midnight in Venice.

by s.m.

They walked out into the Venetian night, the cold sharper than it had been before, but dulled by the two bottles of Amarone they’d finished.  The cobbled streets of Cannareggio were hung with tiny lights, a twinkling string of stars leading from bridge to bridge.  As they walked past shutters they heard the sounds of living behind them; television broadcasts and washing up and scolding children.

“How are we getting back?” Selim asked her.  She had forgotten how far they’d walked, how far they were from the hotel on the Giudecca.

“It’s not so far to walk to San Marco,” she said, pulling out her map and studying.  “Provided we don’t get lost.  But I think that’s actually faster than taking a taxi, see?”  She traced the route on the map: a nearly straight line walking through the city, the curvy, backwards S of the Grand Canal.

“So we walk,” he said.  “It’s rather Eyes Wide Shut.”  The streets were quiet, nearly deserted in the untouristed Ghetto Vecchio.  “You’re not too cold?” he asked tenderly, holding her leather-gloved hand in his.

“I’m fine,” she replied.  “And you’re right, it’s like some sort of film.  Something dark and mysterious.  Venice is one of those places that isn’t quite real.”

“Isn’t it.”  They paused in an empty piazza, a little campo, really, with trees and benches, a statue of the Virgin Mary standing silent sentinel.  “I don’t want to wait until we get back to the hotel,” he said.  His voice was dark and dangerous, steeped in desire.

She looked around nervously.

“There’s no one here,” he said.

“We’re outside,” she protested weakly.

“I’m sure that’s never stopped you before.”  In the silence of the piazza she felt his words echo off the walls of the surrounding buildings, buffeting her.  She looked around again.

“There,” she said sharply, pointing at a low, narrow sotoportego.  They walked into the shadows, and she braced herself against the rough-hewn walls.  He wrapped his coat around them both, enveloping her and drawing her close, and he kissed her hard.