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September 2018

- António -

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António was a fisherman and a kind-hearted man. I got to know him many years ago in Portugal on the beach of Odeceixe and met him there repeatedly over the following years. António lived with a grey tiger cat in a small cabana (fishing hut) on the cliffs. His fishing boat lay in a tiny bay and could only be reached via several steep wooden ladders. He owned a garden and an old bicycle, not much more than that. No matter where we met, whether at the beach bar of Joao, on the coast, on the way from the beach to the village, in the market place of Odeceixe or in the evening at Pinto in the Tasca (pub) – we always chatted with each other. I liked his gentle and persistent nature, which was very similar to the coastline of his homeland. Everything that grows and thrives here must be tough and frugal, robust and resistant, withstand winter storms and summer droughts, as well as the cold and rain.

António died a few years ago, when the coastal region was already undergoing major changes. Meanwhile, gigantic greenhouse plantations decompose intact nature like spilt nitric acid. Fracking for natural gas is very topical, concerning people living near the sea. Last night I dreamed of António. It was one of those dreams in which one strives towards goals, but then later forgets the path, then experiences situations that resemble still images. Words and sentences penetrate through them without a voice – and yet can still be easily heard. “I can prevent a borehole, but no earthquakes,” António whispered to me. We were standing on the cliff. The sea deep down did not move, but it was littered with seemingly gigantic ships and bizarre scrap metal. In the sky, fish moved motionlessly with their mouths ripped open. And António, where had he suddenly disappeared to? The oil rig with the red tower faded. Brightness spread and António rowed on the sea, waves of water washed over his boat. The sun climbed over the horizon, where it was supposed to sink. Antonio waved, his smiling face was big. “How did you do that?” I wanted to know, but my voice faded out and the image in front of my eyes crumbled to dust as I slowly woke up.

António was a fisherman. But in my dream, he was a fighter. Wasn’t he anyway, as they told each other in the village, the descendant of a Scottish nobleman who had been the only one to survive a shipwreck many, many years ago? The then Portuguese king gave this seafarer the whole south-western coastline – but over the centuries nothing much remained of this property than the patch of land belonging Antoniós Cabana, divided up and sold off piece by piece. What sounds like a fairy tale should end like this: “Even if he has already died, he still lives.” In any case in my memory – and perhaps actually as a good soul above us.

 

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