April 18, 1999 ~ Venice
In Venice, we visit St. Mark’s Church. Gold and death sparkle on every
inch of the walls, ceiling and floor;
the spacious halls reverberate with sighs
and heel-clickings. Even though I’m a Protestant-gone-Atheist-turned-Jew, I
suddenly feel I must give in to Catholicism. The depictions of agony and redemption are overwhelming and beautiful, like grace coming at me with whips.
By the time we get a hotel room, we’ve gone forty-eight hours without sex,
which is a record. But when Dave starts having his way with me in front of the open windows, I say no. Even missionary on the bed feels wrong, like we shouldn’t do this because we’re not married. I don’t tell him though. He’s under the spell of that crazy church too. He keeps saying “Let’s go out” but holds me down and takes these thirty-second naps like he always does when there’s something he wants to avoid. He bites my neck until it bleeds. I warn him three times that I’m going to hurt him if he doesn’t stop; finally I punch him really hard in the ear. I’ve dazed him, he can’t move for a few minutes.
We rush out of the hotel into the fog billowing off the canal and run hand in hand through twisting streets until we are lost. At five minutes to midnight, we leap up slippery stone steps and find ourselves on top of the Rialto Bridge. Boats are passing silently beneath us, but we can only see their lights. Dave takes both my hands and tells me to look at him. Time freezes in my stomach it doesn’t feel like it will ever move again. He says, “I want to be engaged to marry you,” and all these other things I feel too shy to write down. I forget to say yes I just say, “Wow” and then, “Wow” again and feel sick with excitement. He says, “Well, what’s your answer?”
“I want you to be my husband.”
We turn back to the water and the wavering lights.
“I’m sorry I don’t have a ring. I hadn’t planned on asking you now.”
“We should wait until our lives are settled enough to know where we’ll
live and when we can be married before we are officially engaged and
“Oh no. That’s not right. That’s mean. You got an answer. You don’t
ask that twice. Either you get a ring tomorrow morning and we’re
engaged or we’re not, this was all a dream and we forget it and go
back to how we were before.”
“Let me think,” he says.
We walk until we’re lost again. Carnival is just over, and the
leering faces painted on the now-empty rides are absolutely
terrifying in the mist. Some shopkeepers display giant china and
feather masks. I hate masks. I don’t even approve of hats.
Dave grabs my hand and starts running again until we reach St. Mark’s
Plaza. Under the high, arched doorway to the church, he tells
me to kiss his shoe. “In front of these people?” I ask. “Yes,” he says, so I do, and he kisses mine, and then he proposes for real, including the afterlife, and I say yes for real.
Back at the hotel, we shut off the lights and don’t talk about being engaged. We’ve surprised ourselves, and we don’t know what to say.