Venice came into sight. She had lighted herself for the night. Gondoliers were hawking their services at the water side and the evening press of tourists filled the streets. I worked my way back to Plaza San Marcos, dodging pigeons in the square and looking for street musicians. There were none.
Twenty minutes later I found out why. A bearded youth with guitar set out his empty guitar case and began to play. Three bars into his first song, a police office tapped him on the shoulder and sent him on his way. Venice is not like the rest of Europe and it does not want its uniqueness diluted by such commonplaces as street musicians.
If Eric knew that – and Colin said he has been on the circuit for years – then he and Raven would never have come here. I was wasting my time.
* * *
I wanted to sit down to think about it, but you can’t sit down in Plaza San Marcos without paying a fee. Try any of the hundreds of chairs that line the edge of the Plaza and you will find a waiter insisting that you order or move on.
Venice is a lovely old lady, slowly dying of inner rot. Tourist Venice is her defense against the hordes who invade her every year. From the time you step off the train, every restaurant, every boat ride, every souvenir shop is designed to move you swiftly from the Ferrol to Plaza San Marcos and back again, lighter of cash, and out into the real world again.
You must fight past her defenses to see the real Venice behind the merchant’s mask. Fortunately, it is easy. Find any well marked street, find a sign that says turn right, and turn left instead. You will be in another world.
The streets where the tourists are led are narrow and crowded; when you leave the beaten path, the streets give solitude. I sought that solitude now, weaving through back streets, crossing narrow bridges over narrower canals. Under clotheslines with dripping wash where stray cats nod benignly from their broken stone wall thrones. Where children play. There are children in Venice. You can see them if you leave the gaudy human snake that slithers from train station to Plaza San Marcos and back again.
* * *
The search was over. It had been a two week vacation from acknowledging the fact that I would never see Raven again. Now that reality had to be faced. And another reality – the sure knowledge that I did not want to repeat my bedding of Susyn. Not tonight – nor tomorrow, nor the day after. If there was a train out tonight, I would be on it. Not to Paris or Marseilles. Certainly not to Oslo, but to some place the two of us had never discussed or planned for. For Brendisi, perhaps, and then to Greece. Anywhere that was not associated with the name Raven.
When I got back to the hotel, Susyn was not there. She had left no message in the room and no message at the desk. I stretched out on my bed – still unused – and thought some more about my situation. Nothing changed. more tomorrow