The night I arrived in Venice I was to pick up the pianist at the docks. I had just spent my five hours wandering the city streets, shopping for locally made leather boots, and watching Venice go about its business when my phone beeped.
[Meet me at Fondamenta Nuove at 7:30]
My fingers shivered out a response in the frigid wind, and I made my way back to the hotel to leave my bags and ask for directions.
To get to the docks I would have to walk through streets a meter wide or less in the near pitch dark. On the back roads of Venice shutters close as soon as night falls, and the shadows of people disappearing over bridges and around corners are all you see of a humanity that teems and swells in daylight hours.
I wrapped my scarf about me and joined the spirit world, hearing nothing but the occasional lapping of water against docked boats - the clicking and scratching of my shoes on the cobblestone streets. Otherwise silence.
When I arrived at the dock, there was no one. No boat and no people.
[Where are you? I'm standing at the docks!]
I looked to the left - I looked far to the right.
[What do you mean you're at the docks. There's no one here.]
But then - off to the left in the distance - I spied a sinewy finger of smoke rising up about head-high. Squinting, I could make out the shape of a person, of which world I could not tell for sure. Perhaps I should investigate. Perhaps it is one of the old masters come to welcome the pianist to the docks with me.
My phone beeped annoyingly. [Come, darling! I'm waiting!]
I hesitated, taking a few steps forward and then scratching to a halt. [Come!]
Perhaps something was protecting me on that chilly Adriatic night; perhaps that which lurked in the darkness was better left undiscovered.
Turning on my heels, I made my way in the opposite direction and eventually over the great bridge. Off in the distance I could see him typing a message on his phone, could hear mine beeping incessantly in my pocket; I paused at the top before descending and looked back. A shadow pushed away from the wall and disappeared beyond the iron gate.
And then my feet clicked down and toward my waiting friend.