My Year of Rest and Relaxation - Ottessa Moshfegh Page 0,1

ignore things that didn’t concern me. Subway workers went on strike. A hurricane came and went. It didn’t matter. Extraterrestrials could have invaded, locusts could have swarmed, and I would have noted it, but I wouldn’t have worried.

When I needed more pills, I ventured out to the Rite Aid three blocks away. That was always a painful passage. Walking up First Avenue, everything made me cringe. I was like a baby being born—the air hurt, the light hurt, the details of the world seemed garish and hostile. I relied on alcohol only on the days of these excursions—a shot of vodka before I went out and walked past all the little bistros and cafes and shops I’d frequented when I was out there, pretending to live a life. Otherwise I tried to limit myself to a one-block radius around my apartment.

The men who worked at the bodega were all young Egyptians. Besides my psychiatrist Dr. Tuttle, my friend Reva, and the doormen at my building, the Egyptians were the only people I saw on a regular basis. They were relatively handsome, a few of them more than the others. They had square jaws and manly foreheads, bold, caterpillary eyebrows. And they all looked like they had eyeliner on. There must have been half a dozen of them—brothers or cousins, I assumed. Their style deterred me. They wore soccer jerseys and leather racing jackets and gold chains with crosses and played Z100 on the radio. They had absolutely no sense of humor. When I’d first moved to the neighborhood, they’d been flirty, even annoyingly so. But once I’d begun shuffling in with eye boogers and scum at the corners of my mouth at odd hours, they quit trying to win my affection.

“You have something,” the man behind the counter said one morning, gesturing to his chin with long brown fingers. I just waved my hand. There was toothpaste crusted all over my face, I discovered later.

After a few months of sloppy, half-asleep patronage, the Egyptians started calling me “boss” and readily accepted my fifty cents when I asked for a loosie, which I did often. I could have gone to any number of places for coffee, but I liked the bodega. It was close, and the coffee was consistently bad, and I didn’t have to confront anyone ordering a brioche bun or no-foam latte. No children with runny noses or Swedish au pairs. No sterilized professionals, no people on dates. The bodega coffee was working-class coffee—coffee for doormen and deliverymen and handymen and busboys and housekeepers. The air in there was heavy with the perfume of cheap cleaning detergents and mildew. I could rely on the clouded freezer full of ice cream and popsicles and plastic cups of ice. The clear Plexiglas compartments above the counter were filled with gum and candy. Nothing ever changed: cigarettes in neat rows, rolls of scratch tickets, twelve different brands of bottled water, beer, sandwich bread, a case of meats and cheeses nobody ever bought, a tray of stale Portuguese rolls, a basket of plastic-wrapped fruit, a whole wall of magazines that I avoided. I didn’t want to read more than newspaper headlines. I steered clear of anything that might pique my intellect or make me envious or anxious. I kept my head down.

Reva would show up at my apartment with a bottle of wine from time to time and insist on keeping me company. Her mother was dying of cancer. That, among many other things, made me not want to see her.

“You forgot I was coming over?” Reva would ask, pushing her way past me into the living room and flipping on the lights. “We talked last night, remember?”

I liked to call Reva just as the Ambien was kicking in, or the Solfoton, or whatever. According to her, I only ever wanted to talk about Harrison Ford or Whoopi Goldberg, which she said was fine. “Last night you recounted the entire plot of Frantic. And you did the scene where they’re driving in the car, with the cocaine. You went on and on.”

“Emmanuelle Seigner is amazing in that movie.”

“That’s exactly what you said last night.”

I was both relieved and irritated when Reva showed up, the way you’d feel if someone interrupted you in the middle of suicide. Not that what I was doing was suicide. In fact, it was the opposite of suicide. My hibernation was self-preservational. I thought that it was going to save my life.

“Now get in the shower,” Reva would say,