Near Sagres, Portugal – May 8, 2017
The cliffs climb high as the land reaches out in a defiant, last stretch toward the sea. Waves crash against the rocks far below, foaming white in the blue water, each ripple promising to pull every last stone into their spray even if it takes a thousand years to move a few feet. Above, the sun beats down, unimpeded by a single cloud, baking rocks, sand, plants clinging to the edge of the cliffs, and me as I walk.
I follow a narrow dirt track along the cliff’s edge, not too close, for fear of the sea making good on its promise while I’m standing there, but close enough to peer over the expanse of blue and feel my head swim. The Cabo de São Vicente lighthouse pokes up on the farthest point of land, still hazy from the heat, but growing with each step. A stream of cars and buses roll towards it and back again along a strip of pavement in the distance. I imagine the tourists popping out to snap a picture then diving back into their air conditioned cars. I’ll take a picture too, when I get there. I watch it shimmer in the heat. It all feels close and far at the same time.
“It will come,” I tell myself. “No rush.”
I raced Winter once. I beat it over the Alps. I won. Then I raced Summer toward southern Spain. I look out at the land baking around me and know that I lost.
Sweat runs down my nose. A swig of water from my bottle comes out hot. I pull my hat down and stare at the sea. The blue cools my eyes. I imagine what it must feel like to dive into the waves below. Summer will not kill me. It will wring sweat from my skin. It will cook me like a rotisserie chicken. It will make water precious. But it will not kill me. I lost the race, but I can still beat summer in the end.
I stroll onto pavement in the late afternoon and walk the last half mile to the lighthouse. The air is still hot, but the building is close enough to not shimmer anymore. A line of street vendors wait to meet the crowds still pouring out of cars parked along the roadside and buses rumbling into parking lots. People snap pictures. I snap a few too. Then Daya and I find a bit of shade underneath a lighthouse wall and tuck ourselves into it to rest, to wait for the oven to cool, to not rush.
The vendors are almost packed away by the time we stand to leave. The sun is reaching toward the horizon and the heat of the day is gone. I snap one more picture. It’s quite a spot, Cabo de San Vicente, this jutting chin of Europe. A car rumbles past. I dump a bit of garbage in a can then chase after Daya down the road toward Sagres.
My feet fly along the pavement in the cool air. Just keep the ocean on the right. There are no more turns, no more Italys or Santiagos, no more Cabo de Rocas or Vicentes, just Tarifa and the end, waiting somewhere beyond the horizon, real for the first time.