One Reply to “7.31.2013 Journal Prompt”

  1. ‘Never been to Venice?’ they said. ‘Venice with her skirts in the sea and her beautiful head still held high. There are no roads, only canals and bridges thrown over them. It is like a city unchanged. Like walking through the past and walking where the great and the good have walked. Byron swam the length of the Rialto, just for the hell of it. And everyone travels by Gondola. And you’ve never been?
    But you must. Before it sinks into the sea forever. It is one of the seven wonders of the world.’

    ‘Are there still only seven?’ he said, laughing. He got to his feet a little unsteadily and once he was standing he did not know why he had got up.

    ‘You must,’ they said again and so he nodded and arrangements were made and tickets booked and a date marked on the calendar, far enough off at first that he did not have to give it much thought.

    ‘Napoleon called it the drawing room of Europe,’ said Scoli. He didn’t know what a drawing room was, but it sounded important. He was talking about St Mark’s square. ‘And today,’ he said, ‘there are fine cafés there with their chairs and tables spreading across the paved stones, and tall men dressed smart and waiting at those tables, and Vivaldi hanging in the air, and the bell tower in orange brick and pointing heavenwards.’

    Scoli paused only for breath.

    ‘And so many churches,’ he said. ‘Too many to count and each one more splendid than the last, all hung with great paintings and the colours all fizzing and spark.’

    Even Scoli got poetical when he talked about the place. Scoli who never read a book in his life, nor ever stepped inside a gallery or a church, or attended a concert, and here he was speaking poetry.

    ‘You won’t ever want to leave,’ he said.

    And in the end it was all of those things and more. And a disappointment it was, too. It was too much, he thought. It took his breath away and he wished that he had come sooner. He wished he’d come as a young man. It is a city for lovers, he thought.

    His feet were sore with so much walking. He did not think a city built on the sea should be so hard on his feet. He walked away from St Marks, away from the crowds that had become a little oppressive. He wanted quiet and plain and peace. He wanted a rest for his eyes and his heart. He wandered aimlessly and deliberately lost.

    ‘See Venice and die,’ he whispered to himself. It was something they’d said back home, and then wished they hadn’t said it, understanding how much closer to dying he was than they were. He laughed then and he laughed now and his laughter in a corridor of crumbling red brick sounded not like his own laughter. It was time mocking him, he thought. Then he laughed again. It had made Scoli poetical and now look what it was doing to him.

    Stone stepped down into green water. If he removed his shoes and sat on one of the steps he could paddle his feet in the cool water. All of the wonders of the city at his back and this seemed to him to be the best thing of all.

    ‘Byron? He was an English poet who slept with his sister or his half-sister and he was a hero in some Greek war and he swam the length of the Rialto river and survived. It is not the same now. There are chemicals in the water and even the fish do not swim there now.’ It was a voice in his head. Not Scoli but one of the others trying to stop him from cooling his feet.

    He sat on the stone steps and watched the sky reflected on the surface of the water, watched the reflection break and come together again with the movement of the waves. He sighed and felt suddenly much older than he was.

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