The Devil’s Bridge & The Other Names I Thought I Knew

In Venice, each bridge, each street, each campo has a name. 

VENICE
PHOTO MONIQUE HASSEL

In Venice, each bridge, each street, each campo has a name. With a name comes a story. Today I learned the story of Ponte de Diablo. Every Friday, the devil waits for a man who signed a pact with him years ago. In exchange for his soul, the man received the complete love of a woman he fancied. The devil awaits, in the coat of a black cat, for the man to repay his debts on the bridge, where the two parties were supposed to meet.

Or at least that’s what I think Davide said. Maybe he said something different, but the mystery between his words and the story I extracted did not deter my interest.  Sure, I studied a language, and then took a test and passed a class. But did I really understand what he said? The story he tells me is a classic legend attached to each bridge; it’s built on a compressed, strong, yet small foundation that connects two characters to one another.

VENICE
PHOTO MONIQUE HASSEL

A flag reads, “Big Ships Kill Venice,” off a middle-sized, wooden bridge on Guidecca.

He begins again as we climb down the bridge. “In Chinese, you can say ‘I’ in 5 different ways.”

“Ah, is that right? Have you studied Chinese?” I ask. Earlier in our conversation, I highlighted the differences between the emphasis and placement of the subject in English and Italian sentences.

“I like it,” I mocked, exaggerating the sound of “I.”

But in Italian, I return to stuttering, the object of pleasure becomes the subject, and—breaking from my broken Italian, I state in english,  “the it likes I.” I thought my translation made sense. I’m not sure grammar in English makes sense to me, let alone can I translate it in a different language with clarity.

The main feature of acquiring a new language relies on perception. How do I understand the concept flowing from the words of a language I am trying to understand?  Unlike induction, I can’t trust my senses here. Here, my ears hear words that don’t exist in Italian, and leave me confused and disengaged in a conversation. And a lot of times, completely lost.

He replies, “No. The guy across the way told me. He said he studies Chinese and I heard it from him,” he laughs. I wonder if this is true. Maybe he misunderstood what the guy said. I’ve never heard that before.

“Oh, one of the local crazies last night,“ Davide shoots off quickly, “ saw a man jump from a 5 story building, smack into the ground, and rise. The man spoke and said, ‘This is my Venice. I will not leave!’ And…”

VENICE
PHOTO MONIQUE HASSEL

“Aspetta, Aspetta,” I say. Fifteen people said they saw this at the same time? I ask, making sure to influx my voice to indicate the question mark at the end. Logic tells me that it’s very easy for people to retell the same story and create a tourist attraction or fictional rumor that has become conflated and confused for reality. Might knowledge of the newest rumor or tourist attraction spread fast, hopping from tongue to tongue like the speed of sound.

He assures me I heard correctly.

“Yes, they saw this just yesterday! Venice is a city of mystery.”

Article written by Monique Hassel.

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