Less than a month after moving to San Francisco in 2005, my roommates and I threw a party. Between us we probably knew about three people total in the city. Somehow, though, the party attracted dozens. I’d walk through our apartment and find people sitting on the steps strumming a guitar, or sitting against a bedroom wall having an intense discussion. The bathroom line seemed to snake to Fillmore. I didn’t know any of them. I didn’t care.
Meanwhile out back we had a huge backyard, with two huge trees. We’d strung them with orange Halloween lights that dimly shown over the hammock, dirt-pocked lawn, and lord knows what keg of beer we could afford. At some point I found myself in the crook of a tree limb, maybe fifteen feet above ground. I looked over and there was Mark, the same guy who would be my roommate in a year’s time, my best man in six years, and a lifelong friend until he realizes I’m writing online posts about him (because stuff will get weird, you know?)
At that point, though, I had no idea who he was. Looking back, though, I don’t think there is any more perfect place than to find him in a tree.
Despite this history, and all of our memories–camping in Pt. Reyes, creating a box slide down our 3rd floor steps, and chasing (ex)girlfriends across Michigan and California–it’s probably no exaggeration to say that most of our time together (and some of my best memories of being with him) has been spent between 10pm and 1am. Night hiking through the Presidio, staring at the roaring ocean at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge, pipe smoking walks through the neighborhood, reading historical markers in the rain, sipping beers under a canopy before heading home.
These are the twilight memories of a sustained friendship. Of making time to re-emerge into the world once most people have retired. Of climbing trees while the party rages below.
Recently I picked him up and we headed to Ocean Beach. We walked the long spit of sand to the moonlit surf. The sky clouded up as the tide rose, pushing us back into the collecting tide pool of soft sand and strewn tree trunks. The few bonfire groups were on their last embers as we looked toward Marin and debated how the lights of a stalled freighter could look like a ghost town. Someone for some reason lit a floating lantern, and we watched silently as the lighter-than-air lamp lifted into the sky by the soft glow of the candle engine.
I know what you’re thinking: “Aww, isn’t that romantic?”
But, seriously: grow up.
The point isn’t the poetry. It’s that this was just another night. It was actually quite unremarkable in the annals of our late night escapes. We walked, sipped some rye whiskey, got tired, and headed home. Like we’d done dozens of times before.
Really the only thing remarkable at all about the night was that as we pulled up, and my car headlights shone on the concrete barrier between city and sea, Spoon’s “Do You” came on the radio and Mark said, “Wait. Who’s this?” And so we waited. And listened. And when it was done we got out of the car, walked down the steps to the shore, and set out.