It's vanishing. Gradually ceasing to exist.
"The bottom step used to be at the top of the water," Luke tells me, a simple fact that makes me sad for reasons I can’t explain.
I wonder aloud about how the city was built. He tells me the answer. Wooden platforms attached to wooden stakes driven into the ground.
I imagine all the wood disintegrating, slowly eaten up by the ever-hungry water now trying to claim the city itself, too. I imagine the city breaking off from its wooden tethers, floating on the surface of the Adriatic eventually sinking under its own weight.
"I want to bring our kids here before it's gone," I tell him. He agrees, even though it'll be years and years.
The eventuality of its disappearance makes the place all the more tragically beautiful. The water rises, but the city doesn't.
There’s this sense of mystery, of something waiting to be found.
Maybe just around the corner, or down the next alleyway.
It emanates from the gondolas slipping gently through the water and the boats that hurry down the Grand Canal. It rushes over the bridges and waits in the piazzas. It looms from the Campanile. It seeps in with the water into Piazza San Marco every night, flooding the space normally occupied by pigeons and tourists. It plays from the musicians and twinkles between tiny glass figurines. It stares out from the empty masks hanging in the storefronts.
This mystery hangs everywhere in Venice. There, but just out of reach.
The mystery of what the place used to be and what will come of it soon.
Meanwhile, we snap our photos and rush on our way, barely noticing that the steps are slowly receding further into the water. Or the water is rising further up the steps, inching ever closer.
Venice: the floating city.
When I first arrived, all I could hear was the water. Off the train and into the darkness of the canals, the water slapping lazily against the side of the city.
I can still hear it.
The way a boat cuts through the silence. The chugging of the waves pushed away from a water taxi. The cut of an oar.
A melodic ripple as you walk through the city — always there, always waiting. Hitting against an aberration, this incredible, magical floating city.
Maybe one day the water will envelop all of Venice. Maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be.
I prefer to think that it won’t.
That, when I return, however many years from now, still seeking an answer to the constant question this place poses, the first sound I hear will be that water, reminding me how mysteriously comforting this world can be.
And like the water washes over the city, the feeling of Venice will engulf me.
The history that hangs in the air. The lingering footsteps of the tourists and locals and the quiet whisper of the city as it settles in for the night. An air full of things unknown, the city beckoning for its story to be discovered.
The feeling of a city suspended, leaving me forever in the moment between mystery and discovery.