Men and women were playing in kayaks, moving their arms rhythmically or simply coasting in the motionless water. Beneath the train, the soft clatter of ties was the only sound in the calm of morning. There was no horizon. The mist hid the distance. Immediately before me the water and the boats were crystal clear and perfectly focused, but within a quarter of a mile the air had thickened and turned translucent. It was impossible to say where the pale sea ended and the pale sky began.
In the distance Venice waited, turning her backside toward the mainland, not yet looking like herself at all.
The train entered the station with a groaning of brakes and slowed imperceptibly to a halt. The crowds that were waiting to board her stood crouched at the doors, while those aboard struggled off. I returned to the compartment to find Susyn dressed and packed. I put on my backpack, picked up her suitcase, and let her squeeze ahead of me as we began the slow, belly-to-back walk down the corridor among the throng that had overfilled the coach.
The Ferrol station looks like any other station. But when you step out the front door, the whole world changes.
Suddenly, Venice. The Grand Canal runs by at the foot of the broad steps of the station. Water taxis and gondolas crowd the banks of the canal while powerful steel vaporettos tear its surface to froth. Beyond them the palazzios rise up in faded Renaissance splendor. The nearest bridge across the Grand Canal arched up so high above the water traffic that it seemed oriental.
Susyn said, “My God. This is really Europe. There is no trace of America here.”
That was the kernel in the nut. Venice was completely foreign. Any yet familiar. Not very different from the Venice Shakespeare wrote about.
We walked down past the stalls of fruit sellers and the lean black men up from Africa with their blankets of trinket treasures, up the steep steps of Ponte degli Scatzi to look down on it all from above. On the broad steps in front of the Ferrol, backpackers were sprawled on their sleeping bags, watching, talking, and letting Venice ooze into their pores.
“We need a place to sleep,” Susyn said.
“I don’t know anything about that. Venice was out of my price range when I was here before, so I camped on the Lido.”
“Is that in the city?”
“No. You take a vaporetto across the lagoon. I’ll have to check there for Raven.”
She took my arm and pressed it against her. “Let’s not split up, yet,” she said. “Come with me.”
We turned east from the Ferrol, where there were hotels to be had. Susyn paid with Senator Cabral’s money. The concierge took Susyn’s suitcase and led us to our room. Not a suite this time. Two beds in fingertip reach of one another.
Susyn tipped the concierge and opened the window. Fruit-ripe air came in and swirled the lace curtains around her. I moved up beside her to look out; it was easy to see over her head. Twenty five feet away, our view was of a stone wall with bricked up windows, and forty feet below the dark waters of a cross canal glinted olive in the faint light.
I eased closer, pinning her against the window, and felt her take a sharp breath. I put my hands on her shoulders, feeling the firmness of her buttocks against me as I drew her upper body back hard against my chest. She leaned her head back against my shoulder and looked up at me out of one moist eye. Then I stepped back and she turned easily and naturally into my arms. Her lips came up, mine came down, and she melted against me. I put my palms flat on her rump and slipped them upward, under her blouse and into the small of her back. She moved against me, burrowing her hips into me. I unsnapped her bra. Then I eased her down onto the bed. more tomorrow