In Lectoure we ended up spending close to a week resting. Whilst we recovered from the physical toil of the Camino so far, and the emotional battle that was raging through my head. Lectoure is a beautiful small medieval town. And you can happily see everything there in an afternoon. A whole day, and you can also have a nice trip to the spa there too. So close to a week was frustrating and took us away from the daily routine of walking through the ever changing French countryside together. But what it did give us was a chance to start cementing what we had together, to cook, to watch a movie, go to a spa together. To be like a normal couple for once, that, were actually dating for the first time, but also living together (after knowing each other for 2 weeks). Er, so maybe it wasn’t so normal?!
The Magician had twisted his ankle slightly 6 days before. He’d kept walking on this though and it got progressively worse every day. Now his tendinitis had swollen his ankle to twice the size of the other. This was highlighting another, less attractive, similarity we both had. We’re both stubborn [insert expletive] and not good at listening to our body’s needs at times. Demonstrating my superior idiocy in him over this, I kept stubbornly refusing to rest my feet. I’d started to have a mild stabbing pain in the tendon running from my big toes to my heels. This felt similar to being stabbed in the foot every time I put my foot down. Through the week I’d carefully massage the Magician’s ankle, bandage it up, trying to force him to take anti- inflammatory pain killers. After which, he would then echo the words, aren’t you going to take care of yourself too? Maybe let me magnetise it? I’m surprisingly deaf when I don’t want to do something.
This culminated in a mid- week run for me. I was again, trying to drown out my emotions, out run the ghosts of my past, which gave a persistent drumbeat in my head ‘Run, Run, Run’. Telling me to leave the man who I knew was the love of my life, before he ripped my heart out and abandoned me like everyone else. I caved after 10mins running and hobbled back to the Gite. Where the Magician managed to get a recording of me in a moment of complete weakness. I’m sorry ladies, I failed you… He has me on record that he’s always right and I should always listen to him.
Through the week there was two heavy lessons for me. The first came out of the game we’d been playing for a number of days now. Who had the highest number of people who wanted to have sex with them. When we walked into a bar in Lectoure and there was a host of men who looked me up and down. You could see clearly what they wanted. When we got outside with our drinks I took a sip of the cool French beer. Letting the bubbles slide down my throat, refreshing me.
‘So, I think I’m winning now. That’s got to be at least another 5’
He growled in his deep French voice in response.
Oh great, he’s jealous. I thought naively. ‘Whats wrong?’ I half sighed and whimpered. Gearing up for a potential fight.
‘The men in there were staring at you like you were a piece of meat. That they just want to have sex with. You don’t need that to feel good about yourself. The thing that makes you the most beautiful to me, is when you are just you, you don’t try to be sexy. Look, you’re just using the men looking at you to boost your ego. Your entire behaviour is being driven by your ego. And I expect better of you’
‘But I can’t stop men looking at me like that’ I said defensively.
‘Of course you can’t. But you don’t need to go to places like this. Or you could tell them with a simple look, that its completely unacceptable for them to look at you like that.’
His words hit a defensive nerve in me, trying to shield me from the harsh truth. I’d lost all this weight, and was finally coming back to the body I’d loved. But I was still looking to men sexualising me to feel good about myself. To know that I was attractive. Not to look at myself and give myself the gift of that self- love, self- worth. His words stayed with me and I started to spend more time looking in the mirror to recognise and validate my body. Not just for its beauty, but for the strength it had. It was carrying me 1,000 miles across Europe, with over 30 pounds (or 13kg) on my back. The question that still burns unanswered from this though, is whether I should have to change what I want to wear, or how I behave so that men don’t sexualise me. Or is this just their responsibility and how can I really change that?
The second harder lesson for me this week came from the visible difference in our view of fidelity. I’d been seeing someone in Dublin before I left. I’d very quickly told him that I would only ever be just friends with him, after the Magician and I found each other again in Cajarc.
However, the Magician had deep feelings for a friend (whom I’m going to call Paris) when I first met him (along with a number of other women he’d been seeing at the same time as well, whom I’m going to call the Hareem). Throughout the few days we’d walked together, he was very clear with me that he wanted to keep his options open, to continue to be free in a relationship. This included being able to continue to enjoy his Hareem. It was during this week the Magician told Paris he was actually walking with someone now. It was at this point I asked the question I didn’t want to know the answer too. But like a self- abusive idiot, I asked anyway.
‘Why didn’t you tell her it was me?’ Knowing that he’d previously told Paris he’d met someone he’d had a very deep instant connection with. But that I was no longer in the picture, and therefore he was still available to her, should she wish.
‘Ah, I thought you wouldn’t spot that’
‘Of course I did’ I said quietly.
‘If she knows I’m with someone she’ll realise her mistake. She’ll realise she wanted me all along. Its then she’ll tell me she wants me, and I can reject her. I know this is an ego thing. But…’ he drifted off.
My stomach dropped. So, he was still pursuing her too. I felt empty inside. I hadn’t given a second thought to be loyal to the Magician romantically, but he didn’t feel the same.
At the time I didn’t vocalise that monogamy was so natural a state for me, that I would actively avoid any and all people that could test my fidelity. Let alone seek out opportunities to continue to enjoy the fruits of current flames and any new ones who looked ripe.
This, on top of the game we’d played of who has the most people wanting to sleep with them (which I always seemed to be losing) left me feeling ugly and isolated. I diminished myself in his eyes. What he meant to me, clearly wasn’t the same. Here my seed of doubt took root. Maybe we weren’t really destined. How could we be if he wanted to be with others, when we’d only just found each other. Maybe my brother was right, maybe this was just nothing more than an intense holiday romance. All the magic that had happened to bring us back together, seemed like a distant memory now. The drumbeat, ‘Run, run, run’ came stronger through my head. The question ‘Why on earth am I getting ready to put myself through a worse heart ache than when my Husband left me?’ beginning to etch on my mind.