• Vol. 07
  • Chapter 02
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Milk in Venice

The bottles have no milk. And no, the clouds have no rain. I've looked. They promise a quenching when all they will do is deepen my thirst. I think then of thirst. When did I last experience it? Not an everyday thirst, but the kind that burrows like an animal and lays bare all our droughts? I was on a dinghy, crossing the Ganges. No water, and yet only water. The oarsman laughed and said, "Dip your hand in. Take a sip. It won’t kill you." I bowled my palms and raised the river and there, in that cupful was a brownish tinged liquid that all but promised an intestinal infection. I looked up the river and down the river and then at the ghats and then at the people – the hands raised in prayer, the heads lowered in prayer. Is it forgiveness for which we ache? And that October we spent in Venice. When the canals flooded after the rains. St. Mark’s underwater and we had to paddle from the hotel to the restaurant. A bottle of wine we could not afford, and plates of steaming pasta served by twilight. It’s not that evening for which I thirst, and not even the night that followed, but for the canals of the heart – so desiccated by the years – suddenly flooded. I drank it. I looked up. The oarsman nodded. "See," he said, winking. "You didn’t die."