Look at your calendar. Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013. What were you doing that morning? I bet you don’t remember. It was a while ago after all, and unless something extraordinary happened, it was probably just another day for you. Yet in my case, both seem to be true. It was the kind of morning I would have missed 99 times out of 100, but the fact that I should have missed it, but didn’t, is what makes it so miraculous:
Before I go to bed each night, I set two alarms — one on my phone and one on my alarm clock. I’m terrified that I won’t get up for class or work, though I’ve never slept through an alarm in my life or really been late to anything worth setting the extra alarm for. But better safe than sorry, so that’s what I did. And on that Tuesday morning, my phone woke me up as planned. So far, everything was good.
The first 30 seconds of every day are a blur for me. That day, I groggily wobbled around like a drunk, looking at Facebook on my phone through squinting eyes and kicking dirty clothes out of the way until I remembered that I was supposed to shower.
So, I took off my boxers and wrapped a towel around my waist.
I wore flip flops into the shower as usual because I don’t trust the foot fungus of my housemates — people piss in there when we throw parties and there’s a weird orange-something growing up toward the showerhead.
While the water was getting hot, I peed. Remember this fact.
Then I got into the shower and washed myself — body, hair, face, in that order. When the shower was over I pressed my face into the towel. It was a nice feeling. I dried off head-to-toe, wrapped the towel around my waist once again and stepped out.
Contacts, gel in the hair, shave, tooth brushing. And, as if I had forgotten from the morning before, those moments of looking in the mirror gave me the opportunity to see my face up close: the acne on my forehead that had been replaced with the acne on my cheeks; the little mole on my jaw; the few creases in my skin. My lips were chapped. The cut from shaving under my chin two days ago was healing, but might have still been noticeable up close. I recall spending a little extra time on my hair because it didn’t look right the way I put the gel in that morning. And it was an important morning. But aren’t they all?
I pick my clothes based on a series of factors: Is what I’m wearing clean enough? Have I worn this combination of shirt and pants too often on that day of the week? Do I look good for the girl I plan on talking to or “accidentally” running into that day?
I tried talking to girls a lot that semester — new ones, or girls I knew but hadn’t blown it with yet. My thinking was that you weren’t going to run into (horny and attractive) girls more frequently than in college. And while I had found that to be majorly true, despite an embarrassingly disproportionate amount of failure in the arena of sex and sensuality, I was hoping that some of them would turn out to be cool enough to talk to in a long-term sort of way, as well.
Which is why I took extra care that morning when it came to factor No. 3 — looking good for the girl. I had class with a cute brunette — let’s call her … Pothos — every Tuesday and Thursday. She was attractive with long hair, long legs and a nice smile, and I suppose we’d had some interesting conversations — awkwardly at first, and then more flirtingly and jokingly as I broke new ground. I had gotten her number and invited her out, but she never responded; I had mixed up a seven and a five. Later on, I had suggested we do something together, but she never committed. I told myself these mishaps were not rejections — I just needed to be more upfront.
I had on a nice red sweater that had received compliments from other girls, and a new pair of brown corduroys that I had bought at H&M in Chicago with my mom over Thanksgiving break. These facts are equally if not more important to this story than Pothos is herself: that sweater was sexy.
I packed my books and laptop into my bag and brought them downstairs with me. I set them on the couch and made breakfast. Sometimes I fry an egg or two while I make oatmeal. Other times, I just eat cereal. That day, I had strawberry pop-tarts and mini-wheats. I always drink whole milk. Looking back, this seems relevant to everything: I drink whole milk.
For whatever reason, I had more time to kill that morning, so I sat on the couch while eating, watching SportsCenter and thinking about the cute brunette, Pothos.
Are dates cliché? Should I just invite her to a party and try to get with her? I didn’t like the colors she used to paint her nails, though; if it didn’t work out, it would all be OK.
When I’d seen Pothos on the first day of classes, I’d thought, “There’s no way I’m going to sit here all semester and not talk to her at least once. Even if I strike out horribly.” At the time, I was trying to be braver about the whole meeting girls thing. They’re undoubtedly frightening and rejection is a nightmare, but I was discovering that it’s better to strikeout than to wonder what would have happened had I just taken a swing at it. Gotta get your at-bats, I told myself.
I rinsed off my plate and bowl and put them in the dishwasher because I’m not an asshole like my housemates.
Was Pothos too hot for me? Was being “too hot” a thing? My friends and I debated this notion numerously. They wanted to know what she looked like. I gave them her name and they deconstructed her profile pictures in the most shallow, banal and sexist of ways, which I resented on principle but admittedly partook in regularly. I told myself I was a good guy. At least, I’m not a bad guy. That’s something.
I locked my front door and went to class.
And … that’s pretty much it.
Everything described leading up to class was maybe 1 percent of the thoughts that were bouncing around in my head that morning. Not that I had a notably sizable amount of thoughts on that day. It’s just that people have a lot of thoughts all the time, constantly.
Perhaps those thoughts, specifically, were unique to that Tuesday morning. But in other ways, they weren’t at all. Pothos becomes Aphrodite next Tuesday, Hera the day after, or maybe even just a plain old Jessica. The individuals themselves don’t really matter, but my pursuit of them certainly does. In the end, routine becomes what we least value and the thing that takes up the most of our lives. Is it ever notable? My sweater is notable. Don’t tell me it isn’t. So are my mini-wheats.
Now look back at your calendar. Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013. Maybe you don’t know what you did that day. But then again, at least partially, maybe you do. Because you’ve spent more time doing it in your life than anything worthy of writing about. You just go through it without noticing. Somehow, it becomes you.