The narrow winding road –uphill- to the cemetery of Atuona is quite a challenge for a flatlander like me. 15 minutes earlier I walked out of the airconditioned bank building and was punched in the face by a crushing heat at 100 percent humidity. But I had to get up there, this was the chance of a lifetime . It is a small cemetery, messy, like is to be expected of a small village on an island in the South Pacific. Hardly any structure or order. It’s almost like they said “just drop him over here” before starting to dig. Many graves with a simple cross, not that many with a tombstone.
It was as a student that I first got acquainted with the music of Jacques Brel; a roommate played it to us. It was quite the kind of music that fitted our lifestyle, which was, at the time, quite burgundy: extensive cooking each evening, dinners lasted for hours, we philosophized about almost everything, often till late at night or even early in the morning. Brel’s music always instilled a feeling of pain in me. A pain caused by the realization that that which should have been, can never be reached.
Long ago I had a dream about an imaginary covered shopping street somewhere in De Pijp neighborhood, a side street of Albert Cuyp or running parallel to it. Somewhere you have to turn the corner and then you are there, but it is easy to pass it by unnoticed. A street too, that few have discovered, but where you feel you are so very much at ease that you find inner peace.
I had that dream only once, since then I have dreamt many times that I went looking for that street, but always in vain. Until last week. I was walking about town with another blogger and accidentally ran into the street. But she didn’t experience the street the way I did, she had other troubles on her mind, busy and preoccupied as she always is. Still, it can not be a coincidence that I have found the street again with her. I have been pondering for over a week now what this dream means. And if I will be able to find the street again without her. That kind of pain: the fear –the knowledge?- of never finding my destination. The pain of being out-of-sync with other people.
Brel’s grave does have a tombstone. A few people have left a memory here, but it is not a grave like that of Jim Morrison or Jimi Hendrix. This island is too far off the beaten path, it is too difficult to get here. It’s also way too hot; at such moments you’d rather retreat into yourself, in the cold, wearing a warm coat and a shawl around your neck, blowing your nose. It is, however, quiet, and that helps thinking over things about yourself. Brel lived for a few years on this island. Did he find the peace he was looking for? Acquiescence, perhaps? And who were the loved ones he left behind? Do they come all the way to Atuona for consolation? Ne me quitte pas.
We do not want to be abandoned, but almost carelessly we do it ourselves and leave those that love us behind. Looking for Atuona…