Natasha Young is a writer in Los Angeles.
12 AM, my bed, Highland Park, Los Angeles: Clarity at the end of a day, like the surge of energy just before death. With the commencement of my menstrual period, a sore throat, a migraine, and a few logistical hiccups in my work-and-compensation schedule all coinciding in a single, grey day, I wonder if I may have tempted fate when I told my kind lover, just a day ago, that “Mercury’s in retrograde” means nothing. I’ve just put down Elena Ferrante’s The Days of Abandonment. In my bed, I take stock of my worries. I try to sleep.
8:40 AM, my bed: I wake with a phrase from the dream I’d been having but lose it as soon as I grab my pen. Hot, tangled in my blue bed linens, I feel a sharp pain behind the right side of my brow: the migraine persisting. I take a glass of water, then return to bed.
8:57 AM, my bathroom: The sheets, damp from perspiring through the night (only happens when I’m ill or drunk, and I’ve been sober for weeks), are too cold and clammy for me to fall back asleep, so I inspect myself in the mirror in my bathroom, dark blue tiles on the floor, dark blue-grey granite countertop, stark white walls, frosted glass in the small, single window over the tub. I observe my face for blemishes. No new ones, good. My hair looks good for bedhead. I call that a win. I recall how heavy yesterday felt. Yesterday’s suffering is today’s relief. I return to bed, reclothed.
12:03 PM, bed: I wake from a dream involving poppies and a return to high school. The best part of this dream is the part when I gain lucidity and realize, after filing into an auditorium, that I’ve already graduated from high school and from college, and that I am 26, not 16, at which point I abruptly leave the premises. Neighbor dogs and kids alike bark outside my window. There’s this one towering palm tree I look at from my bed. The sky is overcast. I check my phone. Text from my kind lover: “How’s that Giant Eyeball Saturday coming?”
12:13 PM, bedroom: My migraine persists. I get up to get dressed and decide to walk to my favorite café in Highland Park. The usual walk takes me past giant cacti, succulents, palms, drought-tolerant-landscaped yards in front of little single-story bungalows in their rows, the sidewalk broken up in places by the persistent roots of old trees.
12:53 PM, downstairs, my house, Highland Park, LA: I still haven’t left the house. I discover my brand-new t-shirt has shrunk in the wash. I put my bedsheets in the washing machine and start it up. Finally, I leave.
1:14 PM, Amara Kitchen, Highland Park, LA: I get to Amara Kitchen and all my preferred seats are taken, indoors and out. A man walks in behind me who is the spitting image of Nick Cave. He is definitely too young to actually be Nick Cave but his hair, outfit, everything, it’s uncanny. I’m pretty broke, because one of my freelance clients neglected to process my invoice for this week’s direct deposit, so I order a single pumpkin-buckwheat pancake for a little over $4. I want coffee — I take it black, always — but remember coffee is no good for cramps, let alone sore throats or migraines, so I settle for a glass of water. Children are playing right outside the door, their voices like nails on a chalkboard. Kind lover texts me to say he’ll come by my house in a little while to bring me ibuprofen. “Oh sweetheart no,” I hastily text back. The only free table is in the back, next to the restroom. I take it. This never happens. Figures the Saturday I’m meant to record is out of the ordinary, and not in a good way.
1:24 PM, Amara Kitchen: I feel shivers in my body. A youngish yet exhausted-looking mother is waiting with her toddler son to use the bathroom. He whines; she shushes him, says he’ll have to wait his turn. In my state, I feel like they and everyone else in the small café are crowding me in. The music playing is grating. Usually I love the music here. Usually I come here to read and write, usually I can stay for hours, but I am not having it. My pancake arrives, smothered in sliced bananas, walnuts, chopped almonds, and a poof of whipped butter, served with a small silver saucer of maple syrup.
1:31 PM, Amara Kitchen: Pancake is gone. Kitschy music starts to irritate me. We’re talking Jack Johnson-esque cheesy piano music I associate with the kind of overpriced boutique for organic cotton baby onesies and hand-knit stuffed animals, the kind for upper-middle-class parents who’ve got more disposable income than patience. Highly unusual for this place, but it is prime brunch time and Highland Park is changing rapidly, or so they say. I suspect a dated Spotify playlist is to blame. This suspicion is confirmed when Feist’s “My Moon My Man” starts to play.
1:35 PM, Amara Kitchen: I try to remember what it was Milan Kundera wrote about kitsch. I think it was, “kitsch is the opposite of shit,” or something to that effect. Makes sense why, to me, most things typically targeted at parents seems to me the ultimate in kitsch. The influx of shit in the lives of new parents must make these sorts of things very appealing. Shit can’t even be escaped for the entirety of brunch.
1:41 PM, Amara Kitchen: I can’t take another moment here.
2:01 PM, my kitchen, Highland Park, LA: Pain casts the world in harsh relief. My usual ways of feeling and perceiving my environment are totally shot. I haven’t been ill like this in quite some time. I cook two eggs and slice up half of an avocado to eat with them.
2:24 PM, livingroom, Highland Park, LA: First encounter of the day with my housemate, Ales. He seems to be in good spirits as he prepares his meal: the leftover half of a ribeye steak from the night before, and a salad. I offer him the other half of my avocado.
2:30 PM, livingroom: A knock on the window beside me. My kind lover is on my porch with a box of ibuprofen. He’s been ill, too. We hug and chat briefly on the porch. I pet his dog, big, white, shorthaired beastie, an adorably goofy sweetheart. He goes off to take her for a walk. I go back inside and take three pills.
3:02 PM, livingroom: Ales says I am moving in a very ghostly way. He says it looks like I am haunting the house. I try to flip through the new issue of Vogue that just arrived in the mail, the one with the horridly awkward Zoolander cover, but the strong perfume overwhelms my migraine-induced sensitivity as soon as I open its pages. (Strong smells, sounds, bright lights, all cause great pain.) I think that I can’t think, but I suppose I’m undermined by the fact that I’m writing this right now. Finally my bedding is dry, so I take it out of the dryer, go upstairs, make the bed.
4:09 PM, bedroom: Upright in bed, warm, clean sheets, dark blue, I pick back up where I left off in Days of Abandonment. “I am clean I am true I play with my cards on the table.” My bedroom window is open. I wince at the screech of power tools, some neighbor is having work done. I’m thinking of my kind lover, feeling a lack of his presence, a frightening way for me to feel. I attribute it to my increased sensitivity in my fragile condition, or maybe just the newness of us. I lay down to sleep.
5:53 PM, bed: I wake up, in the dark. My mind is clearer; the pain has eased off a little. I sit in quiet, taking stock of myself. I hear Ales leaving the house: he jerks the front door to make sure it’s locked properly, which makes the whole house shake a little. I remember I have an appointment to visit a room for rent in a house not far from mine. I’m supposed to be moving March 1. I wish I had canceled the appointment.
6:02 PM, bed: My mind is the weight of fog. My body feels dizzy. It’s the unpleasant, disoriented sensation of having woken from sleep at an inopportune point in a REM cycle, when sleep stays with you for a while. Dread sinks in at the thought of having to move houses so soon. All the books on my shelves will need packing. Everything, out, and soon. The overwhelming feeling rises up into my chest. I try to think of ways to take the pressure off. I consider roasting a chicken for dinner.
6:34 PM, livingroom: My sense of LA vacillates sometimes from a dreamy, lush stretch of a city to an anxiety-triggering sprawling mass of clusters of people that makes me feel claustrophobic, where nothing is real, nothing is true, and I am at risk of succumbing to a delusion that will hasten me to the end of my life. I then consider that it’s no different than any city I’ve lived in before, just that the people aren’t so much stacked one on top of the other, like in New York, but spread out, side-by-side. Nothing I can’t manage, I tell myself. I listen to Jessica Pratt’s album On Your Own Love Again and feel a little better. I begin to feel a little more like myself.
7:30 PM, TOWN Pizza, Highland Park, LA: I’ve visited the house with the room for rent. The room is rather too small, and I think I wouldn’t have enough privacy, but otherwise it’s a nice place. I walk to York Boulevard and grab a slice of pizza: basil pesto, ricotta, cherry tomatoes sliced in half, tender crust.
8:15 PM, back to my house, Highland Park: Home, considering roasting that chicken, again, but the apartment-hunt stress is so distracting I feel I have no appetite. I put on an album by Broadcast (Work and Non-Work), smoke a little pot, and put an Aztec clay mask on my face.
8:30 PM, living room, sunk into couch: I only feel worse, emotionally overwhelmed, but I realize I’m only stressing myself out, which helps me feel less stressed. I start to feel high. I start to feel a strong desire to “go home,” but I’m not quite sure what/where that means. I feel in my chest that I could cry at any moment. As I try to analyze my state from this state of detachment, I feel artificially better about the fact that everything is out of my control. Here, I control everything—here, in this writing—like none of this would exist, none of this would be happening were I not here to write it down.
8:36 PM, same: It occurs to me that recording myself is an incredibly vain pastime. I give up on the idea of roasting a chicken tonight. I draw a hot bath. I wonder if I am in the early stages of falling in love. No one’s ever been able to tell me how long, exactly, it is supposed to take, and afraid as I am of jumping the gun, I put that thought away. I try to think of things I want to ask him, the sorts of things I’m prone to forgetting when in his presence.
9:02 PM, bedroom: I text him and tell him I’d like to hear more often what he is thinking and feeling. He replies that he’d love to tell me. I’m happy with this.
9:16 PM, at my workdesk: I reckon that a good way to relieve my daily stress would be to unsubscribe from the dozens of promotional emails I receive on a daily basis. I go through my inbox and unsubscribe from several designer clothing e-commerce newsletters, from Vogue, from whatever I’m not normally happy to peruse, from whatever prompts me to spend money I shouldn’t. I feel a bit better having taken back some control in this minor way. My dad calls me. He lives in Maine, where I grew up. We talk out my little crises. I feel a bit better.
10:05 PM, tub: I finally get in the bath.
10:59 PM, kitchen: I soaked for at least half an hour. Took a couple of partial-nudes (breasts, bubble bath) and texted them to my kind lover, sort of like a thank-you note for dropping by with pain relievers earlier, which delights him. In my soft red terrycloth bathrobe, I heat some bone broth on the stove and gnaw on a carrot. Ales is playing a hockey game on the big TV. The noise is hurting my head less now. I fill a mug with broth; the rest is for Ales, so I tell him it’s ready, and take mine to my room.
11:07 PM, bedroom: I sit in silence on my bed.
11:11 PM, bedroom: Good-night texts with kind lover as I drink the broth. I start to fall asleep with all the lights still on. A dull ache lingers, but otherwise, I feel much better than I did earlier. Off go the lights, off goes my light.