The one-eyed man’s kindly dark-brown pupil was surrounded by creases in his skin that I imagined had been shaped by smiles and looks of concern. He could have illustrated an ad for the miracles of plastic surgery, because his lone eye looked out from the center of his forehead without any hint of scarring from an operation. A tall man, close to seven feet, he wore a towering white hat to mark his authority over the dozens of people sweating before ovens, boiling pots, and frying pans. Waiters balancing trays rushed in and out, and I savored the scent of the delicious cuisine and wondered how the Mafia could employ such an expert chef to run this extensive kitchen.
The chef shed his white apron and hat and gestured for me to follow him. Dark hair grew in furry clusters on his naked body, and I realized that I too wore nothing. I must have forgotten to dress when I left the apartment that morning, but I had no recollection of waking, looking in drawers and closets for clothes, or even of my usual breakfast of milk and cereal. Fortunately no one gave us a second look as I hurried after him in the busy excitement of the kitchen. He led me through a door, down a hallway decorated with scenes of gondolas and ancient buildings reflected in the water that would one day swallow Venice like a large fish preying on a smaller one, and at last opened a frosted glass door and brought me into a steam room with benches of worn marble.
–written by Tad Crawford