[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!