Amanda handed her pilgrim´s passport to the hospitalero and watched her stamp collection grow by one. Another ugly one with a shell, she thought, why does everyone feel the need to incorporate the shell into the design? Amanda felt sweaty and exhausted, more tired now that she stopped moving. She took off her boots and put them on the rack with all the others. She tied all four lace ends together because she heard stories of people taking the wrong boots in the morning. Amanda put on her flip flops and took slow, careful steps up the crooked staircase and found a bed.
After a luke-warm shower Amanda sat in the common area downstairs writing in her journal. She wrote in it everyday, motivated by the anxiety of somehow forgetting the trip if it didn´t end up on paper. Across from her was an older man with white hair and a short, white beard. He was also writing in a journal, which was accompanied by several maps, an open guidebook, and his pilgrim credencials. "Where are you from?" He interupted. Amanda was surprised and a little bothered by the fact that he knew she spoke english.
"New York." she said
"Oh, New York? I´m from Canada. My name is Hance"
"Okay" Amanda said like she had agreed to something.
"I started in Le Puy, France. That´s 800K back."
"Wow, really?" Amanda said, studying Hance, who she thought would look a lot like santa clause if he continued growing his beard. His eyes were piercing blue and his skin was pinkish-red the way old people get.
"Yah, see I´m 66 years old and retired. I tell people it´s the best job I ever had."
"What did you do before?"
"I was a chemical engineer, but I always say I was an incompetent one." Hance laughed at himself. "Yah, I got into managment early on and stayed there ever since, made a lot of money too." he said trailing off. "Yep, I did the Camino back in 2008 and wanted to try the French route because it´s quieter."
"Mmm, that sounds nice."
"Yah, see my wife let´s me have my camino as long as I take her somewhere. So after I get to Santiago we´re going on a 4 week cruise to Austrailia. I send her my journal every week. I just tear out the pages, and send the SD card in my camera. I´ve got about eight of these little cards 2Gb cards. Yah, then she compiles everything on the internet."
"That´s nice of her."
"Yah, I tell her she´s my favorite wife." Hance said, laughing at himself again "We´ve been married 39 years, and she says she doesn´t want to have to train anyone again." Hance said smiling.
Amanda listened to Hance as he talked nearly non-stop, repeating the same lines he has told dozens of other pilgrims. Hance seemed like a competitive retiree, Amanda thought. The same grit that carried him through management all those years seemed to radiate from his personality.
"Well, I´ve been doing all the talking here." Hance said "Why are you doing the camino?"
"Geez, that´s a tough question." Amanda said really not knowing the answer. She sat there silently for a moment. "This may sound strange to you, but I want to get as close to nothing as possible." Hance looked at her and nodded, but Amanda sensed a derailment, and added "I read this thing that talked about walking as one of the few activities that requires almost no thinking."
Amanda went upstairs and collected her dirty clothes to wash in the sink outside. She lathered her wool shirt in shampoo and rubbed it over the ribs of the laundry sink. The odor of her shirt reminded her of a wet dog. It must be the wool, she thought, it smelled like animals not human. Pete took the sink next to her and turned on the faucet, which sprayed everywhere from the excessive pressure. "Whoa, sorry about that." Pete filled a plastic tub in the sink with water and began to knead his clothes like bread dough. "I took this bar of soap from the hotel I stayed in." Pete said offering it to Amanda.
"No thanks, I´ve got my own. Just my shampoo."
"Does it work good?"
"It´s okay. I like that my clothes smell like clean hair."
"Yeah that´s good. Guess mine are going to smell like hands."
"Clean hands." Amanda added.
"Yeah, anything better than what they smellin´ like now. ´Course when it´s your own smell it´s not as bad as other peoples. I guess farts are thay way too, if you don´t mind me saying."