By Alexandra Kleeman.
11:05 a.m., in bed: Woke up late, but not too late, from a dream that involved two men watching me eat a plate of chicken wings. Something about my reaction to the chicken was important. The recipe for the wings was special, and in the dream it was described to me in great detail, although all I remember about it now is that it involved rubbing each wing all over with a small whole fish. The boyfriend is waking up next to me, and because we have the same name I will refer to him instead by his role in my life. We’ve been living together in this converted warehouse loft by the Staten Island ferry since the end of the summer. After some grasping and kind words, he’s up and out of bed. I am never the first person out of bed. At an impressionable age I watched Black Moon by Louis Malle, a dystopian 70s film about a war between the sexes that tears society apart. In it there’s a brief encounter between the wispy blonde protagonist and a terrifying bed-bound woman who conducts all her business from bed, tended to by servants. It didn’t seem so bad to be bed-bound, so long as you could keep getting things done in the world: the bed is the softest place in the house. I read and check my phone until I can smell the coffee being made in the kitchen.
11:35 a.m., kitchen: I put on a green slip and go to the kitchen for soy milk and a probiotic. I’ve been doing this every morning for the past two months: I like the blandness of the soy milk, how impossible it is to either mind its taste, or truly enjoy it. Boyfriend and I sit at the table and dismember today’s NY Times and the scraps of Friday’s. Coyotes are living in the Bronx. In Ontario, post-Prohibition rules on alcohol sales have resulted in a near-monopoly by one particular alcohol company. Iran may be an ally in the fight against ISIS. We read the newspaper in a mostly complementary order–I begin with Business and move on to the magazine and front page, he starts with the front page and then reads the Metropolitan section and then Business, but we both reach for the book review first. If there’s something really good in it, the person who gets it first has to answer an unbounded number of questions about what it says, while they read it.
12:04 a.m, dining room table: I make scrambled eggs with chives and a warm tortilla. Boyfriend is quitting smoking, and his whole body is in a state of high alert. He paces around our apartment sighing and moving things around. From the dining room I can see him at the far end of the apartment, his body backlight by light coming through the window. He’s rearranging the magazines on the coffee table. “Do you want all these rubber bands?” he calls to me. A moment later he’s standing above me with a shaggy wad of rubber bands in his fist. “Maybe just the best ones?” I say. He plucks a few from the wad and throws the rest into the trash with a flourish. He comes back. “You know what our problem is?” he says. “We don’t have enough drawers. There’s no place to put rubber bands.” I point at a handmade pot stuffed with matchbooks. “We could put them with the matchbooks,” I say. “Today I’m going to look on the internet and find us some drawers,” he says.
12:25 p.m., still at the table: I should work at my desk to create some sort of differentiation between personal life and work life, but it’s warmer toward the inside of the building, away from the windows. I write e-mails, interview questions for a Japanese author, an affirmation that, yes, I would definitely like to go to the New Museum Triennial with you. In between I’m researching an article, reading On Being Ill, an essay by Virginia Woolf on hospitalization, bed rest, and the way illness affects creativity. I’m also reading large swathes of internet message board, mostly far-flung people trying to jerry-rig cures for diseases that are are hard to diagnose and harder to treat. Someone wonders whether coffee enemas could be causing their insomnia. Another asks whether her flu-like symptoms could be the result of a parasite-zapping computer program she’s recently installed and set to run on “high.” I watch a video that someone has posted of a thin white fiber that they’ve been finding on their clothes, home, in their nose, etc. The fiber looks like a frazzled hair. For about a minute, they poke at it with a slender stick. In the living room, my Boyfriend is scrutinizing a small cactus, holding it up at eye level. “I don’t feel like this cactus is growing maximum,” he says. “I feel like it should be bigger.” I eat the last Oreo, which has been around for a week.
1:55 p.m., living room sofa: I started listening to covers of “Superstar” by the Carpenters and now I’m trying to pick out the melody on my ukulele. It goes fine. Then I play Breeders songs. I don’t want to read message boards anymore today. Sometimes if you read too many you get an itchy feeling in your nose and neck that doesn’t go away for hours.
2:35 p.m., bathtub: I run a bath and head into the bathroom with my laptop and the NYTimes Magazine and Writers by Antoine Volodine and a stack of four manuscripts. I’m helping to read for a contest and I need to read ten manuscripts today to stay on track. I use the Volodine as a palate-cleanser, anytime one manuscript is blending with the characters and settings from the one before, then I read the magazine article on junk DNA. I write a work e-mail and read some more message boards. I like working in a bathtub, it feels like you have a lot of time.
4:10 p.m., kitchen: Boyfriend is back from a four mile run and we heat up a big vat of ramen stock we made the other day. I scoop about a centimeter of yellow chicken fat off the top, add some soy sauce and cabbage and nori. I eat on the couch, where you can see the harbor through the window and a flock of ducks bobbing in the water like debris. Then I do the seven-minute workout twice in a row, as fast as I can. I feel more tired when I do the seven-minute workout than when I go to the gym, and it takes a lot less time so I’m less likely to get annoyed. The ideal form of exercise for me would be something maximum strenuous of minimal length. I would like to start every day waking up at the bottom of a deep pit that I have to struggle and claw my way out of. Once I was out, my day would go on as usual and I would not have to exercise again.
6:00 p.m., bed: We’re in bed again, and I’m reading Sophie Calle’s Take Care of Yourself next to a napping body. The book documents her 2007 Biennale exhibition, in which 100 female experts in different fields (teenager, moral philosopher, psychoanalyst, children’s book author, proofreader) analyze a breakup letter Calle received via e-mail. The book is wonderful, exhausting, and you can enter or exit it at any point. From an unexpected favorite entry by physicist Francoise Balibar: [Here] I shall be dealing with these so-called brittle breaks. these are the most dangerous because they occur “on no notice.” We can readily imagine the anxiety of bridge-builders in the face of this kind of threat. If there are still architects and engineers prepared to accept this degree of responsibility, it is because it is theoretically possible to “see the thing coming”….unforeseeable at the macroscopic level, the break is preceded by sounds and ultrasounds (which can be “heard with the right kind of detectors”) that signal the creation of racks at the microscopic level–the level of the atoms making up the material in question. The book is too large to be read in normal positions, I have to prop myself up on my elbows like a sea lion, and my back hurts.
7:07 p.m., all over the apartment: We’re getting ready to go to Williamsburg for a quadruple birthday party. I put on a long-sleeved, striped dress and a black mohair cardigan that I bought because the salesman told me it was “the blackest thing we have in the store.” I put on maroon lipstick and wipe it off a few minutes later. I’m texting with my darling friend Kathleen about whether we’re going to meet her and her friend for dinner. Boyfriend and I both each large slices of chocolate babka with coffee, to get hyped. A slice of babka is an adequate substitute for one cigarette, and it is less addictive. We put Apocalypse by Bill Callahan on the record player, then World of Noise. We miss one ferry and then another.
8:30 p.m., the Staten Island Ferry: We buy beers and head to the front of the top floor, where you can see the bright sides of Financial District skyscrapers rotate slowly into view at the center of the wide glass windows. We talk about the classes he’s teaching and which authors we think should write what kind of book next and whether wild animals get cold or whether feeling cold is just a symptom of weakness. As the ferry pulls close to the dock the harsh naked lights shining out of the buildings being built grow brighter. Battery City Park comes into view with its trees like models of wire and sponge, and then through the wide glass window it’s the filthy underside of the walkways being lowered onto the front deck of the boat, and the people wandering off as a mass into the insomniac lighting of the terminal.
Alexandra Kleeman writes fiction and essays. You Too Can Have A Body Like Mine, a novel, is out this summer from Harper.