Below is what I read tonight at Solo in the Second City: Live at Transistor. Or something close to it. I may have added some stuff, or sung a bit less. That is to say, prepared for delivery, as speechwriters like to say, instead of as delivered. Enjoy, and thanks for reading.
The following is a list of shit that I do by myself:
Go to the movies. Eat at restaurants. Go to my friends’ weddings. Choose a health care plan. Have sex.
Please. Hold your applause.
After years of going to movies, dinners, and weddings by myself, I had determined that I was a pretty good date so why not take it a bit further and really go somewhere alone?
Typically, when I travel, I’m lucky enough to be visiting friends or family. But I figured after a few years of sleeping on air mattresses or couches, of spending my visits trying to see as many as possible in the space of a few days, I deserved a vacation where I could do whatever I wanted to do because I was the only person to consider when it came to planning what to do. No debates over which meals to dine out, no arguing over which train or bus to take, and if I wanted to pay too much money to visit the Doctor Who experience, nobody would scold me for it.
Back in January, I got some extra income from a freelance writing gig right around the time that United Airlines reduced the number of frequent flier miles needed to fly to Europe. A single imaginary light bulb went off over my head.
I spent a few days dithering about the when and where, then finally booked a ticket to London, a city I had not visited in nearly 20 years, and reserved a room called “The Captain’s Cabin” at the Lincoln House Hotel. I acquired a carry-on suitcase, started brushing up on my English (ha ha), and remembered that if I had to shop for pants at any point during my stay I should remember to ask for “trousers” lest I be directed to ladies underwear.
My flight departed Chicago the evening of Valentine’s Day, landing at Heathrow the next morning. The flight itself was uneventful, pleasant, even, as I had a row of seats to myself and when the flight attendant came around with drinks I got the whole can of Coca-Cola.
Truthfully, I hate flying (I even used to fear it terribly) and I remember thinking if the plane crashed into the Atlantic Ocean or into Iceland, would I feel okay about some unknown news outlet, in covering the tragedy, referring to me as “lonely London-bound lady tourist, Jasmine Davila, aged 46”?
Sure, but only if that news outlet was the New York Times.
Once I landed, and got through security, I took the tube from Heathrow to my hotel in Marylebone during rush hours so my suitcase, which I previously thought was so small and handy, tagged me as a tourist and got in the way of commuters as they tried to board the train.
Upon arriving at my hotel at 9:30, I was informed that my room wouldn’t be ready until 1:00, so I spent 3 and a half hours taking the tube all over central London instead of doing something sensible like finding a place to sit down, have a bite to eat, and just chilling. Instead of eating one of those absurdly large English breakfasts people go on about, I found myself tromping up and down the banks of the Thames, avoiding seagulls and German tourists wearing pristine sneakers.
It was probably just as well that I was alone as I can’t imagine that anything I could have said to another person would have made any sense. I’d been up for over 24 hours, my hair was greasy and frizzy at the same time, and my eyeliner was in desperate need of a refresh. If I happened to encounter you during this period, I apologize for freaking you out with my appearance.
Once I was permitted to check into what I discovered was the tiniest hotel room in the world, I took a shower, tuned the television to the UK version of TLC, ate some prawn flavored crisps, and passed out.
The next morning, I took a train to Paris (ooh la la!) to visit the Louvre. The museum was full of Italian and Spanish teenage girls, all sporting Amy Winehouse hairdos and spraytans. There were school groups led by handsome young male teachers who, luckily for me, liked to wear their trousers a bit more snugly than their American counterparts. Maybe the heat was on a bit too strong, or I was getting overheated from all the pants, so I left the museum after a couple of hours and looked for something to eat that wasn’t from a one of the stands selling sausages or watered down hot chocolate.
Exiting the museum, I made my way to the Left Bank, which was lined with expensive restaurants on one side and antique book sellers on the other. I had the faintest notion that I was heading west, towards the Ponts des Arts.
It’s a bridge where lovers go and lock locks onto it, swearing eternal love and devotion (or at least until someone comes along and cuts those locks off). As soon as I caught sight of the bridge, I could feel my face contorting into a grimace. “Fuck that bridge!” I said. “Who needs it? Not me!”
And then I got kinda sad. Here I was, alone, in the city everybody seems to agree is the most romantic city on Earth, bound towards probably its most romantic spot. I thought about turning around, heading towards someplace dark and lonely where I could be sad. Instead, I sped up a bit, humming and then singing this song:
Never mind, I’ll find someone like you
I paused, looked to see if anybody heard me. Nobody except a couple of pigeons. So I kept going, singing as I strolled across the bridge and took pictures of the locks and the lovers who shared the bridge with me.
I wish nothing but the best for you
Don’t forget me, I beg
I remember you said,
“Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead.”
Once I was finished, I was on land again and, finally, completely ravenous for something to eat.