Because he knew I liked classical,
my boss gave me tickets to go hear
a performance at the Herbst Theater.
They were good seats, but I didn't
care for the contemporary classical
music they were playing that night.
At the intermission, I stayed out
on the balcony. I was too moody
for a glass of wine, so I sipped
my carbonated water and squeezed
the wedge of lime to flavor it.
As the others went back inside,
Pavlovian dogs responding to the chime,
I walked over to the stone railing,
and stared out over Van Ness.
The moon, almost full, loomed large
just over the dome of City Hall.
Then I realized I was not alone.
A man stood looking out as I had been,
his hair was mostly gray, cut short,
and he himself was trim and fit.
I swear it was Neil Armstrong.
I could feel my face flush in the cool
evening air, too cool for obscuring fog.
No, it couldn't be. Why would he be here?
A dozen questions fought for supremacy
in my mind. Do you still fly?
Were you scared on Gemini 8?
How did it feel to be the first man?
I looked from the moon back over
to the man. Was it really him?
And then I remembered
what I had read about him.
He was shy, reticent. Warm once
you got to know him, became his friend.
He was not aloof, but even
the other astronauts said they
didn't know what he was thinking.
And weren't a man's thoughts private?
I realized how much in temperament
he and I were alike. Would I want him
to come over here and ask me
what I was thinking? No, I wouldn't.
And then he walked past me, heading back
to the theater, and we just nodded silently
to each other as he passed. I looked back
to the moon and the distance there seemed less,
as the gulf between me and others
also seemed smaller, one that could be crossed.
* * * * *
This poem was written in response to a prompt at Big Tent Poetry to write about "standing on a balcony with someone you've read about in the paper". I don't read the paper, but I am reading A Man on the Moon by Andrew Chaikin.