8 AM—False start. With my book coming out next month I’ve been stupidly busy with promotion and I haven’t been sleeping more than five hours a night; my insomnia takes the form of mental camisados that leave me spazzed all day. Fortunately I have enough L-theanine, valerian, and benedryl in my system to put me back down. Major discoveries in my thirties.
9:30 AM—Woke up to find that during the night I have texted myself a picture of a used Korean charcoal pore strip my friend Alice gave me. It looks like a recently paved road covered in my blackheads. I decide that there are probably better i.e. grosser pictures online already, then marvel at how I assessed the photo’s social media potential even before consciously asking myself why and whether I wanted to post it.
Every morning this timeslot is the same: I switch off my humidifier with two toes, drink a glass of water, walk to my kitchen making dog-wants-to-be-let-in noises until I reach my electric kettle, and begin openly weeping until coffee is. I reuse my roommate’s used coffee filter, which must qualify me for some kind of Bachelorhood merit badge. In the kitchen black beans are soaking and overnight no-knead bread dough has risen. I have a stupid theory about how Jesus is a metaphor for yeast.
9:40 AM—Out of nothing but laziness I don’t use soap on my face anymore. I trust my face to care for itself. With a Sonicare in my mouth I angle my head to read whatever is on top of the toilet tank without picking it up, a Bookforum ad for a book called Affordable Housing in New York. Fiction, I assume.
9:50 AM—All of my daylight is spent in the 2.5-foot margin between my desk and the foot of my bed. To my left is a window with a sill full of anti-anxiety supplements, sugar-frosted vitamin gummies, nasal spray, pomade, those extra-button baggies that come with new clothes, prescription meds. Out the window there’s the halfpipe my neighbors are building in their backyard.
I have to bore myself into working, or as I call it, “working.” One trick is not to get sucked into reading online articles in the morning just because they’re interesting, relevant, or written by someone you know. Tab closing takes longer than it should. My productivity is based entirely around carefully balanced procrastinations. If I get bored of editing a student’s manuscript, I’ll rotate to writing fiction, or fiction to research, research to criticism, criticism to email, email to porn, porn to Twitter, Twitter to checking on my bread dough. As long as alcohol and video games are excluded, this is perfectly stable and results in a lot of writing, albeit spread across half a dozen different projects of varying quality and importance.
While working I listen to 90’s era video game soundtracks (FF VI-VIII, Secret of Mana, Chrono Trigger), Pet Sounds, Trans Am, Kraftwerk, Out Hud, Ensemble Klang’s Debris & Alchemy, Air’s Premiers Symptomes, Joan Baez’s “Here’s to You,” six different covers of “God Only Knows,” or nothing.
11:10 AM—Get up to drink water. En route I check on my bread dough; it’s done. Slow-rise bread making has all the satisfactions of fish and plant ownership in fast-forward, plus you can eat it. About 20% of my daily sense of personal accomplishment and talent comes from how much oven-spring I can get out of my dough. I put it in the oven.
Noon—Remove bread. Bad oven-spring; overproofed.
Lunch is cold leftover Peruvian chicken fried rice that Alice forgot at my house the other day, when she gave me the pore strip. After the metabolic downtick of lunch my priorities start getting muddled. I want to make oatmeal cookies but I also want to conquer death through my writing. I want to get a sensual oil massage but I also want to make everyone who’s ever disagreed with me about anything commit suicide by headbutting one another to death and leaving a note that reads “TONY WAS RIGHT, AGGGHGHGH.”
I change from sweatpants into jogging pants designed to look like dress slacks. If you tuck in the drawstrings and ignore the elastics you can barely tell. They even zip up.
12:44 PM—My friend Danielle texts me: Overwhelmed w universe love rn, then two lines of sun, cactus, and weeping emojis. She has decided on impulse to move to Austin in two weeks after stagnating for years in Louisiana, even though Bobby Jindal just left and she can get health care there now. She says she feels calm and happy and entirely herself, then she tells me this is my year, and if anyone diminishes me she’ll tell me. Selfishly I think that her move will probably mean won’t come to New York for my book launch, and question her about it; she evades the question politely. She’s Midwestern and I’m 10-15% in love with her.
I let up and try helping her look for apartments in Austin by emailing my friends there, and texting a girl I went on a date with last time I was there, who gives me detailed housing advice based on the apartments of girls she’s been sleeping with.
2:42 PM—The first snow of the year is falling weightlessly out of a uniform pewter sky. I’m writing a feedback letter for a student. I can tell my motivation is flagging because I keep turning my head to look at the box of final copies of my novel.
5:15 PM—I go to the gym, not that anyone can tell. It’s snowing but I go out in shorts and a windbreaker to encourage faster running. I listen to the video game podcast 28 Plays Later and jog to the gym, returning an hour later and putting on real pants for the first time today.
6:30 PM—My recently married friends Heather and Justin, the ones I do molly with, have invited me for dinner in Gowanus. I miss the first M train and so I wait out in the cold for ten minutes for the next one. While I wait I try to read Gideon Lewis-Kraus’s memoir about religious pilgrimages. In San Francisco, Gideon gave a reading where I met a girl I haven’t managed to get over six years later. The pilgrimage I’m currently reading about has the same name as the girl, which pops the cork on a fantasy about someday doing the pilgrimage with her—embarrassing enough in itself, but then I remember I’m writing about this day for Enormous Eye, and am taking quite seriously the duty of transcribing my experiences. I go into a recursive death spiral about how I can slyly edit my own thoughts to make them more charming or flattering, about how I can make that thought more charming or flattering, etc. About half of all my thoughts are this reprehensible.
I arrive at Heather and Justin’s. The last time I hung out with them was in Mexico at their wedding, which was almost destroyed by Hurricane Patricia, and which I wrote about for Travel + Leisure, and Justin printed it out and sent it to his sister who’s in jail. Apparently her detention facility’s library has closed down and the inmates are hungry for reading material; Justin informed me that she’s making a killing loaning out the article for chocolate and cigarettes.
It’s sweltering inside their apartment; their Boston terrier Foxy scrabbles insanely at my leg with a mangled ducky in its mouth. They’ve both recently lapsed from decades-long vegetarianism and are patently uncomfortable handling the salmon. “I just cut it up into cubes? Little fish cubes?” Heather says, skeptical. She offers me a mescal cocktail.
8 PM—Justin and I drink and drink and he makes me try a piece of fish jerky he made, which along with the whisky reminds me of my Alaskan freshman year roommate. Justin tells me about becoming addicted to Xanax in Mexico and shows me the wedding photos while I eat crackers and cheese and apple slices even though I’m allergic.
Their friend Annie shows up and I immediately complain about my dating life, my subconscious’s way of flirting. “When your book comes out you’re gonna be like Amy Schumer, everyone will be into you,” she says; this was intended as a compliment. We swap online dating tips. “Just swipe right on everyone and you can have your pick,” she says. I say that if everyone did this the app would be worthless; she shrugs.
10 PM—Dinner arrives and I eat it all, all of it, in under a second. We go outside to drink. We come back inside to drink. Annie wants to watch Portlandia, and I whine about how between Fred Armisen and Rob Schneider SNL has cast only three-quarters of an Asian guy. We watch the season 6 premiere of Portlandia, then the superb What We Do in the Shadows, which all of us except Annie have seen multiple times. Annie bobs in and out of sleep with her head resting on my shoulder; my corresponding arm locks up. Halfway through the movie she calls an Uber and leaves, and Heather and I pause the movie and get into a frenzied discussion about Victoria, the best movie either of us have seen in years. Heather, a filmmaker, says the filmmaking is what makes it so good; I, a writer, say it’s the storytelling. “I hate subtitles,” Heather says.
11 PM—We go to the kitchen to look for more bourbon; instead I find a half-gallon bottle of Cholula, which I dare myself to drink several gulps of. Justin Snapchats it, then says, “I’m sad that it’ll be gone forever. I wish I took a real video.”
Finally they ask me advice about travelling in Thailand, which they’ll be visiting next month. Nothing I say interests them. Heather gets mildly offended when I get mildly offended when she calls Phuket and Koh Phi Phi “fuck it” and “pee pee.” I tell them not to touch anyone on the shoulder or head, not to point your feet at anyone, and to cover their arms and legs at the temples. Justin wants to know if you can buy drugs without going to jail for life, and this leads to a conversation about the bunk batch of molly they took in Mexico that literally paralyzed them. They show me a little black bottle with a skull and crossbones on it, containing a fluid that detects adulteration in hard drugs.
1 AM—Before I leave they give me a Christmas present of homemade salted caramels and pineapple-pepper jam, packed in a shipping box because they thought they’d have to mail it to me. Justin asks if he can have a copy of my book, and I give him one, which he hands back to me. “Write something mean in it,” he says.
“I already did,” I say.
“No, something personally mean to me.”
“Baby, why do you always want people to do that?” Heather says.
In my weirdly flawless drunk handwriting, I inscribe the title page, Dear Heather, Thank you for a decade of love, friendship, and food. Your husband sucks raccoon dicks. Love Tony. This is acceptable to them both.
1:15 AM—I take an Uber Pool home; the couple in the back seat are silent the whole ride, until the girl out of nowhere shrieks “I’M SO HUNGRY!” to no response. I text with my friend Jenny about how minorities are expected to be custodians of white people’s feelings. She’s just been nominated for a National Magazine Award, and we talk about the possibility of our worldly success and how it’s making her feel manic and drunk with power and me feel nothing, maybe because I’m male and have unwittingly internalized the idea that I’m entitled to it, or because I think it’ll never happen and there’s no point in getting my hopes up, or because I’m just tired.
1:40 AM—I get home and my drunkenness has the ecstatic fullness of a supermoon, with the tiniest shadow of the impending hangover eclipse looming at its edge. I think about writing to the girl I haven’t gotten over, or to my publicist about whether she’s heard from the Times yet, or to my parents (which I’ve never done), instead finish this.