Venice is a place of secret assignations, of whispers and antiquity. Away from the tourist bustle of the Grand Canal, down the tiny side streets, the ones haunted by dwarves in red coats, the ones that twist in on themselves, twist and twist again until they spit you out suddenly at the knees of a breathtaking church, there is an almost desolate peace. Perhaps that’s what makes Venice such a wonderful place to grieve.
It’s a myth, you know, that the canals smell. I have only found one and that, I am convinced, is the fault of a blocked house drain. In fact, the canals look clean; one of my favourite pastimes in the fortnight I’ve been here is to stand on the bridges, gazing into the clear, greenish depths, thinking about watery suicides.
I have worn black since I have been here. It was all I brought in my suitcase. They are rather sad clothes – I wear little black normally so they are things either bought hastily or pulled out from the back of drawers; all ill-fitting, all things I never want to wear again. When I leave Venice, I shall bundle all of them into a small suitcase and throw it over the side of a vaporetti.
Some might say it’s a bit morbid to come here so soon afterwards, somewhere that we’d been happy. But Venice is so absorbing and other worldly that I find it quite takes my mind off things. No one knows me here either and that’s a comfort, I can wander where I please, flirt with a waiter if the mood takes me, be whoever I want to be. It’s a very long time since I was free.
There’s a square I’m fond of here. Like much of Venice, the buildings look like they were shut up and abandoned a century or two ago. There is an old church with two weathered stone angels by its entrance, on bended knees, heads bowed as if in forgiveness. For two days running now it’s been less tranquil due to the apparance of two outlandish figures in traditional carnival dress, a man and woman in high powdered wigs, glittery white outfits and a parasol casting shadows. Masks too of course, his a sinister, curved beak, hers a glamorous confection of glitter and feathers.
Tonight I will revisit a small restaurant in the old Jewish quarter. There’s no menu, you get what you’re given by the stern non-English speaking proprietor who’ll wheel out plate after plate of exquisite little fish dishes. All washed down with Prosecco. But before then I need to return to the hotel, change my shoes and wash my face. It feels suddenly claustrophobic in these narrow little lanes, and all the memories these old buildings hold are pressing in on me when I have enough of my own memories to contend with.
He couldn’t let go, that was the trouble. Sometimes those weedy beta males are surprisingly strong when it comes to holding on to the little they do have. In truth, I don’t know if it was an accident or not. I was carrying my suitcase out of the bedroom when he caught up with me at the top of the stairs, grabbing my arm and pulling me backwards so I lost my balance and my suitcase bounced down the stairs, spraying out my possessions as it went. I felt so enraged that he was stopping me from leaving again that I lashed out with a kick that caught the back of his knee and, before I knew it, he had followed my suitcase down the stairs. As soon as I saw the angle of his neck I knew.