My Year of Rest and Relaxation - Ottessa Moshfegh
WHENEVER I WOKE UP, night or day, I’d shuffle through the bright marble foyer of my building and go up the block and around the corner where there was a bodega that never closed. I’d get two large coffees with cream and six sugars each, chug the first one in the elevator on the way back up to my apartment, then sip the second one slowly while I watched movies and ate animal crackers and took trazodone and Ambien and Nembutal until I fell asleep again. I lost track of time in this way. Days passed. Weeks. A few months went by. When I thought of it, I ordered delivery from the Thai restaurant across the street, or a tuna salad platter from the diner on First Avenue. I’d wake up to find voice messages on my cell phone from salons or spas confirming appointments I’d booked in my sleep. I always called back to cancel, which I hated doing because I hated talking to people.
Early on in this phase, I had my dirty laundry picked up and clean laundry delivered once a week. It was a comfort to me to hear the torn plastic bags rustle in the draft from the living room windows. I liked catching whiffs of the fresh laundry smell while I dozed off on the sofa. But after a while, it was too much trouble to gather up all the dirty clothes and stuff them in the laundry bag. And the sound of my own washer and dryer interfered with my sleep. So I just threw away my dirty underpants. All the old pairs reminded me of Trevor, anyway. For a while, tacky lingerie from Victoria’s Secret kept showing up in the mail—frilly fuchsia and lime green thongs and teddies and baby-doll nightgowns, each sealed in a clear plastic Baggie. I stuffed the little Baggies into the closet and went commando. An occasional package from Barneys or Saks provided me with men’s pajamas and other things I couldn’t remember ordering—cashmere socks, graphic T-shirts, designer jeans.
I took a shower once a week at most. I stopped tweezing, stopped bleaching, stopped waxing, stopped brushing my hair. No moisturizing or exfoliating. No shaving. I left the apartment infrequently. I had all my bills on automatic payment plans. I’d already paid a year of property taxes on my apartment and on my dead parents’ old house upstate. Rent money from the tenants in that house showed up in my checking account by direct deposit every month. Unemployment was rolling in as long as I made the weekly call into the automated service and pressed “1” for “yes” when the robot asked if I’d made a sincere effort to find a job. That was enough to cover the copayments on all my prescriptions, and whatever I picked up at the bodega. Plus, I had investments. My dead father’s financial advisor kept track of all that and sent me quarterly statements that I never read. I had plenty of money in my savings account, too—enough to live on for a few years as long as I didn’t do anything spectacular. On top of all this, I had a high credit limit on my Visa card. I wasn’t worried about money.
I had started “hibernating” as best I could in mid-June of 2000. I was twenty-four years old. I watched summer die and autumn turn cold and gray through a broken slat in the blinds. My muscles withered. The sheets on my bed yellowed, although I usually fell asleep in front of the television on the sofa, which was from Pottery Barn and striped blue and white and sagging and covered in coffee and sweat stains.
I didn’t do much in my waking hours besides watch movies. I couldn’t stand to watch regular television. Especially at the beginning, TV aroused too much in me, and I’d get compulsive about the remote, clicking around, scoffing at everything and agitating myself. I couldn’t handle it. The only news I could read were the sensational headlines on the local daily papers at the bodega. I’d quickly glance at them as I paid for my coffees. Bush versus Gore for president. Somebody important died, a child was kidnapped, a senator stole money, a famous athlete cheated on his pregnant wife. Things were happening in New York City—they always are—but none of it affected me. This was the beauty of sleep—reality detached itself and appeared in my mind as casually as a movie or a dream. It was easy to