Meanwhile, In Italy


Eleanor Stills is a music journalist working out of Washington, D.C. She's divorced, on the declining side of her twenties, and wondering if her career is really the dream she always hoped it would be. Amidst this quarter-life crisis, Reginald Sly falls back into her life. He's now the frontman for a bizarre indy band, and seeing him reignites Eleanor's memories of a long summer spent in Italy.

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      “Even if most of it has disappeared.” It is a Venetian proverb. No citizen of Venice can ever find his way with ease. That is the nature of the city. It has risen and fallen so many times over the centuries to accommodate its sole tenant, water, that what remains of its canals and bridges and cobblestones cannot service human beings in any way. Only birds, it is said, understand Venice. And most of them don’t speak the language.
      It is considered a throwback to their Roman ancestry that Italians will settle where they please. No one ever says, “I live in Venice.” They say, “I live with Venice.” Rather than be embarrassed to lose themselves in their own canals, Venetians have learned to lie with a style beyond reckoning. Lying is highly fashionable in Venezia, much like concrete is in Milano. A man cannot be judged by his car or his house (since anything one owns is forfeit to memory in this town), so he must be judged by his wealth of dissimulation. If a Venetian man attends a party he was not invited to and, by way of excuse, takes the hostess by the arm and proclaims that she is his wife, he is applauded for his boldness of action. Unless of course the same maneuver was already executed earlier in the evening, or afterwards by a more debonair rogue.
      Lies make history here, and everyone remembers a good one. Poor liars are eventually weeded out and seeded somewhere else to grow roots of honesty. Frequently in my travels I heard it said that there is nothing so honest as a Venetian abroad. Whether that springs from an honest relief (or simple lack) of professional competition remains a mystery.
      Houses in Venice are seldom permanent homes. Venetians walk until they are tired and then occupy the nearest crooked tower. This would be a hygienic nightmare if cleanliness and coziness were not preeminent virtues. Mind you, no house in Venice is neat, but few are misused. Poor housekeepers do not last long, and they are always found out.
      In this transitory world, most everyone will be someone’s guest in their life, and generosity is the city’s currency.
      That sense of kinship is strong in Venice. Families cannot exist without it. Siblings and uncles are lost in the endless shuffle to be raised by other parents, other couples, or even other children. Grandparents are switched and spouses are rearranged to lie and wait for new love and solace that lasts in the knowledge that Venice changes forever.
      Maybe it’s the lies, maybe it’s that the cityscape is rewritten by the moment or that each night grants them new families and lovers to entertain, but Venetians are widely regarded as the nation’s best storytellers. It is how they communicate with their city. They tell stories about themselves. They tell stories about stories. These stories pass on to new homes and canals. After several years of spending evenings this way, a keen Venetian has an ear for who has said what, when, but rarely where. And because lying is so stylish, the protagonist of these stories is an eternal variable. But sometimes a yarn is so fresh it must have an author. Proud friends will know their companions survive somewhere in the city by the fables that return to them.

Word Count: 31,855

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