The landing stage is lit by four cast-iron lamp stands, three white globes hanging from each. They are oil lamps and the flickering yellow light casts ripples and movements on the deck of the shinny black ebony gondola, gently bobbing up and down on the soft flowing canal. There are little drops of water on the polished paint. They run into each other forming larger drops until they are big enough to make their escape across the surface and over the side into the canal. We are helped into the middle of the gently rocking craft. A porter, wearing a red top hat, and full-length black coat, covers our knees with a thick woolen blanket. He takes a step back and the gondola is pushed smoothly away from the mooring. He raises his white-gloved hand and touches the rim of his hat as we enter the mystery of the canal at night.... The water is no longer blue; it has changed to an oily black that reflects the many lights of the houses along the canal banks. The seat is surprisingly comfortable with a massive, soft cushion and we lay back resting against each other listening to the quiet squish, squish, squish, as the boat is propelled through the water. I smell Alena's perfume and feel the softness of her hair against my cheek. I'm in ecstasy and time could cease to exist. On the left is a small cafe casting a column of light green haze across the cobbled dockside and out across the water. Several tourists walk slowly past. Through the window we can see three old men sitting round a table; boat people I think, by their heavy tanned and tough faces. The cigarette smoke hangs in a gray layer above their heads while they discuss 'who knows what?', with great moving gestures of their arms.