Going the Distance – Part II
I decided I wasn’t going to travel like I had in the past. No planes, trains, boats, buses, or automobiles – I was going to travel by foot. I planned to walk forty-two days and 953 kilometers of the Camino de Santiago – a pilgrimage route starting in southern France and ending in northwestern Spain.
On day number thirty-two, I met him.
I arrived in Somport, Spain and checked into an albergue after a thirty kilometer day. As I lay in my cot trying to nap, I noticed a dark, handsome “pilgrim” settle into the next bunk. He was tall with curly, black hair, olive skin, and piercing big, green eyes. He appeared to be in his mid-thirties. Trying not to wake me, he unpacked his eighty-liter backpack and headed outside. After my failed naptime, I also headed outside for our community dinner, consisting of salad made with vegetables from their farm, bocadillos (the "humble sandwich" due to its low cost), and always large carafes of red wine. Two bocadillos and a carafe of wine later, I sat on a bench reading when he approached me and casually struck up a conversation about what I was reading. He was very sweet – charming, even. He seemed to not be aware of how attractive he was, which made him even more so. After only a brief exchange, I didn't expect what was to follow...
I snuck out at five am the next morning to start my twenty-eight kilometer walk. Still half-asleep and groggy from the wine, I heard what sounded like someone scurrying across the dusty, gravel roads. To my surprise, it was him hurrying to catch up with me. With his broken but endearing English, he told me he also started his days at five am, and we must be "walking partners." He was cute and logical.
We ended up walking together for the following days – only the two of us walking through Spanish backcountry for eight to ten hours every day.
I learned as much as his mediocre English and my so-so Spanish would allow. He was from the heart of Barcelona, working as a high school professor by morning and spending time with his hundreds of friends by night. He loved his friends. He was cute, logical, and a loyal friend.
After another long day of walking, we checked into the albergue located inside an abandoned village. It had been four days since we met. Sitting down for a glass of wine, we quickly became friends with two other pilgrims and the four of us decided to explore a nearby lake. I was the first to jump in and swim to the most remote area of the lake, separated by a land strip. I quickly noticed that he was swimming toward me, to this very remote part, far away from anyone else. Without saying a word, he grabbed me by the waist, held my face, and kissed me. I had officially started a romance on the Camino de Santiago and there was an expiration date on our time together.
A seven day expiration, to be exact. I pushed this thought out of my mind and fervously enjoyed every minute we had together. For that entire week, we were inseparable.
I didn't imagine anything coming from our time on the Camino, until one night when he asked me to finish the pilgrimage with him in Logrono and return to Barcelona with him and to extend my trip by changing the date of my plane ticket. I remember his exact words –“I think there is something here, and I would like to explore it. I like you very much.”
I said yes without a doubt.
We spent the mornings running along the Barcenoleta beach, and everyday at four pm I would prepare lunch for when he returned from his rigorous day of teaching rambunctious high school kids. He wore patched-elbow sweaters and a gold pocket watch. We were only allowed to speak Spanish in his home.
The long, summer days were closing in on us, and I had already overstayed my Visa. It was time to leave the fictional Spanish life I had created for myself.
Then something else happened. As I was about to board my flight, he asked me to move to Barcelona...
Six months later, I sit here writing this article from our Barcelona flat. There's no expiration date this time.