venice is a half-drowned labyrinth, a noble pile of bones, a favorite piece of costume jewelry that turns your wrist green; in late autumn you feel like its only witness and it's the closest you've been to a waking dream, iceland, forgive me. venice is the only part of italy that has ever mattered to me (italy, forgive me); blame henry james for that, maybe, or the dragon asleep at the bottom of the grand canal. i knew for sure that i needed to go when i learned that it is sinking, the acqua alta more fearsome every year. look at that piazza and tell me you don't want to save san marco, or to wave, at least, as the siroccos sweep him under the winter sea.
i decided to give up on not having a tattoo for the black cat i lost and to have one instead. my sister drew him for me, and i sent the drawing to marco, another marco, whose partner spoke enough english to direct me to their gold plaque on an old door around the corner from the old opera house in campo san fantin—la fenice, the phoenix, which burned down in 1774, 1836, and 1996, because of course it did. marco asked if i wanted him to tattoo around a freckle on my back, since if he covered it with ink i wouldn't know if it changed shape and became cancerous one day; he was covering it with a cat who died of cancer, though, and things will happen where they will, now won't they. his english opened up when i complimented the jerry lee lewis he was playing: "he's better than elvis." we're both fans of black metal. "it doesn't matter what language it's in, it's all raaaaugh raaaaugh raaaaugh. i liked that word you used, freckle, it sounds like freak."
venice is a shared secret, dead quiet as you carry your weeping new tattoo over its bridges, down its alleys, like a cartoon character shot through with a cannonball. you always, always drink from the guttering fountains in the twilit squares. you sing old david bowie songs with a leathery regular at the other end of a bar. you visit your sister's handiwork at the biennale, resisting the urge to brag about the original on your back. you don't see a car for five days.