Tuesday, September 1, 2009

the fish abroad, part four: Invisibility

















When questioned, it seemed that nobody had actually seen her leave.
 Not that they could remember: they recalled certain glimpses of her, could attest to her presence there, but could not say for sure whether she had actually left.


That young man on the Vaporetto, that one with his hair pulled back like David Beckham: when asked, he had some recollection of her alighting at San Polo, holding her hat in one hand in the pale apricot light. When the canal seemed to draw its own light from the sky, luminous and silvery blue, and the crumbly surfaces of all the palazzo exhaled warm earthy tints. That liminal hour when day is about to fall into itself and night will spin quietly out of nowhere.




Yes, says the vaporetto boy,
I am sure I saw her then and there. But also I saw many people: that tall giant of a man wearing a violet singlet , his head almost touching the roof. That couple fussing around in the corner, she in her hot pink dress, so frilly, telling her husband what to do. Such a loud voice! And the french family, nervous about missing the stop for the accademia, carefully studying their map, est-il la prochaine? C'est L'Accademia? ici ou la?





Or those two, always right where I need to throw the rope.  Even when they are not looking at each other with their eyes they are looking at each other with their hearts. He puts his hand on her waist and she half closes her eyes and looks off into the distance, but her body moves closer to his, she sways in a different rhythm to the boat. They are smiling, those two, always. 
 The low sun catches in their blue eyes and on their skin. English perhaps? I never heard them speaking.







The little boys  watching the buildings slide by,  earnest, serious children with cropped hair, were merely puzzled when asked if they had seen her: both shook their heads. Even though she photographed them both as they were clambering down the wooden planks and into the vaporetto. They saw noone, staring as they were from one side of the boat to the other, straight through the people, and they recalled nobody at all.





The vaporetto boy sees all this. 
I saw her, yes, but I cannot say for certain that she left.


She was seen in the warm piazza one night eating risotto. Just near the apartment where, each night, someone has their television on so loudly that the sound blares out the open window with the shutters so wide. It sounds like a cinema. It is a hot night. 
The waitress says yes, I remember her, it was late. There were only two tables left. Yes, yes, she looked happy enough. An orange dress, yes, and unkempt hair. Yes, I remember her, says the waitress, but I cannot say for sure whether she left Venice, only that she was here. Twice she came, and one night very late. 







The waitress counts on her fingers, 
let me see.
  The large family, with the very small boy who ran around and around the fountain squealing. I think there were about ten of them, was there not?

 She checks with her father, nods her head.

 Si, many of them, all different ages, from Canada. The sky above faded from geranium pink to mauve, to blue, the white walls of the church glowed brighter and we lit the candles on the tables. There were few tables unoccupied, that couple on the edge said little, only looking up from time to time and I had to speak twice to get their attention, and when I did their eyes drifted to the sky as if they were dreaming. 

Meanwhile
the waitress continued
the boy called to his brother as he ran around and around the fountain.
Her in the orange dress? Yes, she was here, 
but I could not tell you if she left, only that she was definitely here.







In the Ludoteca, on the Calle Garibaldi they definitely knew her. 
She came twice
said the girl there, sitting at her desk in the chapel facing the Sean and Claire installation.
the first day was the day of the workers strike. We talked.
The second time she came she was not alone, said she was showing off the Australians, and she laughed so hard she almost fell down. I'm not sure what she was laughing at, exactly, but she almost collapsed helplessly onto the floor, shaking.
Yes.
said the girl. 
it was definitely her, but I could not tell you when she left, or if she left at all.





Installation, Claire healy and Sean Cordeiro, Ludoteca, Biennale di Venezia


An old man was found, out on the Lido beach, who strode to the edge of the water and after bellowing something in Italian, resorted to giving the surface of the sea two resounding smacks with a large fat stick. 
Mare, dov'e la donna, la pesca donna con capelli biondi?

Then turns and says: The sea says yes, she was here, but this lazy vain sea just lolled about and watched her play.
But she has gone, said the sea to me, the sea says she has gone.

Someone must have seen her leave.




II


lido di venezia

The Lido looks different in midsummer, that is for certain. 
The water sits still, a molten blue, and the shore is a constant motion of people. 
In the distance, huge ocean liners  the size of Manhattan Island slide through the lagoon, impossibly high. Sitting just beyond the horizon I sense the Dalmatian coast, its hard lavender grey cliffs and orange tiled roofs, just there.

Around my ankles the sea is a surprising bath, so warm.  Leaping in, slicing through a meniscus into the cloudy water, I hold my arms out ahead, in case it is shallow. It is not. 

Hello, I say.

I stand waist deep, the sea inert around me. I wait. There is no answer, no sound, no sly tossing of water or tugging at my hair as I dive under. I float.

Hello. Do you not speak English here? 

The sea remained silent. I dived under again, and swam a bit. I floated and looked at the sky, and all the other people swimming. All of them in pairs. A husband and wife, she holding onto an inflatable beach ball, just in case. A young pair, who seem to be tossing a pair of bikini pants to each other for a game. 
When I look away, they disappear and I can only assume they are making love underwater. 

Two youths, each on blow-up air mats, paddle determinedly out to sea, past where I float, paddling their bendy beds it seems all the way to Dubrovnik. They almost disappear.


smile: tourists on the beach, lido di venezia


The water is the colour and opacity of marble, and as warm as a bath. the sea combs through my hair, but remains as just quiet as a slab of marble. I wish suddenly that I had someone to play with. Not even a wave to greet or duck.

I look back at the shore. I have no idea at which point I entered the sea: suddenly the beach looks unrecognisable, the light is low, and I can't see the point where I left land. I search, and then I see. 

The soft breezes here point out invisible maps of my past geographies: I can smell the hot rocky chasms of Crete, the impossible chaos of Croatia, the infinite wandering blue of all the oceans here that meander round and round and round. I used to live here.

But from here, from this point, I see these things as if I am someone new, as if I was only born a week before. Love spins around me, entangling me, its  threads wrapping me all the way from here to there, all I need do is hold my palms out. The me that was, the me that is.


It is so very hot. 
Light shines from every surface. Water rolls and shifts soft and restless, the colour of marble, the colour of limestone. Water and light and being.



A garden, iridescent pink leaves, yellow walls, Giorgione, a memory of bare branches and icy green almost impossible to think of. The piazzas exhale heat at night, the moon eventually, sighs in relief.


giardini



III



Somebody gently knocks on the door before entering, calling softly, here I am, and puts her brushes into an empty jar on the table. Water shines through an ornate metal grid. There is a bowl of peaches  on the table.


IV


Somebody stands in the Pacific Ocean, calling softly, here I am, and gets no answer.

V

Someone, surely, saw her leave.


24 comments:

PauloTheHonoraryFish said...

She's still there. I can picture her feet dangling over the edge of the canal as she sits there late at night.

little red hen said...

Of course the sea would know. But that sea sounds a little stand offish and i'm almost afraid to go there myself.

Regulus said...

That's a pretty overwhelming entry. So I'm taking it from these entries that you have been away in Europe for an extended period of time, including England and Italy.

Why did you label that picture of the three guys on the beach as being American tourists?

While those cruise ships are very big, they a tad smaller than Manhattan Island ... maybe just Central Park.

The Mediterranean Sea reminds me of the Chesapeake Bay: flat, dull, and listless, not like the open ocean. (I'm sure you'd agree with that assessment.) I don't think the Mediterranean is going to talk to you in the way that the South Pacific off Australia speaks to you.

My own new fixating idea is to move to New Zealand. I've been wanting to tell you that. Have you ever been to Christchurch?

fifi said...

Yes, I was in Italy and England.


those guys were american tourists. i was right next to them, and could hear evrything they were saying. But I have not mentioned on here anything about them being american? You must be psychic then.


They were VERY BIG ships.


The mediterranean used to talk to me a lot. Its just in that spot in the Adriatic it is rather lazy.


NZ. No. But the other half works there often. Tis nice, so he says.

fifi said...

Dear hen,
Don't be afraid, it will love you.

Regulus said...

Your image of them is named "lido+americanss.JPG" so I figured they were from the States. Were they gawking at that topless woman on the beach near them? (I'm assuming that is a lady stretched out on the sand, and is that a beer bottle one of them have?) I figured they were rude and vulgar, too, which is why you pegged them initially for Americans (or maybe British).

fifi said...

oh, ok, I never knew that label showed up...

I initially thought they were Dutch, because that is what they looked like. They were having fun, and not even looking at the topless lady (who was actually being groped at regular intervals by her boyfriend, just visible on the sea-side of her.) No vulgarity, just happy talk and mucking around, swimming. All good.

Then I heard them talking and realised they were american. There were hardly any americans or english there, and certainly no other australians I saw or heard, because of the financial business, I guess.

Regulus said...

Sounds very pleasant.

BTW, do you get lots of Americans in Australia? It's always been my view that Americans tend to travel to Europe, Canada, and (younger ones) to (parts of) Mexico, and the Caribbean, but beyond that, they tend not to travel so much. Rather, only a specific subset will travel to really far away places.

Leenie said...

Looks like I came late to the party. Thank goodness you left your wonderfully written chronicle so I could savor the pink skies, the silver water and the loud tourists. Thank you, thank you for giving us a taste of your experience.

lmrb said...

Did you see your toenails standing shoulder deep in the clear Medi, and realise you were in an other place? No toe-sinking sand, no washing machine tides. And thank you (via your other half) for your comments about my homeland NZ/Aotearoa - it is a nice place though Aussie, my adopted home, is a wonderful and generous country. Something about the Aussie character that I love - a BS detector is in-built. Love that!

jane said...

The med is like that isn't it? Your description is perfect.

I need to be in the ocean. It seems like an eternity, but it's probably only a couple of weeks. Tomorrow. Manly.

Pam said...

Intruiging writing Fifi - held me spell-bound.

Frogdancer said...

Just got here....

Am green with envy. I'm glad it isn't all work no play.

fifi said...

Reg: Not really too many that I know of. Though I dont hang around tourist spots too much.

Emigrants are usually British. There are very few americans here.

Leenie, nice you could call by. We have both been travelling.

lmrb: Lovely comment as usual. I saw nothing below the water, it was like liquid stone.
I hope to go to NZ soon, you comment about Australia iis nice, especially since I always thought New Zealanders consider us to be uncivilised bogans.

Jane!!Sorry bout tuesday, I was triple booked as it happens. just reading this at lunchtime....not at Manly, just here....

Pam, thank you.

Frog, Oh, I can't complain about the "work" !

rhubarbwhine said...

What amazing writing, you really had me picturing every move. Loved the David B reference!

Meggie said...

Such beautiful writing. I could feel the warm sun, feel the surge of water.
I loved the man who strode to the water giving it smacks with the fat stick!

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