On our way out of the silent village, I stopped at a farmacia to stock up. Thanks to a steady supply of cough suppressant, fever-reducer, throat lozenges, and sheer willpower, I was holding the mystery illness at bay.
As I mentioned in my previous post, Meg and I had spent most of the day either actually or nearly lost. Having eaten only a few morsels since breakfast, we were both feeling woozy. The situation wan’t dire, but definitely disorienting.
Fortunately, Meg found a reserve of focus and got out the map.
“So, we’re here,” she pointed and then underlined the long, gray stretch of highway with her finger. “We’ve got to walk this road in order to get back on the Camino. It’s going to be hard because there’s no shoulder, but we’ve got to power through and get there. No chatting. Just focus.”
I nodded obediently.
With her ahead and me behind, I followed Meg down the highway, grasses and branches grazing us on the left as we stayed out of the oncoming traffic. Cars and trucks wooshed past without slowing. My hair and clothes whipped wildly with each speeding vehicle. I felt nervous so close to traffic in an area unaccustomed to pilgrims.
Conversation ceased, but the sudden break in our days-long conversation gave me an opportunity to consider what I was doing.
I acknowledged the part of me that was soaring, elated to be with Meg. I loved her humor, irreverence, and openness to life. Her playful courage helped me bust out of my own life-long Rules for Living (be cautious, be polite, don’t make waves). Being with her set me free.
To this day, I wonder whether there are people on the planet who can feel a deep emotional attraction to another and not have those feelings take a romantic turn. Is that even possible? It didn’t seem so for me. With all the oxytocin coursing through my body, I wanted to act on what I felt.
As my feet trod the edge of the asphalt, I remembered a book my partner and I read about the impact of infidelity and how the person who strays often underestimates how painful their actions will be on their partner. As alive and free as I felt with Meg, I didn’t want to hurt my my wife.
If only that resolved it. The tension between these two desires was palpable, tearing me up inside. When I thought, I’ll stay with Mary, I didn’t feel at peace. When I thought, I’ll confess my feelings to Meg, I felt no peace either.
Despite all of this going on inside of me, I said nothing. Looking back, I didn’t even write about it in my journal. I couldn’t allow myself to speak my truth. So we walked, the dilemma unresolved.
As the afternoon lengthened, we finally made it to the end of that long stretch of highway unscathed and returned to the well-marked path of the Camino. It was a relief, but we were famished and still not speaking. Was she okay? I worried.
All inner dialog ceased when a restaurant revealed itself around the next corner. Food!
Inside the rambling establishment, a rowdy group of older local men watched a fútbol game on TV. Although the meal was just another plate of fries and chicken strips, it was essential carbs and protein. We ate in almost silence, like zombies, overwhelmed by the exertion, fatigue, and hunger. I think I had dessert, but I would have been just as happy to put my head down on the table and take a nap.
As we left the restaurant with empty bladders and bellies full, the skies had brightened and a fresh breeze blew in our second wind. I remained cautious about revealing my inner feelings, but I realized that I had some choice. If I was going to walk for several more days with this beautiful soul, I could at least have fun doing it.
“Okay. So, what are your favorite musical guilty pleasures?” I asked her as we walked. “You know, the kind of music you might not admit to loving?” I could handle this level of confession.
We began rattling off titles of songs, albums, and bands – laughing and validating each other’s musical choices. We discovered a mutual love for Broadway musicals and tried to recall all the lyrics to “Master of the House” from Les Misérables.
“Master of the house isn’t worth me spit
Comforter, philosopher, and lifelong shit.”
“I think my all-time favorite song is one by the 4 Non-Blondes,” I told her.
At the same moment, we started singing:
“25 years and my life is still
trying to get up that great, big hill
of hope for a destination.”
Out there in the Spanish countryside, we sang the entire obnoxious song at the top of our lungs. “I said hey! What’s going on?” I’m sure we scared some sheep.
As we laughed and sang, the morning’s weirdness faded away and I felt joyous once again. I breathed and let my worries about possible choices take a back seat to the present moment.
More at peace, I noticed the scenery float by – hillsides of gorse glowing with yellow blossoms, a steep chasm with a deep, blue-black lake at the bottom, and a park with creatively-arranged stone columns that formed a simple, hopscotch bridge across a stream. Life was so amazing.
As we descended one hillside path, rainwater had removed the fine soil, leaving a half-mile surface of exposed green and blue rocks. I kept noticing them and finally had to stop.
“Oh, my God,” I said to Meg as I examined one. “I think these are obsidian!”
Meg burst out laughing, “Of course you know what kind of rock this is!”
I grinned, allowing myself to be complimented, credited with more genius than I actually possess. Turning a stone over in my hand, I became convinced that it was indeed green volcanic glass. I had never seen such a thing before. More Galicia magic.
We set down our packs and spent a quarter of an hour bent over the path, searching for the perfect souvenirs. After cleaning them in a small stream that ran alongside, I picked out a half dozen to bring home. The largest one was as big as my fist with layers of blue and teal and olive. (Yes, I really did carry stones in my pack on purpose.)
Even if those colorful rocks were a lighter burden than the one on my heart, finding them was our reward for making it through this strange and challenging day.
Our albergue that night was shiny-new and practically empty. We lingered over a delicious dinner and wine in the attached restaurant. In that moment, I was content to be where I was and to be in Meg’s company. Tomorrow we would see the ocean at last.