We’re late. It’s dark. We’re in a strange city (it might not actually be strange, but you know what I mean). We don’t really know where we’re going. I did know. I’d marked it on the map. Did I mention it was dark? We can’t see the map well enough to read it.
The iPhone torch helps but there’s another problem. The street name on the plaque above our heads doesn’t actually match the one on the map. This doesn’t help.
My plan had been a good one. We take the metro to the end of the line, as close to the restaurant as we can get, then walk the rest of the way. My guess was about twenty minutes hoofing it.
After dark everything is different.
How do we know which direction to go? Well, there’s this huge Basilica in the street next to the restaurant. We could see it from the other side of the city earlier. It’s a friendly, guiding landmark.
Except in the blackness of the night it has gone missing.
I check the map, check the street names. Look up, look down, look all around… and make a guess, hoping my instinctive navigational skills are tuned in.
We walk for ten minutes along a busy avenue. I can hear a mental clock ticking down.
Finally I see the faintest golden glow flickering behind a teasing curtain of trees. It’s a familiar glow even though I’ve never been here before. It’s the sort of glow that often bathes big churches. It is the Basilica.
It reveals more and more of itself with every step… until we hit a barrier.
In daylight hours this barrier would be called a delightfully charming park I’m sure. But after-dark parks in strange cities are to be treated with caution. Especially ones with dim to non-existent lighting.
It’s a decent-sized park. Walk all around it and we will be late. Walk directly through it and we have a chance.
We go for the most direct route.
As we reach the park’s shady centre, we hear music and can just about make out the shape of an old fashioned bandstand.
There are people on it, couples, and they’re moving in neat, rhythmic circles.
Dancing in the dark.
We stop and watch, letting our eyes adjust to the dimness. There’s something wonderfully surreal about the scene. Although there is also something quite ghostly about it, there’s no need to feel any apprehension about a park where people feel comfortable enough to meet up to dance in the shadows.
We continue on our way and emerge into the light outside the Basilica and at the bottom of the street where the restaurant is located. I check the time. We’ve still got ten minutes.
Our timing will be perfect.