I bid farewell to Rollie at the 26 mile mark today. We weighed the options aloud as to what the moral implications of biking “The Meseta” would be. The “Meseta”is the 200 km stretch from Burgos to Leon that was the flattest and hottest of the entire trip. He told me about his job teaching pre-school in Madrid in an immigrant neighborhood. they didn’t even know good Spanish, let alone English, and were predominantly Moroccan.
At a playground in the town, we sat on swings drinking our water bottles and eating cereal bars. Rollie had a brother 4 years younger that he considered spoiled and sheltered by his parents. They never got along on the rare occasions they were in each other’s presence. I saw parallels in my relationship with my brother Dan. I could conceive of him saying that I was spoiled. When I’m at family gatherings I tend to regress to my childhood role of “Baby of the family.” Because its easier to be what people expect of me and its what I know, and I always regret it. It struck me that people, when summing up a relationship, only evaluate a person by their actions. Not that person’s inner workings, mental roadblocks, or “Depression”-this insufficient, airy, cop-out of a word. Yes, I wrestle with the legitimacy of its definition as it pertains to me. I want to write a book called “The Introvert’s Dilemma.” It would only be the 723,476th book on the topic.
Rollie offered me advice about an ex-girlfriend that was still occupying space in my head. She was an Au Pair from Germany that had a contract to stay in New York for one year. In a way the break-up was simplified, because I knew she had an expiration date. She would have to come off the shelf or she would spoil, is what I like to tell myself. Rollie had a passionate and short-lived relationship with a girl from the U.K. that ended abruptly and maliciously. The themes of our advice to one another: Your only remembering the good parts. Its over for a reason. We just needed a friend to snap us out of selective memory.
On the last stretch I saw 5 bulls, or cows. I don’t know, they had horns though. They were just grazing, one had a swarm of flies surrounding his head. The sun was about to begin its slow descent. I was perched at a higher level than the town before I walked down to my stop for the day. I sat there for 15 minutes listening to Revolution 9 by the Beatles in what was a peaceful meditation in my semi-dazed state. The errant and chaotic mixture of sounds in that song is a good auditory representation of the my moods: random, non-sensical, and lacking continuity or momentum.
I arrived in Ages at 7 pm to a restaurant, that had beds for pilgrims on the second floor. The attendants and waiters were borderline hostile. I sat down and waited for my three-course pilgrim meal. During dinner, I met Karina and Dan. Karina was a blunt and down to earth 40 year old woman with a short, cropped haircut. She grew up in Poland and was a now an advertising executive in NYC. Dan was a red haired, quick witted, gay Pharmacist from Ireland, who could make a joke out of even the most bleak subjects. He possessed the kind of effortless charisma that leaves me feeling like an audience member watching a skilled performer. I was confused as to whether they had come to Spain together, but Karina clarified she had found her “friend soulmate” in Dan on the Camino. Their exchanges were akin to the banter of an old married couple or two teenage girls. They finished each other’s sentences and shot cryptic looks at one another that left me puzzled. Regardless, I pulled up a chair when they sat on the patio for post-dinner cigarettes and drinks. I was content to sit there as a casual observer for their intimate verbal sparring. Dan detailed the complete aloneness on the “Camino del Norte” a much less popular route along the Northern Coast of Spain. He had cut over on a detour to re-join the more populated route. We were on the “Camino Frances” the most heavily trafficked route.
Injecting myself into new groups became easier on the Camino. As a solo traveler, the alternative to assertiveness is loneliness. Karina and Dan were comfortable to let me sit there in silence. Formulating coherent sentences at that point was a challenge after the exhausting day. Karina asked me in a casual manner after 10 minutes if I was happy speedwalking the Camino. I told her I would probably regret it at the end, but I just wanted to be done already.
“And what of the bonds you will form?” She said.
“I don’t know. I guess I would enjoy it more if I slowed down.” I said, with a blank gaze into the sun.