Ostend_Day 4_The harbor

I could feel the collective sorrow of this place: the Oosteroever. Gradually the old fishing port has to make place for luxury apartments, the ‘Coucke torens’, they call it here. Willy, a ship owner, gave us a tour. He took us to the Marie’s café, Café Végé, which is closing its doors after 58 years. The property is being demolished, along with all the fishermen’s stories that lie within those walls. We drank beer and coffee there, with Krul, Willy, Maurice, and Marie. Willy buys old boats to protect them from being demolished. Because they are beautiful and valuable and part of the heritage of this place. Willy fights for a dying world. For this dying world.

Two houses down the street there was ‘het Compas’, a shop that sells ropes and boat attributes. Het Compas will disappear in 2020. ‘I have another space here at the back’, said the shop lady. ‘The stockroom, maybe this is interesting, we stock all our ropes there, all on a roll, in all colours and sizes.’ All together there was 14,478 meters of rope. Ropes immediately know from one another how long they are. It was a wild reunion. Everything was said there! Little ropes talk non-stop, just like the sea, but they never say the same word twice. They talk until all words have been used, and then, after a long sigh, they start over. As if they talk through their whole length. ‘You’re leaving!’ I screamed in between their jabbering, ‘You’re leaving! Everyone’s been talking about leaving, about fishermen who can’t fish anymore and about periods of leaving that are getting shorter.’ The collective sorrow of this place, of Marieke who mourns her dead husband. Of the sorrow of the sorrow of the sorrow.
In the afternoon I was lying on the Wapenplein. At the heart of the shopping centers. We didn’t really know what we would do. After exploring the area we decided to collect 30 people and walk down the entire Kappelestraat. There was a fair and the street was filled with people. After about ten minutes I was full of people. Ief, Sietse, and Senne explained who they were sitting on and asked people to help carry me. After 20 minutes we had collected enough people. Ief let the people spread out and urged the front man to start walking. Being lifted up feels an awful lot like falling. There weren’t many of us, you never know if you’ll succeed. You come off the ground, and that is the moment of falling. And suddenly you’re floating above the ground and you’re walking in a sea of people. I have never seen so many eyes before. Eyes of people but also eyes of things in the stores. Sales items with a price, knowing exactly what they’re meant for. All eyes of the people and things staring at me asked one thing only: ‘What are you?’ I wished I could close my eyes, but I don’t have any eyes to close, I am doomed to always see. Half a kilometer, being 60 meters long, I had to go through this world of curious eyes. It felt like a penance. At the end of the Kapellestraat Ief made the front man walk in a spiral, so I would end up in a nice round heap. I crawled back within myself and thought of Marie, and of Willy, Maurice, and of Krul.