Azofra, Spain – March 5, 2017
The albergue door creaks open and silence spills out. Too quiet. Too empty. Daya and I peer into the dark room.
A long table stands silent and alone in the center of the room. An unused kitchen waits along the back wall. We are always the last to arrive. There should be people, movement hellos. There is only silence.
We have a system. The two Germans first, like clockwork in the morning. Alarm at 6, packed up by 7. Jorgelina next. Daya or me last, depending on who is feeling the most lazy. By the time I arrive anywhere, I only have to look for my friends.
I think of the two kilos of plantains I have in my backpack, the liter of oil. I bought them in a Chinese grocery store back in Logroño, carried them thirty miles, there has to be someone to cook for.
Daya and I sit down on the empty benches to think. They must have moved on. Maybe they missed the albergue. I send texts. We look at guidebooks. We calculate miles and how much farther we need to travel to catch up with them. Something seems off.
The room feels empty with just the two of us, like the space demands more people. I look at Daya and laugh to myself. It wasn’t so long ago when a single other person would feel like a crowd, but now we are not enough. The two of us sit and wait.
The door opens and a man walks in. Another hiker.
“Have you seen a woman from Argentina?” we ask. “Two Germans? An American?”
The man nods, he just saw them down in the square when they walked in. We must have passed them somewhere along the road.
I run out and see Jorgelina marching up the street. Clement, Amelie, and Cristina trail behind her. A big grin spreads across my face, her face, all our faces, the same grin, the shared grin of friends together again for a night.