Thursday, January 29, 2009

Venice Regrets

[Sunday Scribblings prompt: Regrets: got any?]

There was the time on a night train, Venice-bound. I woke to a thief's arm fishing through the door. I'd belted the handles (always belt the door on a night train -- any buckle belt will do) but there was an arm-width gap and a thief was reaching through it, plundering my backpack on the luggage rack overhead. He wouldn't have gotten anything even if I hadn't woken. My money and passport were under me, my camera in the crook of my arm. So I just sat up and looked at him and he took off.

The whole thing transpired in silence. I went back to sleep.

The train spilled us into Venice in the dawn hours and a raggedy assortment of backpackers stood around, knowing it was too soon to get a hostel bed or even find breakfast. Some of the backpackers had been robbed in the night. One girl had lost her journal and camera.

And I wondered, if I'd gathered all my breath within me, gone to into the aisle of the train, and screamed, "Ladro!" at the top of my voice -- "Thief!" -- maybe they wouldn't have gotten robbed. Maybe the thief would have been caught.

I don't know.

* * *

A few years later, back in Venice. This time I wasn't alone. I was with Jim. It was our first day there, at the tail end of a trip that had begun in Bulgaria and taken us through Turkey and up from heel of Italy's boot, criss-crossing over to the Amalfi Coast and finally up to Venice. Jim was acting weird all day, like his mind was elsewhere. I was crabby. Headachey -- maybe dehydrated? Luckily, my temper improved, because Jim had something planned for that evening: a gondola ride by twilight.

Our gondolier was named Roberto, and he poled us around the mazy waterways, reaching the Bridge of Sighs just as the sun touched down. Perfect timing. Jim stood up, and then he knelt down. And he had a ring.

It couldn't have been more perfect.

Roberto took a whole roll of film on our camera and documented the entire proposal. I was wearing a yellow skirt. The water was green, and we were smiling so big. I was afraid the ring was going to fall in the canal. I got that thing on my finger as fast as I could. A marquis-cut diamond. "Gondola-shaped," I said. There was kissing.

We were going to be married!!!

Roberto ferried us to a quay somewhere; we were dazed and happy.

We were extraordinarily broke after our long travels; we were art students, for goodness sake, and could scarcely afford a gondola ride, let alone a diamond!! So we didn't tip the gondolier. We couldn't. We really couldn't.

But every time we see those photos, we wish we had.

* * *

For our tenth anniversary, which will be in 2011, we have sworn we will go to Venice. We will go for at least a week, though two would be nice, and we will stay in a lovely hotel, hopefully with a balcony over a canal. We'll eat in good restaurants, at least one or two of the kind you read about in magazines, where the cost of a single dinner could keep a backpacker in pizza for a month. We'll buy another Venetian mask to go with the ones we bought that summer. We'll wander and get lost, and we'll sit and draw for hours. Or Jim will draw and I'll write a ghost story with lots of cats in it. We'll feed flower petals to the mermaids and scraps of wild boar sausage to the gargoyles. We'll hear Baroque music in a church.

We'll take a gondola ride, maybe one every evening, and we will tip the gondolier. Maybe we'll even find Roberto and tip him ten years late!

36 comments:

2cats said...

I've never been to Venice, but you make me want to make the trip. Your husband is a romantic. Lucky you! Thank you for sharing Venice with me.

Anonymous said...

What a positively lovely posting. I read your blog often. Thank you! Lynn

Jim Di Bartolo said...

(Argh! Roberto-regret. NOOO! It still makes me ache with shame that we couldn't give him a fat wad of cash as a tip. Ugh).

Smooch!

xoxo
Husbles

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

I suspect these types of things loom larger in our memories than in the minds of those we could've done better by.

And who knows? Maybe Roberto will be there. If not, maybe you'll find someone who desperately needs a bit of uncommon generosity. You'll give, thinking of Roberto, and the debt will be paid.

We all have our Robertos. Lovely post!

seher's shenanigans said...

i love the positivity in your post. never been to venice and now i think i just have to!!

anthonynorth said...

A lovely post - despite the thief. And great pics.

dormouse74 said...

A real slice of life, thank you :)

lizardek said...

What a lovely story! And you should TOTALLY do the return to Venice and try and hunt down Roberto! Just think how even MORE awesome your story would be!

Christy Raedeke said...

Amazing story to start the day! My heart is feeling nice and squishy, just as I like it.

Stephanie Perkins said...

Big gusty happy sigh.

I agree with Christy -- this was the perfect way to start my day! Sooo romantic and dreamy and lovely. You and Jim are the CUTEST.

(And I hope you *DO* find Roberto some day. And now I know to belt my train door shut when I go to India. Thanks for the tip!)

Deirdre said...

That husband of yours has a nice romantic streak.

Kjersten said...

My hubby and I met while backpaking in Italy. We met in Rome but then ran into each other again in Venice. We had our first date there. And honestly, it's where we fell in love. We were also traveling cheap. But I so regret that we didn't take a gondola ride that wonderful full-moon-lit night.

Laini Taylor said...

Kjersten, that's so romantic!!! You two must also go back to Venice for your anniversary :-) Or Rome. We [heart] Rome and sometimes talk about wanting to rent an apartment there for a good six months at least. Sigh. Maybe some day!

Fledgling Poet said...

I dream of going to Italy one day...thanks for taking me there with you for a few minutes. What a beautiful memory! I hope you do get to go back for your anniversary.

tone almhjell said...

Oh, that's so very romantic. Very, very. I love Venice, at least the quieter parts, where you can get lost and all you hear of other tourists are faint voices sneaking in amongst the crumbling steps and clucking canals and dusty, old church facades. Sigh.

My Pan and I went to Venice, too. Our project was to kiss at least once on every bridge, but we had no idea there were so many! We got through quite a few, though, and of all the trips we've taken together, it's my favourite.

Granny Smith said...

This is so well written that I am intimidated. How can I write anything to remotely compare? When Otto and I finally got to Venice, we were accompanied by all four children, but that didn't seem to lessen the romantic quality of the city.

This is beautiful. I hope that someday you will find Roberto and not only give him a tip but tell him how much the pictures he took have been enjoyed. Sometimes praise is the best tip of all.

Michelle said...

I loved reading this!! Makes me wish we went to Venice instead of Kauai for our 20th anniversary! Maybe for our 25th!!

Gondal-girl said...

Laini - this was so lovely a reminder for my last time in Venice, I think it is the most special city in the world, perhaps it is because there are no cars, our inner lives can come out a bit more without fear of getting run over and caught up in the madness. thanks for sharing your lovely memories.

b said...

Thank you...I simply sighed and regretted what I have not done. Then I remembered all the wonder and just got over it. Smile!

b

chest of drawers said...

Beautiful post! And when you come to Venice we can meet as I live only 2 1/2 hours drive away!

Lisa Schroeder said...

I love that picture of you two. I bet Roberto knew he was a part of something very special - a gift he will remember far longer than any amount of cash you could have given him. :)

Can we do a writing retreat in Venice someday? Wouldn't that just be the best?

floreta said...

this is an incredibly cute story and this is incredibly written well (well, i know you are a professional writer; i wouldn't expect anything less, i suppose). love the picture of you two! so beautiful to hear about your travels and future travels.

Marianne said...

I just recently got the chance to put right a ten year old regret, what a delicious feeling. If you look around you'll find the right Roberto to tip!

Lovely story. x

Lilibeth said...

A ten year old tip--with interest. I bet he will love you. Great story.

SweetTalkingGuy said...

How romantic! and yes you must return to Venice, ten years is a good gap and there are many new things to see since 2001.

Amy said...

What a sweet and wonderful memory. You'll go back someday soon and all you'll have to do is whisper to one gondolier about Roberto and the whisper will spread through all the canals. Finally, someone will whisper it in Roberto's ear. You'll find the way to his gondola and you'll spend the evening on the water chatting like old friends. That's love's wish, right?

Tumblewords: said...

Touching and charming story! I'm sure you'll find a Roberto...have a great trip...

John Tran said...

I really love your writing! I learned so much just reading this post. Thank you.

Patois said...

Ah, such a delightful post to read. I'm sure you'll tip quite well.

paisley said...

oh i loved that story.. tho i do wonder if you are colorblind,, the top the young lady is wearing is clearly not yellow,,, and i am hoping that isn't as close as you really come to having regrets......

wonderful piece of writing!!!!

Larraine said...

SO romantic! Good luck on getting back to Venice and finding Roberto!

JP/deb said...

2011 - whoo hoo!! My husband and I have some reliving to do in Europe too .... no later than 2012!! Awesome post & memories, peace, JP/deb.

Megha said...

planned for 2011 ? you guys are pretty fast ;)
Venice would definitely would be the best place to celebrate the anniversary :) nice post :)

Christine Fletcher said...

Beautiful post, Laini. Here's to Venice on your tenth!

Megs said...

beautiful story. I sure hope you find roberto. :)

Kunegond said...

Marvellously told wonderful regret stories. Thank you.