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Thursday, December 11, 2008

My Imaginary Love Affair in Venice

I was just leaving Venice. I had bought my train ticket and everything. All I had to do was wait the 30 or 40 minutes until time of departure. So I sat myself down on the front steps of the Venice train station. A remarkable thing is this train station for it carries the train straight across the gulf separating it and the mainland of Italy and brings one straight to the canals of that island the world will forever know.
And sitting on those steps I could see so much of the enchantment that is Venice. A large canal pierced through the front of the train station. A big arched bridge hopped over the this canal. People in brilliant situations passing here and there on the bridge some staying some going, some in love, some wishing to be, some festive, some solemn, but perhaps all, all seeming to be happy. It is a difficult thing to be in Venice and not feel a spiral rising of the spirits. As though it’s some bubbling stir in the soles of one’s shoes. Sometimes, if it rains a lot this could literally be the case. They were busy taking down the platforms from the flood a few days before I got there.
But in any case, the world is perfect and picturesque when one is in Venice. I don’t think this comes as a shock to anybody. You have only to bound through the little alleyways, up and down these little arched bridges from ages ago, over and across canals taking in the little masquerade shops, the gondoliers as though float by, sometimes if lucky, they are singing. Venice is one of those cities where it is highly recommended to get lost. (And if you venture about this magical city then you will find what little effort it takes to do just that, as I did and every non-Venetian, in fact, floating by like beaming ghosts of bliss and bright indulgence.) For to know where you are going exactly is to miss the point in Venice. Oftentimes, it is enough to go bounding through some narrow alley, ancient bricks leading you about as in a labyrinth of pure song, of voluptuous intrigue, only to come out in delicate, little piazzas, a towering church nearby with the sign of Saint Mark, a winged lion etched in the architecture, the rich tones of Vivaldi’s violin echoing out of unseen doors or windows. Then you glimpse around the corner and you see the mystical little rivers lapping by in a subdued sort of melody. If you are as fortunate as I was and it is a sunny day then the river is sparkling gorgeous in the sunlight, alighting the windows, and the domes of old, old buildings, and the rivers skirt on matching the deep blues of the sky. If it is night, then you catch a hold of the entire scene as though you are in a dream for everything has this hushed gleam to it. Yes, these are Casanova’s old stomping grounds…full of charm and seduction. It would take all my metaphorical powers to construct for you the feel of such a city. So I will stop. I will get to what the title here suggests.

But first let me recount briefly what happened the following few days. Randy and I had ventured out from Tuscany and went clear to this quaint, remarkable little city called Verona. As some of you may raise a brow at that name, yes, that is where the entire Romeo and Juliet incident took place noted by a certain Bill Shakespeare. Now, let me reiterate this and make it fine and clear. Yes, Randy and I did go off to two very romantic cities together that most couples could have wished their own grand honeymoons to be at. But no, there was no monkey business here. Just two straight guys going to randomly see two remarkable cities. They just happened to be the place where stories of star-crossed lovers abound. In Verona, we did make a pilgrimage to where it is believed the “real” Juliet Capulet stood on the balcony and asked where her Romeo was at. They had this statue of Juliet down below. And Randy pointed out that it was the superstition to rub the boob of this immortal, ill-fated lover for good luck. I thought he was joshing and that all he wanted to do was just rub the boob of a statue of a female. But after, he did so, I really couldn’t keep myself away. I mean why should he be allowed to grope the statue…for good luck that is, and I not? So, yes, I rubbed the boob of Juliet,…all for good luck in one’s love life, not for some sick kind of perversion with statues.
So there. Let’s establish two things here. 1) Yes, I did venture to two romantic cities with another guy. 2) However, one of the highlights of the trip consisted of rubbing a bronze boob. Such a feat annuls the 1st point. Making it A-okay to roam into localities of lovers with another male when groping about heterosexually.

The next day we took a train to Venice. We wandered around that city a good bit. On the 2nd day Randy’s knee started to hurt. And as with most cities in Italy, a hurt knee is just no good. So Randy went back to Prato. And I stayed longer in Venice. But I wasn’t alone exactly. Oh no. It is amazing how many times I bumped into the Smith family and the two AIM students. Yes, there were people I actually knew that came to Prato for a little reunion that I had attended and they visiting Venice the same time that we were. I must have bumped into them 5 times in various places through the island city. Even visited a floating cemetery with them by taking the water taxi. But pretty soon, they were going to dine out at the illustrious McDonalds, and I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Eat McDonald’s in Venice. Well, I don’t blame the Smith family. I mean they would eat something Venetian, but the two students with them had been living in Albania and so craved anything western. So I could kind of, sort of,..with much straining…understand. But I departed from them. Went and ate a pasta dinner all by myself. And it was Thanksgiving dinner too. But the thought never cross my mind then, why? I was in Venice. Far, far away from turkey and stuffing and deer hunting cousins.

And so now, I come back to those steps that I was sitting on just before I was about to leave. I was sitting there lost in contemplation. I can’t remember precisely what I was musing about. I do recall this thought sometimes cropping up about Venice..how when romantic couples do come here. They sort of rob themselves of a full impression of the city. I imagine Paris must be the same way. It must be sort of unfair to the city. I mean, being in love and all, only so much attention can be divested outwardly. How many lovers actually notice all the gems and rare things that are in every nook and cranny? I guess the question to be asked is “How come cities that are so rich with mood, aura, and spirit, where Heaven seems to be in the details, why are these the cities to go to with a lover?” Where your real attention is going to be invested in the person next to you? Why not go to Iowa instead? Ah, but perhaps if all the Venices of the world only attracted meticulous, solitary travelers that would kill the spirit of the place…for maybe that it is the soul of such places. Besides, I am too ignorant of long relationships to understand the word “share”…Perhaps.

I was musing upon something of the sort when out of the corner of my eye I saw a figure, an African male, abruptly sit down next to this cute girl that wasn’t sitting too far away from me. It’s funny, I hadn’t noticed her before. The African sat down next to the girl as though clearly hitting on her. And the girl seeming to be offended exclaimed, “Excuse me!!?” The African guy spoke back, “I’m sorry, are you alone? May I sit here?” I could see her eyes widen, worrying.
Immediately, like a flash of lightning. Some unknown reaction, I knew just what to say,
“No, she is with me.” I smiled kindly and glanced at the lady.
“But you guys are not sitting close together? Nah, I don’t believe you.” The African grinned this out.
And then the girl spoke up,
“Yes, we are together. We just had a fight so we are sitting apart.”
“Yes, a heated argument.” I assured him, “I don’t know what got into me.” I shook my head all worrying. “I mean it’s not her fault. Yes, I’m to blame. It’s my pride and my anger and…,” I slapped the African on the back, as though he was a long lost buddy.
“You know how it goes? You just get carried away.”
“Well, this isn’t good.” Said the African.
The girl shook her head and huffed as though she was sulking. She was brilliant.
“Yeah, it’ll be mended soon though. That’s how we are”, I sighed. “We just fight and make up, fight and make up. But there is some health in it. You know every couple has to fight it out. The unhealthy couples are ones that never fight and bottle it all up.”
“How long have the two of you been going out?”
“Much too long.” The girl breathed.
“Yes, I guess I deserve that. You would think that being in Venice..this marvelous, romantic city that the two of us would get along, even here. But no, back to the arguing and so forth.”
All the while, I kept looking over my shoulder at the train times for my departure was coming up shortly. Also, the girl would always glare playfully at me when the African’s head was turned from her. We sat for awhile talking this sort of charade. The African was all for the 3 of us getting up and going someplace to dine or for a walk. Maybe he could patch up our relationship. Get us talking freely with one another. The girl and I both sensed that he was after something.
About 5 minutes til, I decided to exit this little theatre we had going on the steps of the Venice train station, but how to do so without giving up the truth…well that was going to be difficult. I had two scenarios I was musing over. Both of them every bit crazy. The first was to stage some sort of mock fight and storm off angrily. (I’ve been through a real one; I wonder what the fake ones look like.) The 2nd was the opposite extreme and try to tell her that I must be leaving now and that I still cared so much for her and…then all of a sudden go in for this huge kiss. I was curious to see if she would let me. Why not, it was Venice after all. But, I did none of these. I merely told her that I had to meet my aunt and that it was time for my departure. She said okay, and rose with me as though she was leaving with me. We said goodbye to the African and as we both walked together inside the train station, I asked her under my breath, “So where are you from?”
“Croatia”, she said.
And we had a light conversation right then. She was leaving for her country in a few hours. She came to Venice very often. Spoke Italian. I asked her if she came here by herself. She said with a look of supreme confidence that she always traveled alone.
I only had a few minutes til my train took off so no real, in-depth conversation took place. I just merely from a distance, chimed out affectionately, “Good bye, my dear.” She smiled and winked. And I can’t really remember but perhaps I blew her a kiss. Or perhaps my imagination is fabricating that part. I wish that I would have had a white handkerchief to wave at her as the train tore out of that magical city of Venice.

You would have thought my meetings with notable females would have ended right there. But this would be wrong. Immediately upon entering the train, I was feeling magnanimous about everything. Very gregarious. I sat down in a chair facing this really cute, Italian girl. Couldn’t help myself. Isn’t it ironic? All of a sudden I became the African. But, I was a bit more successful than he. Well, successful in the sense of not being duped around. I mean…I wasn’t probably after the same thing that he was. I conversed freely with this young lady. She spoke fluent English and German and was highly interested in the literature of both languages. So our conversation rose to such great heights. I even caught myself quoting Shelley to her. Ha, that is the mark of true infatuation. If I quote Byron to you then you are indeed ravishing. But if I quote Shelley to you, then there is something soul-binding about you.
But none such binding was to take place. She was getting off in 30 minutes in the city of Padua (another Shakespearian place.)
So I rode on. Seeming to have a crush on her for the rest of the ride back and a day or two after. I went to Venice and all I brought back with me is this cough and this story.


Blogger James and Andrea said...

I'm rolling my eyes over the statue groping. It's neat that you got to be in Verona, though. Since I've been working in high school, I've been able to relive 9th grade English class 3 times. =) Romeo and Juliet are getting to be best buds of mine.

It's neat that you ran into the Smiths and such while traveling. The world really is small. Last year one of our congregation's AIMers was there (he's now in S. Africa). I think there might be something going on between him and Amy Jo. Hmm. Italy's a pretty romantic place to join someone on their "family vacation."

Anyway, I'm glad you're having fun. I can't imagine how you are funding any of this. But I hope you continue to be safe. You really should look into becoming certified in a TESOL program so that you can be hired in any number of cool countries as a teacher of English. If I were single, that's what I'd be doing!

God bless! Merry Christmas.

12:59 AM  

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