Tracy Wan is a writer in Toronto.
8:00AM An alarm that I definitely did not set goes off.
Where am I? This is almost always my first thought of the day, an instance of terror dulled by my dream state. It’s hard for me to feel at home anywhere. As the panic dissolves I become aware of the warm body next to me, which I feel a brief burst of affection for before I reach out and punch it. Why are you doing this, I say. It’s Saturday. I am convinced that I am not a nice person if only for the way I behave when I’m half-asleep, which is to say, like a monster. J. wakes up and we bicker—he tries to tell me that I’m grumpy, and I retort with a cruel remark that automatically kills the conversation. In this moment I am my mother. He walks out of the room without looking back.
8:22 AM I try to go back to sleep but the guilt of souring our morning has already crept in. I fetch my phone and hop back into bed, opening Twitter instinctively. I hate this instinct and am constantly trying to rewire it, because I also hate Twitter.
8:35 AM J. crawls into bed behind me and kisses me behind my ear. He’s quicker to forgive than I am to apologize and for that I will always be grateful. He asks about my plans for the day and I tell him I’m documenting it. What’s your first line going to be? “I’m an asshole?” I consider it. Maybe, I reply, and it’s the closest I’m going to get to an apology.
9:40 AM I leave J.’s house and it strikes me that summer is definitely over, despite our collective efforts to keep drinking rosé and baring our legs, because in the crisp morning air is a trace of rotting leaves. I love fall smells because the cold gives them a distinct clarity, in lieu of the gauziness of summer heat. Lately, clarity is all I seek.
9:50 AM The latest episode of Song Exploder is about The Magnetic Fields’ Andrew in Drag, which I listen to as I walk to my favourite breakfast place. Song Exploder excites me because it breaks down music in a way that my brain is incapable of doing. I have no musical intelligence whatsoever and I’ve only recently accepted this. I will underline sentences in a piece or isolate notes in a perfume but music I’ve only ever been able to consume in its entirety. “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” only truly makes sense when you know the parts.
10:30 AM At BIVY I am eating farçous, a French recipe for spinach pancakes. I don’t have many rituals but this is one of them, which I quietly savour. I am reading Luca Turin’s The Secret of Scent. I started it a long time ago but stopped reading because I went on vacation and so did my brain. He’s talking about scent as language—is it alphabetic or ideographic? If you ask me, it’s both. This is my favourite thing to think about.
11:20 AM I walk down Sorauren. Jamie is texting me about her next career move, which should be starting a scent business with me, but we’re still a little too scared. She wants me to move to New York, where it would be infinitely easier to execute this plan. I love New York but I’m hesitant to move—the pond might be bigger, but I’ll still feel like I’m constantly drowning.
11:30 AM I dig through my backpack for the keys to my apartment and Emile, my cat, is meowing loudly at the door. He’s far too happy to see me and follows me from room to room, so I trip over him three times before I get to the kitchen. I am grateful and touched by his loyalty but I resent his neediness, which is probably a projection of how I feel about myself in relationships. When I got a cat I realized I could never be a mother.
12:15 PM The streetcar system in Toronto is a joke and I’m late to meet Sara. It’s taken me a long time to admit that I am not a punctual person but still, blaming transit is easier. If maturity is learning to live with your foibles, I’m behind.
12:50 PM Sara and I greet each other on Dupont and walk to Cooper Cole, a gallery that used to be great. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen her and she smells amazing—like Cannabis Santal. I’m sporting a leather jacket and she’s wearing a heavy-knit cowl neck sweater, it’s definitely fall. The show at Cooper Cole is filled with dirty car tires and photos of horses, neither of which evoke any pleasure in me. Sara and I share a common hatred for horses and dolphins. It makes sense, Sara says, since dolphins are the horses of the sea.
1:15 PM We take a seat inside a sunny coffee shop and talk about the people we are trying to be. I think I need a brain reset and Sara agrees—the way we consume and digest has become so crowded, so unnecessarily heavy. She is at the tail end of a flu and I’m feeling sniffly so we both ordered ginger tea and fresh-baked ginger cookies. Ginger, to me, is a constant reminder to treat your body with kindness. We are both trying to do more of that.
4:00 PM We leave the coffee shop and walk aimlessly through the neighbourhood, which is the best way to see anything. Walking in Toronto is how I became fond of it, a process that took years. I especially love taking walks with Sara because she’s got a great eye—she’s always instagramming small details about this city that I would never otherwise notice. Today, it’s a sign for a hair and nail salon that promises a “NEW YOU.” It’s easier to reset than to fix.
5:15 PM On Queen St. we walk into Nuit and it’s one of the better decisions we’ve made. Their backyard is small, shaded by trees and adorned with fairy lights. It doesn’t take much more for me to fall in love with a space. We split lomo and blue cheese and a lamb shank on couscous and talk about the symbolism and necessity of cooking our own meals, especially in the fall and winter when we spend so much time with ourselves. We share recipes and promise to make food for each other soon. Cooking, I think, is the perfect combination of love and labour, both of which are inextricably tied to my sense of happiness.
6:45 PM I hug Sara goodbye and head home. I feel a little wilted, a telltale sign that I need to be alone. I envy those for whom this is never the case. As I walk up my street the light is cast long and golden, which has always been my definition of magic. The fruit markets are still selling the last of this summer’s flowers. I walk slow, and relish their sillage.
7:30 PM My garbage cat is drinking dishwater from the sink, even though his water dish is nice and deep. As I shoo him off the counter, my phone lights up with a message from Sara—a recipe we’d discussed earlier, for tomato sauce. I feel disproportionately nostalgic for dishes I consumed when I first moved to North America—spaghetti and cold pizza and mashed potatoes. I’ve never been able to make a good pasta sauce from scratch, but Sara’s promised me that this recipe is both easy and delicious.
8:10 PM Doing my nightly rounds on Fragrantica.com, I stumble upon a perfume I think would suit Monica, and send it to her. I enjoy nothing more than looking for perfumes for people I love.
9:15 PM While waiting for J. to come over I put on Al Green’s Live in Tokyo. Last year during a bout of depression I bought a record player that I could not afford and every time I listen to a record I haggle down my guilt. The album is wonderful but does not suit my mood, which is highly susceptible to sad songs but otherwise inflexible, so I swap it for a collection of Mozart’s piano concertos. The old man who sold it to me said I’ve noticed that Orientals love classical music and I could tell by his face that he thought it was a perfectly flattering thing to say.
10:30 PM J. and I open a bottle of wine I’ve been saving for months for no reason at all, except that I don’t want to incur the habit of drinking alone. It’s aromatic, heady with lychee and melon and guava, and I make a mental note to get more of it. I started drinking wine late, only last year, because it reminded me of perfume; a derivative language. Now, it is all I drink. We sit on my couch and flip through a beautiful Venetian cookbook A. gave me for my birthday. I learn to make a basic sea bream; mackerel tartare; that visitors to Venice often experience Stendhal syndrome, a physiological reaction to moments of great beauty. This, too, is my definition of magic. When we get to the section on traditional tomato sauces, I take a photo of it, and send it to Sara.