Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A friend gone but never forgotten

To say we became fast friends is fitting considering I only spent a few hours with him in total. I met Eamonn one hot afternoon in Zamora, a small town in Spain along the Via de la Plata. I had strolled into town with a few hundred kilometers under my pilgrim belt. I had several hundred to walk before reaching Santiago. He and I met at the local hotel, which had a western movie saloon feel to it. Naturally we gravitated towards each other and our shared language, he being Irish and me, of course, being Canadian. We walked through town trading stories about the Camino de Santiago as we made our way towards the local parador, found throughout Spain, paradores are castles that have been converted into luxury hotels.

Eamonn spoke with an Irish accent, tall for his age, white hair, and a giant smile. Meeting such a kind man as Eamonn was in direct contrast to the bastard I met the day before. I was approached by a horny homosexual pig farmer way out in the countryside the afternoon prior. The pervert had a strange look in his face as he started following me along the dirt road. Before i knew it he was asking me something in Spanish and tapping me three times on my crotch with his hand. I looked him right in the eye, shouted "NO" and proceeded to bolt down the road. Looking back, only briefly to see what he was yelling about, I noticed he didn't make an effort to follow me, only standing tall with his finger held over his mouth as if to say "shhhhhhh, no one needs to know about the crazy pervert that lives along the Via de la Plata."

As we made our way down the narrow streets of Zamora I told this traumatic tale. Eamonn's laughter at many parts of my story was exactly what I needed. He began laughing with little concern for social graces. I mean, I had just met this Irishman and he was finding humor in something I thought was going to ruin my entire pilgrimage. But that was all it took for me to realize how humorous it really was after the fact. However, I stated I was going to walk the rest of the way to Santiago with my Swiss army knife open to the largest blade. Laughing again, he was able to muster up some control before telling me in complete seriousness, that that would only raise the level of confrontation and it would be best if i put the knife away. Now we were both laughing.

Finding a table in the Castle's courtyard we moved on to more important subjects, sharing much about our lives, our approach to the Camino, and thoughts on life in general. I remember trading impressions of JFK with him, we both seemed to enjoy Kennedy more than the average person and each seemed interested in exchanging that knowledge.

We said our goodbyes that night back at the hotel lobby. He was staying in the area, spending his holiday at a local ranch nearby and I was continuing on to Santiago. We would trade emails over the next several years. I had grand plans to visit him in Cape Town. But then the emails stopped. I would email him and get no reply. Months would go by and I would email him again. Still nothing. It has been a few years now. I have to assume at his age, there is the very real possibility he passed away.

Even so, I still write emails addressed to him. Knowing he will not reply does not matter anymore. I write him anyway, because I believe writing to a friend, expressing how much they have impacted your life, never falls on deaf ears.

So that's what I write when I write my friend, Eamonn.

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