Falling for Me: Empty Streets And An Unappealing Proposition In Seville

Oct 10, 2011 | Updated Dec 10, 2011

Anna David The following is an excerpt from HuffPost Travel Blogger Anna David's new memoir Falling for Me, which covers her attempt to re-fashion her life around the recommendations Helen Gurley Brown made in 1962′s Sex and the Single Girl. David is the author of the novels Party Girl and Bought and the editor of the anthology Reality Matters. She is the Executive Editor of The Fix, a website dedicated to addiction and recovery.

"Hablo Inglais?" I ask optimistically as the sun beats down on my skin. I'd been walking for a good half hour without seeing any signs of humanity so I'd allowed myself to fantasize that the women I'm posing this question to will be able to help me. But they both shake their heads brusquely before returning to a conversation so fast-paced that it could surely only be understood by Spaniards who were either incredibly quick or just very drug-addled.

costa ricaI was crazy to come here. Who goes to Spain in August? More specifically, who goes to the hottest part of Spain in August? And even more specifically than that, who goes on a solo journey to the hottest part of Spain in August for over three weeks when they don't speak Spanish whatsoever and have recently proven to themselves that they have absolutely no affinity for languages?

A crazy person -- that's who, I think as I make my way over one of Seville's many bridges.

It's not like I hadn't been warned during the month before my trip. It seemed like everyone with functional vocal chords felt the need to offer up whatever they could think of that was wrong with my plan. But I'd fought down every objection, explaining that there was no such thing as too hot for me and pointing out that New York City wasn't all that cool in August, either. I'd laughed off those who said that Spain was one of the few places in Europe where you really needed to know the language. I'd reminded people who'd asked me why I was going by myself how much I loved being alone. I'm a very independent, self-sufficient person, I'd said, sometimes feeling like I was speaking the truth and other times wondering who the hell I was kidding.

I step off the Triana Bridge and onto a street called San Jacinto where I note that everything, absolutely everything, is closed. There isn't a person in sight. Could all the Spaniards have fled? If so, I didn't blame them. Though I was loathe to admit it, my naysayers had been right. The heat was unrelenting, I hadn't encountered a single English speaker since I'd arrived over 24 hours ago, and I was lonely as hell. And that glorious perfume smell I'd loved when I'd visited Seville in college -- the blooming, I'd learned, of the city's orange blossoms -- wasn't remotely detectable in the summer.

costa ricaI try to get myself to appreciate where I am by staring at the bridge I'd just walked over. There's no denying the beauty of those three arches composed of cast iron circles above a glistening river. But couldn't I just be marveling at a photo rather than standing by myself in the stifling heat next to it? I curse myself for having committed to this plan without entirely thinking it through.

As I look past the bridge, however, a tiny part of me alights with hope. Off in the distance, I spy a restaurant that appears to be open and a smiling man standing in its entryway. Maybe, I think, he'll speak perfect English and will be able tell me where everything is, especially the secret, off-the-beaten path places that other tourists never get to see. Perhaps he'll even become my friend and come with me on his days off to climb the Giralda tower of the cathedral and tour the Alcazar gardens. I begin walking toward him. But the closer I get, the more my expectations dissipate: his smile, I begin to see, is actually more of a leer.

"Linda," he says as I approach. Linda, I'd learned in the Dominican Republic, was a compliment: pretty, it meant. You weren't, however, meant to take it as praise so much as an indication that you might not be in a safe place -- a clue that this would be a good time to walk in the other direction. But desperation makes a woman do funny things.

"Hola!" I say warmly. "Hablo Inglais?"

costa ricaHis face freezes in a mild panic and I realize I'm interacting with a man who probably utters Linda at every passing lady and has never, in his history of employing this method of seduction, seen or even expected a response. I do not let my epiphany deter me. What's the worst that can happen? Surely it's too hot to bother with rape.

"Hablo Inglais?" I ask again, friendly smile intact.

He shakes his head. Then he sticks out his tongue and wiggles it in a very specific way -- a move so singularly disgusting and distinct that I instantly know it's meant to indicate the oral sex he'd like to be performing on any female who would allow it.

A woman, even a desperate woman, can only be so open-minded while attempting to forge her way in a new environment. Turning quickly and stepping back onto the Triana Bridge, I comfort myself with the thought that by tomorrow, I'll only have 19 more days left.


As I emerge onto the street the next morning, the temperature is at least 10 degrees cooler than it was the day before. And the streets are bustling: People are dashing into shops and standing at counters and tables, drinking coffee and eating thick slabs of bread dipped in olive oil and covered with mashed tomatoes. No one had fled; everything had just been shut down yesterday because it was Sunday. An excitement builds in me as I enter the fray: This is the Seville I had been seeking. Coming here wasn't a mistake but a decision to act on a small, quiet voice inside of me that had been telling me for decades to return. I stop at a café for a coffee and, as I sip, I unfold a map. I'd resisted grabbing it at first, having reasoned a long time ago that I was someone who simply couldn't read maps; I rarely understand which way is North and which way South, not to mention East or West, and had long ago come up with a tangible disorder to explain this: I have directional dyslexia, I'd say with a smile every time a kind person offered to show me where something was on a map. But I don't have that luxury here so I spend a half hour studying the map and discover that nothing about this activity is remotely complicated.

Maps aren't hard, I realize; communicating with people who don't speak my language isn't all that difficult, either. The challenge is that I tend to be late or aggravated -- usually both -- when I'm attempting these activities because I'm simply trying to do too much. Maybe, I think, this is a metaphor for my life. I somehow believe I need to do everything I can to be the best writer and friend and daughter and sober person and citizen that ever existed. And that means that I never take the time to feel good about any of it - or simply to stop and breathe and take in the scent of the orange blossoms. It's probably no accident that my quiet inner voice has led me to a country known for its siestas.