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  • Writer's pictureLeon de Leeuw

Tales of a fisherman

It had been a harsh winter, during which Petar had cut out large chunks of ice to be able to fish. Now that it was finally summer, his days were much easier. No more kneeling down to saw through the thick layer of ice, inconveniently holding in his belly that had become far too large over the course of the season. Petar was surely enjoying his calm summer, fishing, doing renovations around the house and enjoying quiet reflection. He had foreseen he would come to resent Eli much, whom packed her bags and left him at the end of winter two years ago. She had grown tired of the ‘poor man’s shed in the cursed swamp’. Not only had she left him, she took his only funds and left on Sunday afternoon, their day off. Petar had closed himself off from love and from basically all non-essential human interaction.

The event had broken an inner piece of him that did not heal by itself. Eli had destroyed the man for a mere jar of money. Petar had retreated to self-sustainability as a man like him, lacking education and a trade, would hardly make his way in this world. At least that’s what he thought of himself. The image he had reduced himself to. Petar had gone through two years of self-hate and resentment towards the world and would feel discomfort seeing other happy couples. Apart from that, he had not often been open towards his own feelings. One misty morning, as he folded out his chair right next to tall, spiky plants growing up from the river, he concluded that he had little to lose and might as well sit and wallow for a day.

During his fishing reflections, Petar saw he had aged in the mirroring face of the water. He would not have forever, a thought he always tried to suppress. And though his life was peaceful, he wanted someone to share the early mornings with and someone to make a pot of tea for. He never drank it all on his own. On some particularly gloomy mornings, he poured two cups of tea just for the plain sight of it. A rather strange habit, he thought it to be. At least it made him feel a little more accompanied, just seeing the damp rise from the untouched cup.

And as he tried to face the thought he would not be on the face of the earth forever, something seemed to snap. His gloomy personality, that was molded into place by misfortune, failure and rejection, seemed to have its voice muted. As he reflected on his life, little had ever satisfied him. There would always be a tomorrow, a tomorrow in which he would get a new day falling out of the sky. A clean slate to begin on. And even though Petar was a simple man, he did not lack an inner life. If all, his imagination was rather colourful even though dark black in some nooks. What he wanted was just for one week to be alive and not live through the nagging thoughts of ‘what if’ and ‘should I only’..

It was pitch black when he walked over to the station and bought a second class ticket to the coast. Petar felt little joy towards his trip as he was quite nervous about what he would do on the coast. He had lacked stimuli from the outside world for quite a while and out of comfort had even chosen to avoid them. Now he would go search for them. He wanted to feel alive.

He breathed heavily as his anxious thoughts clouded the otherwise beautiful sunrise he witnessed through the train window. Of the little stress Petar had in life, the stress he did have was self-fabricated. His thoughts would grow darker and darker if he attached to them and started to fight them. His discomfort grew as the train chugged towards the coast and Petar even thought of getting off and taking the next train back west. Maybe he was supposed to live inside his little framework that he had designed for himself, to live comfortably in. Again, he looked at his reflection in the window and saw his face with the marks of age on it. He could not go on wallowing alone, watching the water crawl by each morning and sell the same fish day in day out. It would be a miserable existence.

Petar got to the coast and had a simple breakfast at a seaside cafe. He sipped three cups of coffee which he believed would give him confidence and strength. He tipped the waitress generously and had rarely felt more self-assured, as he crossed the pavement onto the beach. He took off his unpolished shoes and felt so energized he rushed to pull off his socks as well. He left it all right there in the sand and slowly but steadily walked over to the shore. It was the first time since his childhood that he had felt sand between his toes. This was something else than the pebbled riverbeds. A slight salty breeze gave him a taste of life that he rarely witnessed anymore. He sat down and put his feet into the water, that was warm and gently stroking his toes.

He sought a cheap boarding room near the main boulevard and to mark his victory of stepping into the world, he drank a whole bottle of red wine. That night, he was was handsomely walking along the boulevard and crossed the fair where everyone seemed to be having a great time. He felt remarkably sad though, the wine had made him very drowsy and he seemed to be more emotional after this already long day. Nothing at the fair seemed to get this attention and nobody at the fair seemed to pay attention to him. Then one stand got in his eyesight, it was a booth where you could fish for little ducks and win prizes such as plush animals or even a watch. Because he took the cheap boarding room he had a few coins left to make a catch. He seemed to have the experience needed and caught five ducks in a row effortlessly. ‘Fisherman, can you help me get that pink bear?’ whispered a silky lady voice right into his ear. Petar got a shiver over his back and the lady seemed to notice. She softly giggled and Petar struggled to find his words. ‘Well.. Yes okay’. Catching about eight more ducks in a row, the pink bear was handed over to Petar. He then gave it to Yana, the name of this sturdy blond lady with a full and lovely face.

And so, they both had a drink and retreated to the smudgy boarding room. Yana didn’t seem to mind, she was attracted to Petar’s confidence, his calmness and his eyes that were dark blue like the deep river he fished in. Eventually, when Petar slowly let his guards down, they had become immensely attracted to each other. A few months later, Yana, head over heels, drew in with Petar and so they lived near the river bank together and drank tea each morning. Petar was still broken but slowly, his wounds were healing. It seemed he found a partner. And every time she left for groceries on a Sunday afternoon, especially at the end of the winter, he would look at the pink bear in the living room, fearfully, until she’d come back.

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