While I was on the Camino, sleeping on bunk beds in rooms with as many as several dozen people, I often longed for a room of my own, without snoring and rustling, with space to spread out my belongings. Thanks to the generosity of a Denver writer friend and her husband, I’m staying in one of their freshly carpeted bedrooms and, until the next “Pilgrim” arrives, even have my own private bathroom with not one but two sinks…one for my left hand, another for my right? As albergues go, it’s top notch, which is why I won’t disclose the exact location or the names of the hospitaleros. For just a little longer, I’d like to have the place to myself.
Indeed, it’s unclear if the hospitaleros, the ones in charge, are the humans or the three felines on the premises. Two of them, a Rubenesque brown tabby and an equally zaftig black and white cat, were camped out on what I thought was “my” bed when I arrived, shedding their silky fur on the purple blanket as if to say, “Honey, don’t even think this is yours.” They sniffed my suitcase and backpack and, later on, rubbed their cheeks against the lid of my laptop. Since they have not marked any of my belongings, it appears they are letting me stay.
While at some of Spain’s albergues the hospitaleros switched on the lights between 6:30-7:00 a.m. or, in one case, blasted Ave Maria to jolt us weary walkers out of bed, in this place it’s the job of the svelte orange tabby to jump on me between 6:00-6:30a.m. to let me know it’s time to get up. The purring and pawing beats the operatic crooning of Latin texts, not to mention my alarm, and reinforces my belief that the cats are running the show. Indeed, they perch, sentry like, at the top and bottom of the stairs and on the kitchen counters, tracking our movements. They plant themselves at our feet so that we’ll lift a foot and rub their bellies with our shoes. They parade across the newspaper, their tails furry flags, forcing us to raise our heads in a salute. This morning, after I ate an omelette, the black and white cat licked my plate, as if to inspect my efforts. Since I would never let a human do that, it must mean the cats are in command. I wonder what hoops these feisty felines will make me jump through next.