Antonio looked out onto the ocean, its roaring waves and snapping birds. His ships, full of all of his fortunes, were at sea, at the mercy of brutal winds and other dangers. And yet, he thought not of such worrisome matters. His mind was distracted by his wonderful, smart, kind, handsome— friend. A close friend and… no more. He was becoming more and more distant, more and more distracted. And he could not stop talking of a lady he was completely besotted with, a fair lady whom he would not name. At least, until later this afternoon.
“Antonio! We’ve been looking everywhere for you! We heard that all your ships have gone to sea?” Salerio constantly finished his thoughts with a question marks, always wanting to hear more about the subject in question.
“Yes, they are all at sea,” Antonio replied with a heavy tone, leaning on the wall and looking distractedly to the street behind them, checkered with uneven cobblestones.
“Why are you so distant? Do we make you bored? What grieves you?” Solanio noticed his friend’s odd behaviour that had begun to plague him in the past few days.
“In sooth, I know not why I am so sad. I am burdened by its heavy nature, and it must be a burden to you as well. It is foolish, I know, that I have no knowledge of why I feel so miserable.” Lies. All blatant lies. His very oblivious, lovely, gorgeous— luggage that caused him these miseries would be arriving soon.
“You must be contemplating your argosies! All of your riches, your fortunes, are at being tossed over oceans of uncharted possibilities! We cannot control what happens to them, and that must frighten you, right?” Salerio suggested, as if they were trying to create the cause for Antonio’s sadness. Antonio’s mind started racing with possibilities for the failure of his ships. Pirates, thieves, rebellions, thunderstorms, gusts of wind, chopping waves, hurricanes, Bassanio. No. He meant blizzards. Not that.
“Perhaps you are in love!” Oh, dear. Was he being that obvious?
“Fie, fie.” Antonio couldn’t add anything else to that. He could already feel a blush seeping up from his neck.
“Not in Love neither?” Phew. They bought it. “Well, then, your spirits are masters of deception! Not worried, in love not happy, and you have no reason to be angry! Perhaps you are simply sad, for that has been known to happen. Not exactly happy, nor sad. An in-between full of indifference to emotions and the world, a dull hue that you wear on your skin.” Solanio always went for the dramatics. Dull hue. What a poet.
A rumble of laughter and nonchalant struts came into view. Gratiano, Lorenzo, and…. Bassanio. Oh god, now he would have to endure long, passionate harangue on one woman, capturer of Bassanio’s heart and slayer of Antonio’s. This woman was obviously very adept at wielding the sword of love.
Gratiano, of course, was leading the pack, speaking a great deal of nothing. Lorenzo, slightly more mature than Gratiano but not by much, was listening and laughing. Eventually, he said something to Bassanio which made them laugh, looking at Gratiano. As they were getting closer, Antonio caught a few words that escaped Gratiano’s mouth: “I don’t talk too much!”
Everyone snickered at this. Once they actually got to the small part of the street where Salerio, Solanio, and Antonio were, Gratiano had finally stopped talking. Thank God.
“Antonio, as better friends have come, we shall leave now. Right, Solanio?” Salerio seemed to be grappling for a reason to leave, as if he had somewhere to go. Solanio was fidgeting in a similar manner.
“Your worth is very dear in your regard.” Assuaged Antonio. “I take it your own business calls upon you, and embrace this occasion to depart, as my misery has held your attention for quite some time.”
“Yes, good day, we shall see you later, my friends,” Solanio replied, glancing very briefly to Lorenzo for some unknown reason.
“Solanio, Salerio, we rarely see each other anymore! When shall we laugh? When shall we mask?” Bassanio said, so thoughtfully and kindly and beautifully.
“We will make our leisures to attend on you,” Salerio responded. They then hugged everyone, sent cheerful smiles, and walked back down the street they had come upon.
“Bassanio,” Lorenzo interjected, “Seeing as you have now found who you have been looking for, Gratiano and I will leave you alone. But, at dinner-time, I pray you, have in mind where we must meet.”
“Aye, Lorenzo. I will not fail to come.”
And then Gratiano has to open his big mouth. Great.
“You look not well, Antonio! You seem to have witnessed much of what the world has to offer, and are thus changed. Believe me, you are unlike yourself.”
“I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano. It is a stage where every man must play a part,” Antonio sent a wistful, tentative glance at Bassanio. “And mine a sad one,” Antonio replied. More like a one filled with the pain of unrequited love.
“Then let me play the fool on this stage of yours, filling you with mirth and laughter at the same rate that I drink.” So an unstoppable force, then. “Let my liver heat with the wine of foolish fun and wrinkles from smiles. Why should a man whose blood is warm within sit with such age? I love you, and it is as your friend I say these things. There are those men whose visages do cream and mantle like a standing pond, as who should say, I am sir Oracle and when I ope my lips, let no dog bark. I’ll tell thee more of this another time. But, Antonio, fish not with this melancholy bait. Come, Lorenzo, my faithful donkey. Fare ye well a while: I’ll end my exhortation after dinner.”
And finally, he finished. Finally.
“Gratiano never lets me speak!” Lorenzo said, trying to stifle a laugh.
“Well, keep me company for two more years, and you shall not know the sound of your own tongue,” Gratiano finished. And that’s when Lorenzo spewed our hysterical giggles, for he could not keep them in for any longer.
“Good day, good sirs!” Bassanio called after them.
“Good day, Bassanio! Good day, Antonio! I hope your day is well and the skies please you! Don’t forget the masques—“ Gratiano was interrupted when Lorenzo put his hand over his mouth and dragged him along.
A moment of silence ensued, due to the effect Gratiano had on them.
“Well, Bassanio, what of this news you came to inform me of?” He tried not to look at those brilliant eyes. Oh, God. Just focus on the nose, Antonio, focus on the nose.
That wasn’t any better, either.
“You know, Antonio, I promised today to tell you of the lady I have sworn myself to. She is fair! Sometimes, from her eyes, I did receive fair speechless messages! Her name is Portia,” Said Bassanio, a lovestruck look on his face. “Worth even more to me than Brutus’ Portia. The whole world is aware of her beauty, and she has many suitors from all four corners of the earth. Oh, my Antonio! If only I had the means to pursue her as they do.”
Antonio paused. He wanted to keep Bassanio for himself, love him and grow old together. He wanted to be able to do do this out in the open, holding hands… but more than that, he wanted Bassanio to be happy. He loved Bassanio so much that simply seeing him content could make his world, even if it shattered his heart. “You know all my ships are at sea, and therefore, I have neither money nor commodity to aid you in your endeavours.” Bassanio seemed to wilt at this, his future defeated. Antonio couldn’t bear this. “But, try throwing my name around the moneylenders of Venice and see if you can borrow money. You know I dislike this, but for you, my… closest friend, I will set aside my dislike of owing a debt.”
“Thank you, Antonio!” Said Bassanio, a blinding smile spreading across his face. The light of the morning sun made his hair look as if it had been woven from gold, and Antonio could feel warmth rising in his cheeks at the beauteous sight before him.
Bassanio left for the market, leaving Antonio to dwell. He went over and sat on the wall that overlooked the sea below, the roaring waves hiding his emotions with their crash. He didn’t want Bassanio to woo Portia. He wanted Bassanio all for himself, but that would surely not be able to happen. His wish could get them both killed. He mulled his thoughts over, his horrible, beautiful dreams, wishes. He could never have them. Antonio simply wished he could wash his love away with the tide, become someone new, someone not doomed to simply watch from afar. But these were impractical wiles of his heart. Listen to your mind, Antonio. Listen to reality.