Paulo Coelho

Stories & Reflections

Twenty years later – II

Author: Paulo Coelho

During this afternoon in Leon, in the remote year of 1986, I still don’t know that in six or seven months I will be writing a book about my experience, that Santiago the shepherd is already dwelling in my soul looking for a treasure, that a woman called Veronika is preparing herself to take some pills and commit suicide, that Pilar will arrive by the Piedra river and write, whilst crying, in her diary.

All that I know is that I’m walking this absurd and monotonous path. There is no fax or cell phone, the refuges are sparse, my guide seems irritated all the time, and I have no way of finding out what’s happening in Brazil.

All I know is that at this precise moment I’m tense, nervous, unable of talking to Petrus, because I just found out that I can’t go back to what I was doing – even if this means declining from a reasonable amount of money every month, turning away from a certain emotional stability and from a work that I already know, and in which I master a few techniques. I need to change, walk towards my dream, a dream that seems to me to be childish, ridiculous, and impossible to be accomplished: to become the writer that secretly I’ve always yearned to be but that I’m not courageous enough to become.
Petrus finishes his coffee and his mineral water and asks me to pay the bill so that we resume our walk, since there are still some kilometres to travel until the next city. People continue to pass and talk, taking glimpses towards the two middle-aged men, thinking how there are weird people in this world, always ready to relive a past that has already died (*). The temperature of this ending afternoon is about 27o C and I ask myself, for the thousandth time, if I didn’t take the wrong decision.

Did I want to change? I don’t think so but this path is transforming me. Did I want to unravel the mysteries? I think I did, but this path is teaching me that there are no mysteries, that – as Jesus Christ once said – there is nothing occult that wasn’t revealed. Basically, all that is happening to me is the opposite of what I was expecting.

We get up and start walking in silence. I’m immersed in my thoughts, in my insecurity and Petrus must be thinking – I think – about his work in Milan. He is here because in a way he was obliged by Tradition, probably wishing to finish this walk in order to go back to what he likes doing.

We walk most of the rest of the afternoon without talking. We are isolated in our obliged acquaintanceship. Saint James of Compostela is in front of us and I can’t imagine that this path will lead me to this city and to many other cities in the world. Neither Petrus nor I know that in this afternoon, on the plains of Leon, I’m also walking towards Milan, his city, where I will arrive almost ten years later, with a book called The Alchemist. I am walking towards my destiny, so many times dreamt and denied.

In a few days I will arrive exactly where, today, twenty years later, I write these lines. I am walking towards what I’ve always wanted, and I have no faith nor hope that my life will change.

But I keep going forward. Towards a remote future, passing in a few days by one of the bars where now my wife is sitting reading a book, and me, typing this text in a computer, that in a couple of minutes will send it through internet to a newspaper where it will be published.

I am walking towards the future – in this August afternoon of 1986.

(*) In the year that I did my pilgrimage, only 400 people had walked Saint James’ Path. In 2005, according to non-official statistics, 400 people where crossing – per day – the bar mentioned in the text.

The next text will be posted on the 26.04.06

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