“The Armchair Traveller” by Dee Turbon, Scotland

Travel July 14, 2011 02:30

The Armchair Traveller
by Dee Turbon, Scotland

Edward sits with the curtains open, sits in the sunlight, his chair placed just so, and he wears dark glasses and drinks chianti from a dirty tumbler. On the television is a programme about Venice and lots of views of canals, and the city stretched out on its own reflection, balanced. Edward has never been to Venice, except through what he has seen on the television or read in books or viewed in pictures. He has never been anywhere, except in his head.
Edward looks out over the city from the belltower, and wonders at the crooked pantile roofs and the terracotta chimney pots set like exhibits from the modern art gallery where he works. The camera swings through three hundred and sixty degrees and the whole city spins and the water sends sparks into the air and he feels a little giddy.
‘ Water water everywhere,’ he says to himself, or maybe it is the dark brown voice on the television he hears. Behind him there is a girl of maybe twenty. Edward can hear her talking, though he does not make
sense of what she says. She stands close to him, her hand held warm in his and held lightly. He knows
if he turns to look her in the face she will be smiling, her dark hair cut short and making her look like
Audrey Hepburn in that film with Gregory Peck. Her name is Bellaria, this Hepburn girl, and she smells of
rosewater and she has dropped liquid belladonna into her eyes so that they might be fixed and dilated and he might think she loves him.
‘ She is like a whore, this city, and she dresses gaudy like a whore, and everyday she sells a little more of herself and sells herself cheap.’ Edward has the heating in the house turned up full and all the windows closed so that it feels like he is there, breathless in Venice. And the churches flash before him, their marble facades, and the oriel windows of the houses, and the balconies of pink palaces iced like wedding cakes. He fast forwards through black and white footage of the flood of 1966. He knows she is sinking. He has his feet in a basin of warm water so that he does not forget. He knows there are too many visitors, millions each year, and the stones of Venice worn thin as dreams and one day she will be washed away entirely. He knows this and does not need the flood pictures to remind him. He sips at his chiati and whispers her name, the name Bellaria, and the television sets them back in Venice again, feeding pigeons in the Piazza San Marco.
‘ And Napoloeon called the square of St Marks the drawing room of Europe.’
A drawing room is a room in a house where guests are entertained. Edward lifts his glass to his lips again and turns up the volume on the television with the remote control.

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