Haley Mlotek is the editor of The Hairpin

3:05 a.m., hotel bed. The whole point of spending an entire weekend alone is to get a night of uninterrupted sleep, I think, my exasperation directed at no one but myself.

6:15 a.m., hotel bed. I realize I lulled myself back to sleep by fixating on my current favourite sex fantasy. Even for me, it’s pretty filthy, and that’s saying something.

6:39 a.m., hotel bed. I set an alarm for 7:30 but I can’t fall back asleep. I keep my eyes closed because I want to pretend that I’m not awake yet.

6:59 a.m., hotel bed. Eyes closed. I’m asleep. I definitely don’t have to pee.

7:20 a.m., bathroom. Close enough. I pee.

This weekend I’m in Washington, D.C. for work. I’ve never been here before! It’s very…American.

I’m here to interview three people for an article I’m writing. Two people could only meet on Friday, and the other one could only meet on Monday, so I just decided to stay for the entire weekend. This was either an act of intense genius or stupidity but nothing in between.

Today I’m planning on not working at all. I want to spend the entire day alone; me and me and me with me. Me me me. Just me.

7:50 p.m., hotel bed. There’s a gym in this hotel, I remind myself. Should I go?

7:56 a.m., hotel gym. The gym smells plastic. The only other person here is a man on a bike.The music playing is like hybrid spa/elevator; soothing, but aggressively so. “Listen to these quiet chimes and relax, you dumb jerk.” I pick the least offensive treadmill and start my warm-up.

In Toronto I belonged to a gym and right before I left I was working out all the time. It was the first time in my life that I was so busy and yet still consistently exercising! I don’t know what that was about. Clearly a lapse in judgement. Since I moved to New York “joining a gym” has been the item from my to-do list most consistently bumped, even though I know this is bad. When I work out I don’t really feel any better, besides that smug sense of self-righteousness that comes from telling people you’re going to the gym, but when I don’t work out I feel evil and restless. It also means that I don’t listen to my friend’s podcasts, which is a shame, because they are all great and wonderful, you should be listening to them too. This Enormous Eye was sponsored by the Awl podcast. Jkjkjkjk. But I do have to finish the first episode. I love the way Jenna makes a “hm” noise when she’s agreeing with something; when John pauses before he speaks I can picture him tilting his head, connecting his ear to his shoulder, the way he does sometimes when he’s considering his reply.

Ok, warm-up over. Running now.

8:30 a.m., hotel gym. Running is terrible. Cool-down now.

I finished the Awl podcast. I finish an episode of Reply All I had started a few weeks ago. PJ has three distinct laughs I’ve identified so far but I think he has more.

In the last thirty minutes every machine in this gym has filled up and I feel self-conscious of how sweaty I am. Duh I was just running! I tell myself. Still.

9:17 a.m., hotel desk. I took a shower, did my makeup, got dressed. Today I’m wearing a big black t-shirt that I made into a dress. Last week I felt bored by it so I cut off the sleeves and made it into a halter top kind of thing. I’m really into halter tops right now has been a thought echoing in my brain. I have a lot of feelings about the inherently flattering nature of halter tops. I spent a lot of time considering what earrings I should wear: the gold lines I wear almost every day, or these pearl things, or my big gold hoops. I settled on the gold lines. Simplicity, I think. There is nothing on Earth that affects my mood as much as my outfit does.

I’m going to order breakfast, call Daniel, and not work. That’s my immediate to-do list.

9:58 a.m., hotel desk. Aksjdkfjansdf. I drank an entire French press of coffee and have been rambling at Daniel about the article I’m working on. I’m really, really excited about this one, and yesterday at one of my interviews I realized I had found something truly incredible, and I’m basically shouting in his ear about how good it was when I realize I promised to do something for work before 10 a.m. today. I meant to do it last night and forgot. Twenty minutes of work can’t hurt, right? This is still a great, healthy, relaxed morning, although I did just yell “OH MY FUCKING GOD I FORGOT TO DO SOMETHING I GOTTA GO LOVE YOU BYE” before hanging up, throwing my cell phone across the room, and turning my laptop on.

10:36 a.m., hotel desk. I have a headache and that normally means it’s about to rain; I turn to look out the window and see it is raining, present tense. I can hear two kids outside my room plaintively pleading for their mom let’s go let’s go and her voice radiates otherworldly patience as she says hold on, I’m coming.What am I going to do today? All my planned activities were outdoors and I picked an outfit to match, white shoes and t-shirt dress and earrings and all.

There’s a museum that looked cool and according to the popular Internet search engine Google dot com it is only an eight minute walk away. The rain is supposed to stop at 12. Maybe I’ll go hide there for a bit. I’m going to go brush my teeth and consider this.

10:57 a.m., hotel desk. “Just a few more emails,” she muttered to herself.

11:13 a.m., hotel window. From this view it is basically impossible to tell if it is still raining. Every so often I think I see a little burst of water from the sky. Some people are putting their umbrellas down, but cars still have their windshield wipers going. A determined tour group has formed a single-file line of Segway scooters at the red light. Fuck it; I pack a bag of essentials for the day—headphones, notebooks, a portable cell phone charger, sunglasses—channeling both the patient mom and her expectant children. Let’s go let’s go hold on I’m coming. 

11:15 a.m., 15th St. and G St. NW. Not raining. I’m taking this as a personal victory. I stop at a place I visited yesterday because I might write about it. I am not working.

11:31 a.m., National Museum of Women in the Arts. I’m here because of course I am. It’s empty and quiet. The two women behind the reception desk sit up a little straighter when I enter. The ticket is a sticker of a female artist I’ve never heard of before:

Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun. I put her on my dress. They ask if I’m here to see anything specifically, and I say I want to see the Ana Mendieta photos they have. They ask me to repeat, then spell, her name. They don’t know who she is. For a second I’m mad, but, like: pot, kettle.

The piece I’m here for is about art and museums, kind of, and I’ve been speaking to a lot of archivists and curators. The theme of loss keeps coming up. How the presence of someone’s work can sometimes make you feel their absence so much more. I’m drawn to that and I don’t know why. That’s certainly a big part of why I feel so strongly about Ana Mendieta. I’m wrapped up in this kind of outrage when people don’t know who she is, both just because they should, she was an incredible artist, and also because I have that kind of magical thinking, you know, she should be here to speak for herself, not letting idiots like me ramble on her behalf to nice volunteers working at a nice museum on a Saturday morning, she shouldn’t be dead. Anyway. Do you know who Ana Mendieta is? You should look her up.

I start at the top floor so I can make my way down. There’s a family with two little girls who are trying their best to keep their voices at museum-level appropriate and failing. The carpeted room feels about a million times more humane. They’re laughing hysterically at a photo of babies in diapers; Angela Strassheim. Their dad is telling that they used to look just like that in their diapers and they think it’s the funniest thing in the world.

Free website idea: Hot Dads Taking Their Toddler Daughters to the National Museum of Women in the Arts dot Tumblr dot com.

11:39 a.m., National Museum of Women in the Arts. Is it sacrilegious to say I want to incorporate the Virgin Mary into my fall look, I think to myself, closely followed by how can I delete my own brain. 

11:50 a.m., National Museum of Women in the Arts. A collection of Tupperware objects rendered in porcelain by Honor Freeman reminds me of my friend N. I make a note—this note—to send her a photo later.

I peek inside the sculpture gallery and I can’t go in. One of the most childish things about me is my fear of sculpture. I mean, not fear, exactly. I feel more things looking at a sculpture, let’s say, than I do looking at a painting, or something that’s safely behind glass. Sculpture is too exposed, maybe, or I could think that they’re invading my space, encroaching on the distance I’m supposed to keep between myself and something of value. But also when I look inside there are four life-size sculptures of headless people sitting in a row, legs crossed, made out of some kind of corn husk material, and that’s creepy as fuck. I’m moving downstairs.

12:15 p.m., National Museum of Women in the Arts. I just wrote in my notebook Louise Bourgeoise is the only artist who can make a human spider seem cute. I meant hairy spider. I don’t know what this says about me.

12:38 p.m., National Museum of Women in the Arts. Well. I saw all the art. Now what? Let’s go let’s go! 

 12:41 p.m., CVS. I stop to buy Advil. My headache isn’t going away. I would estimate that 40% of my purchases are essential items I already own and forget to pack. I’m still channeling the patient mom so I buy a water bottle to stay hydrated and a bag of red liquorice, the good kind, as a reward for later.

Outside I pause to look at my phone to try and figure out where I am. A teenage girl walks by wearing a t-shirt that says “Porn Kills Love.” I have a lot of questions for her.

1:00 p.m., The National Mall. I followed the teens with backpacks and the parents with cameras and now I’m here. It’s packed. I stop and sit and write some notes to myself for later. My headache is improving. If that’s a placebo effect I don’t care.

There’s some kind of colour war happening on the grass. When I squint I can see they’re all wearing t-shirts that say “Stonewall Sports.”

The yellow team is taking photos of each other and the red team is performing the opening cheer from Bring It On. This is my favourite thing I’ve seen in Washington so far.

1:17 p.m., Lincoln Memorial. I kept walking and now I’m here. I can hear people talking about how much bigger it is in real life—“it looks smaller on T.V.!”—but I’m more surprised by just how loud it is. There are signs that say “quiet-respect please,” but. There are a lot of children here and they’re all excited. One child yells “BYE LINCOLN” as he leaves and that sets off a chorus of other children doing the same, “BYE LINCOLN” “BYE LINCOLN.” My headache returns subtly but powerfully.

Free website idea: Excuse Me Ma’am But As I Was Leaving The Lincoln Memorial I Saw Your Five Year Old Son Spit In The Reflecting Pool Have You No Decency dot Tumblr dot com.

1:43 p.m., hotel bed. My headache was bad and the humidity was worse so I took a cab back. The cab driver talked to me about the presidential election; “You’re American, right?” he started and I had to admit that I was not. Luckily we agreed on all the important opinions.

The second I got in my room I took off all my clothes and lay down on the bed. I just want to lie still for a few minutes and figure out what to do. I can’t believe how early in the day it is; free time feels expansive.

I scroll through my phone to make sure I haven’t missed anything important. I look, quickly, to make sure there are no emails that require an immediate reply but I AM NOT WORKING. I reply to the texts I got while I was out. B and I communicate almost exclusively through @-ing each other on Ludacris’ Instagram photos; I reply to his most recent mention. I remember to send N that photo.

This is the first time in a very, very long time that I’ve been…alone. I’ve always lived with another person. I work out of an office most days. I’m pretty social and see my friends very frequently. So the idea of an entire weekend without a friend ~or lover~ (lol) is very new! And kind of strange! I think I probably could’ve tried harder to find some cool people in Washington to hang out with, but I was kind of curious to see what my day would be like if I was on my own. I feel like I have too many options and I can’t pick; I keep asking myself what I should do as though there’s an internal dialogue happening. Should I nap?

2:14 p.m., hotel bed. Napping sucks.

2:43 p.m., hotel desk. I got sucked into working. I swear I just turned on the laptop to look up directions!! I plead to no one but myself.

Ok. Back on track. According to the popular user-generated review site Yelp dot com, there’s a neighbourhood called Adams Morgan with cute vintage and book and record stores etc. It’s a thirty minute walk away. The sun is out and I give myself a healthy spritz of sunscreen.

3:36 p.m., Joint Custody. I am sweating…a lot. This store has such good vintage t-shirts, which is what I think I spend the other 60% of my income on. I love a really good, soft, white vintage t-shirt, but the best ones here seem to all have Desert Storm propaganda graphics. I…do not want to buy those. I find some other promising options and start piling them on my arm.

The cute guy behind the cash register says, kind of hesitantly, “Hey…did I already tell you about our change room in the back? Sorry if I’m repeating myself.” I laugh and tell him he hadn’t told me yet, but thank you, and also that I know how he feels. “When I worked retail I once asked the same customer three times how his Saturday was going,” I tell him, and we talk for a while about how repetitive retail can be, until another customer asks for help finding a Saves The Day record.

One t-shirt has the best design, fits nicely, and feels incredible. I buy it.

4:16 p.m., Peregrine Espresso. I stop at a small coffee shop down the street. The sun is too much but I don’t want to head back to the hotel just yet. A responded to some rambling texts I sent earlier, making my incoherent thoughts into something that might actually work for a future blog post, and for the millionth time this year I send her a mental kiss on the mouth for being such a genius. I can see that she sent me some emails and I want to open them. “What’s the wi-fi password?” I ask the girl behind the counter while she’s making my iced Americano, and she replies that they don’t have any Internet. I love it here.

I brought a book S and F recommended in their latest Self-Care column. I’ll do and read anything they tell me to do. I read the intro last night and I can’t stop thinking about this passage:

“We recall here that in Latin, vulgare, meaning “of the people” but also “to publish” was used as a slur against women who were thought to have made their bodies “public.” Thus a vulgar woman is a woman who “publishes” that which men believe should stay private.”

When I flip the book over I notice the genre is marked “Fiction/Memoir.” My favourite genre. I’m going to like this book, I think.

4:45 p.m., Peregrine Espresso. This book is making me think about things I don’t want to think about. I keep reading.

4:53 p.m., Peregrine Espresso. This coffee shop is playing songs from when I was 18 and it’s making me feel things I don’t want to feel. I don’t leave.

5:00 p.m., 14th St. and R St. NW. I finished the book. I’m going to walk back to the hotel and listen to some truly self-indulgent sad music. Right now my favourite is Natalie Prass. The first lines of the first song is:

I don’t feel much

I don’t feel anything

At all

I like it because it’s obviously a lie.

5:29 p.m., hotel bed. Back in bed, naked, sweaty. I spent the walk thinking about work.

I’m not not working today because I think working would be bad, exactly. It’s more that I’m trying to recognize the times when my work would be best served with a little distance. I get a little too excited sometimes and I’ll just go and go and go without stopping, and then I crash and feel this very particular kind of burnout where my eyes feel like they’re no longer connected to my brain. I can’t see or process anything in front of me. I’m getting better at warding that off before it becomes an issue. But I do love to walk and think about what I’m working on; there’s something about continual forward motion that makes everything seem a little clearer.

Anyway. I took off all my clothes so I could feel the cool sheets and I’m just realizing how hungry I am. I should get “lunch” which, I realize, is at this point basically an early bird dinner. Should I shower and go out? the plaintive child in my asks. I just want to lie here for a minute, parallel to the pillows, and think about the blue tones in the white ceiling paint before I make any major decisions for the rest of this day.

6:07 p.m., hotel desk. Ok. There’s a Mexican restaurant nearby. Eating alone in public makes me uncomfortable but fuck it.

6:21 p.m., MXDC. I’m sitting in between what I think is a fairly awkward second date and some kind of bachelorette party. The date couple are gossiping about someone the guy works with; the bachelorettes are talking about how, after this, they’re going to a party at a wine bar called “50 Shades of Rosé.” I want to go with them.

My food arrives and I am instantly no longer hungry. I don’t know what to do. I sip on my Coke and eat half of one of the tacos. It’s good!! It all tastes really good!!! I just…don’t want it anymore. I have a hard time eating when it’s really hot, sometimes.

I just realized my headache is gone.

7:12 p.m., 14th St. and G St. NW. It’s too beautiful to go back to the hotel; the sky is perfect. There are some benches at the park in front of the White House, I remember. I’m going to go sit there and read one of my research books.

7:42 p.m., The White House, North Lawn. My headache returns. I’ve stopped reading. I’m just staring at the White House, watching tourists go by, imagining conversations I want to have with people I know in the near future. Should I go back to the hotel?  

8:07 p.m., hotel bed. Keeping Up With The Kardashians is on. I promised S I would catch up. While it plays I text with my friend P. He’s also away this weekend with friends; we talk about our trips, what we’re reading, our work. He’s coming to visit New York this week for work. We make plans to get drinks on Monday. When I tell him I’m in bed watching T.V. he tells me I should go to the hotel bar and, if anyone talks to me, give them a fake name and backstory. I’m tempted. What should I do tonight? I ask no one but myself. While we were texting it got dark and I didn’t even notice.

9:13 p.m., hotel bar. P is right. I can’t just stay in my room all night. I get dressed for the third time today; there’s something about a hotel room that compels me to be naked. I’m not going to think about that too deeply.

The bar is intensely confusing. The music is so loud, but it’s almost empty. The bartender apologetically asks for ID and when I show him my passport he does a double take. “Keep up the good work,” he says, and I laugh, and he says the drink is on him. I don’t know why. Another thing I don’t want to think too deeply about.

9:53 p.m., hotel bar. The bar is playing a sped-up remix of one of my all-time favourite songs, “Stay” by Rihanna. Not mad.

10:27 p.m., hotel bar. This is good whiskey for drinking but it’s not so good for concentrating. I can’t focus on the book I’m reading. I keep catching myself staring into space and thinking about work. It’s nice, I think!

10:57 p.m., hotel bar. Texting with D. He is also traveling this weekend. Everyone is in motion. I text L and Z to tell them I miss them; I think about texting P to give him an update, to prove that I did what he said, but he is out with people and I don’t want to bother him. Actually, it’s Saturday night, literally everyone I know is out with other people. Their responses are slow to come but nice to read. The bar is starting to fill up.

11:17 p.m., hotel bed. I’ve been back in my room for two minutes and I’m already naked. And!! I just remembered!!! I have that liquorice!!!! I’m going to eat that!!!!!

11:29 p.m., bathroom. I’m taking off my makeup and applying my various nighttime oils when J texts to say she bumped into A and Daniel at a bar in New York; she sends me a photo of all them and they all look so beautiful I want to cry a little.

I’m not homesick, but that’s only because I don’t really know if New York is my home yet. Can you be homesick for a place that isn’t your home? the child in me wants to know. I know the real answer: I’m homesick for the people who are my home.

11:41 p.m., hotel bed. Should I go to sleep? I ask no one but myself.