I can hear the footsteps of other guests heading toward their cars. One asks if I'd like a ride. No thanks, I say. Not tonight.
Tonight I want to hear the ocean to my right as I walk along the dark street. My own shoes on the pavement, my breath going in and out. The sound of a small pickup idling at the corner booms out in the silence. It is metallic and outsize, the sound of an entire factory clashing into production.
I turn onto Taraval. Music pushes out from the Riptide. Narrow windows give glances of a tight crowd; boys holding girls hard against them, smokers slouching just out front.
On the bench at the stop is a young kid in a big black cowboy hat. An older man stands guard over a pile of bags and backpacks.
"I'm gonna fill the tub with salt," says the kid.
"You ain't going there," the man says.
"Tsh! Tsh!" the kid shushes.
He stands up and paces back to check the display. He's limping; one heel doesn't reach the ground. "Eight minutes," he says, drawling it out: Aay-it.
The train is full of kids heading out for their Saturday night. They are loud and full and humming with energy. One tall boy wears sneakers with puffy, distended tongues. They look festive, cartoonish.
I get off a stop sooner than I intend, but it works out well. I walk through quieter streets, my head emptying of all the pushing voices.
The host of tonight's party got bad news this week. A tumor. The party had been planned weeks before. My breath stops. Everything at the party stops. He tells us he'll be okay. It's going to be okay. He wrote a song about it, in the key of E. Guitar and accordion and our host singing that he'll be all right, and we all join in for the chorus.
He's going to be okay, he says, but his and his wife's faces are wide open and pale. Their eyes are bright and they smile with their whole tired selves. In the warm of their kitchen, we sing songs and clap out the beat, and one by one we shrug on coats and say goodnight, shining with grace of these people, this moment of being alive.