Once I was in Eauze, I sat down at the first cafe I came across, which also happened to be covered in sand to look like a beach. It was perfect as I lay back to bathe in the sun, waiting for the rest of our group to catch up.
I was happy. Katherine was back with us. Ludo had come out a little bit more to show affection when needed. And our numbers has grown just a little bit more.
I thought about what had happened prior to Katherine meeting up with us. We’d met up with Valerie, but we’d added in a new member to the group, Renilda, who I wasn’t quite sure what to think of.
When we’d first met, just before La Romieu, we quickly got to know each other, giving our reasons for the walk and where we were currently at. It was a great conversation, and I learned quickly about her past relationship that. She was learning after four years of being with someone that had stripped her of who she was that she had to rebuild herself like a stepping stone.
Once we’d landed in La Romieu and we’d found Ludo, we ate lunch and left Katherine to herself. Another gentleman I now can’t remember the name of (I’d just met him and he left us soon after) traveled with Ludo while Renilda and I continued to walk and talk.
We covered many topics through the hot day, mostly very quickly and not too in depth,
Except for marriage. She was very curious about my opinions on love and marriage, to which I replied that while I was more open to the idea now than years ago, I still didn’t think I’d be jumping into it any time soon. I wanted to be sure of the person I was in love with, that it was someone I would spend the rest of my life. This would likely mean years of living together and such and enjoying ourselves while everyone asked questions of why we weren’t sealing the deal. But it made more sense to me where I was at right now.
When we parted with the other gentleman, we started down the path to find a small pool where people would clean their clothes. Next to this, there was a rather large wooden lounging chair, so we took the time to settle in and stare at the sky, listening to the new Imagine Dragon’s album through the speakers of Ludo’s phone.
This is where it got a bit more surprising for me.
Randomly at one point, Renilda said, “I think that we as feminists need to stand up more against women who fake rape.”
You can imagine my confusion and, for those who know me, my rather random and possibly heated response.
I am very passionate about feminism. Equal rights among the sexes and all races is very important to me. And what she said seemed as if she wasn’t quite up to speed on statistics, nor what she was saying. For those unaware, fake rapes are very uncommon. In addition, we already do pretty well with victim blaming in our world.
If you’re more interested, you may research more on the subject yourself.
Once we started to get going again on the road, I apologize for my response as I knew it came off as not just passionate, but strong. We tried to discuss it a bit further, but I found it too difficult as there was too much for me to explain. And it was beginning to make me feel unhappy about my thoughts for the first time on the trail. I’d thought I’d left that behind me, the anger and exasperation, but I still needed to figure out how to discuss with people who weren’t necessarily aware of everything, such as even going about it without a detailed history, examples, etc.
And not getting bugged when people ask of me to have a PowerPoint presentation ready and available when the discussion comes up.
Soon after, Renilda and I saw a large lake, which I assumed we wouldn’t be able to swim in. I had been dreaming of swimming in a lake, but every lake was dirty and muddy. As we got closer, we saw Ludo with his shirt off on the beach. We made our way down and I found that the beach was more of a hard sand dune from hell with rocks and prickly plants.
But Ludo and I had made a promise we’d dip our feet in.
He went first, taking off all of his clothes except his underwear. Because that is Ludo. Renilda and I were soon laughing. Where the water met the dirt to create mud was the point where Ludo’s feet and ankles were completely swallowed, stopping him short. With each pull of his legs, squelching noises came, and I swear his body continued to sink. He couldn’t run, and the feeling of the mud made him cringe. He quickly left.
I started to pull off my shoes and socks to at least dip in, Renilda following suit. Excited, I started a quick tip-toe across the hard “sand” to the lake.
Just as I heard Ludo yell out, “Slowly! Slowly! The mud–“, that was when I slipped and fell back into the water/mud, right on my butt. My laughter was instant. Renilda called out in concern, having carefully made her way into the lake, but Ludo’s laughter was the most I had heard our entire trip. As I got up to clean myself, I looked at my behind to see the damage.
All down my backside, pure mud.
Ludo couldn’t properly stand he was laughing so hard.
Sighing, I stripped myself of my pants, taking them in the water to rinse as best I could in muddy water. I washed my hands as Ludo and Renilda squeezed as much water from my pants so I wouldn’t have to use my other pair. As I slowly stepped back into my pants with my bum leg, Ludo took the opportunity to take pictures with my phone.
He’s such a lovely friend.
While we got our shoes back on to get ready to go, Ludo continued to chuckle and laugh at my demise, to which I was shocked that my mouth didn’t go dry from how often I stuck my tongue out at him.
With only three of us and me with the bum leg, it was easy to have us separate with Ludo and Renilda in front, me working at my own speed behind. They quickly sped out of sight. Ludo had told us that he’d gotten a reservation at the gite for the two of us, so I just had to be sure to make it there as soon as I could for supper. Valerie said she was making us supper, and the amount of time we’d spent on the sidelines was making us later than I had ever been to our destinations.
At one point, a random person stopped by to ask where I was headed, and whether I needed a ride to the next town. I politely declined since I knew I was getting close, but he insisted I take some plums he’d picked, to which I gratefully ate.
By the time I made it to Condom, my leg was asking me why I was still walking, as well as my feet and part of my upper back. They were a chorus of irritated muscles. And I’d gone such a long time without seeing anyone else, I was slightly worried that perhaps I’d missed the gite. Ludo had said that it was about a kilometer past Condom, but the signs were confusing as to where I needed to go, I was tired, and there was this small part of me thinking I’d perhaps heard him incorrectly. Maybe it was before the town.
I kept going with my gut, to keep walking and trust what I’d heard.
Finally, I saw the sign for the gite, and I made my way down the path to find a very nice house. It was a Donativo Gite, which meant that we could pay as we wanted. But it was special because all of the local farms gave food and wine for the pilgrims to use for cooking and drinking. Valerie had made a feast, and I quickly poured myself wine as a present for such a hard day.
For someone who had a bum leg, I sure did well walking over thirty kilometers.
The wine flowed.
I was so happy, when I decided to take a shower, I saw that they had shelves and decided I wanted Shower Wine.
“What is ‘Shower Wine’,” Ludo asked.
“Shower Wine is Best Wine,” I replied, feeling rosy in the cheeks already. “You take a shower with your wine glass close by. As you wash your hair, you then see the wine glass and think, ‘Oh, well, that’s nice!’ and drink it. It is the best thing you could do.”
This is obviously a lie, but Shower Wine is actually pretty great. I highly recommend it to everyone of drinking age.
I sang and drank in the shower and it was as glorious as I tell everyone it is.
Afterwards, I lent Ludo my nail clippers, we talked a lot, and ultimately stayed in the kitchen when we were found to be too loud.
Ludo, I found, was a completely different person drunk than sober. While sober, he was very reserved and worried of what he would say next. Drunk, anything was possible.
This was how Katherine and I got him to talk to us about his issues when we were in Conques, after all.
I say this because he had mentioned a few other times about his masturbation habits, to which Katherine and I would make jokes and tease about. We’ve shared many a story as we walked. However, having drunk and knowing I knew his habits, he began to be a bit more free with telling Renilda these habits as well.
It came out pretty quick that he liked to have Shower Time, which does not have to include Shower Wine, mind you.
Poor Renilda, getting more information than she could ask for in less than twenty-four hours. I figured her to be a champ for sticking around.
Pleasantly tipsy, and borderline more than tipsy, I made my way to bed. As I was getting ready, with Ludo in the corner, I realized I was much more comfortable with just turning my back to swap shirts. Ludo may make a comment or two, but he was like the guy friend you knew nothing would ever happen with because you just simply knew too much about the other. Like their Shower Time schedules.
The next day, we took our sweet time leaving. I was surprised since we’d gotten up pretty early for people who had drank the night away at 7:30am, but Ludo seemed to be quite happy drinking his coffee, doing a wash of our clothes in the machine, smoking cigarettes, and generally enjoying the sun while Renilda and I played the piano in the living room. Around 10am, we slowly left, me wondering if we’d want to kill the sun later.
Valerie had told me about Lukas, who was joining our group that day. He was doing a rather amazing journey, starting in Germany from his home and ending in Africa, a charity walk for those without water. I met him really in the bathroom, playing Bust A Move by Young MC while brushing my teeth. You’d never think he was walking over 4,000km to get a water fountain in Cotonou. Especially since we kept joking about how much he sweats and stinks.
While we walked that day, my leg had decided that I needed to take it easy. I tried to keep up, but I soon realized that was a ridiculous thought process. And probably dangerous. I needed to do my own pace, and that was okay.
I thought about video games while I walked, about whether I wanted to focus on that as a possible career choice when I was done with my time in Europe. There were a lot of pros and cons, and while I’ve always fantasized about joining the industry, the past couple of years have started to deter me. Did I really want to join something that had the evil that was GamerGate going on? Death and rape threats for working on something one enjoys doing is a pretty big determent.
By the time we decided to break for lunch, we’d only walked about ten kilometers. We were hot and tired and I just about wanted to cuddle up into a nap right there. Katherine called us to say that she was currently at some old man’s house learning how to make stained glass windows, which I thought was the bee’s knees.
Valerie walked with me as Renilda said she would be going ahead of us when we all decided that we’d had enough of laying around next to a vineyard. We talked as the boys quickly passed us as well. Renilda’s comments about feminism were on my brain. Since Valerie had walked with her for the morning, I asked her opinion and was happy to find that Valerie and I were of the same cut cloth. I’d noticed that Renilda had not, in fact, left the group, but was walking with the guys instead.
Valerie explained that, having spoken to Renilda, she was perhaps insecure with herself and was perhaps intimidated by my presence. We both agreed that me apologizing about my strong opinions on feminism was good, but it isn’t always enough.
This notion made me sigh. I’ve heard this often enough to know it was a truth. I’m a person who is loud, obnoxious, and doesn’t mind busting down a door without being asked to. It does tend to scare some folks away.
We ate lunch in the next town, and I bought us all a bunch of groceries to make some delicious food for dinner, along with wine. Since Ludo was doing a handy job of objectifying a couple of girls across the way from us, the conversation was quickly brought to sex and love, a theme that was growing in the past couple of days. It was a bit of relief, despite laughing a lot, when we got going again.
I’ll explain it as that, while in the States, I heard often enough about relationships, that I’d “find somebody”, and the conversation got old. With as frequent as these subjects were coming up, especially about marriage and people feeling lonely, I felt that old tug of feelings I got when other people would tell me that I just needed to be patient to find the love of my life: a long, heavy sigh that meant ‘you just don’t get it’. I’ve never felt that I needed anyone to be full or happy, and the more we talked about it, the more I was beginning to feel as if that was the message being sent.
Basically, I can only talk about love and relationships for so long before wanting to jump out of a plane to stop the situation. This meant I was happy for the first time to be left behind due to my bum leg so I could enjoy more of the trek and think about other things, like wine and quantum physics.
By the time I made it to the gite, my leg was in the most pain it had been in since it was first hurt. I kept repeating to myself over and over how I needed to slow down, and that perhaps it would be best to leave the group so I wouldn’t feel obligated to speed up, or them to slow down. It was a tough walk down the hills, even though I had a new wild bamboo stick I’d gotten from another pilgrim a few days prior to help with walking. I was feeling exhausted, in pain, and wished I’d stayed with Katherine a couple of days prior rather than pushing myself in a new group I wasn’t sure I fit into anymore.
As I unpacked my items, I saw a large spider on the ceiling. I’d gotten used to seeing them ever so often, and as long as I left them alone, they did the same for me. I pointed it out to Ludo with a shudder, then kept unpacking my bag into the plastic container to take a shower.
Ludo, of course, started hitting the spider with a piece of paper, which caused it to sail down straight into my bucket as I wailed for Ludo to please kill it or remove it. I don’t think he realized how fragile I was at that moment because he laughed and left me to deal with the situation myself until my calling him back in desperate pleas, my body plastered against the opposite wall, reached a part of his heart.
“You’re going to have to deal with your fears,” he said, rolling his eyes while he rummaged through my stuff, and I wanted to smack him upside the head. He is desperately afraid of snakes, and I so wished I could toss one his direction to see how he’d feel. “Oh, he’d aggravated.” He pulled the large beast out by the legs. The spider had stiffened, fangs at the ready.
“Gee, I wonder why,” I said dryly, heart still pounding and eyes threatening end-of-day-exhaustion tears. I yanked my items away and went towards the bathroom, overhearing Ludo retell my scary tale with that of mockery.
I took my shower and thought about how I missed smaller groups. The larger groups become, the more shenanigans occur. And the more shenanigans that occur, the more socially accepted they become. And I can quickly become the party pooper if I’m the only one who doesn’t feel like TPing and putting shaving cream in the neighbor’s yard.
I started soaking my clothes, still thinking about my next steps the next day. I’d heard Katherine was coming to the gite for whatever reason, so I’d talk to her first to see what her thought process was. Perhaps we could walk slow tomorrow together.
As I put away my washing items, I was putting my bed together. Everyone had already taken the bottom bunks, so I chose one on top. Ludo and Renilda were teasing each other in an overly flirtatious manner.
“Oh, you don’t want to be on top of me?” Ludo asked. She had chosen another top bunk to sleep in.
Later, while washing and rinsing my clothes, they were both taking showers and making jokes about Shower Time, and using each other’s shampoo for other purposes.
I couldn’t wait for Katherine, now considered my Pharaoh for Normalcy within my head, to arrive.
It was after hanging my laundry that Kath finally did arrive, in a black Lexus, no less. I raced over to her, giving a huge hug in relief and joy. But I saw a look on her face that perhaps she’d had had a harder day than me, and I wondered what had happened to the stained glass windows.
I grabbed the wine, which we drank straight from the bottle as she told me what happened. I think we were both happy to see each other, to have the weight of normalcy back in our bodies. The net we knew was safe enough to jump into.
The Camino has been wonderful for meeting new people and having new experiences, but there is just something about having that touch stone to bring you back to enough reality that can allow you to enjoy the moments of every day life even more.
I was lucky to realize that one was my friendship with Kath. She doesn’t suck too much.