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Missing in Venice
Even with her mighty engines in reverse, the ocean liner was pulled deeper and deeper into the canal. Civilians and tourists were crying and shrieking from windows of buildings along the canal, but most of the screams were drowned out by the scraping of the ship’s sides against the tall buildings.
The ship squeezed its way around a tight bend but fell against a structure with a high tower. The tower broke away from the building and silently fell from its place touching the sky to the deck of the ocean liner. The crowds were hushed, silent, as they witnessed the bittersweet grace of the falling tower and its ferocious crash on the ship.
Obvious gasps were heard from both sides of the canal, and as the ship surged forward unruffled from the tower the people darted in all directions trying to return to safety. Panic was unmistakable on the canal.
Jane stood in awe at the huge cruise squeezing its way through the historic Venice canal. The metal-against-stone scraping sound was deafening and reminded her of the Titanic against the iceberg. But this time the ship was the iceberg, and the city around it was the Titanic, the victim.
Jane was elbowing her way through the crowd coming from the bridge that connected one side of the waterway to the other, trying her hardest not to be trampled. As the ship rapidly came closer the people pushed harder and moved swifter. Jane, moving in the opposite direction, was practically trekking in place, maybe even moving backwards. Finally, the crowd receded and the narrow bridge was clear. Jane started to run but she only moved as fast as if she were jogging.
She came to the middle and stopped short. The ocean liner was almost directly over her, blocking the sun. It was less than a few feet away. Jane knew she could make it but didn’t move a muscle. The sight she was witnessing was too astonishing.
Time slowed down. The ship gently rocked back and forth, but even its gentle rocking made the buildings beside it shake and crumble. Jane only stared at the enormous black and white monster as it etched closer. Then she realized she was going to be crushed. She focused on getting to the other side of the canal but she moved as if she had cement blocks for shoes.
Time slowed down, but it did not stop for her. The ocean liner came at her savagely as she tried hopelessly to get away. The ship was closer, closer, closer until it tapped the thin, narrow bridge, knocking Jane off her feet. She gave up in that instant. The ship was already tearing the thing keeping her safe apart, so she had no reason to keep trying. The bridge crumbled and Jane felt herself falling, falling into the blue waters while she gave out one final, silent scream. The sun was so bright it blinded her…
Jane woke up to her bedroom’s overhead light turned on, her sheets tangled up around her legs, and all of the pillows she sleeps with were on the floor around her bed. She tried to sit up, but her head was hurting terribly so she just laid there, panting and sweating, remembering her nightmare.
Her father rushed over and knelt beside her. “What happened, Jane? Why were you screaming?” That was news to her; she thought her scream was silent. She slowly untangled her bed sheets making sure not to move her aching head. Her father returned a pillow to her and slipped it under her neck.
“I just had a dream about the trip to Venice… I… I fell into the canal and it scared me,” Jane said hoarsely. Her senior Media and Film class was taking a trip to Venice, Italy, in a week for the Venice Film Festival. They wanted to experience one more high school trip before the whole college experience began.
“Well, was there anything else in the dream that scared you?” her father said with a worried tone. Ever since Jane’s mom died when she was twelve her father had been watching her, waiting for her to crack. Waiting for her to need him in her life again. Ever since then Jane had pushed everyone in her family away, especially her father. She stopped calling him “Daddy” and stopped saying “I love you” on the phone. She stopped talking to him about everything and hugging him when she came home from school… she stopped doing everything she did before.
“I’m fine, really,” she said coldly. She pulled her covers up to her collarbone.
“I didn’t ask if you were okay, Jane,” he said with strength in his voice that she hadn’t heard in years. But his voice then softened as he said, “I just want to know what your dream was about. Don’t be afraid to tell me.” He fixed his eyes on her, trying to pry all of her secrets over the years out of her. His light blue eyes looked tired, but not just from lack of sleep.
“I can’t remember,” Jane lied. She remembered every dream she had, but most of them were nightmares. She would wake up and her entire body would be glistening from sweat, sheets tangled, and her head in the worst pain. Every dream she had ended with her falling into water.
She didn’t tell anybody about her dreams. When her group of friends was discussing their dreams from the night before at lunch, Jane would always lie and say she didn’t have a dream. She just added every dream she had to her secrets box in the corner of her mind.
The morning of the departure to Italy her father was busy making pancakes for breakfast and humming along to the radio. It was super early, six o’ clock. She could smell the aroma of breakfast from the upstairs bathroom where she was packing up her remaining items like her toothbrush and deodorant. After she was sure she had everything, Jane loudly clattered down the stairs with her suitcase and backpack to the kitchen.
Some old, old oldies were playing on the radio. Jane pulled a face upon hearing the outdated music and tuned into her favorite modern station. She sat down at the table. Her father, unfazed by the inconsiderate gesture, served Jane her breakfast. As she ate, her long curly hair got stuck in the syrup numerous times.
“Maybe you shouldn’t go on this trip,” her father said courageously, “if you’re having nightmares about it…”
“Uh, no,” Jane spit out, startled by her father’s suggestion. “I already paid for it. It was just a little nightmare, nothing terrible. Stop worrying.”
He stared at her with his blue eyes and stroked his scruffy beard and smiled a sad, sad smile. Over the years those blue eyes grew more and more unfamiliar to her.
On their way to the airport that afternoon, they were silent. Jane tried to turn on the radio but she forgot his radio broke more than two years ago. It had been that long since she had ridden in his car.
When she reconnected with her Media and Film friends at the airport her father was forgotten. She saw him look longingly towards her, with a sad smile, and even though it broke her heart to treat him this way, she hated his hovering even more. Sometimes she didn’t even know why she felt one way and also felt the opposite. She didn’t understand herself.
He departed right before the class did. Everyone was buzzing and running their mouths, excited to be going to a place where romance was blossoming like mad. Jane knew her friend Krystal was especially excited since her boyfriend was coming, too. She was hoping he was going to ask her to move in with him or marry him since they weren’t going to college, something romantic like that. Jane was just relieved to get away from home.
She couldn’t stop thinking of her father, though. She hadn’t had a dream involving him in years, and she knew that people who appeared in her dreams were the ones she cared about most. Suddenly, she remembered she could fall asleep on the flight to Italy and have another nightmare. She could wake up screaming again! She made a promise to not fall asleep or even close her eyes on the flight, but within an hour in the air she was out cold.
Jane had three dreams. The first two were normal dreams about the film festival and the streets of Venice. At the film festival she won Best Actress and her entire class awarded her with dozens of roses. In her second dream the streets of Venice looked like Rome and NYC’s Times Square meshed together. A young man on a bicycle rode by and gave her a grapefruit. Both dreams were nice and pleasant, unlike most of her dreams.
The third dream was the nightmare with the ocean liner and the bridge, again. It just repeated itself with a few changes. The canal was filled with grapefruits floating on the surface and the ship had “TITANIC” written on its side and the ship was much, much bigger.
She was once again on the narrow bridge, alone, when the ocean liner was inches away. It came nearer and nearer, time slowed down, until the tip almost touched the fragile bridge. The grinding and scraping of the ship and the stone building became unbearable and Jane found herself covering her ears. The ship was ready to engulf Jane in a single swallow so she tried to scream…
Jane was awakened by Krystal, who informed her that they had arrived in Italy already and they needed to get off the plane. How long had she been sleeping? She was sure some of her friends had taken pictures of her while she rested with her mouth opened and drool dripping from her chin and she cringed in embarrassment. The flight was twelve hours, so she must’ve woken up once or twice, but she couldn’t remember.
The large class departed the airplane and went through the regular flight routines. After almost an hour of trying to snag bags off the luggage carousal and the boys trying to catch a ride on it, the class was boarding a rented bus and on their way to the hotel to rest.
It wasn’t the best hotel in Venice, Jane thought, but it was better than most. Everyone got their room keys and groggily climbed the stairs to their floor. Jane’s roommate, Cassie, immediately passed out on the overly-comfortable hotel bed and fell asleep. Jane stayed awake and read a book until she became so tired she couldn’t keep her eyes open.
The class and the bus driver went out to eat at around eight o’ clock that night. They went to a little late-night waterside restaurant. They got three tables outside over looking the beautiful canal. The moon was reflecting off the water making light dance across the building along the canal.
Despite it’s beauty, the thought of the canal being so close to her made Jane sick. She had to run to the restroom numerous times to gag over the toilet, but she only threw up once, and that was after she ate her dinner. Mrs. McKinley, her Media and Film teacher, told her she must have still been nauseous from the flight. “Yeah,” Jane said to her, “sure.”
That night Jane had the same dream again and this time she woke up screaming. Cassie was shaking her shoulders when she tried to open her eyes. “Jane, Jane! Wake up!” Cassie yelled. Jane opened her eyes. “What the hell were you dreaming about?”
When Cassie reported the incident to Mrs. McKinley, she suggested Jane stay at the hotel for the day while the rest of the class tours Venice. Jane refused and convinced her she was fine, but she knew she wasn’t at all fine. She went along with the rest of the class on their tour of the city. The festival was the next day so the usual hustle and bustle was at an all time high.
The group visited many markets and beautiful buildings and shops around Venice. A trip down the canal was last on their list, so Jane was somewhat relieved. She spent most of her time that day thinking of way to avoid the canal and its light blue waters without embarrassing herself…
The time came for the class to make their way to the pretty waters and Jane had thought of nothing that would work. As the group boarded a tour boat she panicked. Jane hastily hid herself behind a stone arch and waited for the tour boat to float gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily. Life is but a dream… she thought.
She quietly giggled to herself as she saw the boat disappear around a bend. She was free! Alone at last! The city was her playground now. She didn’t care if she got lost; she was going to wander around Venice, free of worries.
With a smile upon her face she skipped around the streets of the city gazing at the delicious looking foods from vendors’ carts and counting the bricks in the paths down alleyways. Jane was happy, or at least she thought she was. As she sauntered looking peacefully and sang to herself quietly, Jane felt her true feelings creep up her throat.
She still smiled and sang as tears gently trickled down her face. Although she tried to focus on her newfound freedom and that fact that she was in Italy, her thoughts kept finding their way back to the things that weighed her down. She knew her father, with his watery blue eyes, was sitting at home thinking of reasons why his daughter hates him so much. She knew that he blamed himself for her mother’s death and her own constant lashing out. She knew that her body was just a shell and that inside the hard outer shell was a screaming Jane was clawing to get out, consumed by her own insanity.
She knew she was crazy inside, but she just didn’t want to admit it. She wouldn’t admit it, no matter what. Every morning she would think of six ways to kill herself. Every morning she would stare out her window for who knows how long at the world’s image until her brain imagined the houses and trees and mailboxes up in flames. She would write these sick, dark poems about the nightmares she had then throw the papers away or burn them so no one could see them again. She knew she was going crazy, just like her mother did…
Her mother killed herself when Jane was twelve. Jane didn’t understand why, she still doesn’t understand why her mother did what she did. Her entire family, even her distant cousins, was affected by it. Jane likes to pretend it never happened, that she was born without a mother, but looking into her father’s eyes every day is a harsh reminder of reality.
As she wandered Venice the tears wouldn’t stop gushing from her eyes. Soon she was sobbing and running through the streets. The sun beat down on her bare shoulders, trying to comfort her, but Jane didn’t want any comforting. She wanted sanity and a normal life.
People were staring at her now, wondering to themselves why this girl was running down the street sobbing and looking like she was insane.
Somehow Jane took a wrong turn and ended up at the canal again, the one place she wanted to avoid the most. But still sobbing, she crept up to the very edge and dared herself to jump into the water. The water was very inviting as it danced and glittered from the sunlight. The blue was the blue of her father’s eyes…she sobbed harder.
When she lifted her head she saw the impossible. Her father was across the canal, waving at her, with a huge smile that she can only remember from early childhood. A huge wave of relief washed over her like a tsunami. Now she could hug him like she had never done before and apologize for her behavior over the years… now she had the chance.
She made her way to the closet bridge and started to make her way across it to the other side where her father was waiting for her, smiling.
Jane wasn’t sobbing anymore, but beaming with delight. She was halfway across when she heard a familiar tune from underneath the bridge. A small boat that was being rowed by a man in a black and white striped shirt and carrying a big crate of grapefruits came out from under the bridge, rowing away from her. His tune was loud and clear:
“Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily…”
The man and his boat floated down the canal until Jane couldn’t hear his singing. She noticed that the crate had toppled over and the grapefruits were scattered across the canal bobbing on the water’s surface. As the man disappeared around the bend, a vicious crack split the silent air. She jumped and twisted her body and faced what she couldn’t believe, the ocean liner, bigger than ever.
It was making its way down the blue canal like she’d expected, while crashing into the pretty buildings. The scraping sound of metal-on-stone was even greater now, and Jane covered her ears once again, only this time it wasn’t a dream. Time didn’t slow down now. She frantically searched the canal for her father but he was no where to be found. She searched each and every one person’s face for his light blue eyes, but all she found were blank, dark-eyed faces.
Jane began to panic even more as the ocean liner came closer and closer. The scraping sound was unbearable and Jane couldn’t even believe that it could be this loud. She tried to run to safety but her legs were like gelatin. The ship came closer still…
She was still trying to run when she remembered the reasons why she was sobbing and running around like a mad person earlier. She couldn’t bear the weights any longer. She wasn’t giving up; she was giving in to the black and white monster.
The ship approached her and Jane stood her ground. She was letting the ship take her without a fight. The ship came in contact with the bridge and the shock sent Jane flying over the edge. She let out the highest and loudest scream she had ever screamed before as she fell off the bridge. Her fall caused her to flip and hit the back of her head on the underside of the bridge, and the world shook a little as a ripple of tremendous pain shot through her skull. Jane fell through the air silently until her body hit the surface of the blue waters. She drifted down to the bottom of the place she hated so much, for no other reason than a simple nightmare, a ribbon of blood from her cracked skull leaving behind a trail. But before all went black, Jane swore she saw her father with her. And she swore she saw him smile.