By Shriya Samavai.
8:26 am: Eyes flutter open. It’s rare that I’m awake before 9am without an alarm clock, so what’s the cause? Jet lag. I landed at JFK from Paris last night around 7pm. Spent the last week scaling cathedrals and eating too much bread, drinking too much wine. All the cheese that France has ever produced is in my belly. I didn’t leave a scrape for anyone else. Now I’m back in New York, remnants of what little French I learned over the past week are slowly fading…plus de pain, sil vous plait. More bread, please! The best was the realization that a bottle of water (bouteille d’eau) really sounds like, “bootay doe”, like “dat bootay, doe”. I’m a child.
8:40 am: Gotta pee so gotta get out of bed. I feel like there are only ever two things that really force me to start my day: having to pee and being hungry. Everything else is secondary. Class? Nah. I pick lying down over standing up every time, no matter what.
9:02 am: I open up my suitcase and everything smells like French onion soup. Yes. But also gross, so, no. One by one I pick the week-old clothes out of my suitcase and throw them into the laundry machine. The only thing that brought me home was the fact that all my clothes were musty. Otherwise I could’ve stayed traveling forever.
9:15 am: Made a cup of tea in this beautiful new mug I got at Musee D’Orsay in Paris. The mug features a detail from Van Gogh’s self portrait– the swirls of sea foam green that surround his head. I like that the designer chose to exclude the subject of the painting and focus on the abstract patterns surrounding it. Also I love sea foam green. No milk at home because I’ve been gone for a week, so I make milk-less chai. It’s okay but not great. But there’s snow on the ground in New York and it’s the first day of spring and I’m too mad to go outside/to the grocery store. Cutting off my nose to spite my face, but less dramatic.
10:21 am: What have I done for the past hour? Yikes. I’m supposed to be recording my day and I’m too much of a space cadet. I’m starting to feel bad because I’m realizing that today is gonna be pretty low key. I’m tired, I have errands to run, emails to answer, nothing exciting planned. And yet I told Spiegrose (my nickname for ARS) that today would be a good day for me to do this. I’m sorry, Spieg, and I’m sorry, Spieg’s readers. Back to droning on.
11:04 am: I decide to watch one of my favorite French movies while catching up on work. Can you tell I miss France? I get on Netflix and find Les Demoiselles de Rochefort, or The Young Girls of Rochefort, a terribly silly movie from the 60s about twin sisters living in a small town in France called Rochefort who are looking for love. It’s also a musical, and the songs are terribly catchy, and I’d been humming them the whole time I was in France. The dance moves are equally silly, and Gene Kelly’s in it, dancing around in his lavender suit jacket and pink shirt, singing in his American French. I love it. I love it, I love it.
11:37 am: My mind drifts off to Roquefort, a type of cheese and the name of the mouse in The Aristocats. Another favorite movie of mine. I actually watched it when I was in Paris, sitting on the bed in my hotel room, feet away from the Pantheon. Clare had come down for the weekend from Denmark where she is studying abroad, and we cackled at how perfect the characters and their actions and voices are. She called me out for confusing Roquefort and Rochefort, but can ya blame me? I’m watching one movie and thinking about another, giggling at how perfect Georges Hautecourt’s dance moves are. I can’t wait to be a gangly old man one day. I’m half way there.
11:46 am: Back to Rochefort. I am watching it with subtitles and I wonder if the close captioning is actually accurate. What if what’s happening in the movie is completely different than the text I’m reading? I’m only able to recognize a few of the French words here and there. What if a terrible trick is being played on me? Can you imaging the person translating the text falsely maliciously giggling to themselves, like, bwahahaha, I’ll show these Americans! Oy.
12:35 pm: I wish I could dance like Gene Kelly! I stand up and try to mirror his moves. I end up kicking a table. Maybe I should sit down. I have too many limbs and I don’t know what to do with them. My mom was a professional Indian dancer for a good amount of her life, and she enrolled me into Bharatnatyam lessons when I was younger, but I was and remain to be the least graceful gal to ever exist. “You dance like an elephant,” an instructor once told me. Joke’s on you because elephants are mad smart and have giant flapping ears. Also they can squash you. Who needs elegance.
1:09 pm: Movie ends. It actually has a pretty cute ending, everything works out for the most part. The characters find their lovers. All is revealed. This is not a spoiler because the movie is so predictable, you know the ending within the first 20 minutes. It’s still so good though, such great costumes, bright colors, I’m feeling bittersweet, it’s cold in NYC and I’m hungry.
1:15pm: I get up to make lunch. 2 poached eggs on a piece of toast. Still too lazy and upset to go outside/brave the cold/go to the supermarket.
1:28 pm: I sit down with a copy of Vogue Homme Paris that I bought at the airport with my remaining Euro coins. I can’t read a word of it but the photos are great. I’ve always found menswear more interesting than womenswear. Or maybe not interesting, but more aesthetically pleasing? Cleaner lines, simpler. I want to be a minimalist but I am such a maximalist. I’m a hoarder, I keep everything. I definitely got my pack-rat tendencies from my grandfather who kept every piece of string, just incase it came in handy one day. I hoard cardboard. In all the rooms I’ve ever lived in, a stack of cardboard will grow in the corner of the room. I use it as backing for my collages, but it really serves no other purpose in my life, and I don’t even collage that often, so who knows what the cardboard is really there for. I didn’t even notice that I was actively collecting it until my mother pointed it out to me a couple years ago. She knows me better than I know myself, I guess.
2:40 pm: Mind drifts back to clothing. I get up and am suddenly inspired to throw everything out in my closet and start anew. All my friends have been talking about that Marie Kondo book about tidying up and how magical it is and I wanna give it a try. I walk into my room and am overwhelmed by everything in there so I leave and go back to the kitchen. Cool. Okay. I don’t know where to begin. I’ll try again later.
3:02 pm: When did it become 3pm? Today is so odd because school hasn’t started back up, and it’s technically still spring break, but my vacation is over, and I’m in this weird place of limbo. I mean not like I don’t have school work to do, but I’ll get to it later. That’s what Sundays are for. I’ve been with people nonstop for the past week, each day more structured than the previous, but now here I am, wearing a bright yellow shirt from the ’70s that says “GO FOR IT!”, sitting on my couch, one sock on, the other sock off, surrounded by no one. Going nowhere fast.
4pm: I’ve been catching up on emails for the past hour. I’m actually really touched because I got two emails from two very sweet girls. I did a photo story on my grandfather for Rookie a couple weeks ago and I’m so pleased with the response. The commenters only had the kindest things to say, and creating work that makes people feel something, anything, is really my goal. These two gals saw the piece and wrote to me to say how much they appreciated it and how it affected them positively. I was so tense while I was making it and even when it was published; their words helped drain some of that tension, I could feel knots loosen, my shoulders relax. Coping is hard, making art is hard, putting yourself out there is hard, being vulnerable sucks. But this is how we grow. Or at least, how I do.
5:34 pm: I haven’t left my place yet. Also I haven’t spoken to anyone all day, besides text messages and emails. I haven’t had a convesation using my voice. No wonder I’m talking to myself out loud. Hermit lifestyle.
5:56 pm: My nail polish is chipping so I decide to wipe it off entirely. I got this great color for free at my friend’s runway show during fashion week in February and I’ve fallen in love with the color. It’s a really pretty matte pale pink, almost white-ish. I took it with me to Paris and I think I might have left it there? Damn. I’m hoping I find it hidden in a bag somewhere. I’ve recently become sort of obsessed with painting my nails. When I was younger I was super opposed to it — it seemed too girly. And every imperfection drove me nuts. But lately I’ve found a sort of meditative aspect to it. I focus very carefully on painting each nail, and then I have to sit silently and patiently while it dries. No moving, no touching anything, no going on my phone, my computer. It forces me to stay still, something I don’t do enough. Movement is too risky, it brings the opportunity for some sort of flaw, and then I’d have to start all over again. Getting my nails done is also something I’ve been indulging in lately. Those $10 manicures go pretty far. Sweet ladies who massage your hands, and it feels good to sit there while someone files away at your fingers, creating a perfectly round arch. I’m into it.
6:30 pm: I’m editing photos from my trip, Arrested Development is on in the background. I’m cackling in between applying curves to my pictures on Photoshop.
7:37 pm: I should find something to eat. Should I go outside? I should go outside. I should go to the grocery store. I should interact with some humans IRL.
8:05 pm: I end up picking up some spinach and ricotta tortellini which cooks in no more than 2 minutes. I’m so impressed by the speed.
8:12 pm: I sit down on my couch and start to watch the Princess Diaries 2: The Royal Engagement. I haven’t watched this many movies or TV in one day since, well, I can’t even remember. This is what breaks from school are for, right? Vegging out. I honestly love the Princess Diaries series so much, it’s got everything I want. The underdog, a makeover montage, romance, suspense, all the goofy b-roll, and don’t forget the quirky best friend.
9:34 pm: I have been on the brink of tears for the entirety of this movie and I cannot figure out why. It’s not even emotional. Is it the pasta I ate? Or is it because I love Raven Symone so much?
10:05 pm: Movie ends. I splay out all my trinkets that I bought in France. Sea salt caramel chocolate from Amiens for my boyfriend, a beautiful Monet notebook from Musee D’Orsay for my friend who’s birthday is on Monday, mad postcards from various museums in Amiens and Paris for myself. An attempt at starting an art collection. One day I will own a Toulouse-Latrec and a Manet and a Monet and a Caillebot, ugh, yes. Just gotta be patient, gotta keep hustlin’.
11:08 pm: Thinking about going to bed. My jet lag is starting to kick in– after all, it is like 5 am in France. Tomorrow morning around 8am my boyfriend gets back from his trip to Death Valley where he’s been all week, climbing mountains, surveying rocks, sleeping under constellations. Besides a few email exchanges, we have hardly spoken this past week since he has been sans electricity and cell phone reception. My eyes are droopy and giving in. I burrow into my bed, dreaming of seeing my blonde boy for the first time in 8 days.