Total Miles: 2,009.4
“Shall we walk together?” I asked.
Birgitta looked at me for a moment then nodded as she stood up. Her hands pressed down on her walker and she took a few steps away from the bench and onto the sidewalk.
“Yes, of course,” she said.
We must have looked an odd pair. I towered over her, tall and bearded, wild looking, two hiking sticks strapped to my backpack, my boots worn from hundreds of miles. She walked beside me, stooped over her walker, her metal knees carrying her forward, not the same as they used to, but good enough.
She’d caught me passing her bench as she sat for a short rest on her walk. I’d seen her in the distance and was trying to sneak by before she got up again because I didn’t want to scare her along the path when I passed by. She said hello, I stopped to talk, and then we were walking together, side by side down the path toward her house, two strangers thrown together by chance.
When one of her neighbors came by she introduced me with a bit of pride. They spoke Swedish, but I knew when she told him I was walking to Spain by the disbelief that flashed over his eyes a sing-songy “oy-oy-oy” sound that Swedes like to make when they are surprised at something. He shook my hand and left Birgitta and me to our walk.
We talked of Ulricehamn and how it has changed through the years, of her Italian husband who she left because he was mean and life is too short for that, of the churches that grow larger as I head south and how the secret they all share is to be good to one another, and of the apples growing on her tree that aren’t quite ripe yet or she’d give me a few fresh picked ones.
We said goodbye at her driveway. I told her she was brave to walk with me and was only the second person in two thousand miles to do it. She laughed and wished me luck, then told me to write her a postcard from Spain since she didn’t have a computer. I wrote her address down and promised I would. Then she headed up her path and I continued on mine, one of the last few words she said still in my mind.
“Do you believe in angels?” she asked.
I looked back and saw her one last time at the top of her driveway.
“I think I do,” I’d told her. “Of some sort or another.”