Canally Speaking

Perhaps more than any other city, Venice feels the most bizarre to visit. Not because of its absurd setup, but because it is the only place that you’ve seen depicted so many times onscreen and in imitative incarnations (e.g. Los Angeles, Las Vegas) that it’s almost as though you’ve already been there before. It’s one of the most intense forms of déjà vu a person can have, really, especially a person as sensitive as Lucio Mauro, an eighteen-year-old still insecure about his appearance and artistic talent.

The claustrophobia of Venice matched Lucio’s particular mindset during his brief period spent there (though it was supposed to be a sum total of four years). His decidedly Italian name was not in keeping with his American-born nature. But he had finagled a way through his heritage and fluency in the language to manage entrance into the prestigious architecture school there, which he felt compelled to attend in spite of having never visited the city it was in. Upon landing at Marco Polo Airport (a name he found endlessly amusing), he was immediately ingratiated to the culture of water, which pulled him to the docks that were roughly a seven minute walk from the primary terminal. After paying sixteen euros to board the Alilaguna that would take him to Piazza San Marco, where he would be lodging with an old family friend named Giorgio, Lucio took in the strange abyss of the city before it transmuted into canal land. There was very little to it, really, as is often the case with most novelty designs. After almost an hour, the boat docked at San Marco, remarkably packed to the gills thanks to the high tourist season. Indeed, as Lucio lugged his suitcase through the square, it took him almost five full minutes before he actually heard someone speaking Italian. When he looked up to see who it was, he was blindsided to take in the sort of girl one only expects to encounter in 50s neorealist films: tousled hair, dramatic facial features and peasant-like clothing. She took no notice of him as she flounced by, laughing with medium gusto at something her friend had said to her. It was then that Lucio knew he would, in fact, experience death in Venice. He tried to free his mind of the girl as he made his way up the stairs of the apartment. Alas, as Giorgio began speaking to him of all the things they would do together, Lucio found that his sole image was of that girl.

He unpacked his suitcases as disinterestedly as he had placed the items in them. He smiled to himself thinking of how his mother, Lucia–from whom he derived his own moniker–had chastised his refusal to include more sweaters and warmer jackets. She was skeptical of his desire to want to stay in Venice, a town she had visited a handful of times while growing up in Padua. Lucia found it a pleasant enough place for the purpose of historical value, but would otherwise never spend an extended period of time there–which is why she subconsciously eschewed visiting Los Angeles either upon immigrating to North Beach in San Francisco in her mid-twenties.

With the last of Lucio’s clothes placed in his dresser, he went into the kitchen to prepare himself a coffee. It was then that Giorgio told him of a party a friend of his was having near the Santa Lucia train station (Lucio of course couldn’t help but think of his mother at the mention of this name). Many students were forced to live this far out from the center because of increasing rents that didn’t exactly favor the monetary lifestyle of a student. Though Lucio had planned to study in preparation for the week’s lessons, the temptation of folly proved too great. And it was thus that the duo set out on foot for the apartment around nine. While Lucio was glad to be relieved of the burden of not having to pay for a ferry or water taxi, he was struck by just how at the mercy of the canals everyone in Venice was. Whether it was getting around or being bombarded by the arbitrary overflows, the canals were the sole governor of Venice.

They traversed the Rialto Bridge in silence, each taking a swig from the bottle of cheap wine they had bought from the Conad grocery store near their abode. Again, Lucio found the names of things in this city to be the source of solid gold word humor, as he could only think of “gonad” when they entered the market.

Lucio, who was unaccustomed to drinking the way most of his American counterparts were–the kind who often frequented high school parties and got DUIs that suburbia could ignore with the right connections–found himself getting a bit wobbly as they ascended the final stretch of the bridge. He tripped and blurted to Giorgio, “I’m in love.” Venice was a dangerous city when it came to the hazards of falling and falling in love.

Giorgio chose to ignore what he wrote off as Lucio’s American gaucheness, though he had never seen him in such a state in all the years they had known each other. Then again, when you only see someone once a year for two weeks at a time, you really only tend to know the carefully marketed version of who they are. He escorted Lucio three flights up to the apartment where his friend, Marianna, a 19-year-old from Bari, allowed him entrance. “You’re early,” she said as she took a drag from a recently hand-rolled cigarette.

Giorgio laughed nervously, exhibiting the rare lack of confidence most boys trying to transcend into men of his age seem to have. He was perhaps more unsure of himself even than Lucio, but being a full-bred Italian masked it better. Lucio, meanwhile, looked as though he was seasick from hours spent riding a gondola through the canals. But he was interrupted from his sickness at the sight of the 50s neorealist film heroine of his dreams. There she was, leaning against a window with a glass of prosecco in her hand, talking to another male student at the architecture school who seemed to be in his mid-twenties, which made Lucio want to die just a little more inside. He would never stand a chance with her against an older, more worldly man. At that very moment, just when he felt able to look away from her, the girl glanced directly at him and simpered–the simper of someone who knows she has a hold on you. Lucio vomited on eye contact.

He didn’t know what happened after that, or how he found himself in Antonia’s bedroom later. Antonia was her name, though this was something she never verbally told him; he finally figured it out as he opened his eyes and saw it spelled out in block letters above her bed. He then noticed her standing over him with a carnevale mask on and a detachable dildo in her hand. In the light of the moon, he could see that it was glistening from penetration into something, or, more accurately, someone. It was then he felt the soreness of his own anal canal. He rolled over and threw up again, thinking of how Venice was a watery hell and Antonia its satanic keeper.

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