Sunday, May 25, 2008 — Staging Base
a year ago. Toulouse. the beginning of my walk. 800 kms across Spain. to Santiago de Compostela. determined to never think. about you. again.
Toulouse. the southern light. white and warm in late spring. the windows of my hotel room open to red tile roofs. early morning murmur from kitchens across the courtyard. the day’s onions, potatoes peeled, chopped. stock pots simmering. warming me to everything.
I remember lying in bed. curtains half open. looking out my window. swallows (hundreds of them). dive, weave in and out of each other. a cross between F18s and hockey refs gone insane. they whistled a crazy game above my head.
you were at Camp I-can’t-tell-you-the-name-of it-or-where-it-is (though of course everyone knows). your staging base. waiting for the next Hercules to zigzag you into Kandahar.
I promised to never write you again.
for three days I walked Toulouse. spoke rusty French. ate too much. cassoulet, croissant, café crème. bought myself a polka dot dress. tried out new equipment. boots. pack. high-tech clothes. walking sticks.
in Toulouse I met a man. younger than you. lovely. no wife. no kids. good looking. one of those brilliant types they used to call computer geeks until they cashed in. Scottish. he has a second house in the south of France. I walked the rue du Taur with him. scallop shells, bull symbols on doors, lintels, frescoes, embedded into sidewalks.
but the light that evening was inexplicably cold. I left him at the door of my hotel. walked away (how different is that, M.?) his blue eyes following me into the elevator.
only 10 p.m. I rolled my gear. packed. went to bed. watched black swallow television outside my window. fell asleep. 6 a.m. caught a cab to the gare de Toulouse. went into the Cybercafé pulled the scrap of paper scrawled with his email address from my pack. threw it away.