Everything is checked in—I stuck the poles in the side of the bag—I'll be very surprised if they come out the same way they went in. But—as long as the bag arrives—who cares? Journal Excerpt, June 13, 2006.
When we arrived at the airport I checked in as soon as Ryan Air permitted me to, which tends to be later rather than sooner in case you aren't acquainted with Ryan Air's rather unique check-in procedure. In contrast to the other two flights I had taken to get to France, I was permitted to put my walking poles into my backpack instead of having to check them in separately at the "special handling" or whatever it officially is called that I can't remember now. That was good because it meant I wouldn't have to wait twice at baggage once I landed. I watched as they weighed my pack. It registered 12.0 kilos with all my stuff repacked back into it that I had sent ahead. That was 3 kilos lighter than when I begun my journey in St. Jean Pied de Port. I was trying to figure out how that was possible, and then I remembered that there was no food or water in my pack.
I found my way to the gate and sat down in a relatively empty waiting area. It felt weird not having my pack near me. It was cold in the waiting area. Marc's jacket wasn't really keeping me warm. I found myself wanting to sleep again, but knew that until I arrived home there would be no chance. I began sorting my thoughts about getting home. I hoped that there would be a bus from the Hahn airport to the Frankfurt am Main airport within a reasonable time when I landed. From there getting a train back to Regensburg would be no problem. The train journey itself would take an additional 4 to 5 hours, however, and I wasn't looking forward to that. At some point during my walk on the Camino I had the idea that when I returned to Regensburg I would walk from the train station to my home which was another 12 kilometers outside of the city. I began calculating approximately what time I might get home and whether or not I was going to walk the 12 kilometers in the dark or not. It would be safe to do so, but I wasn't sure I necessarily needed or wanted to do that. In the end, since I couldn't be sure what time the train would leave from Frankfurt to Regensburg I did something I don't normally do. I made a deal with myself that if I arrived in Regensburg and it was still daylight and I wasn't too comatose or too upset, I would walk. If not, I would take a bus or a taxi. With that, I closed my eyes and tried to get warm. My head felt exhausted and heavy from the crying, my body tense from trying to get warm. My mind was busy filtering a thousand thoughts that made me only more exhausted. I knew in the next 10 hours there was going to be a lot of sitting and non-sleeping and never-ending thinking, thinking, thinking. The last four weeks' events came barging back in no matter how much I attempted to focus on the chair in front of me, or the person or two walking by, or on nothing at all. It was a bit like riding a merry-go-round and suddenly stopping only to feel your head still spinning. I thought of laying down but not being able to sleep, of walking in the cold and dark at the "Crack of Death," eating an avocado at some plastic table while sitting on some plastic chair with my journal in front of me, drinking the anise liquor that I didn't love but learned to like, listening to the pee shufflers walk by my bunk and watching them return while "forgetting" to turn off the light, walking under the dome of that infinitely blue Spanish sky, café con leche, feeling my body move under the weight of the pack, the feel of the sweat-soaked money in my waist belt, laughing uncontrollably at Squirrel Interruption Noise, listening to Crinkle, watching Xavier bug out his eyes when we clinked our wine glasses in a toast, the blisters on other pilgrims' feet, a dance with Paulo, the creepy Madonnas in some too dark church and the piped-in music over some speaker system, missing a way marker during a conversation with Marc—again, the rituals, the rituals, the rituals, not worrying about anything, the feel of the cold water dripping down my naked back after a shower because of my long hair and far too small napkin-sized towel, the interesting and comforting sound of my companions voices speaking in French or Italian, the sound of my name being said with affection for whatever reason at all.
The waiting room began to gradually fill up as more passengers for my flight filtered in. The noise invited me to open my eyes, stop the merry-go-round of my mind, and observe my surroundings. Not everyone was dressed as a pilgrim. I kept watching as more people trickled into the area and took seats. As I was observing people walking in and finding seats I heard a voice I thought I knew from somewhere behind me. I turned around scanning the area. I caught a glimpse of hair I knew. Then I saw a face I knew. I stood up and locked my eyes on the head of the body moving across the room. I waited quietly while wildly jumping up and down inside myself. I knew it was only a matter of seconds before we would see each other. A smile wiped away my sleepiness and brought me back to life. I struggled with knowing whether or not I should yell out across the waiting room. Yes. No. Go ahead, Deb, do it. I simply couldn't believe it. I wanted to yell, I really did, but I didn't. I made another quick deal with myself that if we didn't see each other I would. I would yell. On the other hand, I was sure that in the next seconds we would.