“There is no night life in Spain. They stay up late but they get up late. That is not night life. That is delaying the day. Night life is when you get up with a hangover in the morning. Night life is when everybody says what the hell and you do not remember who paid the bill. Night life goes round and round and you look at the wall to make it stop. Night life comes out of a bottle and goes into a jar. If you think how much are the drinks it is not night life.”
~ Ernest Hemingway, 88 Poems
I had a small adventure last night.
I drove ten minutes to a girlfriend’s apartment in town and then we took a short stroll to a charming Lebanese restaurant around the corner for an early dinner.
Do you know how many years it has been since I have ventured out at night on my own?
I forget sometimes how much Lyme disease has diminished my life. I’ve learned to live happily within a very small box. So small in fact, that I have become quite distanced and disconnected from things I once took for granted. I counted it. Twelve years. Twelve years since I have been out at night like this on my own to meet a friend for dinner.
Mind you, I didn’t think about that as I drove to my friend’s place. I was too busy concentrating on getting driving right. On listening to the twangy voice on my iPhone navigating me through the streets I once knew by heart. On hoping that parking would be easy and that my brain would work well enough to position the car without disgracing myself. Ben usually drives unless I’m having a very good day. I have not driven a car alone at night for some time. It makes me anxious as a learner.
When I socialise it is usually over breakfast, while I am fresh and have some energy. It’s coffee outings at early-morning cafes, if I am going out at all. By day’s end I am in my pyjamas, I eat early, meditate and retire.
So last night?
It was still an early night by most people’s standards. I met my friend at six. By nine-thirty my night was over, and I drove homewards through Brisbane’s city streets and Fortitude Valley. I was a time-traveller sitting in the safe bubble of my car, my hands clenched tight to the steering wheel. Outside, my usual daytime vista was rendered unrecognisable. Bright lights obscured familiar landmarks. It was as if the world was on a strange tilt.
The restaurants I know only by early morning passings had been transformed from upturned chairs and empty windows to cosy places full of animated people. Queues of rowdy folk milled at traffic lights and outside bars and nightclubs.
Even my own suburban street was unrecognisable in the dark. I never knew one of the neighbours had fairy lights wound through the trees of their front yard just a few houses down from my own. Everything took on a shimmer of unreality.
It stirred memories in me of my younger days, and I was unexpectedly sideswiped by an intense grief. Where had my life gone? All those years between youth and now?
I already knew the answer. I have been at home in my pyjamas, while the world dined, strolled, drank, laughed, partied, romanced.
In my head I’ve been planning holidays for when I am well again. I am finally moving in that direction, so I have given myself permission not to just dream but to plan.
Helpful people keep offering me their kind and well-meaning suggestions. Most of them revolve around meditation retreats, detox places, quiet and solitude and nature.
Don’t get me wrong. I love meditation, my farm, tranquility, nature. But that’s been my life for over twenty years. And sometimes it has felt more like a prison than an oasis.
When I can rouse just a little more energy in these bones, then give me life. Give me people and culture and music and wine. Give me galleries and parties and cocktails. Give me noise and crowds and the thrill of the night.
Let me grab my husband by the hand, dive right in and immerse myself in those bright city lights.
Give me some night life.
I never knew until last night, just how much I’ve missed the throbbing heart of a city, and the part of myself that was once at home there.