Chapter 28: Epilogue
Judgement in the parking lot, “987, not a thousand miles,” and a few final notes from the end of the world.
To Whom It May Concern:
Oy, vey. This is God. We’re going to have to interrupt. This entire time We’re biting Our Tongue, and, where to start?
So, at the end.
He arrives in Finisterre. It’s a perfect day: warm, cloudless, everything as requested. Three oil tankers swept off the horizon so our poet here can have his “Blank Atlantic” arrival. No mention of this, but that’s a running theme with him.
He takes a call from that lovely wife of his in the lighthouse parking lot. He isn’t thirty-two yards from “the end of the world,” gets in a huge argument and hangs up on her. This should have been the first chapter. Nine-hundred and eighty-seven miles – not a thousand I point out – and this is how he wraps it up! This is not what you call sticking the landing.
What does she need, you ask? She needs the name of the middle school coordinator at the son’s school. Simple request. Rose Fegelman. You can’t make this up, and believe Us,
Know a Bit.
Then, a whole sprinkler works after he spots the ocean. We have to tell you, We’re still very much on the fence about men’s tears. And then the way he stands there like he’s waiting for Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse! Trust Us on this:
Will Not Be.
Oh, the drama! The entire point of the journey, shown one hundred thirty-seven different ways – We went back and counted – and not a single lesson registered. There’s nothing in Finisterre! Finisterre n’existe pas! Let go! Lighten up! Get rid of what you don’t need! Be present with people! “Buen Camino” six-hundred and eighty-four times! We send him nothing but italics and exclamation points. Not a penny drops!
And to think he’s now instructing others like he paved the road on his elbows and knees, like he’s writing the training manual! Millenniums of dealing with these meshugenes, by the way. This is not new.
You know how many pilgrims got it? Four hundred and twelve. That’s not this year. That’s total. And none of them are alive today, so, trust Us:
Will Not Be.
One of them.
And his sneaker boots! He doesn’t burn his boots. After all of that! If anyone in the history of the Camino should burn his boots, it’s the poet! You know what he burns? He burns his flip flops! Throwaway sandals he wore in the showers. This! This is too good to be true.
Why, you ask, does he burn them?
Because he “wants to keep the sneaker boots as souvenirs.” Sneakers! This is letting go?! You can’t make it up. The other pilgrims that day – We’ve forgotten their names – but they burn everything: their shoes, their socks, their water bottles, their backpacks, their airline tickets home. You could smell the plastic from Here. They walk back up to the lighthouse in nylon camping underwear.
Not to mention the Messi goal! Oy, gevalt! You can’t make it up. And believe me,
I won’t even get into the business in Montpellier.
“Thoughts and prayers” as you all say far too often for my taste.
I need to tell you this quickly before my sense of it is gone.
I am home again now, and something very special that happened to me out there is, sadly, fading. When I was on the road, the most beautiful realizations were self-evident. Now they are elusive or subtle.
I find that the way it felt for me out there is not the way it feels for me now. I wonder if I can still do it, still find it, this special thing, I wonder if I can still have it happen. I’m finding new and perhaps better explanations for everything that seemed so marvelous and straightforward when I was walking along alone.
I’m only a few late-night conversations from realizing everything I tell you is rubbish. I’m a year out from wishing I hadn’t written anything down. I’m up to wondering if I’m not a blind man who saw, but a blind man who had a dream of seeing.
And so on and so forth.
I confess I’m a faithless and wavering soul, but I still have a pen and a conscience and a memory. And while I still believe the tiniest sliver in a god I might pray to, I will share what felt so obvious to me at the time, this dream of the blind man. Because it would be utterly faithless not to communicate it, a spiritual cowardice not to own it.
It was a grand experiment, this unpacking of everything, and this thing I need to tell you is the one sure thing I could tell you from my time out there in the wilderness. It was the ten-week takeaway. It was the one thing where I said this is true, and I didn’t know this before, and now I do.
Maybe God doesn’t speak at all.
Not to me. Not to anyone. Maybe there are only silent introductions. First you and you. Now you and you. Now him. Now her. Just all these different selves meeting each other. Maybe on and on forever into black eternity. Joining and separating. Binding and unbinding the self. This to that. That to this. Rolling and winding out.
Maybe when we let go of everything, when we untether, he, it, life, can float us more easily in the right direction towards the right person and make the next introduction. Maybe God is a Steering of Selves, some surprise ripple in the arcs of our personal trajectories.
Maybe this pilgrim letting go and unpacking makes the miracle possible, makes it possible to steer us, or maybe the letting go and unpacking makes it possible to see what was happening all along. But for a few marvelous weeks out there, I could see it that way every day.
It felt like the secret of life.
Just let go. Don’t do anything else. Watch what happens. If you are ever in trouble, I counseled myself at the time, remember what you learned here. Unpack everything. Simplify. Let go. Let go of things, of ideas, of people, of everything. Look up, look up, look up.
But no more with my minor miracles.
I will push too hard for you to believe me, and you’ll get quiet on me and think, well now, that’s not much of a miracle, and then you won’t believe me, and then I won’t believe myself either, and then nobody believes in anything.
And that’s not what I want at all, but that’s how it goes in the sharing of miracles. Maybe it’s better to keep them all under wraps while I’m trying to hang onto what’s left of mine for a moment longer.
The simplest facts only.
After I passed the Finisterre lighthouse, I headed down an embankment of rocks and boulders. It was deserted that afternoon. There were three guys off to my left aways down the hill.
There was a fire burning, and I could hear their voices floating over. They were laughing as they threw their boots and gear into the flames.
Then as I headed further down the hill, I spotted a woman alone, staring out at the sea. Her backpack was at her side. When she turned, I recognized her.
She was my Brazilian friend with the Zen candle from the restaurant all the way back in Atapuerca, the woman whose sister had died in the car crash, the woman whose story shaped the last three weeks of my walk. Her arrival timed up with mine weeks later and then to the hour.
We shared our stories from the cathedral. She took a handful of pictures and promised to send them. The guys who’d been burning their clothes had left by that point, but their fire was still burning.
We went over and threw some things into the flames.
We said Buen Camino.
And then I never saw her again.
Feel something. For free. Twice a week.