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Scharlie Meeuws

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La Jolla, A Celebration of Its Past
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The Story of Adolfo the Fisherman
By Scharlie Meeuws
Monday, March 12, 2007

Rated "PG" by the Author.

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Death has a thousand doors to let out life; I shall find one (Ph. Massinger)

No one going to chaperone the girl at seventeen on her trip to Spain! She felt free.
With a girlfriend she went for a two week long holiday in Spain. The bus took nearly a whole day to get to Barcelona. There they slept in a narrow hostel and then flew the short distance over to the island. She had packed all those nice things, her red bikini, a straw hat, cosmetics, Nivea cream against sunburn and something to read. Books had to be with her wherever she went. It was a first for her in every way, a first trip without an adult, a first flight. It is hard to describe her feelings, a bit like being drunk all the time, drunk with an incredible joie de vivre. At midnight they arrived at a little shabby place, a fisherman’s hut connected to the cheap breakfast hotel. The two brothers, both fishermen, had let it out and slept on their boat. Their few belongings, like their torn underwear, were lying around still. When she saw the sea for the first time in her life, a black mirror with a brilliant silvering moon, she leapt straight into it, wrapping her around in a soft caress. She was totally ignorant of the dangers lurking underneath on the rocky seabed, the hundreds of sea urchins, hedgehogs of the sea, living underneath in crevices and holes in the shallow waters. When you tread on them they pierce your feet and break easily. She felt a sharp pain but tried to ignore it. Everything was so new, so exciting! She simply thought the pain away, danced the twist in the evenings with her bare feet on the dirty wooden floors of the local bars. Soon she could not bear the pain anymore. High fever and nausea left her feeling very sick. One of the fishermen offered to carry her to a convent. "There we go," he smiled down at her. "You feel like a little bird that got hurt. I picked up plenty of those."

Slightly embarrassed, she looked at his tanned and muscular arms that gently held her during a ten minute walk. She wondered what he really thought about her, but appreciated his fast decision on her behalf. She knew she had found someone who cared.
The nuns painstakingly used scissors to remove more than ninety stings from the soles of her feet. They gave her antibiotics to stem the blood poisoning. Red streaks, a sign for it, already had gone up her leg. She was told she had come just in time and could have lost her foot. Adolfo, the fisherman had saved her.
From then on, each morning for three days, he carried her to her breakfast hotel. They were talking in French to each other and she decided then and there to learn Spanish for him:
"I want to thank you properly in the words of your language" she said, "then you will get the feeling for what I want to express."
A year later she returned to the island looking for him. Her arrival was spotted immediately. It spread like wildfire through the village:
"Adolfo’s girl is back."
He had changed from a simple fisherman into a sophisticated restaurant owner. All the villagers knew him, some running behind and jokingly teasing them, while they walked hand in hand down the dusty village road:
"Adolfo con su novia, su novia extranjera, su novia, novia novia" they were chanting.
Adolfo, undisturbed, with a little smile, walked fast, upright, proudly pointing out to her the new premises. He offered her free meals in his restaurant kitchen, where they sat in the evenings often talking until the early hours.
"At last I can understand you," he said. "I have a pretty large experience of foreign girls, you’re often a bad lot. Now mind. Behave yourself and prove me wrong."
His restaurant was a welcome oasis for her, where she could relax, sip her ice-cold juice and make friends. Some evenings she helped entertain the guests shaking the rumba balls as part of the band. On other occasions, high up on a podium, she moved her hips to the Latin dance beat while clicking the castanets noisily. It was what she wanted, feeling the world in full swing.
Adolfo worked late nights. During daytime he could be found sitting in the shady cafe by the harbour wall in front of a strong coffee never tiring to ogle the blond and red-skinned tourists behind his mafia-style sunglasses. He liked to be seen as a man of mystery and few words. Sometimes she received torn slips of paper in his staccato handwriting:
"This is dangerous, I appreciate your offer" or "I’d like a duel, but at night, may be at 3 am. Thank you."
She not quite understood what he was saying but she got the gist. They met behind the harbour. By the fishing-boat bobbing sea, wrapped in white sheets, he was waiting for her. Dressed up, two ghostly figures, mischievous as children, they ran along the beach where they frightened a few amorous couples. Walking back they looked up at the milky way: a torrent of light and rivers of the skies along whose beds the glimmering stars were sprinkled like gold and silver sands. Passing through the deserted village streets they nearly fell over a silent amber-eyed cat that swiftly tried crossing their cobble-stoned path. They could not stop laughing at the rattling sounds of noisy snoring when walking past the low windows. All the people of the lulled town were sleeping by now but for them. With wide-open eyes they saw the black and the folded town dreaming. They could hear the houses murmur in their sleep. They walked very close without talking. The slow and whispering night never had felt as intimate.

A further year took her to Madrid where she became fluent in Spanish. They wrote to each other strange little letters and he told her in one of them of the house he was building for her in the countryside. That left her uneasy and made her stop all contacts for a while. Only once was she back for a visit. Then he moaned about the hassle in the restaurant business and told her:
"I wished I was back where I started. With my fishing boat, out on the sea, living a simple fisherman’s life without obligations or demands."
For the first time, due to her better knowledge of his language, they spoke in depth. He talked to her about his childhood:
"I was born in a house without water or electricity. There were no wells on my island. We collected the water from the rain in roof cisterns. When I was young, I was poor but I never lacked anything. On the contrary, I was King of the Beach. My body was strong and healthy. I only needed a change of clothes, a vegetable patch on my farmland with some goats for milk. Nothing else mattered. Of course, there was, most important, my boat from which, in all weathers, I was fishing the riches out of the sea."
"Have you had many friends?" she asked.
"My friends were my brothers and sisters, who, like me, ran around barefoot all day long playing those entertaining games with sticks, shells and all we found on the deserted beaches. This was our own paradise. No tourists had discovered it yet."
She saw Adolfo as a young sea god arisen from the sea-foam. For her he had come straight out of the sea, at one with the waves: his soul vast as the sea was deep. She wrote a poem about him comparing his spirit to the tireless waves around his small island.
They once had made love underneath a mantle of stars. His body was not as important to her as the feel of his mind. She wanted to learn from it the love of a pure existence. He was the most undemanding person she had ever met, uncomplicated as the sea in his simplicity. She called him affectionately: "mi pequeno salvaje" my little wild one. There was a great tenderness in her heart for him but also the knowledge due to their differences that it could not last. The thought of him on his island, though, was like having a refuge deep in her mind, somewhere she would come back to, time and time again, to find a rest from her own turbulence in life. She never forgot Adolfo but lost him for many years.

Much later, when she was married with four children, she found an old letter in a drawer and felt she had to see Adolfo again. She wrote to various addresses and received an answer. He simply wrote back:
"Happy to hear from you. I herewith invite you and your family to visit my island. Do come soon."
She told her husband about him, that he was poor and simple and that his house was probably an old converted garage. Would they all be able to sleep there? They took the risk and three of their children to travel to this tiny island, far off the tourist track.
They had to fly to a larger island and from there take a small ferry. The Dolores had a bad reputation, she heard, of giving bumpy rides and kicks, like a stubborn dolphin if there ever was one. When they arrived, after an hour of travelling, most of her family was seasick. Her youngest had vomited all over her and her nice dress, with which she had hoped to impress her fisherman, was ruined and smelly.

That’s how Adolfo saw her again after so many years. He was waiting for them with a smile and loaded them in his brand new Landrover. Isolated in the wild countryside stood his house built from marble.
"I have built it myself, everything" he proudly told.
Inside all was new, the china plates and cups in the cupboards, the tall sparkling wine glasses, the still wrapped cutlery on a shelf. When she opened a drawer, she found all her photographs from long ago, sitting there like having waited all those years for her. She suddenly realised, he had bought all these things for her and her family’s visit. Overwhelmed she turned to Adolfo. He never explained but within his impenetrable smile she thought she had noticed a small flicker of sadness.
Over the next days he proved a wonderful host. He drove them around the island, showed them historic sites, invited them to restaurants and cooked them barbecue dinners at home. Her little blond children were buzzing like bees around him, even her husband made friendly efforts. She hardly had a word alone with Adolfo, but in a brief moment he confided in her about his depression:
"You know, I really prefer the tall blond tourists who will never stay to the dark and short women from my island. People like me prefer an unfulfilled dream to reality. I demand the impossible"
He was not just accepting life as it is but elevating it, she thought.
" I am like the man with the blue guitar who does not play things as they are. I could answer like him: Things as they are, are changed upon my blue guitar."
She got a glimpse of his sadness. Yet there were lots of things she would never know or understand. It amazed her though, how he empathised with her own unhappiness. When she told him about the difficulties in her marriage, he tried to comfort her by listening intently. He calmly said:
"Women often believe that men are the answer. I’m afraid, we are not. We are not even one of the questions."
She and her family left the island soon after.
"How does it feel, do you suppose," she asked, as they walked down to the ferry, "when one is about to resign to one’s fate?"
He was silent, as they walked, did not look at her face, then squeezed her hand in a last good bye.
"We all do" he murmured.

A year later, when back in Spain, she called him. A man’s voice answered:
"You want to talk to Adolfo? I am sorry to tell you he has died eight months ago. So sorry. He drove his Landrover down the cliffs, right into the sea."
She had to gasp for breath. Her throat tightened with an enormous urge of despair.
She was astonished about the extent of her feelings of pain and loss. She never had wholly understood but truly "felt" his wild and yearning heart.
He had for a long time fought against his sea of troubles, and by throwing himself into the sea, had vanquished it. His name was Colomar, a combination of colour and sea, a picture that she held in her mind whenever she remembered him .


Now you are dead
and I am still reliving
the days you were around,
alas, long gone-
your body, tanned
by sun of dried-out country,
encrusted land,
the fisher boats, the sound
of homely language
not to understand
the pressure of your soul
so proud, so lonely…
I look around, the land
still dry as earlier,
no tears I shed can moisten it,
the waves
without a moment's hesitation
still beat the shore,
still hurt the paling sand...
Now you are gone
and I feel sad.
You went ahead
and different is this land.

       Web Site: The Story of Adolfo the Fisherman

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