By Durga Chew-Bose.
7:47am, my bed: Woke up with a terrible fright. It happens sometimes on weekend mornings or if I’m staying somewhere for a couple of days, especially somewhere two hours or so from the city, somewhere with a forest and the secret appeal of winding roads, with a lake or river near but out of sight. (I’m no good at laying still on guest sheets and so instead I fixate on faded pillowcase patterns and wonder about a time when the pinks were red and the stripes were sharper. And so I’ll tiptoe to the kitchen where I invariably just stand there like a creep and eventually consider going for a walk only to have the porch door snap behind me and nick the back of my ankle. I usually crawl back in bed and wait for everyone else to stir, reading the same page of my book over and over, ashamed by my inability to simply chill out.)
8:14am, my bed: Still awake and alert to the stitch in my neck travelling down my back and towards my shoulder blades. Let the stitch be, I think. Sleep a little more. I can feel a cool winter current slipping through a crack in my window. Like the kitchen faucet dripping, or a coat I watch slowly slide off its hook, I do nothing to fix the breeze and just bury myself further under my duvet. Tomorrow I’ll wake up with a cold but tomorrow’s cold feels far away because I’m still in bed, trusting and dewy-eyed, and thinking about breakfast, about Valentine’s Day and how unsatisfying it is to unwrap a Hershey’s Kiss. It’s the All-Star weekend I remember that on this day twenty-five years ago, someone stole Michael Jordan’s jersey before a game against the Magic, forcing him play with a nameless number 12. I’m always thinking about Michael Jordan. About breakfast. About measuring things based on some made-up satisfaction metric.
8:30am, apartment: I’m texting with my brother as I stuff my sheets in an IKEA bag to drop off at the laundromat. He’s on his way back from the airport in Montreal with his girlfriend, a florist. A delivery of flowers arrived by plane from Holland and she enlisted him to accompany her. I find the tasked nature of their Valentine’s morning to be very romantic. I expect him to send me a picture of the flowers and imagine the touch of cold petals (I love cold flower petals) but instead he sends me a picture of the blurred grey muck of dirtied highway snow that passes them on their drive back. He: forever the big brother. Me: the little sister, naively expectant.
9:17am, dining table: I sit at my computer and stare at last night’s sentences. They’re awful. Perfectly inconclusive and somehow needy; insisting on not saying much yet sounding assertive. Who am I? A man? I’ve transcribed too many ideas from post-it notes and so, they read like just that: fragments, speedy and near-arrogant in their haste. I decide that writing now would only provoke more weak shit. Resting on a pile of envelopes beside my computer is a letter I was meant to mail for an old lady in my building who I help with groceries and climbing down stairs. Her cursive is wobbly and quivers, and the double O’s in ‘Brooklyn’ barely loop like two kids who’d rather not hold hands. I am reminded of how young and callous I can be; how I really should have dropped Pauline’s letter in a mailbox by now. How she calls me “Dear” and how she grows perceptibly anxious when someone is holding the door for her because she really can’t walk any faster but still tries.
10:30am-ish, Nostrand Avenue: I’m listening to the new Drake mixtape—Young but I’m makin’ millions to work the night shift—and feeling especially smug because everything I need I have in my jacket pockets. No bag. I drop off my laundry and stop by the bagel shop and get one toasted pumpernickel with cream cheese and cucumber. A coffee too. I text Katherine in LA because I miss her. Our friendship for the next month or so is bi-coastal: for every selfie I send her of myself and a moody blue winter sky, she sends me one of afternoon light and diagonal shadows, of sun-drenched bedscapes with books and farmhouse kitchen sinks. Like all the women, we speak in screengrabs and photos of Rihanna looking handsome in a tailored suit. We are both reading Maggie Nelson’s newest book, The Argonauts. Unfortunately I can’t underline sentences in my copy because it belongs to Sarah. Unfailingly, Katherine sends me pictures of passages or turns of phrase she has highlighted and of course, they match the ones I’ve copied into my notebook. This is how we read: bi-coastally but compatibly.
11:45am, my living room: Unable to focus on my writing and uninterested in transcribing a 2-hour interview, and unwilling to reply to emails that I’ve ‘marked unread,’ I watch the final episode of The Fall while sipping orange juice from a mini Tropicana carton with a straw. Gillian Anderson’s character, Stella Gibson, a police superintendent in charge of apprehending a serial killer, says something near the end of the season finale that is essentially a direct quote from Margaret Atwood. She says, “A woman, I forget who, once asked a male friend why men felt threatened by women. He replied that they were afraid that women might laugh at them. When she asked a group of women why women felt threatened by men, they said, ‘We’re afraid they might kill us.’”
1:30pm, my desk in my bedroom: I’m wearing sweatpants and a grey hooded Nike sweatshirt that I borrowed from my friend Max maybe five years ago but never returned. We were playing touch football under the lights at Chelsea Piers and I got cold, and he said, “Here,” and tossed it at me. Whenever I wash the grey sweatshirt, I tell myself that I’ll return it to Max but I never do. It’s the most girl thing about me. I receive an email from one of my oldest family friends, Mark. He lives in Ithaca. It’s been so cold that even their dog, a Husky-mix named Yukon, spends most of his time indoors, ambling from the kitchen to the carpet in their den. Whenever Mark talks about Yukon, he says, “Yukon the dog.” I can’t decide if this makes Yukon sound less like a dog to me or more, but either way, I don’t like imagining big furry Yukon the dog too cold to step outside because we like our silent giants strong, unafraid.
3pm, my bed: I never write in bed but I’m feeling restless so I attempt to. I can’t get comfortable and my gel manicure that I got with Audrey a week ago means that my nails look great—black with two gold stripes—but that they’re growing long and typing means padding my fingers against the keys instead of speedily sprinting through my thoughts. Long nails, I consider, are better for editing. For carefully approaching a sentence until it’s perfect – not, it turns out, for getting it all down first.
3:38pm: I get a text from Sarah who, less than three months ago, moved one block away from me. She writes, “want to come over and eat a roast chicken with me.” I’m not hungry but say, “Sure!” It feels luxurious to have my best friend live so near. It takes less than one Drake song to reach her place. I nearly slip and fall on a patch of ice on my way over. It started to snow and I’m wearing a pink Woolrich jacket that I thrifted three summers ago, that I wear because I had a similar one as a kid and sometimes I still feel like that kid: readied for snow fights, to trail my brother absolutely everywhere, to eat spicy soup with my father and develop an appetite for spicy soup because if he liked it then I wanted to as well. I’m still that kid. I still savor being someone’s quiet companion. I arrive at Sarah’s with an orange to replace the orange I ate at hers a couple days prior. She laughs at the gesture. “You didn’t have to replace it,” she says smiling. I tell her: “But I know how upsetting it is, especially in the winter, to crave an orange only for it to be gone.”
4:24pm, Sarah and Jesse’s dining table: It’s really started to snow. Flakes that look like onion peel. Flakes that swarm more than fall. We’re eating chicken and ripping bread from a loaf with our hands. For reasons unclear to Sarah, this food –there’s more in the fridge like three dozen eggs, a stockpile of apples, 2 liters of milk—was ordered by her mother in Ontario. Why? Parents. It’s sweet. I wonder what Jesse and Sarah will do with all those eggs. I picture a stack of French toast and a mess of bowls and yolk for dipping and eggshells in the kitchen because meals there always feel chaotic but taste good. Meals at Sarah and Jesse’s unvaryingly look like an oil painting still life: oranges peels and half-eaten oranges, an apple core somewhere, a stained cutting board, light warming their blue ceramic plates they received as a wedding gift. There’s always at least one cat too, pawning at something, the butter knife maybe? A bone, certainly.
5:20pm: I’m reading their New York Times while Sarah starts getting ready for a reading she’s organized in the city. She puts on her tights in the living room, retreats to her room and returns wearing a brown velvet dress and some reference to Anne of Green Gables, which I think she’s misremembered. We talk about puffed sleeves like the good Canadian girls that we are – Anne Shirley, our first heroine. I zip up Sarah’s dress and talk to Dean, her cat, who I am allergic to but who I like because he has a parentheses-shaped patch of fur on his side and because he sits across from me as I read the paper and says nothing. I receive a text from my friend Ben. He’s about to see Andy Warhol’s Blow Job. I receive a text from another friend who is coming down from an acid trip. She writes, “Is there any story more boring then ‘How the drugs were…” I agree. But then she adds, “HAHA I WATCHED FRIED GREEN TOMATOES ON ACID.” I always confuse Fried Green Tomatoes with Steel Magnolias.
5:47pm: I leave Sarah’s and walk home and nearly slip again. Full with bread, I’m sleepy but energized from the cold: a strange combination. I am anxious, who knows why. My hair, like flower petals, feels especially nice when it’s cold. Ribbony. I boil some water for tea and write 300 words before closing my computer. I read David Carr’s “Me and My Girls” on my phone and feel tremendously sad. I search for his name on Twitter and read remembrance after remembrance. The eulogizing writer is so graceful and exact, and despite heartbreak, seizes his or her knack for the anecdotal. These remembrances quiet me, so much so that when a take-out menu slides under my door, I gasp.
8pm: I watch the NBA’s All-Star Weekend Saturday night events. I text with Max. It goes mostly like this: “Holy shit,” or “Steph!” or “WHAT” or “LaaaaaaViiinne!” The spectacle is rejuvinative. There’s a quickening that happens when I watch basketball, even if it’s just the bravado behind the All Star game. Being a fan feels like a weekend thing, a kid thing. It’s snowing again, I forget to close my window. I still haven’t mailed Pauline’s letter.
Durga lives in Crown Heights where she spends a lot of time not writing, mostly reading.