“City of Love Alone”
Instructions for the use of this short story: 1. Play the music. 2. Start to read. 3. Get lost in the narrative. 4. Comment and repeat.
The City of Love tastes lonely alone. For a week I sat in cafes and drank, alternating between the bitter bite of espresso and the sensual bubbles of Proseco that were beginning to taste like failure. The honeystick stink of happy couples wafted through the air inconsiderately and when I wrinkled my nose at one particularly soul-crushing duo, they asked me in slow English if I would take their picture. Yes, let’s lock this moment in; you’re going to need it in about ten years when you’re fat and she’s bored. Or when you’re bored and she’s fat. I don’t care which. One of you is going to be bored and the other fat and good luck after that.
My god, what’s wrong with me?
I took the picture and handed them the camera back, more than a little disgusted with my running monologue.
Venice makes you want a man like no other city.
I had one once but he left me standing in six inches of slimy water. A different one found me a few days later but it was a whole weird thing. I don’t really want to talk about it.
I disembarked and walked with a knowing stride through the twilight of the city. Where was I walking? Into the neon flame, as always, attracted by the presence of alcohol, drawn into the grungy underbelly of the city.
Inside, the low light did nothing to hide the black-fire eyes of a man I’d seen before. The long, thin cut of his trousers hugged the length of his long, thin legs. I wanted to share clothes with that man; slip in alongside.
I ordered a scotch and leaned dangerously far over the lip of the bar. It was here that he noticed me.
Many of my friends would punch a man in the face for that look; that unbroken stare that climbs up one leg and down the other; that gaze that rolls over the hill of my hip before heading north and wandering along the edge of the low cut at the top of my unlucky green dress.
But I kept my profile to him, allowing only a slight smile to ribbon-curl the corners of my mouth before raising the glass and taking in the musky sensuality of a good drink.
Uninhibited, unlike his American cousins, he sauntered over, took my free hand and led me, drink and all, onto the dance floor.
I wanted to complain: I don’t know how to dance, not with a man. Where I come from, the men line up along the walls and watch, leaving the women to fend for themselves, like so much else in American romance.
He placed a soft hand just above my hip and under his expert lead, I could follow. No words passed between us, only movement and the occasional electric brush of skin. He leaned in close to me and I could feel his warm breath in my ear before I heard the words.
“A beautiful woman should never have to drink alone,” he said.
At least, that’s what I think he said. I don’t speak Italian.