It’s not about the falling down, it’s about getting up.
That’s what her ski instructor used to scream at her as she sobbed in the snow, desperately searching for the upper arm strength to get her back to vertical. Tough love. He was right, messing up is easy but getting back in the game is hard.
She walked in between Elisa and Martina as they yelled over her head. The sky was now a light blue and the moon lit the canal. They skipped down the stairs and past new couples canoodling, older couples reliving their past lust and a group of lads chanting football songs. Walking through the old arcade they veered to the right and passed the oldest church in Venice.
Riva Alto, the highest point of this sinking city.
A lady draped in rags begged in front of a fountain. She went towards her to go and drop some change but Martina guided her back.
“Ah, it’s ok. I see her on my bus every morning. Her shift is nearly over.”
Apparently, the mafia existed within the homeless too. They all had their positions around the city and collected their ‘wages’ at the end of the day.
Al Merca. A tiny bar carved into a wall that opened out into Campo Cesare Battista gia Bella Vienna.
Quite the compromise. The question is, who were the drunk guys around the bar that decided over some Grappa that “ fine, fine…we’ll just give it two names!” So they could carry on drinking.
They huddled around an old wine cask for a table and stared at a plate with three crostini in front of them.
“Oki, you’re English. We teach you food” she had never been so simultaneously insulted and grateful.
“Taste the wine” Martina swayed as she talked as if she had her own sultry music in her head. She took a sip of the wine and it was, in fact, better than the last Schioppetino.
“Now, you eat the fish”
She took a bite of the terracotta coloured pureed stockfish. The texture was new to her but she was trying to play it cool. Meanwhile, the girls were smoking and laughing about other occasions. She felt like a pet but happy to be there all the same. Suddenly they remembered she was there.
“So?” “Now, the wine”
She took a sip of the wine with the salty, rich Vicentina still prominent in her mouth. It tasted different. She felt parts of her tongue wake up and some unpredicted joy takes place. Oh, this is what it’s supposed to taste like!?
Every pot has a lid. Everything must have a match or equal. Life is built on balance and Schioppetino and Baccala Vicentina was a perfect match.
The girls were still yelling.
Elisa made a skiing movement but implied drink up. Now she was drunk and finally, it was dark. She didn’t know these girls or where she was, but she followed on with a hazy smile on her face. They stopped on a bridge to smoke.
“Viva le tette!” The girls giggled and stumbled on. She kept up quietly and they hurried her on. Elisa linked arms with her and blew smoke rings into the air. Her leather jacket squeaked as it rubbed up against her and she wasn’t sure who was holding who up. Elisa giggled randomly with exuberant giddiness and turned to her.
“Don’t worry” she grinned and lowered her head letting her hair fall over her eyes “We nice persons” and then with the most relaxed smile she’d ever seen, they slid left into a bar.
The bar was a horseshoe with scattered sofas and random chairs lying about. One bartender had red dreadlocks and the other a crew cut with a big 1920’s curl hanging down her face. The girls had paid the last round so she gallantly mustered up to the bar. She held up three fingers.
“Cubini!!” The girls yelled. Dreads laughed and started pouring Havana to the sound of Damian Marley’s “Beautiful” reggae music. She held up 20 euros and got 10 back. The crew cut was running around to their side to hug them. The rum and cokes were in plastic glasses and they bumbled outside. There was a big crowd ahead and they stumbled into Campo San Giacomo di L’Orio.
Fairy lights lit the whole Campo and Ska music was booming. A stage stood in front of the beautiful Baroque church. The lead singer had grey dreads to the floor and a loose mustard T-shirt, a dapper fellow played the sax, a bearded guy the drums and a stunning brunette in a Jessica Rabbit red dress belted the back- up vocals.
“Zoccola, ti xe una Zoccola”
Martina dragged her through the crowd. “ Eh Marco!” She waved. The dreaded singer winked and waved and carried on lifting up the crowd. They all bounced to the beat, jumping into private mosh pits and patriotically chanting the Venetian lyrics.
No worries, no cares, left, right, centre.
She let herself be caught up in the middle. To the left, there were huge tents with an iron grill pumping out smoke.
Ribs, chicken, pork and lots of fat. Who were all of these people working there? All she could see was drinking, yelling, drinking and more yelling. Who knew that happiness could be in between smoke, Ska, drinking and yelling. How free?
“Ecco la!” A hug came from behind. It was a flower girl, Lara. She obviously knew the other two girls. By now she felt a bit dizzy but continued to dance and get some of her rum and coke in her mouth. Were those stars in her head or in the sky?
She fell. Lights out.
She awoke to Lara, Elisa, Martina and a guy called Beppe cradling her head. They were trying to feed her some chicken, water and a little beer simultaneously.
Surrounded by all these new found friends, she grabbed a hand and she got up.