The sun was out during the mushroom festival. I was looking for the ”blessing of the pets” ceremony at the local church. I wandered down towards the water, passing a man eating an ice cream cone, arm-in-arm with a woman. ”Where are you going?”, he exclaimed happily. ”I’m walking to Mexico!” ”Wow! Here’s some cash!” He pulled two dollars out of his pocket and handed it to me. ”Thanks! I’m going to buy some ice cream.”
I abandoned the pet blessings and went for the ice cream instead. Sitting at a bench with a dog and a backpack was Olivia. She talked quickly as she ran through her story: drug addiction from a young age, gangs, violence, years of AA, and she was only 22. She rattled through the details without embarrassment, and I listened intently. She called herself something like a confused woman on the road looking to learn something, but her line was better than that. Her dog, May, had injured its knee, and she was hitching from Portland to Sacramento to get surgery. It was her first time on the road and she was full of life; she was bright, enthusiastic, and self-aware, and talked about her aspirations for ”being on the path”.
The ice cream was on my beard and on her finger. It was a wedding ring from a failed marriage: she called her wife ”a runner”. The wife had got on the plane to see her parents and never came back; she had cried uncontrollably as she was leaving. Olivia had had a dream about her, and two days later, she had called from Portland, Maine. It’s weird like that sometime.
I hoped the best for her: her plans were to travel as long as she could, and I know that things can go either way for a girl alone on the road. I taught her how to play ’You are my sunshine’ and gave her a photograph.
As I turned to leave, the pub owner came out and offered me a can of tuna fish. I told him thanks, but I’m a vegetarian.