I'm in some town called Alabaster, north of Montgomery. It's raining here, again, just like everywhere in Alabama. It rains twice a day and sometimes it sneaks in a third storm in the middle of the night to catch me off guard. That's alright, though, I'm prepared. I have a sunburn, but it's starting to brown. My blisters are turning to callouses and my legs are toughening up. I'm not eating as much as I thought, which is both good and bad. It's good in that my food budget will last longer and I can divert some funds to my fun budget. Also, I can afford to splurge and eat a meal that isn't as bland as rice and chicken, rice and sausage or rice and mashed potatoes. Did I mention that I'm eating a lot of rice?
A lot of things are tough, like carrying a pack up the side of an overpass with a sore ankle or walking five more miles to the next exit because a pair of crackhead bums at the last exit got tired of snorting coke and decided to give you crap instead and you have to threaten their lives with a bigger than shit knife to get them to back off. Or realizing that you have a blister that formed on top of an existing blister (that's going to be one hell of a callous). But all those things seem to fade into the background once my feet hit the pavement again and I start making more progress. That all just becomes part of the experience and either becomes a blur or enriches the travel memories.
What's really difficult, worse than those things and then some, is not existing. Toting a pack and being a little dirty makes one somehow not human. The guys who curse you for being a burden to the society for asking directions to the interstate, the snot-nosed brats driving Daddy's car who yell at you and even throw shit at you while hitching, the couples who suddenly pause their conversations while passing you and continue walking all tensed up as if I'm a rabid dog on a long leash, and all the dozens of people who keep their eyes focused on some distant object as they walk, praying I won't speak to them as they pass, that is what makes this trip difficult. The feeling of being a person who has slipped through the cracks, one who is no longer a person at all, of being completely alone and no longer a member of the race is worse than missing my friends and family, worse than the blisters and sunburns, worse than the tired legs or the threat of being arrested. It's worse than the driving rain and the midday heat, and mosquitoes at night. It's worse than the heavy pack. Somehow, it's even worse than missing my girlfriend. It's worse than all that combined.
I have a newfound respect and sympathy for those who have truly fallen through. Those who have lost their way and lost their homes. Next time you pass a homeless person, smile and look their way. You have no idea how much a simple glance means until you find yourself in a state of being in which you no longer exist.