Home Bound

My things packed, I left the albergue an hour after the girls. Along the still dark houses of Muxia, a light drizzle tickling my skin, I breathed Spanish Camino air one last time, deeply in and out.

The bus stop was in the middle of town, a small group of pilgrims, holding on to coffee from the only nearby café that seemed to be open, congregated around a conductor type man checking their tickets and selling to those who did not have one, yet.

Eva and Inga were probably half way to Santiago by now, if not there already. I missed them, missed the morning walks to get coffee, the crisp air of Navarra and the warm sunrise of the Meseta. I felt myself tearing up, sitting down to take in the emotions, and to reflect.

I seemed to be the only one overcome with sadness. The pilgrims around me laughed, even seemed to look forward to returning to Santiago and, from there, home. I scanned their faces for any emotion other than giddy anticipation and found none, if there was any, it was well hidden.

We entered the bus and I squeezed myself into one of the last rows, leaning against the window and wishing I could turn back time to that day in St. Jean-Pied-de-Port, forty days ago. A warm hand grabbed my shoulder and Ginny’s face appeared over the row of seats behind me. “I am sad,” she said, “would you like company or better alone?” I wanted company.

We rode most of the way in silence. The pilgrims around us laughing and passing bottles of liquor back and forth, we hung on to our own thoughts. “Lufthansa at 11:20?” she finally asked. Yes. “Seat?” 6D. “I am 12C.”

We left the bus, checked our luggage and Ginny’s walking stick with the airline, passed security, where a Russian pilgrim had to be persuaded by three security personnel that his Camino Knife wasn’t something to take with him on the plane, and sat down for coffee. “My last cafe con leche,” I muttered. “For now,” Ginny replied, punching my shoulder. “You’ll be back. Me too. And Eva and Inga, even your crazy friend Alyssa.”

The plane was not as full as I would have anticipated. The seats next to me were free, and we asked the flight attendant if Ginny could join me. She could, freeing her from a row with, of all people, the Chuckles, who greeted me with happy smiles.

Her presence was reassuring, together with the Chuckles and two pilgrims I felt I knew from somewhere in Rijoa, it gave the illusion of my Way not having ended, yet. Soon the snoring of the Chuckle Brothers and the background chatter of pilgrims lulled me into a sleeplike trance until Frankfurt airport.

Passing immigration and customs we compared further travel plans. Ginny had booked a night in Frankfurt to take a train back, while I had tickets for the night train to Munich. Her hotel was near the train station, and so we shared a last cab, a goodbye beer at the train station, and parted ways.

“See you in a few days?” she asked. “Absolutely.”

I bought a pack of smokes and a bottle of Coke Zero, neither of which tasted like the Camino versions, stepped on the train, and, among the noises of the tracks taking me home, for the first time since Finisterre, and for the last time on my Camino, I fell asleep.

I dreamed of Eva, Inga, Ginny, the Swiss, and a wine fountain in the hills of Navarre.