I recently had a friend of mine from my days of teaching in Prague, Steve, stay with me. I saw him again when I was in Prague again the next year, the fall of 2010, when I was traveling around Eastern Europe for a few months. Those were the days of Maurice and the Minstrels ft. Mr. Sven, the Irish band we formed in which I played the tin whistle. Fun times. I guess the band has taken off, they’ve found a bunch of other musicians, they get gigs in various bars and even get paid a little bit for some of them. Steve even gets recognized throughout the city as “that guy who plays the banjo.” I hadn’t seen him for over a year and it was good to be able to catch up.
Steve was here for a few days and my place is small. I have a couch and can accommodate someone here just fine, it’s just a bit crowded. My brother, my dad and other friends have visited me and it’s never a problem, it’s just that space is limited. As in any place where space is cramped and you’re with good friends, this makes going to bed a comical endeavor that I really hadn’t reflected upon until recently. Now maybe it’s a different sort of thing between girls, but between two guys, it produces a scene of the comically awkward type. Maybe I’m gender stereotyping. Two straight guys sleeping three feet away from each other saying good night to each other before they turn in. I don’t know, it makes me laugh.
First of all, as the hour gets late, the two of you eventually agree: “well, it’s late. I’m up early tomorrow, I’m turning in.” “Yeah man, I hear you, I’m pretty wiped out myself.” Then one of you goes to the toilet to brush his teeth while the other one gets undressed. Then you switch. Then you each get into bed, with the one who was in the toilet last to turn off the lights and feel his way to wherever he’s sleeping, couch, bed, floor, wherever. Sometimes in a crowded hotel you’ve packed lots of guys in there and you’re all sharing beds.
The conversation usually continues. Whatever you were talking about before you both decided the hour was late and you needed to go to bed. Jokes, complaining about what happened that day or what will happen the next day, things of that sort. Maybe you’ll talk about what’s going on the next day, when you’ll meet up or something like that.
Then, since it’s dark and late and you’re tired, the conversation dies away into silence. This is the best part. It still remains for one person to say it… and then: “all right dude, goodnight.” “yeah, see you in the morning.” “yeah, g’night.”
It’s not like when you share a flat or house and you are in separate rooms. In such cases when you go to bed you leave the room and part company with whomever else in the house. Saying goodnight then is a way of acknowledging that you’re leaving their presence, not to see them until a later time, the morning, when you will again be in the same room.
And while, depending on the space situation, you may be sharing a bed, it’s not an overtly intimate exchange, there’s no romance here. There is some level of intimacy, though, as you recognize the need to say goodnight to a friend who is just a few feet away, yet at the same time I think the parties recognize this intimacy and sort of awkwardly acknowledge it: Yeah here’s the intimate moment, gotta say it, yeah, there it is, all right, let’s be done with it there and, uh, well, glad it’s out of the way and we don’t have to talk any more about it.
It’s a strange moment of intimacy that’s basically an awkward exchange of: Now is time for sleep! Talking time is over! Now we sleep. I sleep. You sleep. We don’t talk anymore. Do you agree? You don’t talk anymore and I won’t talk anymore. Shall we shake hands on it, or do we understand each other? Got it? Good. Then let’s sleep. Starting… now. Wait. Okay… Now.
Every once in a while though, the silence is broken. Maybe you have to say something that you forgot. Or that just occurred to you (like how silly goodnight phraseology is between two dudes.) But then it’s sleep time again and there’s no talking. Once you’ve settled in to a good long session of no talking, even if neither of you can sleep and just lay tossing and turning, listening to the other person tossing and turning, wondering if they’ve managed to fall asleep yet, possibly even getting up to go to the toilet or hearing the other person get up, the silence has lasted too long and it’s sleep time now, so you can’t say anything. It’s against the rules.