She sent a message — are you here yet? I’m almost there.
The train was just pulling into the station after crossing the long bridge from the main land to the islands. We were coming to a stop. The dog was ready to stretch his legs.
Her: I’ll wait outside for you.
When you exit the station, the first thing you see as your eyes adjust to the sunlight is the green domed church across the canal. Then the canal. The boats. The vaporetto stop. The people. So many people.
In the crowd, she stood, looking, waiting in a blue linen dress and brown strappy sandals. The dog saw her before I did and he slipped from my grasp and ran down the stairs towards her, as happy as he could possibly be to see her, jumping and barking. Reunited.
I followed him down. We hugged, kissed cheeks.
Me: It’s so good to see you.
Her: you too. Let’s go. Do you want to stop for a drink or put your things down first?
We walked along the busy streets, the dog pulling us in the direction of the dog park he remembers, his memory is outstanding, and we stop for a few minutes. He runs, chases a ball I’ve brought with me, get a drink. I make a work call. Then we continue on.
The streets are busy again. The virus feels a distant memory, even though we all know it’s still here. In the streets. It’s here, in the bodies that we pass. But I try not to think about it.
As we turn off Strada Nuova, down smaller and smaller, quieter and quieter streets, the crowds fade, their peacefulness of the locals emerges. No one is moving here, it’s mid-afternoon and it’s hot. Stillness.
Her apartment is in an old building, a few steps from the water, but on the third floor, so it doesn’t flood. It’s small, but tidy, put together. It feels like a hotel.
Me: it feels a bit like a hotel.
Her: I know! I’m trying to turn it into home. I think I need more plants.
We leave the bags and I change out of my sweaty shirt and we go for drink, for a bottle, at a spot I’ve never been to, but one she knows well. The dog sleeps, after stealing a snack from the table.
We talk. By the time we head back, I barely have a voice left.
Me: I’m not used to talking so much.
We both look tired when we see ourselves in the mirror. Back to the usual habits of sharing the bathroom, getting ready for bed, no dinner, too tired, the wine killed our hunger, but the dog eats before we turn in.
A beginning that felt cinematic. That felt like it was part of a film, planned, arranged, scripted. From the steps of the train station, to the overhead shot of the dog running towards her. The small calle with the wine bar. The conversation about past, present, future. Us, how we were, how we are, how we will be. Our heartaches. Our eyes telling a different story to each other. A story neither of us really want to share fully. But we don’t have to because we know each other and it seems like it call comes out of the cracks.
As we drift to sleep, the windows slightly cracked for air, we hear the church bell chime midnight and we make a plan for the week. Dinners, Lido, beaches, an exhibit. All to the tune of a seagull perched on the building across the way. The city falls quiet, it feels like a dream, like the end of the sequence, and as we open on a new day, the sun climbing in the east, we zoom in on a coffee pot coming to life in a small apartment in Venice, while a dog sleeps on the rug on the floor.