Mayukh Sen (@senatormayukh) is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer based in New York.
12:32 A.M., the study desk in my apartment, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY
My friend Sarah is in from Philly and sleeping on my couch. We’re watching Arthur, and it’s an episode where Francine is using too much toilet water. It’s Season 10. I’m deep in transcribing for this gigantic piece I got assigned about two weeks ago. It’s good money; I’ve spoken to 30 people for it. I’m taking continual breaks to monitor the situation unfolding at the Seattle Tacoma airport, where an airport employee apparently stole and crashed a plane. Scary shit! I’m flying for the first time in two years on Monday. I come across a clip of the guy talking to air traffic control saying that it’s “going to disappoint them to hear that I did this,” the people who love him. He calls himself “just a broken guy, got a few screws loose I guess. Never really knew it, until now.” Jesus.
Francine broke the toilet lid in a tussle with her sister, Katherine. No!
My friend Thora and I are texting looking for video of the plane crash. I’m getting MH370 flashbacks—it’s weird to be thinking about where I was when I saw that situation unfold, like, four years ago.
I’m in hell. 3,000 words of this piece are due by the end of the weekend. I’m not quite sure how I’ll do this—hosting a guest I love dearly and certainly don’t want to treat like shit, finishing a piece I care about and will pay two months of rent, and preparing for a reporting trip across the country that I’m taking on Monday. Freelancing makes me feel as if I’m in college again—I’m losing my mind balancing commitments and working deep into the night.
It’s a new episode and Arthur is talking about a fucking antique chair! I’m finishing two more transcriptions and going to bed. My whole body is yawning.
1:08, my bedroom, lights off
I give up on the transcriptions. I’m tired and I can’t stop reading about this Seattle mess. I’m so deep in this that I’m refreshing the homepage of Heavy dot com, never a good sign. Good night.
6:15, my bedroom, obviously
My alarm wakes me up. I’m searching Twitter for any updates on the Seattle crash and there’s nothing, really.
8:01, my bathroom
Taking a shower. Sarah’s still asleep.
I get out of the shower. Sarah’s awake and wants to go to a coffee shop. I tell her I’m down to go around 9, once I finish my squats. Once I return to my room, horror—because I’m an idiot, I left a window open overnight, so everything directly beneath it is now soaked because it rained. Haha, fuck! This includes a very old laptop that once belonged to my dad that I’ve owned since he died last year, though I’ve never used it because I can’t figure out the password. I dry it off with my blanket.
Meanwhile, I can’t stop thinking of Angelica Pickles singing, “it’s raining, it’s pouring” from a very, very early episode of Rugrats. A great television moment; it’s wonderful and I don’t believe it’s on YouTube. Please fact-check me on this. It wasn’t there when I checked a few weeks ago.
According to the Unresolved Mysteries subreddit, Q Lazzarus of “Goodbye Horses” fame has been found and she is a bus driver. Fuck! Texting a friend who’d been working on a story about her. I’d be pissed.
Watching Arthur again while doing squats, which are a fucking pain every day. Arthur’s having his first sleepover.
Done with squats. Excited. Feeling firm! Sarah asks me to go get coffee somewhere. She hates Wiliamsburg but says I have “good taste in coffee,” and I’m so excited to prove her dead wrong.
9:16, Toby’s Estate Coffee, N 6th Street
I bring her to Toby’s Estate Coffee a block and a half away from me. I’m so comfortable; it’s still raining, which gives me an excuse to wear my raincoat, which is so large that it swallows my torso. She hates it instantly. We do this awkward little dance where the cashier asks if we’re paying together, and because I’m first, I volunteer to, but he doesn’t hear me so we pay separately. I am quietly relieved.
We’re sitting down at a table and it’s sparsely populated, a rarity for a weekend. I wonder if it has to do with the L train not running this weekend. I’m disentangling my white headphones, which contains separate wires (wires? strings? I don’t know) for separate ears. Are these airport headphones? I don’t know, but I wish I hadn’t brought them over here. I need to finish transcribing.
Sarah’s staring at me across the table, which sucks, because I’ve got my headphones in and am trying to work but she’s bored as shit waiting for her coffee. She tells me she’s supremely unimpressed with the people this space attracts. She asks me why I live here and I shrug. She tells me there’s someone who looks a vampire behind me, and there’s no way I can gracefully crane my head over and see, so I try to glance in the large, wide mirror hanging at the front of the space, near where the baristas are. But I don’t spot anyone who looks remotely vampiric. What’s her definition of a vampire?
Sarah has forced us to move tables to the couch, because her back hurts. It’s fine! I’m accommodating. Sarah is bored, reading the book she’s brought with her in starts and stops. She just Instagrammed me with the caption “I hate Williamsburg.”
It’s cold as shit in here but I’m almost done with the tapes.
Great news: We’re leaving the coffee shop to go to fucking Duane Reade, because I don’t really have toothpaste or lotion and I need a new batch of Claritin for my trip. My Epipens expired three years ago, and I’m allergic to quite a lot!
12:06, Duane Reade, Bedford Ave, Williamsburg
Wandering around Duane Reade. Claritin’s too expensive. Walitin it is, baby!
Can’t find my friend. Where the fuck is she?
Back from Duane Reade. She was upstairs. Sarah wants these shoes of mine that don’t quite fit me and I’m tempted to charge her for them. They were $39!
Sarah tells me she wants Thai food because she’s craving sticky rice. I don’t know how to diplomatically tell her that I’d really like to file this piece before my trip and can’t envision a scenario in which I pry myself from my laptop. She reads the distress on my face and asks me if I still love her. No shit, of course I do, I say, but I’m reminded that I’m a fundamentally antisocial person who needs to be left alone often in order to function. Or, at the very least, I’m the kind of person who isn’t accustomed to being around the same person for extended periods of time. I’m definitely never getting married. Imagine being my husband.
12:36, Williamsburg Thai
An older Indian woman sits down next to us with a white man and East Asian woman and I immediately think of my mother, who lives in New Jersey and is visiting her sister in Texas, which, for some reason, makes me miss her hard. We speak every day. I wonder how they got here, these people sitting next to us, because the L train’s not running this weekend. Did they have to take a bus? Did they come from New Jersey?
They’re taking a picture together, standing right in front of the cashier. Adorable! Are they work friends? I don’t know. I ordered a sour and spicy soup with rice noodles, pork, and fried wonton skin; it’s totally perfect. Sarah ordered some sticky rice and she’s disappointed with it—the clumps are barely holding together; the grains are separating far too easily. I’m half-disappointed in myself for bringing her here, the same way one might be when showing a dear friend your favorite movie that they end up snoring through.
2:24, my fucking apartment
Haha, whoops! I forgot to keep track of this shit. Sarah left after, for some reason I couldn’t quite discern, playing ‘Bleeding Love’ (????) repeatedly on her phone. It wasn’t the whole song; it was, like, a 10-second snippet, over and over again, a portal to my own private hell. She took an umbrella and those shoes of mine and, once again, I can’t figure out a way to gracefully tell her to pay me. I love her, though, and I hope she makes her bus. Now that I’m alone, though, I tell myself to take a bit of a rest, finish transcribing, and head over to a nearby cafe and make some headway on this draft.
4:02, my bedroom
Still at home, transcribing in my underwear. Maybe I won’t leave after all—though, god, Bedford Avenue is just stupidly placid without the constant and suffocating stream of tourists who congest it every weekend. A walk might be nice. Is this what the L train shutdown will look like? Should I stay here? (I really hate typing this as much as you hate reading this.) Maybe I will move to Maine.
I’m still in my apartment. I just sent an incredibly difficult text to someone and I want to throw up! Lately, I’ve been finding myself in situations that feel like mini-crises, forcing me to get out of situations with people I know in a half-friendly, half-professional capacity. I hate it. I’d like to just focus on my work, but each day I spend my energy putting out small fires. Anyway, I’m still in my underwear in my room. I can hear my roommate watching Friends and I’m listening to Blue Oyster Cult.
I’m so excited not to drink tonight! I’ve recently taken a vow to stop drinking—two days ago. I hate feeling as though my body is one I can’t recognize, which was happening those mornings after I drank. It’s a terrible feeling, really, and my personality isn’t quite predisposed to drinking in moderation.
Of course, this happens every few months—this self-imposed mandate to halt drinking for reasons I say are good for my wallet and my bodily constitution, only for me to resume, like, five days later. Let’s see if this one sticks.
I send a text to my friend Thora: “Is this supposed to be, like, WELL WRITTEN?” We’re talking about Enormous Eye, of course. Because if you’re thinking, man, why the fuck am I reading about this loser’s boring-ass day, I sure as shit know this is the most boring shit of all time. I’m really sorry for that.
Wow, incredible news: I’m done transcribing. I can’t imagine anyone who could possibly give a shit about this, but here I am.
6:36, my kitchen
Well, shit. Still in the apartment. Heated up my leftovers from lunch. My roommate’s cleaning the bathroom because I cleaned the rest of the apartment. I’m sitting at our kitchen island on this high, garish red chair I inherited from my former roommate. I’m scrolling Twitter and I just learned that VS Naipaul died. Huh! I’m switching my trends from New York to India to London to see if he’s trending anywhere. Nowhere!
It’s been, like, four hours since lunch and this soup has aged poorly! So muddy. (Yeah, I’m a food writer.) I’m very upset.
Seeing the Naipaul tweets roll in. Exciting.
He abused his mistress, allegedly. What a dick! Rest in peace!
8:01, back in my bedroom
Currently reading “A Collection of the Worst Things V.S. Naipaul Has Ever Said,” a predictably terrible list.
Making some headway on this fucking fatberg of a piece while listening to ‘I Know There’s Something Going On’ by Frida. This isn’t as good a song as I remember. Disappointing.
Listening to ‘Do You Know Where You’re Going To’ from Mahogany, a movie I read a particularly salacious blind item about recently. I’ve only recently unblocked my go-to blind item site from this extension I recently downloaded called “Blocksite.” I figured that reading the site was corrupting my brain. I’m not sure why I unblocked it, but I’ve certainly been feeling more irritable now that I read it regularly.
Just FaceTimed my mom, like I do every night, only it’s different this time because she’s visiting my aunt in Texas! It was totally lovely seeing their faces. I wish I were there.
12:06, my bed
Shit! Forgot about this. Didn’t this suck? I think I might be able to turn this piece in tomorrow without dying; I’ve made good progress, and I’m beginning to see it with clearer eyes. I hope I’ll sleep tonight. My flight’s on Monday, and I historically can’t sleep the night before flights. I’m not sure if I’ll even try to fall asleep tomorrow. This almost guarantees that I’ll be wandering through EWR like some tiny zombie wearing a baseball cap. There’s no meaningful way to end this. I’ve had a boring Saturday, but hey, here it fucking is.