Haley Mlotek lives somewhere in Brooklyn. She’s getting out of bed in five more minutes, she swears.
I don’t keep a diary because I only write what I want someone to read. I like journals and I love records, in theory. My mind is always counting and cataloguing even when I’m not paying attention to it. What I’m going to wear or do or say. Still, I know there are two ways keeping a diary would be bad for me: the first is the fear that I would learn to trust the diary too much and would write things no one should ever read, and then it would be discovered and I would be embarrassed or ruined (same difference). This is almost certainly a fear that comes from reading Harriet the Spy so many times as a kid.
Somehow that book has not inspired me to try an egg cream but it has influenced a lifelong gag rule against my own thoughts. There’s also another fear of being too vain, of vamping for an imaginary audience, which is gross: Dear diary, today I did a good thing. Dear diary, today I did a bad thing. Dear diary, today there was an event that confirmed myself as the beleaguered but beloved heroine of the movie that is my life. Dear diary, can you tell I need to relax?
The other day I was reading the first issue of Off Assignment, which was given to me by the founder, Colleen Kinder. I met Colleen recently and knew I liked her immediately. In it she writes that memory is the best editor. This is true, and also another worry to add to my accumulating anxieties. I worry a lot about forgetting, or that in my self-reflexive self-editing mode I’ll leave out the good stuff, or filter it in service tof narrative completeness, and then what’s left would be cloying, fake. Which is all to say: the car radio clock just clicked its digits into midnight.
12am, somewhere in Brooklyn, a car driving away from Sarah’s house.
It’s raining. There’s lightning. When I was little I learned you can estimate the distance of a storm by counting the seconds between lightning and thunder. You see the lightning and then you—if you’re me—count the seconds in between both. One one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand. Then when the lightning flashes again divide the number by two, and that’s how many miles away the storm is. Where did I learn that? If I learned it in school (Canadian school) why wasn’t the unit of distance kilometers? There’s no thunder that I can hear. Just bright blue lightning and nothing to count. The radio is saying that a tree fell on a road somewhere because of the storm, the tunnels are moving slowly into Brooklyn. Oh, someone is texting me.
12:16am, somewhere in Brooklyn, my house.
There’s a church by my house that always has the best signs. As I passed it I made sure to see what it says today: this church is prayer conditioned. Now that I’m home the rain seems to be coming down harder. I go to the kitchen and take out the champagne grapes Dylan told me to put in the freezer (he was right) and hold them in my mouth like ice cubes while I decide what to do next. I’m going to take a shower before I go to bed, which I almost never do. Before-bed showers seem too decadent. But I am also too sweaty.
12:28am somewhere in Brooklyn, my bed.
Now I can hear the thunder but my contacts are out and my eyes, basically useless, can’t tell the difference between what’s my bad lightbulb and what’s the sky. I’m counting anyway, endlessly. I showered, washed my face, brushed my teeth, brushed my hair. Toner, eye cream, serum, essence, moisturizer, lip balm, book, glasses, bed. One one thousand two one thousand three one thousand four. Oh, someone is texting me.
12:50am somewhere in Brooklyn, my bed.
Last week I was in Toronto and was introduced to a friend of a friend. He had just written a novel and described it as well, it’s about space, but really it’s about marriage, and I was like, sold. He sent me a copy that arrived in New York the same day I did. It opens with a Leonora Carrington quotation and there’s a note I find inside that I am glad to have as a bookmark.
This is my first Saturday back in New York. I’ve been away six weeks and it does feel like at least as many lifetimes. All of my routines are funny and familiar. I don’t usually shower before bed. I don’t usually read before bed. But I still recognize it as what I know, so maybe it’s my new routine. It’s not raining anymore. Someone is texting me. I tell them it’s time for bed.
6:49am somewhere in Brooklyn, my bed.
Probably my least bad bad habit is waking up early and then staying in bed for too long, not sleeping but pretending to not be awake.
8:55am somewhere in Brooklyn, my bed.
9:55am somewhere in Brooklyn, NOT my bed.
Cleanser, toner, eye cream, essence, moisturizer, sunscreen, primer, concealer, blush, powder, eyebrow pencil, highlighter, mascara, curling iron, more sunscreen, a good outfit. I am going out. I hear something fall to the floor but when I check my earrings are still in my ears, my keys are still in my pocket. It’s nothing.
10:02am somewhere in Brooklyn, the deli by my subway stop, not the one where I get my fruit, the one on the corner.
I need an iced coffee and in August in New York I feel very strongly that the best iced coffee is a trash iced coffee. “Trash” is a term of endearment here, the same way I’m going to describe cold brew as “nice,” oversimplifying the best way to describe how intensely committed I am to this preference. Cold brew or whatever kind of “nice” coffee is FINE but, I don’t know, I never want it the way I want an iced coffee with milk from a cart or a corner place.
I brought the book with me on the subway, another thing I don’t usually do. Usually I put one song on repeat and listen to it from the time I lock my front door to the time I get to where I’m going. The subway is my thinking time, and reading, for me, is its own activity; I prefer it when I’m sitting down and reading for a real length of time, rather than here and there throughout the day. But I don’t feel like unstructured thinking right now. Probably because this Enormous Eye has amplified by tendency to narrate everything I’m thinking. Can you believe my brain is like this all the time?!?! Luckily this day will be over in hours and you can go back to your own calm consciousness.
10:34am somewhere in Manhattan, my bank.
I have a check that won’t deposit in a machine or on the app, for some reason, so when I see my bank (my bank, so possessive!) I go in. I open my bag and see, first, that the cap of my highlighter has come off, and there’s a bright yellow stain on the seam. I’m more concerned about the highlighter than the bag, which is machine washable and cheap, but the highlighter is one of my favorites—so bright and liquid! Clearly. I hope it still works. Then, right beside it, I see my earring, the one I put on not thirty minutes ago, and I put my hand up to my ear as the cashier is writing down my card number as though that’s more reliable confirmation than what I just saw. How did it fall off into my bag? I’m lucky, I know, but I’m also confused. When I leave the bank I see a banana peel waiting for me. My luck today is out of a cartoon. I step over it; not today, fruit Satan!
The last time I did Enormous Eye I was away for a weekend, working on a story about the archives of musicians and interviewing people in D.C. Before that trip but for the same story I had interviewed Marvin J. Taylor, the head of Special Collections and the Fales Library at NYU, and we had mostly talked about their David Wojnarowicz collection. So I’m taking myself to the Whitney show this morning. I wanted to go the whole time I was away.
I liked talking to Marvin so much. I think about that interview more than maybe any other interview I’ve done. We spoke a lot about how much in the Wojnarowicz archive is unfinished or in progress, and the kind of responsibility that leaves for the archivist, if there are no instructions or intentions designated for the artifacts. Marvin told me something that got cut from my final draft, but it’s what I think about—he told me that once he showed a class of students the “magic box,” which is what they call, if I’m remembering correctly, a shoebox that was found under Wojnarowicz’s bed after he died. Inside there was a collection of small objects that did seem to have some relevance to Wojnarowicz’s practice—like a mask, small animal figurines—but they could never figure out why he stored it there, or if it represented what he had done or a project he never got to do. So Marvin was explaining this, he tells me, and a student became very, very angry. He yelled at Marvin that they had no right to be looking at something so private without permission. Marvin and I didn’t speculate about where those feelings came from, but instead talked about why we might express feelings like those in that manner, what kind of anger and heartbreak happens when you’re so close to an archive like this. I’ve never forgotten it. Another sign of memory as an editor.
I am at the museum and I decided to check my bag. Not carrying anything is another thing I feel strongly about. Free hands are a luxury and pockets should serve their purpose, thank you.
12pm, somewhere in Manhattan, a bench.
I have a hard time making decisions. I was supposed to meet a friend at 1, but now two of our other friends can meet us at 4, and one of those friends is the person I was supposed to have dinner with. This is like a math word problem. If Jazmine, who has plans at 5, can meet us at 4… I don’t know what to do with myself in the in-between hours. Should I go home? Should I go see a movie? I’m looking at the times, and nothing is either close enough or would end before 4pm. I should go home and make lunch and read, I know, but I’m still sitting.
1:51pm, somewhere in Brooklyn, my kitchen.
I read the whole way home. The train went express and I had to get off and wait for another one, so I am glad I brought the book, both so I would have something to distract myself with and because it’s getting good.
I am making lunch with Dylan’s leftovers from a shoot he did this past week. He is a food stylist (I know, it sounds fake. It’s real I swear). Since it’s August all of his print magazine work is about the holidays—Thanksgiving and Christmas. That’s why I have champagne grapes in my freezer. That’s why I have figs and brussel sprouts and turkey legs in my fridge. I am thankful for this incongruously festive free food. Oh, someone is texting me. It’s Dylan. He wants to know how my “enormous day” is.
I promised a friend I would read a draft of her essay, so I read it on my phone while I’m standing in the kitchen beside the open window. It’s so good. I go to my computer to do a real read, a careful read, and then I email her to tell her what I think (which is that I love her writing and her). I answer all my other texts. I have a headache now, but I feel like working. Sometimes when my head hurts I concentrate a little better. Like I don’t have the strength to think too hard, so I can focus on one thing at a time. I open a document I started yesterday for a draft that is due Friday. It’s so blank.
2:25pm, somewhere in Brooklyn, my desk.
I wrote exactly one paragraph. It’s fine. I want to finish reading my book. It’s raining very hard now, which is why I have a headache. The rain reminds me to drink a glass of water and in the time it takes for my tap to run cold the rain stops.
I’m trying to remember my last “enormous day.” I think it was exactly three years ago, so I look it up; it was three years and four weeks ago. I remember a lot of that day very well, even before re-reading it. It was also raining briefly, which caused a headache; it was also too hot; it was also supposed to be a day off, but I kept stopping to work. I wonder how much of that memory comes from writing it down. Maybe I would have forgotten that Saturday if I hadn’t been paying such close attention to everything I did and everywhere I went and the time on the clocks, stopping to take notes in my Notes app the way I’m doing now, three years and four weeks later. I do not, for example, have a very clear memory of what I did the Sunday three years, four weeks, and one day ago. I think I worked, and I definitely walked to a CVS to buy nail polish because my nails were bare and I was annoyed to see them be so ugly in my peripheral vision. My nails are also bare now, but I find them less annoying. At least I’m not compelled to walk to a drugstore and buy something just to make them prettier. This must be maturity.
2:57pm, somewhere in Brooklyn, my couch.
I finished the book. Dylan texts to say I wish there was a You here, with exactly that punctuation. Upper case: a You. That’s the plot of a book I just finished, I respond, because it basically is. It’s about space, and marriage. He does not respond. I’m going to work a little more.
3:33pm, somewhere in Brooklyn, my bedroom.
Jazmine texts to say that she can meet me now if I’m free, and since I selfishly chose a bar close to my house, yes, I can meet twenty-seven minutes early. I’m so relieved. Twenty-seven minutes is such a weird span of time. It’s too short for anything significant and long enough to feel wasted. Now I get to rush. I put on new earrings and lip balm and leave.
8:20pm, somewhere in Brooklyn, a bar too close to my house.
We spent five hours at this bar with the good windows and the good Lambrusco. This is exactly the right length of time. I could have spent another five there. I am so happy to see my friends, who I love, who I cannot stop hugging when they walk in, who look even more beautiful than I remembered. I love them I love them I love them!!!!!! And now I am in a car to meet Hazel, my friend who I love. She always gives me the best plus-ones to the best concerts, and also she has the best hair. We are going to see Mitski.
In the backseat a girl is telling her friend about the boy she likes: they mostly talk about science fiction and the concept of time, she says, but they don’t talk about their jobs or their families. I almost tell her that’s like the plot of this book I just read but I should not be listening, let alone spying and writing this down. Have I learned nothing from our friend Harriet?
9:07pm, somewhere in Brooklyn, a venue far away from my house.
Mitski goes on. She plays all of my favorite songs. I take a few videos for my friends who couldn’t come; just the choruses that I know they’d really, really want videos of.
10:40pm, somewhere in Brooklyn, a venue far away from my house and far away from a working subway or running bus.
Hazel assesses our options and gets us a car. We don’t live close together but she explains, with an elegant wave of her hand, we live in the same general vicinity. She’s so right. The car pulls up and when we get in the seats have a pink polka-dot patterned cover, like the driver knew to expect us. On the ride home we talk about gossip as a concept and a conversation starter, and about the books we’re reading, and why we like them, or I guess it would be more precise to say we talk about why liking is an inadequate feeling for the way we think about what we’re reading and watching right now.
11:14pm, somewhere in Brooklyn, my kitchen.
I need a glass of water and frozen champagne grapes. For once I put the grapes into a bowl, like an adult human woman, rather than pick them with my fingers and eat standing up. I take them to bed while I’m answering the texts I missed. I’m asking everyone about the songs they put on repeat and why and when. Two summers ago I started a new job and the only song I could listen to on my way there and back was “Thursday Girl,” by Mitski, which she played tonight. “Body Party” by Ciara is mentioned. Now I have to watch the video for “Body Party” by Ciara.
11:33pm, somewhere in Brooklyn, my bed.
I don’t know how to spend the next 27 minutes.