Friday, August 26, 2011

Roncesvalles, May 2004

Somewhere along the long trail over the Pyrenees from St Jean Pied de Port, I lost all of the electrolytes in my body. They trickled out slowly through my sweat and in my well meaning way I drank two gallons of water, which only made the situation worse. In denial, I went to stand at the pilgrim's mass and promptly passed out into the arms of the Welshman next to me. I had officially made my first Camino friend.

Afterwards, we ate trout and drank dark rich wine for five euros. He told me where he was from. It took a long time to say it. I made him write it down. The slip of paper was too small to fit all of the consonants. We laughed.

"Did you see Roland's battlefield?" he asked me.

"Where was it?"

"The trailer park."

"Ah." It makes sense. In America there's a plaque for every little thing, every little step. "So-and-so slept here." And yet, on the battleground of Roncevalles, a trailer park. Europe can mix history and the present like beer and liquor. Hundreds can have died awful medieval deaths right where you sleep. I think of my own tiny place above graves, a stone's throw away from Staromestka. Executions, demonstrations, burnings, Franz Kafka's father's shop, the Jakubska church with the arm of a Saint that is most probably a very large and now inedible sausage. The road to Santiago runs down my own street in the CR, but perhaps this isn't as symbolic as I want it to be. All roads run into each other eventually unless there is water between. And even then ...

The aubergue at Roncesvalles sleeps two hundred people and the bunk beds are shoved together so you spend the night next to a stranger. My first shower on the camino is cold, but a shower seems like an enormous luxury after a college full of long and smelly hikes. I have Danko's sleeping bag with me, probably too heavy for the summer, but it smells like pepper and lavender, the smell of our place. Fearing the curse of more snoring Germans before a 35 mile hike the next day I shove earplugs so far into my ears that I awake gasping with pain to pull them out again. The sudden roar of sleepers in the large space is deafening and disorienting. I walk outside, into my first 3am in Spain to look at the stars.

1 comment:

debauch3ry said...

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