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1000 Word Pictures: Meeting Vesna in Venice

When people asked how Italy was, I’d show them this picture.

Vesna and Sheila finally meet…

"This is Vesna," I tell them, "We have known each other for over twenty years. That is a picture of the day we first met in person."

Back in the early 1990s, when azewewish and I were banging around the Duran Duran penpal/fanzine circuit one of my pen pals was freecloud13. (I miss pen pals, honestly. There was something genuinely marvelous about letters from all over the world showing up in your mailbox.) I recall Vesna as being one of the pals I looked forward to hearing from. I lost touch with everyone when I moved to Japan but when the Internet happened we crossed paths once more.

She came to America once. To Chicago. Same continent, but, alas, wrong time and place.

Then my parents booked a trip to Italy for their 50th wedding anniversary and I nudged my itinerary in the direction of Venice for a few days at the end of my stay there. I booked a wee room in a hotel around the corner from the train station and we arranged to meet there.

I sat in the breakfast room, scribbling in my catbook and glancing out the window every few moments at the passers by. I missed her going past the window, but couldn't miss her when she walked in the door.

I’ve already written 100 Odd Words about it. Here they are once more:

For a full minute, I swear we could not speak. Recognition lit up on both of our faces and all we could do was laugh. We embraced as if long parted, rather than meeting for the very first time. Words had abandoned us both and our actions and laughter spoke for us instead. You are here. You are real. You are flesh and bone and more than all the words and photographs we ever shared on paper and on screens. And yet I know you.

Finally she said, with a shy smile, the first word ever uttered between us:


“It’s you,” she continued, “You look like you.” I compared it to the odd shock one goes through when meeting Duran Duran the first time--yes, they really look like that. Only in three dimensions and everything. She understood completely.

I asked her if she had any interest in going with me to the Klimt exhibit at the Museo Correr. As it turned out, it was on her mental list of Things To Do The Next Time She Was In Venice. (She lives in Trieste, which is a doable but still longish train ride away from Venice. It's comparable to living in Athens, Georgia and thinking "I should check out that exhibit at the High Museum next time I make it to Atlanta.") She got a pass for the Vaporetto and we rode down the Grand Canal.

We got to San Marco and to the museum. I bought tickets for both of us (she braved the Italian train system to meet me; I figured I owed it to her) and we went into the gallery. The exhibit was just what I needed right then--a series of small, dimly lit and relatively quiet rooms with lots of fantastic art in them. It would have been amazing just on its own, but there was extra awesome that came with being with someone you could poke and remark that a given painting rather resembled a pulp sci-fi cover from 1972 and that person could poke you back and marvel at century-old furniture that was clearly not owned by someone who had any cats.

We emerged into the museum's collection of art from centuries past, styles I’d seen plenty of during my stay in Italy, but quite the contrast from the modern works we'd just seen. We found a room with glass cases full of ancient books and two enormous (but mostly illegible) globes. We peered at them, trying to trace the contours of the continents, but it was all lost in a muddy blur. Vesna noticed a hand-written sign that said "NO KLIMT HERE" and it read to me as if Klimt was forbidden. ("No Klimt here! Stop Klimting! Go Klimt somewhere else!")

We grabbed postcards of our favorite paintings from the gift shop and I asked Vesna where we should go next. (She’d lived there for years until the Euro came around and doubled the price of everything, forcing her to move back with her family.) We found a cafe and drank a spritz and she told me of the Kafkaesque horrors of finishing her degree at the university in Venice. Instead of the usual tourist spots, I got to see things like the historic Jewish neighborhood (where the bridge over the canal had the vestiges of gates that were locked at night in times past) and The First Place Vesna Got Lost In Venice. We stumbled on a park that she hadn’t seen before and saw, to our astonishment, actual Venetians playing with their children.

We meandered back to my hotel room and just sat and chatted there, enjoying the tiny luxuries of air conditioning and a toilet you don’t have to pay 50p to use. She picked out one of my ten thousand flowers to keep.

I walked her to the train station and we sat on the steps and looked out over the water. I asked her for suggestions for my final day in Venice. She pulled out her tattered map and showed me a small island with a church on it and recommended the bell tower for an amazing view of the city. (She was right, by the way.) Finally, it was time for her to go. We embraced one last time and agreed that we really had to do this more often. She walked up the steps into the station and I walked back to my wee hotel room, my head still spinning from the miracle of what had just happened.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 20th, 2012 05:03 pm (UTC)
I'm so thrilled you finally met Vesna in person!!!

Also, there's a Klimt exhibit going on here in L.A., and I swear, the entire time I was wandering around & looking at everything, I kept hearing Nick's voice in my head. *g*
Sep. 20th, 2012 11:47 pm (UTC)
I love this photo so much!!! So happy to see bth of you!
Sep. 21st, 2012 04:17 am (UTC)
That is awesome!
Sep. 21st, 2012 11:18 am (UTC)

It's funny because after knowing you for so long, when we finally met, it was a mix of 'oh wow' and 'well, OF COURSE it's her!'! ♡ ♡ ♡

I was a bit concerned at first because I didn't know exactly how you would sound, and also it takes me a while to get used to speaking English.

P.S. You forgot that embarrassing advertising floor mosaic for the casino, remember? I forgot the exact words but it was something sad some Italian must have thought would sound incredibly appealing. Gosh, most signage in English is embarrassing in Venice... (NO KLIMT HERE!!)
Oct. 2nd, 2012 02:22 am (UTC)
I was a bit concerned at first because I didn't know exactly how you would sound, and also it takes me a while to get used to speaking English.

I'd heard your voice at least once, when you recorded it and posted a little MP3 of "Um, so this is what my voice sounds like." I'm not sure why it never occurred to me that since you'd never heard mine, you had no idea if I was going to have some incomprehensible Southern accent or something.

You forgot that embarrassing advertising floor mosaic for the casino, remember? I forgot the exact words but it was something sad some Italian must have thought would sound incredibly appealing.

Oh, LORD, I think I'd blotted it from my memory. A [something] of Emotion! And I can't even remember what the something was, only that it read like Japanese shopping bag English.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )