The Limelight
by Bryan R. Monte

For Jerome Caja

You were the tall, thin, blond boy with thick glasses
That pinched your long, freckled nose
Your neckerchief missing, your cap askew
Your blue shirt open to your milky waist
Shouting your older brother’s profanities
Into the thick backstage curtains
As you forced me into a white sheet
To play the Virgin in the Christmas pageant
Where’d they get a girl to play Mary?
A man standing next to my mother asked.

The next summer, lying next to you in a tent
Listening to the scoutmasters’ late night card playing
And the sigh of the dim yellow Coleman lamp
Drift across the wet meadow, I thought I’d scanned
Some understanding in your head
Which had decoded my urgent telepathy
Before I finally asked you to hold my hand.
You gave it to me reluctantly
Then half an hour later took it away
You told all the boys the next day.

From then there was no reaching you
Separated into different classrooms
I begged your new teacher to bring us together
In the parking lot during recess.
You called me a fag and ran away shouting
I’m only going to hang out with the cool people
And so you did.
At the monthly Boy Scout campouts
I’d lie on the grass
Next to a tent no one would share
As you led the other boys on a hike
Into the woods to smoke cigarettes
Or to look at your older brother’s porn
While I read science fiction novels
About spaceships traveling at light speed
Or practised pushing the clouds
Through the afternoon sky.

Then a newspaper article ten years later
Seemed to tell a different story
The bad boy turned social worker/seminarian
Busy with a flock of adoring, teenage youth
At the inner city Catholic mission
But the five by seven inch photo
With your shoulder length hair
Surrounded by young delinquents
Seemed a bit too photogenic
And eight years later
While writing my radio news script
You face floated up again,
Framed by stringy, blond hair
Your unmistakable long, freckled nose
Above double rows of black and white lipstick
On the front page of the gay newspaper
A “recovering Catholic,”
Who frequented the parks
The Wednesday night mistress
Of jockstrap Jello wrestling
The alternative candidate
For Royal Court Queen
Your anorexic body wrapped
In a see-through plastic gown,
Red, blue and clear water pouches
With swimming goldfish,
Designed for your art school graduation
Your Sacred Heart Circle Jerk
And Flossing with Jesus
Hanging in two different San Francisco galleries
Your nailpolish, white-out and enamel self-portrait,
The Birth of Venus in Cleveland,
Wearing only a bra and fishnet stockings,
In the Smithsonian Americana Collection.

The coincidence of who we are
And who we know and how we change
And pass out of each other’s lives
Pulled apart by the same current
Only to surface years later
In the same seaside city
Thousands of miles away
Still playing the same roles
The introvert and the celebrity
As you loll in a black, slit evening dress
To the hoots of your tattooed, leather friends
As I cover the alternative nightclub benefit
Then rush off to my next event
In another part of the city
Losing my chance to speak to you again.
The same as in the beginning
Left to my books and daydreams
You still holding the limelight.