Say goodbye to your friends and leave them standing in the street deciding what to do next. Don’t get worried when, after you offer your bottle of water to the friend of the guy passed out sitting on a bubbler, the friend hurls the bottle right into his chest and he teeters backwards. They are middle aged and look like they know what they’re doing. Buy another bottle of water at the 7/11 near the place Bam Margera was once at.
Before you realise it, you will be on the bridge, getting wordy to yourself about the view of the city and listening to the cars and marvelling at the size of the girders. How much do you think about metal? You don’t. Why don’t you ever think about metal? Try and remember to think more about metal. Your feet are hurting but it’s early days so they’ll be numb soon. If you live in a city with a river you’re going to follow the river home. If you live near the ocean you’re going to go to the ocean. Wait there until the sun is up and walk home after. Either way, walk beside the cliffs and hold your breath in the gaps between the spotlights until your phone gives out and won’t play music for you anymore. Instead, spook yourself looking in the cold windows the big white boat-shed that they use for weddings. What kind of boats are inside? Who can say?
Forget your feet hurting by the time you see the first person, some guy swerving around the path. It will be secluded here and super dark-nothing but the cliffs and the river, the bike path, the public toilets with teens sometimes smoking on top of them. In the darkness you’ll have gotten yourself real nervous. Remember the last time you were walking here late at night and a ute coasted past slowly, the only light around but for the soft brown glow of the city, and when you looked back along the river you thought you saw them get out suddenly, maybe grabbing a girl you’d just passed.
But the figure coming towards you will just some young guy riding a kid’s skateboard and drinking beer from a bottle, and he’ll say Hey to you before you can say anything, and you’ll remember that, of course, after you’d gone back to look last time, the two men in the ute had just been fishing in the river, of all things. The second and third people you’ll see a little while later will be a couple and they’ll say Hey to you also, and you’ll immediately be back to the walking and wondering how late it will be when you finally get back and if it would be absurd to make yourself a meal. By the time the fourth person comes into sight you’ll be so high on good will that you should to remind yourself that it’s still late and dark and that if this were The Road you would have to be prepared to murder and eat him and his young son.
Then, when you’re only a few blocks from bed, opt to take the back-roads rather than go past the Night Owl. You’ll walk down the middle of a street you haven’t walked down in months. Once, you stood here in the dusk while bats were waking up all around the city, and you watched them fall out of their trees and rise up in clouds together. While you’re thinking about this realise you’re standing outside a tall house at the top of the last hill before your home street. There has obviously been some party here. While you’ve been stopped and dreaming some ladies, four or five of them, have been sitting on their veranda, calling to people in other rooms. You can imagine who they are, listening to them. You can imagine exactly what they will look like as they get older, sitting in the silver light that comes immediately after a party, in the hour before bed when you’re looking for all the lighters. Walk on, leave the last cold breast of early morning air, return and, with grace, make yourself a grilled cheese sandwich.