8:55am, New Haven, Connecticut Bedroom
This is sleeping in for me now. Without an alarm, my body shakes itself awake between 7 and 8am, nearly every day. With no regard for how little I’ve slept in past days. This week, I’ve done a bad job of catching up on the sleep I promised myself I would catch up on. I’ve gone to bed on the other side of midnight more days than not, tethered to a still hectic schedule. With this in mind, sleeping until almost 9 on a Saturday feels like a small blessing. This morning, like all mornings, I briefly long for the vast and glorious wasteland of my early 20s, when I could fall asleep anywhere and stay asleep for even longer than my body demanded. For a week, I tell myself. Only for a week, I’d like to go back.
10:45am, Living Room, pacing
I have gotten significantly worse at getting started in the mornings. I know that it is because I just have considerably more to do in a day now than I used to, and I want the time to slow down. I want the morning to draw itself out and not move. I tell my partner, Laura, that we need to go to the post office. I’ve neglected mailing things out to friends for too long, after endless promises. As I’m contemplating old friends, my oldest friend, David, gives me a call. We haven’t spoken in some time. This comes with growing up and living adult lives in different places than the one where our friendship was rooted (our hometown of Columbus, Ohio. He now lives in Chicago, I live in New Haven.) Our conversation is brief and refreshing. I try and stay in touch with my old, close friends as much as possible, particularly this year, when so much has felt like a whirlwind of unfamiliarity that I’ve been placed in the middle of. It’s good to talk to someone with a shared history, who knows all of your moments. He thanks me for calling on his birthday a few weeks back. I tell him that I’m going to be back in Columbus in about a week, in Chicago in about a month. We promise to catch up properly in a few days, and I can tell we both hope it happens. It is a small joy, one that has made me forget that the post office will probably be a nightmare.
11:50, New Haven Post Office
The post office is a nightmare.
12:15, New Haven Post Office
The post office is still a nightmare. I acknowledge, deep inside, that this is partially my fault. Running to the post office ten minutes before closing time on a Saturday and expecting smooth sailing is certainly a foolish endeavor, but I will likely pursue an even more foolish one before the weekend is over. I’m mailing a disposable camera for a visual interview project that I’m doing. I’m also mailing two vintage NBA action figures to my friend Greg back in Columbus. He’s a Celtics fan, and the figures are of former Celtics star Antoine Walker. I am certain that he has no use for toys, but I truly believe less in the finding of gifts and more in the arrival of them. And when they arrive, it’s our job to get them to the place they belong. I feel like I’m doing my duty. In the endless and impatient line, there is a lively conversation about loaning money. An older black man with a voice similar to my own father’s says “I don’t lend my friends money. My friends don’t ask me for money. My friends want me to keep my money.”
May we all be so lucky.
1:15pm, In Bed
Like everything else these days, it takes me far too long to go to the gym. Once I’m AT the gym, I’m fine. But the act of getting myself ready to go to the gym is a tedious one. I sometimes fall into bed even though I know I’m not going to go to sleep. It’s an act of resistance against the day. Still, I eventually get up and pull on my gym shorts, a sweat-wicking shirt, and my running shoes. I pull a towel out of the closet, arrange a playlist, and start my three block walk to the gym.
1:30, Elm City YMCA
I don’t go to the gym with any fitness goals in mind. I’m sure that I may hit some, just due to repeatedly showing up. But I’m not there with any set goals. I need, more than anything, to have a block of time that is no one else’s. I need that especially now, when the world is awful, and I find myself with a sometimes overwhelming schedule. My gym is small, and often silent. If I go in the mornings, as I do during the week, I’m usually alone, or one of a small handful of people. The same people show up all of the time. An older woman who is here, working hard seemingly every time I’m here, is finishing up on a treadmill while I stretch. She smiles at me as she often does when our paths cross, in the way that tells me she wants to talk. She once told me that she lost her only child in 2015, and had no grandchildren. I think of her often, even when we’re not on dueling treadmills, or both waiting for the abdominal machine. I think about what it is to have outlived the people you love the most, particularly the ones who were supposed to outlive you. Our small interactions, whatever they may do for her, do just as much (if not more) for me. When she smiles in my direction, I take off my headphones. She leans in with a serious look and tells me I look tired, and I’m sure I do. I spent the week before this one logging absurdly late nights writing for the MTV Video Music Awards, sitting in a room for 14 or 15 hours at a time, and eating terribly. I assume that this may be a detail she has little interest in, so I look down and shuffle my feet. I make up a generic excuse, not entirely because I feel scolded, but because I feel her genuine concern, and my first instinct is to look for the quickest door out of the moment. “Yeah,” I say. “I…uhhh…you know, I’ve been…uhhh…just losing track of time I guess.” She puts a hand on my shoulder. “You need to sleep,” she says. “You’re no good to anyone when you don’t sleep.” And then, on her way out, she turns to say one more thing.
“Oh, and they say there’s a storm coming.”
I often think of my mother in these situations. She’s been gone for two decades now. I think of her, still, whenever I consider the long line of caring people who have shown concern for my well-being when they certainly didn’t have to.
The real reason I come to the gym is to get an hour or so of uninterrupted music listening. I write about music constantly. In poems, in essays, in prose. I think about it and talk about it constantly. Before starting the treadmill, I texted my friend Jason about Neck Deep, a pop-punk band that I’ve taken a liking to. But, usually, the only time I get to listen to a block of music I enjoy without thinking of it critically is when I’m running at the gym. The harder it is for me to get motivated for the workout beforehand, the more intense the music I need during the workout. Today, I need the most intense. Death Grips bleeds into Wolves in the Throne Room, which bleeds into Every Time I Die, which bleeds into Future, then old Ice Cube, then Fugazi. On my cooldown, however, it’s always some pop that I love. Today is no different. I walk on the treadmill for five minutes, shuffling through four different Kelly Clarkson songs. I am covered in sweat, considering the ice cream I am certain is in my freezer.
The television on the treadmill is flashing bright red. There’s a tropical storm warning. A storm is coming.
2:25pm, Outside of My Apartment
I get home just in time to help Laura carry a massive amount of groceries up our two flights of steps. We’re having a dinner party tomorrow. It’s something we’ve done from time to time since moving to Connecticut a couple of years ago. We live close to a lot of cool places: Providence, Boston, New York, etc. But Connecticut is, decidedly, not a very cool place. Even in our pretty cool loft apartment in our pretty cool New Haven neighborhood, we’re not a usual draw for our east coast friends in other places. Our family dinners are a tradition that we brought with us from Columbus: my dear friend Meaghan used to have them at her house. It is in the grand tradition of community: the food is secondary to the coming together of people you love. We do it here, on this place far from our first home, to bring people closer to us. Laura has planned an elaborate menu, I can tell by the amount of trips it takes to get all of the groceries up the stairs. In my second foolish pursuit of the day, I take a glance and briefly think about carrying everything at once. After picking up three bags and a basket, I decide to call it quits. Once we get settled in the house, Laura, in full recipe mode, tells me that she forgot to get Frank’s hot sauce.
I grab the car keys.
3:30pm, Stop & Shop
I struggle with various levels and types of anxiety, none of them as bad as going to the grocery store. In Columbus, it took me years to get comfortable in a single store. Since we’ve moved, it has been difficult. Grocery stores are more scattered, everything is more expensive, which requires shopping around at multiple ones. Today, I’m sitting in my car in the parking lot, my usual ritual before going inside a grocery store. I’m scrolling my phone with the car windows down. Lena Dunham has posted an apology on Instagram. Like everything else she’s ever written, it feels contrived and overthought, with potential to be good, but not getting there.
3:38pm, Stop & Shop
There are two different types of hot sauce and some bottled water in my small basket. The self-checkout is both a brilliant invention and a great way to measure the patience and compassion you have for others.
5:40pm, Living Room
College football season is back in full swing, and I’m eagerly flipping through multiple games at once. Of my many internal conflicts, being a football fan is the one that I wrestle with the most. It feels, still, very close to my Midwestern roots, something that I have always at least checked in on during Saturdays and Sundays. I do this knowing well that the violence of it, the failure of the game to be accountable to its players, and a number of other things have made it harder for me to rationalize as I’ve gotten older. Still, I find some joy in watching a sport I grew up loving. On a crossing route, a wide receiver is hit, head-first, by a linebacker. It makes a loud noise, even through the television. He is briefly motionless on the turf. I wince, shudder, and turn to another game.
7:15pm, Chapel and State
I treasure the walks I get to take with our dog. Liebchen is a beagle/Australian shepherd mix. Laura found her on the side of the road when she was a puppy, only months old. She’s ten now, and I’ve been her co-owner officially for four of those years. We understand each other. She, like me, suffers from multiple anxiety issues, most stemming from her abandonment when she was small. She is a peaceful, quiet dog. But is also often on edge, silently overwhelmed by the world around her. When I’m not traveling, I’ve gotten in the habit of taking her on walks in the evening. It’s our time. She’s not in love with the loud and frantic pace of our city, and oftentimes approaches the sidewalk in a tedious fashion. Today, a child asks to pet her, and I say yes. The little girl runs at her, all hands, and Liebchen freezes a bit. This is her routine. A child eagerly approaches, she freezes, and lets them excitedly and aimlessly run their hands all over her. Today, she gently licks the small girl’s hand, almost out of courtesy, and the girl giggles and runs away. As we round the corner, Liebchen looks up at me and sighs. It signals “how long until home again?”
8:58, Living Room
Email catch-up. Sarah says our reading next weekend has sold out. Credit card bill due. Gym, telling me labor day hours. I scroll through the easy ones and save the hard ones for later: interview questions, website responses, anything that will require me to glance at my overwhelming calendar of reading dates for the next several months. I mutter something to myself about needing a day off, before remembering that THIS is my day off. I turn off my computer and turn up the volume on the television.
I never go to bed this early anymore. The goal of this Saturday was to do nothing and go to bed early. But, going to bed is vastly different than falling asleep, as I should know by now. Still, it is calming to hear, even through the closed window, the harsh wind swishing the leaves around in its wide mouth. The air feels heavy. A storm, it seems, is truly coming.