The bus takes about forty-five minutes. I nearly get off early, but some guy tells me it’s the next stop- I don’t know how he knows cos there was no one around me when I bought the ticket and the only person who saw my ticket after that was the driver who didn’t say anything.
Weird. I make a mental note to watch out for this very helpful, friendly, creepy heller. In town I follow the signs to the Albergue, it’s been ages since I’ve stayed in one and I have to offset my penchant for fresh seafood somehow. A sign directs me to a hotel. I retrace my steps and go down a narrow street and a guy directs me to the place. There’s no one around, the place looks like it’s falling apart, there’s some kind of construction going on but no one working, no one to ask what is going on.
The door is locked, I peer through the windows, there is no sign of life. The next town is 10kms, that’s an option. I go back to the hotel and ask how much it is to stay there. A man gets the attention of a woman to deal with me. I tell her I wanted to stay at the Albergue but it’s closed. She told me to go to the cafe Ecu down the road and they would help me, but she has rooms if I want one. I think somewhere in there she mentioned that it was only 5E to stay at the Albergue.
I get to cafe Ecu, a guy gets me to sign in, fill in my passport details, stamp my Camino ‘passport’ as proof that I’ve been here- this stuff for some certificate you get at the end. Gay. Obviously, I’ll frame it and bring it with me to dinner parties. He even brings me a small piece of chorizo on a bit of bread. Okay, then. I use the wifi for a moment, it works, this place is from the future. I ask how I get into the Albergue. The dude tells me it’s open (after a long conversation that I share the name with a famous footballer called Jimmy Hogg) .
I walk over and approach the Albergue from the unpaved side where there is a door that is open- earlier I’d gone up the garden path, so to speak, and was greeted with a locked door- I should’ve thought to just tramp across the muddy grass to the main entrance, twat that I am. There’s a large room of bunk beds, no one is here. I plop my stuff on a bed taking my laptop, money and Gatsby on a little walk.
A few kms down the street there’s an abandoned beach, rocky; gulls sift through the stream that leads to the ocean, picking morsels from amongst the bright green seaweed. It’s windy, but the sun regularly peeks out from behind the clouds and smiles on me. I stare at the sea for a while and then find a comfy spot with the sun on my face and finish my book. I take my time over the last few pages. It makes me want to cry. I hold my breath. It’s a perfect book really. I was prepared to be disappointed, to think the plaudits undeserving, but I get it.
Also picked the perfect time to read it and I finished it sat by the sea, almost as though. I was in the final few pages of the novel itself. Something I’ll remember, unlike when I read it at school twenty-three years ago. I don’t even think I finished it then, I just watched the rest of the film- which probably ends differently, as these things tend to. When I get back to Canada I’m going to watch all the versions and no doubt depress myself in doing so.