Today’s Miles: 22.1
Total Miles: 3,768.8
Near Monte Carchera, Italy – January 17, 2017
I thought it would be a fall and a smashed screen, maybe a soaked pack after slipping into a river or a thief taking it when I wasn’t looking. Instead, my phone simply turned itself off as I wrote an email, tried to turn itself on again, and couldn’t get past the loading screen.
I stared at the Google logo coming on, freezing, then shutting off again. Over and over it went, never getting past that initial flash of Google on the screen. I watched and felt sick. Maps, navigation, research, notes, translation, everything runs through that phone.
I shut it off and went to sleep, never more than an hour or two, waking to check and see if something had changed. It didn’t. Google logo, dead. Google logo, dead. Google logo, dead.
In the morning, Daniele helps me research what to do. I feel bad for him, caught up in my mess. He’d emailed me after the radio interview to see if I needed a place to stay in Loano. When I arrived last night I told him about meeting Davide in Calizzano and Daniele said he knew him, that he met him once, that he was the 115th stranger Davide found on the street to take a picture of.
What are the chances of that? Davide randomly meeting Daniele for his photo project. Me being on the radio in Italy. Davide seeing me outside the bar. Daniele emailing about a place to stay. That amazing tangle of connections is a better story than a dead phone, but I can’t think straight. I need that phone or what will I write it with, how will I navigate. I can’t just make sure my left shoulder faces the ocean and walk.
I pull out an old phone my aunt gave me after the microphone stopped working on calls. I’d carried it as a backup for my maps in Norway and Sweden in case the new phone broke in the wilderness. I almost sent the backup home twice, but I kept it just in case.
Daniele and I get it working on an Italian sim card after talking to the aloof clerk for an hour. The phone is rough, it’s slow, but it can do enough. I download apps and maps and all the little things I’ve leaned on over the trip while Daniele cooks pasta with pesto sauce that smells fresh with oil and basil.
My old phone still sits there flashing the Google logo on and off. It would be better if it were a rock and a smashed screen or drowned in a river. I decide to let it flash on and off until the battery dies.
Daniele helps me pick clementines from his tree. We climb up into the branches to pluck at the fruit until we fill a bag of them. Then he walks me down to the boardwalk to say goodbye.
The clementines are easy to peel, sweet and juicy, the orange color bright against the green leaves. I think of cloudberries, blueberries, and apples that have come before, each fruit taking its turn with the seasons and latitude. I think of my dead phone. It had to happen just as I reached the coast, just as I won the race with winter.
The ocean is bright. The wind rolls off it, sending waves sideways along the shore. I stare at it, not quite believing I have really reached the Mediterranean. It’s still cold, but not quite as much. At least it won’t snow, not here, not with the sradio warming thr air.
Between Albenga and Alassio I follow an old Roman road along the coast that Daniele told me to look for. The bricks and stones are still there in places, marking the route that armies and merchants once trod, that now overlooks a highway, train tracks, and the sea.
I don’t love the old phone. It’s clunky and nothing is where I think it is. I try to push it out of my mind. I look down at the stones of the road and imagine who walked there before. I think of the stories that have passed. I think of my dead phone somewhere in my backpack and wonder if it is still flashing on and off or if thr battery has drained away.
The sun sets and I climb up a ridge. In the distance I watch a wildfire burn across the valley. Its the third I’ve seen today. The snaking line of flame slowly moves in the darkness, burning away, wild, unpredictable. It’s just a phone, I think. It shouldn’t bother me so much. There’s a fire burning in the night and I’m thinking about a phone.
I sigh and watch the flames crackle in the darkness.