I was walking from St. Jean Pied de Port, France to Santiago de Compostela, Spain, and nine days into the six week pilgrimage, it happened.
Just like I hoped, I met someone. A German we will call Mike (because it is his name) asked me out.
"Walk with me a day, Chelsea. Please walk with me."
He said that I wasn’t like the typical American with my big sunglasses and dorky hat and I said thank you. He was tall and handsome and friendly and knew what he wanted.
What he wanted was to declare his lust for the Camino de Santiago and his gratitude for the sexual success the ancient Catholic pilgrimage had been granting him. It was a long walk in the rain to Logrono and he regaled me in the gale.
“There was a Norwegian girl who walked 40 kilometers a day and had big walking sticks—not trekking poles, I mean wooden branches from the forest—and she was so happy and she just was naked when she waited for her clothes to dry and I loved her.”
“But she walked so fast so I had to let her go—you know what they say. And there was a French girl who was a real woman. I tell you, French women are women. Not like you Americans. Your women are like men, so big and strong, yes? I want a woman.”
“Mmm, would you say that? That’s a kind of problematic—”
“This real woman, she was so cute, and I can show you a picture later if you want, and she and I, it was the real deal, and I loved her. We drove around Southern France in a convertible after the camino. And she was so hot, the romance burned up in three months.”
“No, it was amazing! I mean, of course I cried a lot, but that’s why I’m back here. To fall in love. But I think maybe I have fallen in love already.”
“She has dark hair and dark eyes and she is so beautiful and I want to be with her and hold her close."
I have dark hair and dark eyes. I am beautiful.
"She is German," said Mike, and my eyes rolled back, "and her name is Ama and she is coming one day behind me so I will wait for her in Logrono and tell her it was a mistake I made. I never should have stayed with those other young girls, because I should have waited for her.”
“So you’re going to lie in wait on the camino waiting for Ama to come by and tell her you love her more than the three girls you ignored her for?”
“Yes! Isn’t it wonderful?”
“You think she’ll want to be together?”
“Oh yes, because she was all over me in Pamplona and I believe she will want me even more now.”
“It just works out that easy for you?”
“Sometimes! With love, you just need to go for it.”
“Well. You’ll find out, won’t you? So, what do you do for a living?”
“Oh, I was one of the first people on the internet. I sold cell phones online.”
“How old are you?” I asked.
“34. Get my phone out and I’ll show you pictures of my French girl. How old are you?”
I lifted his poncho and gave him his phone and water and said, “26.”
"I was walking with younger girls a couple days ago but I got bored.”
"Oh, yeah. You said."
"They were 18."
"Yeah, that's young." I tried changing the subject. “So, what about the Camino made you want to do it again?”
“Since doing the Camino, I have become myself.”
“Well, that’s great, actually!” And I meant it.
“I tell you, on the Camino, all your wishes will come true,” he said.
“Yes! Every single one! If you want it hard enough, it will happen. You just need to want it. It worked for me!”
“Because you fell in love?”
“But it didn’t last.”
“That’s okay, because I know I’ll always fall in love again!”
“It sounds like that happens a lot.”
“Yes! It’s wonderful! My god, my life is so good! Look, this is my French girl. This photo makes her look ugly but she’s pretty.”
“I can tell.”
“But it’s a bad photo.”
“She has a nice smile and I can see she’s pretty.”
“Maybe when we get WiFi, I can get on Facebook and find more pictures of her.”
“I think this picture says it all, with that lovely smile.”
"I'll look for a picture."
When we walked into town, Mike and I went to the only coffee shop that was open and sat in there while it rained. I read brochures about Logrono and tried to get internet while he stuck his phone in my face and continued gushing over his past loves, showing me the sunset he made out during, the rooftop on which he danced with the Norwegian, the bad drunk selfie he took that only caught half the French girl's face.
“Okay, Mike,” I finally said. “I’m going to go to the opposite corner of this place now to write by myself with no distractions. I’ll see you later, maybe in several hours.”
“Which albergue are you staying at?”
“One with a mandatory church service so you might not like it.”
He went to the one with the mandatory church service.
I was dozing on my mat on the floor that afternoon and opened my eyes to see him tiptoeing over the other pilgrims' luggage to me. He crouched and put his face very close to mine.
"God. Hi," I said.
“Hi!" he said. "How was your day?”
“Good, thanks. I went to two museums and had tapas. I ate pig snout.”
“Are you going to mass tonight?”
"It had very thick hairs. It was interesting."
He didn't hear.
"Mass?" I answered. "I think so, but I’m afraid I’ll fall asleep in the pew.”
“A couple days ago, I was so drunk, and it was funny because I really didn’t know when to stand and sit. It’s like the Catholics can’t get comfortable.”
“The other day,” I said, “my friend Magdalena and I had tequila shots but then went to mass, and she was so giggly she...”
“You know Magdalena?” he interrupted.
“Yeah, we walked together for a few days,” I said.
“Wow, I should have walked with you then!” said Mike. “I must not have noticed you because I only had eyes for her.”
I didn’t say anything.
“But she had so many men around her, I never had a shot,” he said.
“Well, that was a few days ago, and they’ve both gone on ahead.”
“They were all Americans.”
“No, they were an Austrian and a Belgian and a Spaniard,” I said.
“I shouldn’t have been walking with those other girls! I should have been walking with her!” Mike shook his head. “I wish I could hug her close to me. She is so cute. And you walked with her?”
“Yup. We have spent lots of time together. I thought you were waiting for that other girl Ama.”
“I never would notice you next to her, because she is so cute. But it would never work between us because she doesn’t eat, like, anything.”
“Well, she’s vegan, and it’s a common misconception that...”
“No meat! No cheese! It’s too complicated.”
“Not meant to be, huh?”
“It could never be.”
“Now you need to wait for Ama like you’ve been planning.”
“Yeah. Okay, I’ll see you at mass!”
"See ya," I said, rolling my unfeminine, omnivore ass in his direction.
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