A Chain of Tiny Disasters

It’s late July and Venice smells of brackish water, rotting food, and dog shit. My sister, Chelsea, says little, trailing me from shop to historical site like a ghost, while I am left to converse with shop owners and waiters in broken Italian. Venice’s winding streets are impossible to navigate. Even with my iPhone giving me directions, I take Chelsea down narrow passages that dead-end. I follow our moving blue dot, smudging the phone screen with my sweaty fingers, and make us backtrack many times.

The old Chelsea would have been annoyed. She would have snatched the phone out of my hand and taken on the role of navigator herself. She would have flipped off the waiter who made fun of my Italian. Screamed and gestured like a hysterical 1940s screen siren when the gondolier tried to pat her ass. But now she doesn’t do any of those things. She simply shook her head at the gondolier, looking at him with eyes so mournful he seemed legitimately ashamed of himself. She bowed her head while the Italian waiter ridiculed me. She continues to follow me down dead-end alleys without saying a word.

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