Twice in Venice

The idea of this story came to me when I was traveling in one of the most beautiful places in the world knowing that one day it will be under water.

What’s your story about a sustainability issue in your community, whether in terms of environment, health, economy, government, transportation, etc.? Do you have ideas for a solution? Would love to hear your story and your ideas at the Act NOW! International Performance Festival [link “Act NOW! International Performance Festival”]

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The tide wakes her from her nap. Not sure since when, the water has swept across the balcony, ankle-high. In the setting sun, a few roofs peek through the water. Far in the distance to her right are the soaring domes of the Basilica di San Marco, slowly swallowed by the glimmering tides.

Swish swash, swish swash, the quiet breathing of the water.

She pushes hard against the arm chair to lift herself up. One hand on a cane, the other against the wall, she shuffles back into the living room, the knock of the cane muffled by the soggy carpet.

It’s a quarter past nine, still. The clock battery has given its last sigh long ago as time froze, an iceberg waiting to be dissolved by the dark green water. The ornate furniture, the beautiful artwork and the feeble flame of a half-burnt candle are as though a photograph, only the growing sepia betraying the swish swash of time. Whoever lived here must have left in a hurry, not taking much with them. She wonders whether they had felt as she did a few days ago.

“That’s all,” She had stared at the half-empty suitcase that summarized her seven decades of life.

She decides to have butter chicken for dinner. Putting on her glasses, she finds the pill bottle with a picture resembling the dish. She takes out a tablet and chews it, savouring the rich taste of artificial curry. Once invented for people who are way too busy to cook or eat, these nutritious chemicals are now the only food available.

She wonders what George would say if he sees her now, munching butter chicken with her bare feet dangling just off the water, filling the protagonist role of a deserted photograph. Maybe George would laugh – he loves her and finds whatever she does amusing, her outlandish ways and irrational rationalizations and all.

Maybe he would cry like a little kid and tell her he misses her.

George was right that she was the only soul insane enough to spend a lifetime’s savings to go to Venice. The young pilot who flew her here – she cannot recall his name – most likely thought so too. The incredulity in his eyes leaked through his gentlemanly politeness, silently thundering “do you know how many other ways we could have used the fuel to win the war?” She continued reading Shakespeare. He had grown up with the patriotic rhetoric of the resource wars, she thought. Like vultures scavenging the last flesh of a giant corpse, the armies wave the glorious banners of freedom and democracy and kill over the last hint of fresh water, the last chatter of leaves in the wind, the last blush of a real apple, and soon, the last glint of oil.

She starts to trudge up to the penthouse bedroom before the tide gets knee-high. The narrow staircase aches and squeals with every step. The first time she was in Venice, she raced up one of these ancient staircases. She was twenty-two – or twenty-three? – back then. Her turquoise summer dress was soaked from dancing and splashing at the St. Marco’s Square. It was acqua alta, and the water had pooled all over the square. The reflections of the lights that lined the square were drenched into millions of shooting stars.

She leans against the bedroom window and gazes out. The riddles of narrow streets woven with light and shadow, the people who came from all over the world, the St. Marco square replete with lights and memories and laughter and heartbreaks… shrouded way beneath the rippling dark green, forgotten. All she can hear, is swish swash, swish swash, the quiet breathing of the sea.

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