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The End of the Camino, A Short Story

April 25, 2022

Note: I dictated this into my phone on a remote stretch of the trail.  This came purely out of my imagination and has no connection to anyone in particular, except for the young Italian men on mountain bikes passing perilously close; it could have been any one of them.  

The pelican knew the human couple were there but she paid little attention to them. Soon there would be sardines near the surface and she would feast. She knew this because there had always been sardines.

The woman lay on her left side looking at nothing in particular although Alessandro was right there in front of her. He was snoring and she was put off by that. She was also smoking a cigarette and that put her off, too. He was so casual and nonchalant about the cigarettes she had worked so hard to stop.

Between them were two bottles of Spanish vino tinto, laying awkwardly on their sides instead of pointing gracefully to heaven. There were scraps of bread, just hard crusts really, too, and olive pits, and ants feasting on a piece of cake fallen into the sand.

He is messy, really. She didn’t say it out loud but she wondered for a moment if she had. She loved some of his messiness, like the part which still leaked out between her legs. His casual and nonchalant disdain for the correctness of the world was charming but it was frightening, too, as if actions really didn’t have consequences. He was always the center of attention and had swept her into his vortex as if she had no choice in the matter, it was just a natural and universal expectation that she would submit to his will.

She saw the pelican hovering in the steady wind blowing in from the ocean but she just assumed that was its place in the world too, just as her place was here in the tiny cove with sand sticking to her body.

Alessandro snorted and shifted his position and she thought he might open his eyes and acknowledge her, but he didn’t.

I could never tell anyone about this. He’s just a kid, for God’s sake.

From a distance she could pass for a woman half her age, which she understood had as much to do with genetics as her lifestyle. It wasn’t until someone got close that they could see the signs; a wrinkle here, stray gray hairs, and perhaps that look of frustration shared by middle-agers.

Allesandro didn’t seem to care or even notice these things as he seemed in such a rush to have her. She shared his bed that very night in the whirlwind of wine and laughter and toasts in Italian and bellisimo and this wasn’t her usual response but when he took her and kissed her in the restaurant she was already his.

And all that after five weeks of walking on the Camino with all the casual friendships and hugs but not a single offer or inducement for any relationship beyond that even as her yoga fashioned body became even more muscular and, she hoped, enticing.

Oh, rejection she was used to, Her ex was a master at that game, and she always came crawling back. With Allesandro there was always acceptance and when he was attentive, it was as if there was no one else in the world, and he thrilled her in a way she had not known since she was a teenager.

And she knew that the eight muscular impulsive bright Lycra-clad cyclists he had ridden in with would be calling soon, and he would be gone like the wind.

She stood and shook the sand from her little black dress and brushed off the sticky sand on her thighs. Looking at him one last time she knew he would be burned by the sun.

At least he will have something to remember me by.

When the bus for Madrid stopped a half hour later she loaded her backpack in the cargo area and climbed on board. Her leaving did not escape the pelican, which had taken an interest in the love affair, even from the distance of a bird.

From → Writing Fiction

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