Italy Is Dead To Us, Unless The Old Woman On The Bus Is Still Alive

Sashenka Paatz
Writers On The Run
Published in
5 min readMay 14, 2020

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Crowded Venice, Italy in the summer of 2019. (Photos by Sarah Paatz, a Canadian tourist)

I wonder if the woman on the bus is still alive. The first time I saw her, she had thin, immaculately combed hair that brushed against her tiny shoulders as her balance wobbled.

Sitting on a hard plastic red chair, she looked out the window. Her faded brown eyes searched the beautiful Venetian sky, not a cloud in sight. Only, she didn’t appear to see past the pane.

I saw her make eye contact with her own harsh reflection, umbrella in hand as if she expected a storm was on its way. Bang bang went the umbrella against the window.

The old woman’s grip tightened on the handle, as a tourist sidled up to the vacant seat beside her. She very nearly hit the foreigner like she’d done to the window, only the tourist dodged the blow and backed away confused.

The woman on the bus started muttering. It was inaudible. Even if the words hadn’t been muffled, I never would have understood them. The Italian intonation of her words was unmistakable. She spoke angrily in her native tongue, the one she must have learned long ago when she was a girl.

She appeared as though she couldn’t see past some sort of pain.

Her tired, scratchy voice got louder and stronger as passion filled her lungs.

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Sashenka Paatz
Writers On The Run

Canadian journalist, traveller and teacher with a passion for creativity, organization, teaching and advocating for others.