The next day was when I found out what had actually happened to cause the change in emotions.
It started with when I had left the group a few days prior because everyone sort of left after I did except for Katherine and Ludo.
Then everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked.
Or, rather, when Ludo decided he was going to make a move on Katherine.
The morning after that terribly warm night with Ludo moodily leaving the dormitory (I actually left around 1am because it was too hot and slept outside for a couple of hours myself), I accidentally overheard him speaking to Valerie that he’d done something to Katherine he hadn’t wanted to do. I first thought it was that he’d rough housed with her the way I hadn’t wanted to be rough housed with, which is why I had left early, but my intuition thought it was something more. The day before, at the pool, he went around terrorizing everyone by tossing them in the pool. When it had come to her, he’d faked it, but ultimately didn’t do anything.
When I caught up with Kath for walking, I asked her about it and she confirmed–he’d tried to be more intimate than the normal kisses and hugs, and she had said she didn’t feel that way and wanted to keep friendship. But he also had attempted again the next day.
This seemed to explain everything, and while we talked it out, I wondered what this would do to the group, to everyone. And wondering why he hadn’t talked to me about the issue when I’d asked several times since coming back. It hurt a bit that he couldn’t trust me, but I also understood. Kath and I were close now. Talking to me about his feelings would probably make him feel worse about the situation.
Kath and I finished off the 36 Questions of Love, but we continued to worry about Ludo and his behavior. One second, he would charge away without acknowledging either of us. The next, he would be trying to make as much awkward eye contact as he could.
When I’d hug him, he would lightly pat my back, like those who are awkward at hugging and showing affection. I tried several times to coax him, tease him…
It was the day after us swapping ideas of what to do in a situation of a man who hated himself and all women falling in love with the woman on the trail who didn’t want to be with him that he left without saying goodbye as we were asleep.
Emotions ran through me.
I was glad he had finally moved ahead. He needed to be by himself, needed to figure things out, and the group, while wonderful, wasn’t allowing him to do so.
But I was angry at his cowardice of not facing us first. To not even say goodbye. He had promised us, weeks ago, when we thought he had left us, that he would never leave without saying goodbye. Yet, here we were.
I was sad, very sad, that he hadn’t tried to speak with me. We’d talked before about other things, what I thought was considered close to heart, and the fact that he wouldn’t communicate caused him to leave without so much as a goodbye.
I felt lost.
Kath seemed to be lost as well. She didn’t speak much, and when I prodded, she said she needed a cigarette and some coffee to digest the situation. I didn’t poke further.
After two days of walking together, I left her at the gite early, her looking at her phone in a contemplative way, with a promise to catch up later so I could think. It was raining, appropriately, and the thoughts ran through my head like fireworks lit by teenagers–all at once in no particular order.
I wanted to strangle him.
I wanted to hug him.
I wanted him to say something.
I’d been walking maybe an hour when I saw a church to my left. Valerie was at the front, looking through a guidebook, but she waved at me so I walked towards her.
“How are you feeling?” she called out as I strolled past the gravestones.
“I have too many feelings to pick just one,” I said, voice cracking. Then I began to cry, walking straight into her open arms.
She held me as I sobbed into her shoulder, holding me close and firm.
“Why won’t he just talk to us?” I said through my tears, my heart finally reaching the main issue I’d been upset with. How so much of the past days could have been solved if he’d simply said something.
“Because he was never taught how to,” Valerie replied, and I cried harder for that knowledge.
We held each other a bit longer until my tears subsided. Valerie telling me an answer out loud had helped me realize I wasn’t crazy in thinking Ludo couldn’t communicate.
“I like your hugs,” she told me after I’d wiped my tears away. “You don’t hold back.”
I smiled wetly, feeling ironic–I was the complete opposite of Ludo.
We started to walk and I expressed a bit more of my feelings on what Ludo had done. I felt I had no right to really say since our friendship had changed from what I thought it was, but I still felt so hurt and angry at his behavior. And I was worried, unsure of how this would be for him as he had continuously spoke about never wanting to be married, be in a relationship, that all women abandoned and were terrible people… and here he had fallen in love anyway. And gotten smashed in the process.
When the rain had cleared, Valerie and I caught up with Lukas. He and I kept going when Valerie had to step aside for a bathroom break, and he asked how I was doing. When he had passed me earlier that morning, I surmised he could tell my facial expression wasn’t that of joy as he typically saw.
I sighed and said I was better than before. Unable to resist, I asked him if he knew why Ludo left so quickly.
We got into the conversation about when people are upset or angry, what they tend to do. He said that he, personally, didn’t like anger or negative energy. Whenever he felt these emotions come about, he would exert that energy with physical activity, to exhaust himself to the point he couldn’t think anymore.
“Don’t you think that is unhealthy, if you do that every time, never approaching the issue?” I asked. “You’re going to have to eventually face what is going on.”
“It is just a way to get the negative energy out. He is upset right now. Yesterday, he had an upsetting conversation with his father, so he and I ran up a hill with our backpacks so we would be exhausted.” He shrugged. “It takes out the anger.”
I understood that. Once, when I was frustrated with a particularly bad roommate who could never give rent money on time and he had purposefully left town for a week when it was due, I’d run ten miles out of sheer anger and not wanting to commit murder.
“He is upset, and he needs to go ahead to exhaust himself and remove himself so he can think further.”
I mulled that over as we walked for a minute.
“Thank you,” I said after silence. We looked at each other and I nodded at him with a small smile. “That helped, to get that other side of information.”
Around lunch is when Katherine caught up with us. We’d been sitting in a patch of sun to eat, then were taking a nap, and she strolled up and sat for her own lunch. We spoke lightly of Ludo, and I tried to gauge how Kath was feeling now that the morning had passed. It was too hard to really tell.
Valerie and I went on ahead while Kath and Lukas talked. Valerie was having issues of her own, since she was leaving the trail in a couple of days. She did the trail once a year, for a few weeks at a time, but this was the first time that she actually had made a lot of human connection on the journey. She was used to taking it very seriously, not seeing a lot of people as she’d started in Germany. Now, she had walked with a group for over a week and found that there was more fun in the group, that you were able to really talk with people about your issues and continue on together.
Lukas she was very fond of, having heard his story. As a teacher, she saw a lot of students who didn’t quite know what they were doing in life. To know someone as young as he was, and to make such a decision to make vast changes in his own life in the name of charity, it gave her hope.
She struggled with the feelings on this subject. Because when you admire someone so much, of course you struggle. It becomes something new and different from what you’re used to. You want to have some of those qualities, share it with everyone.
It was amazing to watch because I wish I had the same opportunity as she did, to find someone with so many wonderful qualities that you knew what you wanted in your future. It is a rare opportunity, one that you won’t be able to find all the time, not unless you are paying close attention.
Of course you can find it on The Way.
I’m beginning to believe you can find everything on The Way.
Valerie, Lukas, Kath, and I? We found rum.
The next town we came into happened to have a parade going on, for whatever reason; we still have yet to find out. It may have had something to do with the car that stopped in the middle of the road, honked their horn, and then four men dressed as penguins sliding out of the back on a child’s slide before they raced over to the bar for drinks…or the marching band that would move from place to place playing modern music on percussion and brass instruments…or the fact that everything was completely shut down for the entire afternoon. But they had cheap punch rum, so we bought several rounds, as well as a filler for our mug to bring to our gite.
The girls had run out of cigarettes, so I suggested we make a sign that we’d hug for cigarettes. Which they agreed to, but I ended up having to kiss/hug a stranger to get two for them. And then he came back later and we danced to the crazy marching band because that is what happens after four rum drinks.
I wish this had been the first time I’d been in that situation. Hm.
We finally decided after being tipsy and seeing how hot the sun was that we needed to get to our next destination. We started to walk away, were distracted by a vendor selling different types of meat, drank the rum I’d suggested we take to go (I always have really good ideas–if you are ever in need of ideas, come to me), and then sent Lukas back to get us even more rum.
It was a very intricate process.
We eventually got on our way. And, let me say, walking while drunk on rum? Surprisingly easy. If you had to walk while drunk, I highly suggest rum. It was hot, but singing to Bohemian Rhapsody on Kath’s phone while walking made it feel as if we couldn’t feel the heat at all.
Within thirty minutes, Lukas and Valerie separated from Kath and I. We didn’t have that far to go, so we meandered until our buzz slipped away. We sat down in the grass.
Kath and I spent our time trying to analyze what Problem Ludo meant to us in our lives. I remember thinking to myself that perhaps I wasn’t as close to Ludo as I once thought.
Also, the rum that Lukas had gotten was with me.
So, we drank the rest of the rum while trying our best not to call Ludo an asshole.
“It’s like a breakup,” she said, and I had to agree. The worry, the concern of seeing him or not seeing him, the mixed feelings…all of it was as if we were in some sort of bad romance film, left in the rain, being told to figure it all out with no explanation.
We eventually got into the town where our gite was, made a reservation at the local restaurant, then kept walking. It was a short explanation as to what happened to the rum, but the chat had made me feel better as time continued on. Kath was much closer to the situation, so it was becoming easier and easier for me to separate myself from the drama, the hurt. It still sucked, and I was still irritated, but I just put my faith in that we were all better off this way.
We had supper, drank more wine (which Kath and I both purchased as an “I’m sorry for drinking all of the rum”), and I met more pilgrims others knew.
It reminded me of what the Camino was supposed to be about, beyond figuring yourself out: meeting others and sharing stories. I had been focusing, yet again, on the few people around me, and I didn’t want to do that anymore. I wanted to experience the Camino the best way I could. I knew I could see myself doing this again, but I wanted to make my first time special. I’d already failed miserably by not learning enough French, especially along the way. It was either write or learn French, and I chose writing ninety percent of the time. What about the rest of my trek?
I knew that Valerie would be leaving soon. I knew that I wanted to be around when her birthday happened in two days. And I knew that whatever Ludo was going through, as irritated as I was with the idea that he wasn’t who I thought he was, I felt a bit of relief at not having the drama of it all happening straight in front of me.
I felt like I had after two weeks of barely seeing a car while walking from Le Puy, and then seeing a train pass by–a bit disoriented and awkward. I didn’t expect such an occurrence to appear in the midst of this life.
This was my life for the next couple of days. Thinking with Kath on what the hell was going on, what it meant, and whether it was worth the pursuit.
Captain Hindsight later told me that it wasn’t.