Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Unnamed Madonnas--Chapter Two

Chapter Two
We arrived in Venice late Wednesday night,  miles from the real Venice and its  beautiful  sights and sounds.I treasured these evenings, a whole day to talk about,  no other preoccupation intruding in our conversation.
 Sometimes, Steve  asked what I thought of something or other. Through these conversations he was opening up.  This trip was clearing the air between us, sweeping away the irritation  we felt toward each other, irritation  that invaded our space  like smoke from a fireplace without proper ventilation.
I thought that with Ryan gone away at college our life would ease up. I sensed a  further cooling off ,and my response to his cooling off was accusations. Why can't you love me the way you used to, was the tone I took with him. Why can't you be satisfied with what we have become, was his response, his irritation.
Yes, I kept thinking things will improve with time.
And Venice, with its mysteries and grandeur could do the trick.
Somehow, a tour always feels rushed, imposed. Steve had been having trouble with  his leg and this trip didn’t help. He could not keep up with all the walking and the perusing. Venice was a walking town, and I was worried about that, about the pressure on his leg, the pressure on his stamina. 
  On Thursday morning, the water taxi transported us to the middle of  Piazza  San Marco and  the entire day was entirely our own.  Steve planned on sitting with a dark brew, to watch the crowds and the pigeons, just sit on the Piazza all morning while I went in and out of historical buildings,  churches, palaces,  museums, shopping for  trinkets, glassware, lining up to use the ancient bathrooms.
By mid-morning, giggling in anticipation, I lined up with with a long queue of tourists to use the ancient toilets.   
The toilet consisted of one big  tile, a meter square, grooved and  with a hole in the center,  long ridges to guide the waste water down the middle. One big tile the size of a shower stall, in the middle of a small room all tiled. To use the contraption, one had to  squat down low over the hole  and then walk off and wait for whole refuse to be flushed  down. If you wore pants, the pants had to be held up from the feet, so no urine would touch them. Very precarious situation.
 I kept looking at the beautiful designs, the elaborate colors, and precise workmanship. These were hand made centuries ago, perhaps brought back from their many travels.
When I squatted down, holding on to my clothes and my purse, hoping not to wet anything, I suddenly felt a sense of disdain.  How could anyone expect modern women to use such contraptions? Then I felt guilty for such feelings. How petty of me; how unappreciative I was of the history of my own people.
I rushed to the piazza to meet up with Steve. He  had not moved an inch,  had spent all his time watching people, sipping espresso, blurting something to him about wasting  his time just sitting there. Then, I told him about my morning.
 “It blows my mind! Those bathrooms should  be roped off and kept like museum pieces.”   I was talking  fast, wanting him to appreciate what he was missing.
I went on and on, explaining my discomfort.
“What did you expect?” He retorted.
“Not to have them still operating.  It was a mess, trying to keep my clothes dry.  But you should have seen how the tourists loved them, how they took each other’s picture!”
  “This is the real souvenir of the trip,” he countered, “not those leather coats crowding our suitcases that we got conned to pick up in Florence. Those things are taking up valuable space and not worth the price we paid for them.”
I changed the subject.   
“Did you see all those girls with designer sweaters?  I have never seen so many gorgeous people!” I was trying to remain  casual, but, in truth, I was jealous of all those beauties, so rich, so spoiled.  
“These people spend everything they earn on clothes!” He added.
Then,  pointing at my fancy Fendi purse I had picked up in Rome, he touched the money belt he was wearing containing all our documents. I smiled back. Yes, I would spend more on clothes too. I wanted what these ladies had. My Fendi purse, an extravagant purchase in Rome, made me feel at par with the gorgeously dressed Italian women.  The trouble was that the purse was small and hardly able to carry all the documents I needed to carry.
We laughed. 
“I'm hungry,” he turned to look for a waiter to settle his bill, “ I heard of a good place for lunch,” he said, paying the bill and thanking the waiter for the slip of paper with direction he had provided.
We walked for two blocks, Steve following the funny sketch he received, all the time stopping to give his leg a rest,  get the circulation back to normal. He was scheduled for vascular surgery to correct all the troubles he was having on that leg a couple of weeks after our return to The States.
We asked people to interpret our sketch after a while, as nothing corresponded to the directions.
I was thinking all along how waiters had been considerate to Steve, but abrupt and irritable to me.  I wanted so much to practice the few phrases I still remembered, but I felt intimidated. Steve was so much better at ordering.
As we navigated alleys and back-roads, I was hoping  the place be nearby, because traversing canals in those small boats seemed dangerous.  I had not realized that to do anything in Venice, to go anywhere, we needed to get in and out of boats.  When we arrived in the morning via a big boat that served as a water-taxi, hundreds of people seemed quite comfortable standing and crowding each other.  
We found the place, finally. It was called  Antica Sacrestia, a converted church and we were immediately seated when Steve showed his sketch at the door.  The couple sitting close to us   looked our age, only they had lived those years with better care.  The entire clientele was  elegantly dressed, appearing to know everything on the menu, ordering easily, and being waited on by friendly helpers.
When a waiter finally arrived to take our order, and I began to ask about the meals, he told us he’d return to get our order when we knew what we wanted.
When he  returned, he still had a look that said he was too busy. 
Steve jumped in.
“You have been highly recommended and we are ready to go with anything you suggest.”
The waiter suddenly became solicitous.  I wasn’t even sure what we ordered.  
The couple next to us shared a soft whisper between the two of them.   I was conscious of all that we were not, all the things that made me feel out of place. I was witnessing a scene that should be our scene, Steve’s and mine, in a place that 
promised romance. We should be sitting quietly, with the world disappearing, eyes only for each other.
Steve’s concerns were for the food, and he was not disappointed when his appetizer a shell-fish al Diavolo was presented to him. One bite, and Steve forgot all about his leg troubles. Yes, his mouth was saying, I’ll walk miles to find you.
The waiter had smiled when I asked about the ‘fegato’, without knowing how it would be prepared.  He had responded with a simple line, “you’ll love it!” With that much history and practice, I could not go wrong in this city. 
The liver was simple and delicious.  Thin slices, quick- fried, a luscious blend of onions and celery in a velvety butter sauce were melting in my mouth. The risotto with peas that accompanied it, was equally appreciated.
Steve consumed three different kinds of clams, plus cuttlefish with polenta.  He had never had cuttlefish either, but he seemed to enjoy every bite. We had no room for dessert, but we couldn’t pass up the beautiful Tiramisu presented in elaborate Murano goblets.  Just looking at the goblets had transported the meal.  The linen, the chandeliers, the goblets, all spoke of a refined taste and a flare for the dramatic.
 I wished for a moment that the rest of my life was this satisfying.
 Steve made reservations to return for dinner and we returned to the hotel stuffed  and happy,  ready to nod off in front of television for an afternoon nap.   I tried to envision the evening ahead, the clothes I'd wear in such a beautiful place.
I crawled next to him, and told myself  this was good.
This is just what we needed.


  1. i can appreciate the relationship between the two, and the picture you're painting with words makes me long to visit Florence again :) sigh*

  2. what a delightful read rosaria...smiles at the two of them you are creating some nice characters and your location description is rich as well...

  3. "I wished for a moment that the rest of my life was this satisfying."

    Ohhh lady, be careful what you wish for!



  4. I recognize reality in these two. Looking forward to what's next!

  5. "I was witnessing a scene that should have been our scene..." Tension, the driving force of all writing. Love the description of the er "facilities."
    Ready for chapter 3 !