Chapter 9: Signs

Happiness is not a place, money, a nice car, country or an island. It’s the path you take, who you choose to take it with and the stories that you can tell.

At the table in the window, there was a deaf couple having an argument. Pounding sign language back and forth at each other. She realized she understood as much of their conversation as she did of Marco and Federico’s at the bar.

Her concentration wondered between the two discussions. Her ears listening to any word she could pick up in Italian and her eyes discreetly gazing at the couples’ hands. The girl folded her arms and sat back in her chair, looking out at the canal with a clenched jaw.

Meanwhile, Fede slapped Marco on the back and gave his side a ticklish jab with his knuckle. “Aia” He giggled back.

At the table, the boy leaned over, teased the girls’ arms apart and pulled her hands towards him, clasping them tightly.

Marco banged his palm on the bar. Fede pointed at her empty glass and raised his eyebrow. The bartender was already in the process of opening another Prosecco before Fede could even hold up three fingers.

The girl turned her head back around slowly to face the boy, who now had their hands locked across the table. She sniffed a little, breathed in and gulped. She gradually lifted her head and met his fixed gaze.

The prosecco had been filled and the bartender was also included in this round. They clinked glasses.

“Cin Cin!”

We can see wine, we can taste wine and we can smell wine but we can’t hear it. Therefore, “Cin Cin!”

The boy lifted up her hands and kissed them softly. He stood up and walked round to her chair and kissed her forehead and hugged her to his chest.

At this point, the bar realized the scene at the window. As the boy leaned down to kiss the girl, Fede and Marco started cheering.

“Wuhooooo, Bravi!” They hooted and whistled. Embarrassed the couple laughed and the boy sat back down. More hand signals were made on all sides and the bartender brought two small glasses of sparkling wine to their table.

Franciacorta...from Federico” he gestured back to Fede who was now using the bar to stand up and had a Cheshire cat grin of satisfaction. The couple smiled and signed back. Thank you. At this point, Fede realized they were deaf. He crept over to the table with glass in hand and shouted slowly “CIIINN CIIIIN”

Maybe not fully understanding what 'deaf' meant. He came back to the bar and gave out a triumphant sigh.

“Amore. Che bello” He announced staring out towards the canal.

“Lara!” He screamed suddenly as a startled girl walked past with a doe-eyed dog. The dog pulled her into the bar and ran over excited to say Hi.

“Suzu!” They cried as they ruffled up his fur and frantic wagging tail. Lara caught her breath. “Ahhh, Hi!” She smiled as she casually planted to kisses on her cheeks.

“How much Prosecco they make you drink?”

She held up her hands and faked trying to count each one and then gave a hapless shrug when she reached her thumb. Lara laughed and turned to give hugs and kisses to the guys. Lara was flustered and complaining about something. Fede pulled her head into his chest and stroked her hair like a child. She pretended to sob as he signaled ostentatiously for another glass.

“Beviamoci sopra” He smiled. Lara took the glass and raised it.

“E Martedi!” she cried out “’Ere we celebrate Tuesday....because it’s Tuesday”

She looked around the room and now everybody was smiling. The storm had passed.

Fede left some cash on the bar and in return, a magnum of prosecco appeared in front of them. What was going on?

“Boat trip” Lara winked.

They all threw the wine down their throats, as did she as she had to. They walked out onto the sunny street and up to an old grey boat. Marco’s boat was a refurbished old police boat. They jumped in fearlessly and passed over Suzu. They all helped her in as her knees were shaking. She held on to the side as Fede pulled in the buoys and Marco assaulted the engine. Pulling the starting cord harder each time he found a new blasphemy for each failed start. Finally, a rev turned into a chug and he breathed out whilst finishing his conversation with God. He sat at the back and angled the steering stick effortlessly to get out into the canal.

“Attenzione” He cried as they sailed under a low bridge where everybody had to duck. Fede stumbled in the middle of the boat, trying to pour the huge bottle into tiny plastic glasses and hand them out without losing half of it. They all raised the glasses.

“E martedi!” they yelled in unison.

The boat slowly chugged down the narrow canal. In the distance, she could see the lagoon open up. They picked up speed and headed towards a red brick building in front of the hospital San Giovanni e Paolo. It was the cemetery.

Marco hung a right just before the Cemetery and it felt like they were going really fast now. She held tight as the water sprayed her face and the engine covered all noise. Venice faded away as they skipped past the pylons with the seagulls perched on top, keeping guard.

Despite the velocity, Fede still managed to top up everybody’s glass. Lara could sense her nerves and clenched her hand smiling. Vaporettos, police boats, pimped up speed boats blaring music and taxis passed. Marco would salute one every here and there. Finally, the speed waned and they turned into a canal by some marshy land. They parked at a small wooden pier and helped her out first and then handed her Suzu. The three of them covered the boat, threw out the buoys and tied the ropes to the pillars. Knots that only boat people know. They walked along the pier, past a wall, and onto a huge deserted island.

La Certosa

There was just grass, and a few people having picnics. Other than that it was absolutely silent. They stumbled down a dusty path with an exuberant Fede conducting his own Shakespearian monologue. A wall lined the island and had small archways in between which lead to the water. They headed under one of the archways. First Fede ducked under, and then Lara crouched through too with Suzu and then Marco. Marco was used to ducking under bridges but underestimated the still land and head-butted the cold stone.

“Ah, zio cane!” he huffed as he grabbed his forehead. Blood dripped down past his eyes. She rushed through her bag for tissues and pushed them against his head. He sat down like an eight-year-old who had just scored an own goal at a football match. Upset with himself.

She sat with him and handed him his prosecco.

“E Martedi” She whispered softly, rubbing his back. He smiled back and they sipped silently while they stared out into the calm Lagoon towards Lido. Suzu ran up and jumped on her knee.

She looked back down the dusty path and enjoyed the moment of the story she now had to tell.



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