28 September 2008
Joseph Brodsky felt Venice’s beauty was such that it reduced him to being merely an eye, an eye madly in love with that upon which it gazed. Following this metaphor, he was at his most eloquent when he described the experience of leaving timeless Venice:
“Because one is finite, a departure from this place always feels final; leaving it behind is leaving it forever… For the eye identifies itself not with the body it belongs to but with the object of its attention. And to the eye, for purely optical reasons, departure is not the body leaving the city but the city abandoning the pupil… As the world goes, this city is the eye’s beloved. After it, everything else is a letdown. A tear is the anticipation of the eye’s future.”
I remember all too well what it was like to depart after my own vacations here. I would always procrastinate with my packing, then stay out too late the evening before the journey home. So I would be awake all night long, so alone and lonely, and so, so sad, jamming my stuff into my bags any which way. At check-out and breakfast, I would barely contain my tears. Then, upon boarding the Alilaguna boat to the airport, I would finally break down. Yes, it always felt like I was leaving forever. My eye would contemplate its future, and produce the water that would perhaps permit it to stay behind and merge with the city.
On the plane, after my last glimpse of the “two fishes,” I would induce an artificial sleep so my arrival in New York was always headachy and blurry. Once home, I would struggle up the stairs with my luggage and collapse into a near blackout until the next morning. Then, with the first mug of thin American coffee, would come the counting of the days until my next visit to Venice.
Yes, I remember: it was almost unbearable.
So, how much harder will it be to leave the same place, now that it has become my home? And without any parting hugs and cheek kisses, without any friendly hotel employees to help me with my bags, to see me off, to comfort and reassure me with Arrivederci! – “We will come together again!”
No matter how we might convince ourselves otherwise, each of us is always alone. But this time, departure will truly be a lonely affair. I fear no one will even notice I have gone.