In Venice, a Young Boatman Steers a Course of His Own
The young man I’m describing in this column lives in an apartment in the Venetian piazza Sant’Angelo, in the heart of the city. He’s just gone to work as a waiter at a café on the water and returned this morning to find a note on his door that said:
“Rien de particolarement intéressant. Je veux dire: pas un pas de nage. Mon ami.”
“Nothing particularly interesting,” he replied to my question about why he was there. “Not a little water. My friend.”
I didn’t ask for further details. Later, I learned why. The man, in his early thirties, had just been involved in a collision with a boat that looked as if it had been on the point of striking again.
The man wasn’t dead. He was shaken, but physically intact enough to stand up, remove his clothes, and dry them on the balcony outside his apartment. Then, he climbed into the boat from which he’d been removed, and pushed off as if going for a swim. The boat and its occupants, however, were completely submerged. Only the red-and-white striped umbrella remained.
I had seen the young man only a few times before this. He was a waiter, young, tall, and very athletic. And he didn’t strike me as someone likely to hit a moving object. In fact, as I recall, he didn’t strike me as someone likely to hit anything. He struck me more as someone who would take a hit and then decide to take another hit, and another, going after a target that would take him a long way down river. I thought him handsome.
And he was, in fact, handsome, with a beautiful profile, a thick head of black hair, and, of course, his eyes. They were both brown, one blue, one green, with, no apparent distinction of iris. Perhaps it was simply the result of too many years of staring at himself in the mirror