Near El Mojo, Spain – May 25, 2017
I sit up and swing my legs off the side of the bed. Patches of heat rash remain on my skin, still warm to the touch, like smoldering ruins after a fire. My feet look worn, but not battered. I poke at the hard callouses along each heel, on the meat off my toes, over the forefoot, looking for soft spots. Then I stand.
The bones, muscles, and tendons are fragile, like shattered glass glued back together again. I feel the cracks as I step, the pieces flexing along the fault lines. But it holds.
I pack slowly, in no great rush to put on a backpack and return to the heat of the outside. My mind is frail too, I realize, like my feet. I’m wary of of the sun now. The heat is more than uncomfortable, more than something to frown at and try to ignore. It threatens and punishes. It can break me.
I walk a few hours, letting my muscles warm up, letting my feet feel pavement and dirt again. Confidence trickles back into me. The first steps were painful, but they eased.
I stop to rest under the shade of wide branched tree before I feel tired. I strip off my socks and put my feet high on my pack. The cracks are holding, but I want to make sure they do not break again. I doze off as the sun glares down, mad that it can’t find me under the branches.
A herd of sheep wakes me up, a hundred of them moving past as their bells fill the air with rings. Two dogs follow, keeping the herd together and a shepherd walks behind them, a smile on his sun-leathered face. We wave hello and I watch him pass as I put my shoes on again. The first steps are tender again, they always are, but the pain fades in a quarter mile.
I walk slow. I rest often. I slice pieces off the day in short, manageable chunks. I pass more sheep, more shepherds and follow their paths. I walk in shadows. I thank the air for a hint of breeze. I eat a box of popsicles and wait out the late heat before sneaking miles in as the sun drops away.
I don’t just walk, I manufacturer the day in a thousand little choices. I am careful, calculating, and shrewd. I’m a budget officer, an accountant, managing a half-broken building under repair. The funds are not endless, but they are enough if I spend them right.