I go to work early in the morning now. It’s so early that the sky is dark and the busses are mostly empty and there is no one to take the taxis, which drive around looking like lost hearses. I’m not sure why but the cold and the dark and smell of cigarettes and water washing the sidewalks remind me of Barcelona in the middle of the night, sometime after three am. I’m especially not sure of why I’m reminded of a time when I arrived in Barcelona late in the night, well after all the hostels had been filled, and I figured that I could just go out and then wander the city until the morning and sleep on the beach when the sun came up. I did, more or less, exactly that, except it was awful and nothing like I’d imagined and it took me a few days to recover. Not from sleeplessness but from the sharpest and most staggering loneliness.
A lot of things happen in Barcelona between the hours of three and eight in the morning, beyond partying, but just as lonely and strange. Trash collection, street cleaning, deliveries, all kinds of transportation. Nothing, as far as I can tell, happens between those hours of the early morning in San Francisco. Entire stacks of boxes wait untouched outside of retail stores. The homeless sleep on the street unmoving, unmoved, almost inviting. Coffee shops show no sign of ever opening, or having opened. The streets can lay largely untouched until mid morning, when everything has more or less moved on anyway.
I’m still reminded, in a searching sort of way, of that sad, balmy air and bluish black light of Barcelona at four AM when no one is looking. It’s may be because I don’t party much now, and because I haven’t been back there in years, and because the charm of loneliness is wearing off. And nothing here is really like anything in Barcelona, which may or may not be a bad thing, but it’s getting harder to tell.