1501 c/o Timothy Raymond

In Which Amerigo Vespucci Rediscovers the Stars

Over time we forgot our closest and most precious stars. But I’m here to find them for us again. Coelho doesn’t believe in me, and he doesn’t care. He is standing on the deck outside knocking on my door. I am pretending that I’m somewhere else.

He waits until he hears me shifting papers, then he just comes in.

“I need you outside,” he says.

“I’m busy,” I say.

“We’re far past where we thought the continent was supposed to end,” he says.

The thing is, what we don’t know is far less important to me than what we knew and then lost. I remember the old maps from school. I remember the systems that they tracked in the sky. Of Centauri, of the Crux. But then you look up in the sky and you don’t see them. The Greeks swore by those stars, but now they're gone. These are the kinds of lies that you don’t allow for a boy.

The Italians didn’t care. The Portuguese were at least mildly interested, though they told me that Patagonia was the number one priority.

That’s how they said it, “Number one.”

So I'm here for proof. See, the stars are my number one. But Coelho and his men look at me like I am those stupid, missing stars.

“I am the captain,” says Coelho. “Get outside and bring your goddamn maps.”

A few nights ago I left my cabin and watched the water outside. You could see very little of it, even in the moonlight. We appeared to be in space.

There were men on the deck sweeping and organizing. They saluted me and snickered like children.

For an hour I just watched, then just above the horizon were unfamiliar stars, brighter than any I had seen. There they were. I didn't need a scope to see them.

It is June, 1501. It has taken six months to find these stars. By candlelight I drew out a simple map, shoddy directions for how to find them again the following nights. Now days later I’m still trying to get it right.

I will get it right.

I go outside eventually and find Coelho. He is reaching out at the land like an idiot. He asks me if there’s gold there.

“There’s gold everywhere,” I say. “For God’s sake.”

Somewhere below deck the crew has found a stowaway. Coelho tells me they’re taking his clothes. He chuckles a little. I stand at the table there and sketch coastline while he watches. I see an estuary.

I think that in time all things are forgotten. The earth changes speed and rhythm and, like the stars, we all fall below the horizon and die, out of sight. The earth comes back around and lets us rediscover certain things we’ve missed. But it takes time, and some things remain hidden. I have seen stars that others haven’t seen. I will tell these people, but I will not see the stars again, except in my mind and in my maps. Maybe that's the way it should be. Not long after my findings are published, I will be buried like Coelho and his friends.

I wonder if they'll forget us too.