Enveloped in a nostalgic moment of seemingly monumental surrealism, alone I stood. My watch read 4:24am, a full two hours before the groggy love eyes of the local merchants would turn Hollywood and hawk lace camicie and vases and fresh fruits and mysterious masks, before the throngs of tourists would open their groggy lovestruck eyes in search of a croissant and cappuccino and fill up for another day of waiting in lines and dancing and tripping over local phrases and swooning over the breathtaking ambiance of what was once a working-class industrial village while reminiscing of an evening escapade never ventured on before and unlikely to be duplicated, before the infinite winged-and-feathered landlords would appear from the cracks and crevasses and head to work in search of photographers and food, purveying a sense of ownership over this enchanted place.
In that mere two hours, this hallowed ground my feet embrace would come alive, as if needing to soak in the sun’s sweet rays to arise and become a bustling and vibrant celebration of a centuries-old culture and seconds-old adventure. The peaceful and quiet, humbling serenity that overcomes me in ways beyond my mind’s capacity to understand will be long gone, but another page in the lore of travelers past. Of merchants, gawkers and hustlers past. Of lovers past, present and future. But for this moment, gone in an instant of eternal magnitude, only myself and my thoughts, however few, preside. Just ten fingers and ten toes adding to the weight of this epic structure, this symbol of work and industry, of travel and trade, of fantasy and romance. Not yet dawn, and I’ve experienced a feeling that most never get to have tickle their senses, a tribute to my inclination for the inspirational, for the innocent, for the unique, for the pure. For a moment, this avenue, this bridge, this landmark, this city—they’re all mine. And only mine. But not to keep.
Yes, for it was 4:24am, and I was alone atop the Rialto Bridge. Not a soul in sight either way. Not two socialites wandering home from a night on the town. Not two downtrodden poor looking for a bite to eat. Not two lovers on a quest to find the key to this glorious village. Just me. I saw Christopher Columbus sail below me, and heard traces of Vivaldi escaping out of the flower-basket masquerades of half-open canalside windows. I saw dancing lights reflecting on the calm waters, lining up like disciplined soldiers, always on guard to defend this heavenly homeland. I saw love, and it stared me in the face and called my name, like the sirens that tempted brave Odysseus, perhaps in this very spot. It pleaded and called, tried casting its spell on me, but I could see through it, I could see that it was clouding my senses. And yet, I don’t know that I’ve ever thought more clearly.
A portal only open to my vivid imagination. A choose-your-own-ending novel in which I held the pen. Empowered with the freedom of unlimited frequent-flyer miles, without having to pack a single bag or walk through a single metal detector. Not just an eye-opening experience, but a universe-opening experience. I felt like I was the first child in a long family line to learn how to read. It all seemed to click.
Life. Life. LIFE! The feeling of being alive! What a blessing. Created in the likeness of God, equipped with so many tools, so many gifts, without having to pay rent for our beautiful existence.