Today’s Miles: 14.6
Total Miles: 95.2
Highway markers tick down the kilometers as I walk. They are small signs, hard to read from a moving car, but on foot they come slowly, their black letters counting down every half kilometer, one after another, accurate and merciless.
Kunes appears in the distance along a straight stretch of road and I grind my hope into the ground. I heard of a small cafe there, but I tell myself it does not exist, that it will not have food, that the two packages of ramen noodles and instant potatoes are all I will eat for two days until I reach Lakselv.
I do not find a cafe. All I find is a camping area with RVs and nothing to buy. I turn back and stare at a sign on the road.
“Dagligvarer,” it reads and points down a small road.
I wonder what that means. I stare at it, but there are no icons to help decipher it. The little road seems too small for any business. I get out my phone and open up my trsnslation dictionary.
I don’t believe the screen for a moment thenx fly down the road. The weariness of walking on pavement peels off me. My joints stop aching. My muscles spring to life. I misunderstood when I heard cafe. There isn’t a cafe, there is a grocery store.
I imagine chocolate bars and loafs of bread. I think of sliced cheese and sausages.
I turn a corner and the grocery is there, not a bad size at all. I rush toward it, then stop. Dark windows and an empty parking lot stare back. A paper sign taped to the door reads off the hours.
It closes at 1pm on Saturdays, closed on Sunday.
I check my phone for the day of the week. Saturday, 3pm. I’m two hours late.
I stand for a moment, reading the sign, pleading with it, watching it not change. Two hours. Just two hours. If only I’d known.
My hands catch my falling face.
“What is it you need?” a voice says.
I look up and see a woman working in her garden nearby.
“I was just looking for a bit of food,” I say. “I am walking toward Lakselv.”
She stands up and brushes the grass off her hands.
“I have food,” the woman says.
She leads me into her house and fills a sack with wild salmon fillets, cheese, and homemade bread.
I offer to pay and she shakes her head.
“Tusen takk,” I say, “a thousand thanks.”
The only Norwegian words I know.
Food turns to talk of the mountains, to helping in the garden as my phone charges, to a shower, to a party at the fjord to celebrate midsummer, to waiting sausages and pork chops and homemade potato salad, to laughing in a fire-warmed hut and sharing stories until 2 am, to a spare bed to sleep in out of the cold, to learning a new Norwegian word.
Erna er min venn.
Erna is my friend.