Oakland, CA

Run. That’s the first rule.

“If you see Security, just run,” he tells me while his friend hops over the rod-iron gate to welcome us into the cemetery.

We’re all a little buzzed, a little cold, and a little restless. It’s nearly midnight and there are no responsibilities the next day for these thirty-somethings.

The three of us start on the path up the cemetery’s hillside. A view of a sparkling San Francisco from the top, our prize. Slowly, we veer from the pavement and fan out into the dark, leaving behind the incriminating glow of the path lights and weaving our way around the headstones and trees. We don’t speak. That’s the second rule. And it’s not long before we can’t see each other, the canopy of tree branches blocking out the stars and moon. We’re walking blind over graves and only the squeak of our sneakers occasionally slipping on the dewed grass notifies us that we’re all still here.

I stop and look down towards my feet but can’t make them out. Then, there are no more squeaky sneakers. No sounds of cars in the distance. No breathing but my own.

I wait.

I hear nothing but can sense that I’m not alone.

I clear my throat.

The two fellas whisper from yards away and I find them at the top of the hill, sitting in front of a large tombstone on a concrete bench. One fella removes a tallboy from the inside of his jacket. The other lights his pipe and blows smoke into my mouth.  We watch the lights of San Francisco wink at us from across the bay, and we sit there, smoking and drinking and watching until the night dampens our clothes and the frozen cement stings our skin. Then we pack up our trash, say goodbye to Mr. Tombstone, and stroll down the hill, out the gate and along the Avenue. We were never here. Not at all.

September 2013