We would go walking at night.
The night wore a chill, so we would match and wear coats, sometimes gloves, so that we could carry mugs of red wine. We wouldn’t have anything to talk about specifically, it was just nice to get out of the warmth of the house, away from all of our screens.
I remember my coat was too large for me, and yours was a bit too small for you.
The neighborhood we lived in had wide open windows, with brightly lit living rooms and we would try not to stare at the families eating, or the students watching films, or the man finishing his paper. We would only stop if the house was empty, and we would comment on the artwork on the walls, or the dishes left out.
I was smoking a pipe at the time, an affectation that I wasn’t quite good at – and I never would be. You were trying to smoke herbal cigarettes for a while, because they were supposed to enhance your dreams, or at least allow you to remember them. A Disney mug of red wine in one hand, something to smoke in the other. Hands full of vices.
Our conversations would invariably turn to girlfriends, if we had them, or girls, if we didn’t. We weren’t shy about sex while we walked, or embarrassments. If a girl shouted something unexpected, or if a technique didn’t work like we wanted, we would lay it out in front of one another to analyze.
Once, on a walk, we saw a four-story tree house, and we barely had to talk at all before we were sneaking onto the lawn, dodging security floodlights, holding each other’s mugs while we maneuvered up the rope ladder to the top floor. The tree was enormous, the floor of the treehouse was covered in leaves, and we looked out, back the way we came. We sipped at our wine and we smiled and chatted for a while.
“We should bring a bottle of wine next time,” You said. But we never did go back.
Sometimes I’d feel like walking but you wouldn’t, so I’d walk to the kid’s park near the house and swing on the swings for a while, jumping off into the sand. I would stop into the 7-11 on the way back and buy scratchers and Snickers bars, throw one to you, then continue on to my room. Other times I’d see you grab your coat, pour yourself a mug of wine, and leave, tipping an imaginary hat to me.
The walk would bring us by the same houses, even though it never seemed like we were turning the same turns. We didn’t like to think of ourselves as creatures of habit, even if we were.
Other people would join us sometimes, and it would feel like a walking party, or like an adventure crew.
Three people meant jumping over walls, or hatching schemes for pranks, or smoking pot from a one-hitter. They weren’t philosophical, or quiet.
We walked to your girlfriend’s house once. We saw her in her room, a silhouette. Her lights were off except for the twinkle bulbs you had put up. She was playing with her hair, letting it down putting it back up. We watched through a hedge that was dying, and my heart was beating fast.
I had dated her once, that girl of yours. Long before you met her. I was glad when she was back in my life, because we didn’t date long enough to become enemies or friends. I remember thinking, back at the window, that I would slink home if need be, but I didn’t want to. I wanted to play board games with you two, find more wine for our mugs, watch as you two held hands surreptitiously, putting a little effort into making me feel less like a third wheel.
I remember you went off and married her, that girlfriend of yours, while I stayed in that house on that block a while longer. I was always impressed with you, the Dr. Watson to your Sherlock Holmes. I could never read people like you could, or see situations as clearly. Everything was always reminding me of something that happened to me earlier, or I was trying to figure out how to describe how everything made me feel. While I was coming up with a new way to describe a melancholy nostalgia, you were sizing up rooms and situations, referencing codes that we had made for party situations and explaining a prank we could play, a con we could run.
I wish, sometimes, we had gone to solve mysteries or pull off elaborate confidence schemes… anything, anything other than pulling apart, keeping in contact with letters and text messages and e-mails. I think back to the house we shared with all of our friends, and the walks we took.
There was the time we had taken loaves of bread that still had 5 days until their printed expiration date – edible, but unfit to be sold. We fit the loaves into mailboxes, with type-written notes that explained how the loaf had come to be in a mailbox. We were together, all of us, 5 people laden with loaves in the night. Eventually our housemates went to sleep but we stayed up, walking, our hands in our pockets, smiling at our handiwork.
I tried to draw us walking, once. I can’t draw. I ended up sketching myself as comically taller than you, even though I was really only 3 or 4 inches taller. When I finished with us, I drew the street lamp, the sidewalk that we hardly used because cars barely ever drove the streets past 10 pm. We were in the middle of the street and I wrote down, “A walk. 2 A.M.”
I walk by myself now, sometimes. The people where I live now shut their curtains. I sip from a flask, I murmur a toast to you.