~(near) death in venice~

October 14th, 2007

I stood in Venice, on the Bridge of Sighs; A palace and a prison on each hand.
Lord Byron~ Childe Harold (canto IV, st. 1)


This has been a surreal and life-changing trip. Lying in bed for six days was heart-breaking after years of wanting to see Venice, but more so, it was frightening. The day after my last entry–the day we thought i could be up and about again–I made a tiny move and my back went from bad to worse.
I didn’t sleep for three days from the pain, though our travel companion Ernst is a doctor
and helped me to get morphine injections. My hip will be bruised for eons I imagine, plus I never want to see a prescription drug again. I felt like Elvis, without the the fried banana and peanut butter sandwiches.
I will never forget the feeling of standing in the shower (for heat and circulation) at 4am just crying with helplessness. A very very dark time for me.


We finally went to the emergency room in Mestre, hoping to get an MRI and fearing surgery in a foreign land. The walk over the arched bridges to a taxi was a scene–me writhing in pain, two sweet German men flanking, and the tourists simply reframing their snapshots around us. Life can be blunt.

On a stretcher in the public hallway at the hospital I was cruised by a touched man. He caught my eye as he passed and came back to lean very close to my face, stare with wonder into my eyes, and say “bonjourno.” He had a sweet air but also looked at me like I was a delicious candy, so I called over the tall German and spent some time feeling gratitude for my comparatively uncomplicated situation.

The hospital doctors said I did not need surgery and sent me back to the apartment for more unbearable lying on my back, leg elevated. The fellas brought me ghost candles and shrimp risotto to cheer me.


On the last day I was suddenly fine. It was as though the Universe had dragged me to this dark and glittering city to take me on a journey to despair and was now satisfied with my level of suffering.
We tentatively went for a walk that lasted ten hours.


Going outside for the first time in six days (hospital aside) and seeing life happening felt like being raised from the dead, Phoenix-style. The sun, pigeons fluttering, people eating gelati, someone playing accordion, it was simply surreal.
A dream within a dream.


I saw as much as I could of Venice plus some landmarks too—Saint Marks at night, the Bridge of Sighs, Rialto Bridge, Harry’s Bar, Café Florian, the Grand Canal, the view of Giudecca. It was the Venice in a Night tour and it was wonderful.


I even found the mosaic of the Muslim customs officers recoiling in horror when unwrapping the bacon-swaddled remains of Saint Mark.


Then after three hours sleep we went to the airport where they told us Ali couldn’t return to US with the passport he had just received from the German embassy. So we returned to Venice, which greeted us with a giant fiery ball of sunrise like I have never seen.


As we fell asleep the night before I had prayed (I said this was a life-altering experience!) to Santa Lucia for one more day in Venice. She gave me four in a new apartment in San Polo. What follows is what I saw.

One Response to “~(near) death in venice~”

  1. […] Remember if you will that a prayer to Santa Lucia brought me four extra days in Venice on that dreaded back injury trip last October. […]

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