A thousand questions, I have. But I shouldn't ask--I'm in San Francisco on a solo mission of exploration. I don't want to talk to people, just watch and write and take pictures.
But I want to know his story.
"Hey," I say, "Where are you from? Where are you going?"
Meet Miguel. He has hiked roughly 808 miles from his home of Seattle, Wa. to here, good ole' San Fran. Once I start talking to Miguel, my solo trip in the city has all but ended. We go to the hostel on a great hill to find him a place to sleep, but there are no rooms available. We sit on the couch in the waiting room and he shares an avacado with bread and hummus with me. It's deliciously simple. We decide to explore some of downtown.
I show him the shop of lovely horrors, which I have fallen in love with. There are skulls of many sizes, and the little bodies of stuffed mice dressed in doll's clothes, standing in miniature kitchens, and sitting on doll couches.
Down the street, we find a gothic church whose steeples touch the sky, where the ceilings are so high as to make one's neck ache from leaning it back so far to see into the abyss. There are statues and stained glass windows, and it is dark. Miguel sits on the carved wooden chair, the back of it reaching to at least four feet about his head, and he appears regal with his dark beard and the staff clutched in his fist.
In the churchyard is a labyrinth. He leads as we walk from the outside inward. He tells me to focus, take my time, be at peace. Once we reach the center, we move from the inside out, going through it all over again.
Miguel has hiked most of his way here, taking rides from strangers sparingly. He left behind a good job to take this journey, to rediscover himself and what he wants out of life. The teddy bear staff was a gift from an old man, to protect my friend on his walk. He stayed with a woman in Portland, Or. for a few days, and she bought him a bus ticket to get him some of the way to where he is now. Later, a woman he stays with downtown will buy him another ticket to return to Portland. Miguel is on his way back to where he came from.