The first time my suitcase was stolen I was in a love triangle with Johnny Rotten and David Bowie. Despite my Ziggy Stardust haircut, it had been over with David since my 8th birthday. Rotten Red was a similar but more exciting shade of scarlet, or so it seemed that day as we came out of the airport in Spain and I saw an old guy with osteoporosis escaping with my suitcase.
Immediately I started fantasizing that if my clean knickers went missing I’d be sent home and wouldn’t have to suffer another family holiday. A mini-break with Gang of Four—Mummy, Daddy, and their two drunk doppelgangers—was just what I didn’t need. But it was illegal to leave me home alone and Mummy couldn’t risk being arrested again. Honor your father and mother unless they are total cunts wearing embarrassing loungewear.
As my suitcase was disappearing into the backside of the hunchback’s car, I remembered my faux Vivienne Westwood trash-bag swimsuit was inside and screamed “Stop, thief!” like they do in Oliver Twist. Mummy lunged at him with the sharp end of her Manolos while my dad took a bite out of his hairy ear.
Imagine the embarrassment when it turned out he was our driver and none too pleased about being beaten and eaten. Mummy doesn’t need the Spanish police after her as well, and Daddy has an obsessive fear of being gang-raped in prison. You couldn’t make that creepy couple up. If they were characters in a novel I’d be accused of exaggerating for grotesque comic effect.
I had the fuzzy end of the lollipop with holidays until marrying Mr. Lash. Travels with my spy divide into BB and AB: Before Bin and After Bin. BB, every trip was like Christmas in July. After Bin Laden got up to his tricks, I wasn’t allowed to put my make-up in the diplomatic bag anymore. Now every time I want to lose a few kilos I just go on holiday for the free stress.
Then there was the time a Jaipur gecko jumped into the vintage LV case I stole from Grannie and traveled to London without buying a ticket. Mr. Lash didn’t believe there was a reptile in my bag until he saw the strange green shit stains on my dresses. I don’t even want to think about that gecko’s in-flight meal.
The next time I was mugged in transit was on my way to a party hosted by the Aga Khan, whose grandfather was married to Rita Hayworth. Men go to bed with Gilda, her best role, and wake up with a hangover. I went to Africa with a copy of the dress Gilda wears to sing Put the Blame on Mame packed in my bag and woke up to find it had been replaced by rolled-up newspapers. It was thoughtful of the thief to leave me something to read since Vinderella couldn’t go to the party naked.
Nairobi has alligators you’re allowed to turn into shoes and marabou storks who patrol in pairs like bored policemen. But there’s nowhere to buy clothes I could be seen dead in, plus I had the humiliation of being the only guest who doesn’t have my own plane.
As insurance against being robbed again, I bought Big Brown, the ugliest suitcase on the planet, which nobody wanted to steal. That didn’t stop a cockroach in Kampala from moving in and using Big Brown as its shagpad, maternity hospital and toilet.
One rainy afternoon in Shanghai I couldn’t take the hostility at the Grand Hyatt reception any longer or the disgusted look from the six bell boys who hoisted Big Brown to my suite wondering which fat person I’d murdered and padlocked inside. Thus Mr. Brown was replaced by a Schiaparelli pink suitcase, and yes I know it’s weird designating gender to luggage but at least I don’t have a name for my genitals.
The pink suitcase disgraced itself by refusing to open when accompanying me to the Venice Biennale. Elton was having a party I was almost invited to and the only stilettos I can walk in without Mr. Lash carrying me were locked in Mrs. Pink.
Travel is addictive because it’s possible to simultaneously forget and regret the daydream you’ve left behind, like a trash bag for a swimsuit that doesn’t fit anymore. The moon grows colder, suddenly you’re older. Old boyfriends, old outfits and the younger thinner self you didn’t appreciate are in another time zone. Now I’m in Beijing and my bag’s in Bangkok.
Are you running away from something or running towards something? Are you a tourist or a traveller? Is it business or pleasure? And why, when walking in Wangfujing, is it always possible to imagine controlling the future when you sure as shit didn’t control the past?