. One night in the dorm, Anthony Cardno, a psych major, had hypnotized Schuyler and supposedly taken him back over 400 years in his own memory. I’d remembered a lot of it and had told one of my professors a while later, and he was amazed at all the detail. Detail he’d said Schuyler couldn’t have known. Schuyler was no history geek; he thought the American Revolution had something to do with RPMs. And he didn’t give a damn about poetry. Especially Elizabethan poetry. Reincarnation, or somehow picking up on lives of people who had lived before, wasn’t the strangest thing I’d run into.
“He’ll be okay,” I said. “I’ll get him to the hotel and he’ll sleep it off.”
“You’re a good friend, Billy,” Melinda said.
“Yeah,” Leo said.
They both stood up and kissed me. In public. I was surprised. I smiled.
“Happy Pride,” Leo said.
I was remembering the lines I’d heard before:
Those lovers scorn whom that love doth possess?
Do they call virtue there ungratefulness?
I sat back, feeling a lot more relaxed. Sometimes, you have to be who you are.