Amanda awoke to the rolling and rustling of sleeping bags and zippers accelerating close. Icy-white headlamps flickered throughout the long hall of bunks and people whispered in unfamiliar languages. Amanda slowly climbed down from her bunk and met sharp pains as her feet touched the ground. She stood there in the dark wearing only a shirt and underwear. In this collision of shared personal space with complete strangers she felt at home, like when it used to be okay to see her parents naked. Amanda dressed for a cool morning, brushed her teeth, packed her bag, and walked out into the dim morning. Nineteen miles seemed like a far away land but all she could really focus on was the cafe con leche waiting for her three miles ahead.
Amanda walked quickly, taking large strides and feeling the strain on her hamstrings. She watched the textured ground in front of her pass like a conveyor belt, and thought for a moment, that she wasn´t really thinking about anything. It was 6:30a, much earlier than she would ever get up back home, usually that was the cut-off time of when she would go to bed -as the black night turned blue, then a pale grey, and before the morning became day, avoiding the actual all-nighter that made two days into one. If she could fall asleep before the sun came up then it would just be a late start the next day.
Amanda rounded a corner that led to a long straight away below, and in the pale of the morning could see at least a dozen pilgrims in the distance. They looked motionless against the scale of the landscape. Beyond them was the a town; just a clump of reddish brown buildings punctured by a tall church in the center. Amanda heard the footsteps of another pilgrim from behind, crunching through the loose gravel. She waited to say anything until the pilgrim was at her side. In her periphial vision she saw shinny black boots and a backpack full of straps and pockets.
"Oh-lah! Bono Dee-hass"
"Hola, Buen Camino" Amanda said rhythmically, already out of habit. The other pilgrim didn´t pass but kept pace with Amanda. She turned and looked at the man. He was tall with the kind of belly men develop in their 40´s. He wore sweatpants tucked into black army boots, a tan carhart jacket, and tatered cowboy hat. His backpack was the kind you´d find at garage sales, with the frame exposed like the kind children are carried in. "You speak english?" He said
"No, I do."
"Oh, thank goodness. I feel like I´ve been in solitary confinement for the past two days. Where are you from?"
"Conneticut, well, New York."
"A goddamn yankee, huh? Well that´s okay, I fall somewheres in between. See, I´m from Iowa, ´bout an hour outside of Des Moines. Name´s Pete. Pete Fletcher. What´s yours?"
"You don´t say, I got a sister named Amanda, youngest of the four. She cut her hair real short and moved off to California so we don´t see her much anymore. I was closest with her ´cause she was kind of like my brother. You know, real good a sports and liked going fishin´with me." Pete quieted thinking about his sister when they were kids. "I wonder what she´s up to these days." Pete said. Amanda said nothing as she continued her pace. She saw a clump of bushes a hundred yards in the distance.
"Sorry, I have to um, go look for a toilet."
"Oh no problem, I´ll just walk slow."
Amanda peeled off the trail and walked into a well worn path into a clearing behind the shrubs. There were little wet clumps of toilet paper scattered around like litter.