Friday, July 29, 2005


I wish I understood those old women of the streets. Where do they disappear to, when gondoliers and crowds ease into the night? Under bridges? Around the station? Do they have a house somewhere? Seems impossible, unless it’s on the mainland, and that would mean money for public transport. So much of the time, there we go, the edges of our shoes grazing the riff-raff of the street. Bits of us flaking off, tags from new clothes, maybe, ice cream sticks, pushing up against the fringe on a mat. Do they have bent backs because they beg, or the other way round? If I knelt everyday that would happen to me. It’s too jarring to think about the younger ones who look about thirty. It’s nothing like LA- not the numbers or the intensity of it. But that’s partly because in Venice it isn’t an almost-culture, with areas practically designated for uneasy projections of confidence. Here the tourists blaze the trails, even street cleaners, toilet cleaners, are alive, and pulsate knowingly, ‘Ciao, come stai, va bene!’ We don’t see, there are pick-pockets to guard against and merchants fobbing off factory-made Leprechaun gold, making us pay more euros for their pizza. Where do curved sticks go, we don’t know, tourists never know. But take Mother Theresa and come up with a dirt-stained version, a bad odour, put her in a corner, bend her back more, even more, to 90 degrees. Not at the waist, but at her backbone, at mid-back. Little gaudy cards, the Virgin Mary. I have to say, passing by makes me stand straighter, like a proper old stick-in-the-mud, I’m sure. And think about it, if you’re staring at the ground, how do you move? How do you look up?


And I buy tubes of sun block, and fuss over them. Almost makes me laugh.

Something awful happened, when I was walking down a long, very narrow alleyway, the fondamenta just a strip, way off, in the distance before me, between two jumbly houses. Daytime, cool and dark in the alley but at the opening far ahead, the light emptily happy, like a day in childhood watching an old show on the tv, and beyond, invisible but shining, the sea. Then, something appeared from one side of it, at that place way off, like a screen, a character in slow motion, at mid-level too low and short for a normal person, and not a child, because it was bent horizontally, and the horizontal part moved onto the screen first. And this is why I could hardly feel sad- because it was just like a cartoon.

I could never say I understand. Could feel, but never say, but feel. Aren’t I an old woman too? Will I be the same person when I’m earning, or rich? Will I do the right thing, contribute in waves that look correct to experienced philanthropists, channel my sources all to the ‘right’ causes?

That said, I don’t want to leave Venice- yet. I love this place too much, and other parts, too. One day I’ll come back.

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