On the AP-36 autopista, where thoughts do somersaults and the battery of reason takes its last breath, I steer my vehicle towards the sunset as if in a trance. My co-driver, a hitchhiker I picked up at the last rest stop, drums a tune on the washer jug with his fingers that no radio would ever play.
“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.” 1
he murmured, as if he were speaking from another world, a mantra that cut through the silence.
On the first few miles together, he told me in his distorted perception that traveling is not a question of destination, but of companionship. He longed for a companion who neither wanted to start the day too early nor dream too late into the night. Someone who laughs without knowing why and asks without expecting an answer.
His words echoed for a long time, while the world outside rushed by in an endless prism of colors and questions.
When I glanced at him, his own gaze seemed captivated by the washing jug, as if he recognized the face of a stranger in it - a face that asked silent questions in a world beyond our understanding.
He sat there, trapped in an endless loop of emptiness, surrounded by thoughts that were as intangible as butterflies in a storm. A pen dangled from his ear, ready to write a story that would never be told.
Suddenly he stiffened, his fingers paused on the washing jug, and he turned to me with a look that seemed to split the twilight. “You know,” he said in a voice that no longer seemed to be his own, “sometimes the person sitting next to you is not just a traveling companion, but the key to your understanding of life.” He pulled an old, weathered camera from his jacket pocket. “I photograph souls, not places. And yours,” he pointed at me with a gentle smile, “has always been my goal.”
Before I could even react, his figure faded away as if it had never been more than a shadow that the morning sun dispels. The washing jug and pen lay there like forgotten toys at the end of a child’s day. In my hand I held the photo he had taken - a reflection of myself, laughing without knowing why, asking without expecting an answer. A window to a soul lost in the haze of reality. At that moment, the washing jug, pen and photo also dissolved, as if they wanted to follow the hitchhiker into infinity. A sudden shower of rain drummed the hitchhiker’s tune against the windshield. A chill ran through me as I clutched the steering wheel with sweaty hands. I had actually fallen asleep for a second!
Albert Camus ↩︎