When we first arrived in Venice, I was ecstatic. I had been dreaming about visiting this city for years and I was finally making that dream come true. As soon as we stepped outside of the train station and onto the steps of the city, I was in awe. Venice was more beautiful than I could ever imagine. The photos I had seen previously had not done it justice.
Taking it all in, I let out a long sigh of relief to finally be there. The tourists were busy taking pictures, while the locals were going about their business. I could see the gondolas from where I was standing and immediately longed to be sitting in one. I could also see the Ponte degli Scalzi bridge ahead of us.
The Italian sky had a striking blue hue and was free of any clouds. The temperature struck the perfect balance of warm with a cool breeze. As I looked out at the emerald green water, I felt accomplished. I had made it to one of my dream locations on this vast and expansive planet. To add a cherry on top, I was there with two of my best friends that I had known for years. I felt joy.
We set out to find our water taxi. Trying to make sure we got on the right one was a priority. Luckily, we quickly realized how things worked; how these water taxis were seemingly the connection to life throughout Venice. Once in the water taxi, we looked around and noticed several small boats with cargo in them and several small yachts lounging around the water.
There were different stops along the taxi route; different areas to venture through. It reminded me of the metro I used to use in Miami. Passengers came and went. There were several times it felt a bit crowded. Definitely similar to my rides back home. The obvious difference was the fact that we were on top of water. Everything was seamless though, it was as if everyone was used to riding around in boats all day. I loved it!
On our way to our stop; St. Marco’s Square, I noticed three gondolas with three couples in each one. Atop one of the gondolas was a man towering over the couples. He wasn’t dressed in the typical garb of a gondolier. I stared at him unwittingly. Under the bright sun and clear blue skies, he was wearing a black leather jacket and black pants. I couldn’t help but wonder if he wasn’t hot wearing an all black attire.
His olive skin and short coiffed black hair stood in stark contrast to the pale tourists sitting in front of him. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. He was smiling and engaging with the couples. I felt a little strange staring at this man and his interactions. It felt intrusive more so than strange, I suppose. For some reason, I just kept looking and couldn’t help but wonder what he was doing there; somewhat out of place. Then, he opened his mouth.
Out came a beautiful sound. Even though we were not that close to the gondolas, I could still hear his amazing voice singing and serenading the couples in front of him. The moment was filled with romance and joy. I could see it on the faces of the couples, they were living out a dream as well. I briefly got lost in his voice. I could not recognize the song, I believe it was in Italian, but I could feel the beauty of the melody.
In the moments right after he finished singing, I was filled with sadness. I think in part because he was done and the gondolas had strayed further away from us. I knew I would not be able to hear him again. I’m not quite sure why I longed to continue listening to him or why I felt an urge to know him. It was a brief moment of puzzlement for me.
However, I think primarily, the sadness stemmed from the realization that, while I was not physically alone, I felt emotionally alone. Surrounded by plenty of others on the water taxi and standing in between my friends, my eyes welled up with tears that I hoped would go unnoticed. Melancholy setting in.
There I was, living out a dream, with two of my best friends, yet I felt alone. I looked to my right, one of my friends was sending photos of our views to his girlfriend. I looked to the left, my best friend was smiling coyly as she texted her boyfriend. I was happy for them, glad they had someone special to share this beautiful experience with back home. But, the feeling was fleeting as it was overtaken once again by melancholy.
I had been single for several years, but I never really felt lonely because of it. I suppose being in this romantic city, surrounded by people who were in love and seeing the overall pure joy of those around me made me nostalgic for something I did not think I needed or wanted; companionship.
So many thoughts swam around in my head and I kept going back to the man singing on the gondola. I wondered once again who he was, what his life was like and if I would ever hear his beautiful melodic voice again. He was surrounded by the love the couples in front of him shared, but he stood in such a nonchalant way. Unmoved by the romance.
I later thought to myself that it was silly to feel any sadness. After all, I was in one of the most well known cities in the world. A girl from the inner city, from a neighborhood that wasn’t affluent by any means, who grew up fantasizing about all of these far away magical places; what right did I have to be sad in freaking Venice?!
Traveling has always brought me balance. Whenever I have felt bogged down by the day to day, my trips have reset my spirit. Whenever I have felt torn or confused about personal matters, visiting a new place has brought me clarity. That day in Venice, I realized traveling also allowed me to really feel my emotions. At home I can always suppress my feelings. When I’m away, I can’t outrun them.
Now, years after that wonderful trip, I still remember that moment of sadness. Every time I see this photo (below), I am reminded of both a dream realized and my lonely sentiment all at once. Despite the nostalgia, I still smile when I gaze upon my view from that water taxi, I wonder about the gondola singer and recall every emotion. I accept that I felt alone. I accept that it is normal to have felt that way.
This was but a moment in time. One I’ll cherish in spite of any sadness. I’ll always have Venice, with love.