Timestamps are approximate.
4:30 am. Since I’ve started working overnights, I’ve found it hard to tell when my days end or begin. As my shift comes to a close, one of my co-workers asks me how I got such big calves. I find his question curious. Why do I have big calves? What’s with my body anyway? I write his question down on my iPhone. At the moment, I use the Drafts app for these one-liners. In the past, I used the Notes app. As you’ll see, technology plays an important roll in my writing life. Maybe it is because of the immediacy, or maybe because of the convenience.
5:00 am. I get on the R train at Prospect Avenue and transfer to the A train at Jay Street-MetroTech. On the train, I see a woman on her way to work wearing see-through high heeled rain boots. I will probably never use this in a poem or a story, but I make a note of it. I feel like much of my writing life is spent collecting and arranging fragments. Sometimes I’ll spend weeks just collecting until one day I’ll try to mash them all together like a Kurt Schwitters or Max Ernst collage.
On the train ride home, a drunk man at the back of the car starts harassing people. An older homeless gentleman gets on with a shopping cart and the drunk man starts hooting and hollering at him. The homeless gentleman says, “Oh no,” under his breath and rolls his eyes. “Hey, hey, are we at Broadway Junction yet?” the drunk man shouts. A train car full of people and no one responds to him.
6:00 am. I get off the train at the Ralph Avenue stop and start walking to my apartment but I get sidetracked when I see some weathered signage. I take a photo of the signage. I’m part of a group on Facebook called Involuntary Painting, so when I’m walking around the city I’m always looking for some misshapen blob of paint or some tattered sign to photograph. The key to understanding involuntary painting is that it must be unintentional.
I go to the bodega by my apartment and order my usual sandwich, the Broadway Special. I’ve had this sandwich so many times that I don’t really know what’s in it anymore. All I know is it has a lot of turkey and some melted cheese. The cook teases me. He says it’s too early and that I should be eating breakfast.
6:30 am. I enter the apartment and Wally, my housemate’s dog, barks from inside her room. I eat the sandwich and fall asleep. I have a dream where I’ve woken up in San Francisco. In my dream, it’s night and I’m in the backyard of my old house, a place nicknamed Bay Area 51. I walk up the stairs and enter the house through the back door. Inside its pitch black and empty. There’s no furniture. I stumble my way into what I believe is the living room. My old housemate Tasho is there. He whispers something to me in the dark. Then we see some car lights flash on the wall and hear the voices of the rest of our old housemates. It’s almost as if we were all called back to that house by some kind of magnetic energy.
2:00 pm. Wally’s barking wakes me up. He barks at the front door as the neighbors go up and down the stairs. My housemate has gone to work. It’s just Wally and me. I walk to the bodega again. There’s been a shift change and it’s a new cook. I order a cheeseburger and fries for lunch. I take my laundry to the laundromat.
4:00 pm. I’m at my computer, looking over my writing notifications. I have several weekly writing prompts set up in the Reminders app. This keeps me writing. The older I’ve gotten, the harder it is to stay organized and focused. These notifications help. They range from simple goals like “write a poem this week” or “write a diary entry in Day One” to more project-based goals. I don’t always complete my goals, but it’s good to have them.
One project I’ve been neglecting is my irregular reports that I send out through Tiny Letter. I have the newest one outlined already and I spend the next several hours writing the text. For me, the reports function as a substitute for a blog. I write about the art I’ve seen, the events I’ve gone to, the places I’ve been, and my life in general. For organizational reasons, I compose all of my projects in the Ulysses app.
5:00 pm. Wally comes into my room and messes with his blanket. Eventually, he settles on just sitting in my doorway.
5:30 pm. My writing gets interrupted by a call from my boss. He asks me if I want to work full-time. I say, “Yes, of course.” He says he didn’t want to take Ashley’s word for it and wanted to speak with me first. He says he’s working on it and he’ll get back to me later.
5:50 pm. My boss calls back. He’s updated my schedule. I go full-time starting Monday. By now, I’ve just about finished a draft of my newest irregular report. Another of my writing notifications is to do some free writing. I use the Flowstate app for this. With the Flowstate app, you have to keep writing for a certain amount of time or the text will disappear. I do several five-minute writing exercises. Mine often read like semi-automatic texts. Much of my regular writing is done through association and collage, so these free ramblings are a nice change of pace. I haven’t figured out what I’m going to do with the finished pieces.
6:30 pm. I start watching Swamp Thing, which I haven’t seen in maybe fifteen years. At some point, I stop watching it and start listening to Marc Maron’s podcast. He’s interviewing Geena Davis. They mention The Fly and for some reason it reminds me of Swamp Thing.
9:30 pm. I don’t work tonight but my friend Tooth is performing nearby at a secret venue called The Glove. I walk up Ralph Avenue, stopping to get a half-pint of whiskey, and head to the location. I run into Tooth on the way in. He’s headed out to get some beers. Four or five bands play. Some are punk, some are electronic noise projects (like Tooth’s). I notice the guitarist for one of the punk bands is also the co-owner of the best bookstore in Brooklyn, Better Read Than Dead.
2:00 am. On the way home I stop at a bodega near the venue and get a steak burrito. New York burritos are very mediocre compared to San Francisco burritos, but they are okay drunk food. I get home and my housemate is awake. I just got health insurance and she asks me if I’ve made a doctor’s appointment yet. I haven’t. Wally is happy we are both home.
3:00 am. Still kind of drunk, and with a migraine coming on, I try to work on my writing a little but it feels uncomfortable. Then I try to read a few poems from Ariana Reines’ new collection A Sand Book. I’m too drunk to concentrate. I put on a documentary about UFOs and pass out.
Brandon Freels has an MS in Writing/Publishing from Portland State University. His poems have appeared in The Bitter Oleander, Exquisite Corpse, Hobart, and other publications. He currently lives in Bedford–Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, and works at a home improvement supply store. You can follow him on Twitter at @koalacanth or visit his website at brandonfreels.com.