I came to Venice fierce with grief. A messy breakup that barely counts - we were never serious or labelled or significant - and yet the loss grates, and my heart churns with anger and sorrow.
In Piazza San Marco, there must have been a dozen women with long-stemmed roses held loosely in their hands, crimson and perfect, fanged with thorns. Every other person I passed was flushed with romance. Kisses on the four hundred and nine bridges of Venice. My face is sunburnt and blank, and yet briefly today I was full of happiness.
25 hours with Sarah and Jason, dizzying and soon-gone and hectic. They have slowed, my couple-friends, their love is no longer frenetic and rushed, packed into holidays and weekends, becalmed by lengthy separations. Their marriage has changed them. They have time, they no longer part.
Their love can't hurt me. It's too familiar and dear to me, it causes me no pain. It is almost vicarious, their love and their joy. But then -
A hand resting on the small of a woman's back, or tangled in her hair. A passerby that can't seem to keep his hands off his girlfriend, and I turn breathless at the reminder of what I've lost. Lost.
He always wanted my mouth on his. He was insatiable for me. Until he wasn't.
You are not enough, whispers something that lives deep in the circles of my mind.
Heartbreak in Venice. It fits, oddly. You wouldn't think so, but it does. There's been an awful lot of that sort of thing here, I imagine. How could it possibly be avoided? Masquerade balls and the rustle of silk. The black shine of gondolas and their stripe-shirted gondoliers, discreet as they rowed through the shadows. Sequined high heels climbing through the water doors of the palazzos. I feel so certain that there were hearts broken here.
The alleys are so narrow you must walk single file, and the sky is a crack of desperately bright blue overhead. And every so often, the whiff of corruption from the mazy green canals. The cathedral golden, 24-carats gleaming down on us, as though our Lord never slept in a manger. The campos, squares of stone tiles that once glowed with tomatoes, courtyards that once were orchards. Now the gardens are walled, kept secret. The territory of the rich. You'd hardly know they were there at all, but for the vines reaching tentatively over the walls...
My heart is a walled garden. Vines reached out to him, but my walls held firm. I still felt very distant when he kissed me, despite his muted eyes and sardonic mouth, despite his lazy pirate voice -
There are locks all over the place, on every iron-railed bridge, but I lock myself to no one. No one.