Total Miles: 2,870.7
Siegen, Germany – November 18, 2016
My shoes have a rotten smell to them as I peel them off and set them aside. It has been too long since they were dry. I sit across from the grocery store and air my feet out as I eat breakfast, letting the wet, wrinkled skin breathe. The wetness has softened my callouses and my skin feels tender and worn out where the motion of walking rubs at it.
Siegen is only a few hours away, I tell myself.
I focus on my tub of yogurt and don’t notice the woman walking up until she is standing in front of me. She is thin and lanky, with a small backpack for her groceries. I remember her locking her bike as I walked into the store.
She asks about my backpack and I tell her where I am walking, that the last days in the rain have been hard, but I have a friend in Siegen who I’m going to stay with. She nods and pulls out her wallet.
No, I say, I’m fine. But she insists, pressing tem euros in my hand.
I don’t have much, she says. I’m sorry, I’ve been out of work, but a little to help.
I notice her worn clothes for the first time and protest again. I’m fine, I say. I don’t need it. Keep it. She shakes her head and points to my wet socks. Use it for a new pair, she says. I try to hand her money back again, but she is already walking away and I can’t move on my bare feet.
Good luck, she says, waving from the parking lot.
Thank you, I shout back.
I sit with the ten euro note crumpled in my hand eating yogurt until rain begins to fall again. Then I slide on my wet socks and shove my feet back into my wet shoes to walk to Siegen.
Part of me wonders how bad I must look for someone without a job to hand me money. The rest of me marvels a the kindness of a stranger and how those with the least often have the biggest hearts.
It’s because they know what it is to be without, I think, they understand.