We were young. That is what made it so good.
I was living in southern Oregon at the time and we’d gone to San Francisco for a long weekend. The whole fall my friend Shayla and I had been living in a cabin, up the mountain half an hour from town. And we didn’t have cars. Or internet.
Shayla was a smoker and we weren’t allowed to smoke on our porch or near the cabin because the fire risk is so high and no one could afford fire insurance. So, each night we’d risk death walking in the pitch dark (or with a mag light, if we remembered) on a path that wound around a gritty mill pond to a block of cement where smoking was allowed. This was the best time of day. Did you know that you can see more stars on top of a mountain than you can anywhere else? That had never occurred to me before though it seems really obvious now.
Before San Francisco we’d gone backpacking. I’d learned how to fly fish for the occasion. High up in a mountain eleven hours by car away from the one I was living on, we ate fish we’d caught that day and cooked over a fire. You can pack spray butter and pepper, and it’s pretty good but you have to be a nazi about picking the bones out of your mouth. We’d gone car camping in Brookings, on the coast. I slept on the beach one of those nights. Nothing looks like a beach does under the moonlight. The girls snuck off around a cliff from the boys. We held hands in a circle naked in the water for awhile. Everyone else went home and Brian and Kim and I spent the night talking and curled into our sleeping bags on the sand. The water sounded nice all night.
San Francisco was a break from our crunchy granola season. We met people there who actually weren’t in the middle of reading The Brother’s Karamosov (literally everyone else we knew). We met boys in the park one night in Ashland but the only books we could get them to talk about were The Hardy Boys.
In San Francisco we wanted to go to a fancy dinner because neither Shayla nor I had ever been to one apart from with our families, and because it was just so different than what we had been doing. We had to shave our legs for the occasion. We weren’t fancy people at the moment, but we were dinner people at the moment. All our occasions back on the mountain were dinners we had to get rides into town to prepare for. This time we wouldn’t have to cook.
We’d been walking around the city for a few days at that point. We found the perfect place on top of a hill in little italy. We spent forever at a table outside eating our meal. Men kept coming up to talk to us, which was weird (our culture and age made this novel). The best part was the espresso. And the conversation. There are some times when you are young that you are very aware of your life stretching out in front of you and this was one of them. We talked about coming back to live there after we graduated college.
Our bill was $50, which was the most we’d ever paid for a meal out.
We had plans later that trip to have a bonding experience with Paul and Karson and we asked our waiter what we should do that we would never forget and he told us some places. We walked home and found some friends and went down to the pier to smoke. After everyone had gone to bed that night I went outside again and cried because I was so happy.