I have walked thirty-three days without glimpse of my forever friend, but her footprints are all over this trail. There have been whispers of her smell and descriptions of her divine beauty, but none of them do her reality justice. Those who have gone their whole lives without ever having met her wonder quizzically with nervousness and excitement what it is that has drawn so many before them. What they cannot know, though, is that it is not only the air and the ecosystem that changes as one approaches the sea. Seaside towns are different. They are a little harsher and a little friendlier. She ignites a feeling deep in the bones of all people: feeling small as our earth turns, unnoticing of our tribulations; of childlike wonder, of returning home.
She is indifferent to my existence, but beautiful from the cliffs of crashing waves below me to the horizon, miles and miles ahead. Deep breath in and I squeeze my eyes shut, blinking back the tears I did not know were there. Not two months before, I stood waist deep off the coast of Maine letting the small but bitter waves slosh by my sides. Mildly depressed and filled with utter confusion, I had wanted only for my oldest companion to numb the pain of a recent breakup and not only to show me a sign, but to tell me in explicit detail what I should do with the rest of my life.
For one month, I followed conveniently placed yellow arrows – straight, straight, straight, take a right, straight some more – across the north of Spain that lead me here. I no longer wince with each step and have long forgiven the fact that my hair has not been properly clean since I left the Boston airport. I have made fast friends, simple, without judgment, in a way that I did not know one could after kindergarten. “I hear we might get some snow tomorrow,” someone says, behind me. Their voices fall away, though, and I walk with a new purpose. The last few turns and hills take forever, but in no time at all I am unclipping my backpack and dropping it in the sand. Boots, socks, shorts, top: all in the sand. I turn to see clapping and cheering and four other fleshy bodies diving in after me. A woman greats me in confession as I make my way to the small pile of my belongings, “I just did it – behind that rock with nothing on!”
My dip has opened the old blisters on my feet and wounds on my inner thighs. Before rummaging through my pack for my towel, I glance back at my forever, fickle friend. Laughter breaks the silence, though, and I know I will always treasure our greeting. She has not provided me with any answers, and I am not sure where I will go from here, but I do not mind. She is cold and unforgiving, but my truest and oldest friend.