Words of friendship and a bottle of wine.
“When you are feeling weak – drink a bit of this” says my inked friend, then he lifts one hand to the sky. May God protect me.
I stay on the back road, and it is quiet and nice. Wearing light trail runners, I feel myself floating past the hotels and guesthouses, past people buying bread and people hanging up their laundry. It’s a good place to walk, a yoke so easy, a burden so light.
Once out of town, a rare thing happens: I run into another walker. James from Wales has ditched his bicycle in Tbilisi and is now walking around the Caucasus. I offer him one of my pink plastic stools and some tea, and it feels good to be hosting a guest for once.
We end up talking for a long time, while the shadows of the trees are moving with the passing hours, from Kyle Dempster to Hannah Arendt.
Then James goes north and I go south. The road makes a little climb: six percent, say the signs, sometimes eight. I want to take a detour, but a man who is washing his car tells me to go back to the main road. I wonder if he really knows what he’s talking about, and yet I obediently go back, snaking my way up the hill with the cars and the trucks, trying not to breathe in too much of their exhaust.
I manage to leave the main road by nightfall. There is a secondary road that passes over the hills. This means climbing. The sun goes down, the Caboose and I go up. It is very quiet on this road. Crickets. Dogs barking in the distance. The occasional thud of a fruit falling from a tree.
And behind the things, over everything, through it all, steady like a machine: the sound of my breath. In and out. In and out.