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(looking for) the heartbreaker

It has been more than two months sitting at the little white table in the living room, writing. Pushing out pages, fixing these pages, living with these pages then waking up and chewing them apart again, then adding on a new section. It is a mill, grinding the raw ideas down to a fine powder that may somehow rise and become bread. Or it may not. So many thoughts begin with "what if". What if they get stuck in an old elevator? What if she is not home when they come the first time? What if she is coming back from the market and passes them on the stairs? What if the driver is older? Or younger? What if his brother shows up instead? The questions are greater than the results on the page, the dialogue is whittled down to nubs of something recognizable.

There are cold cups of coffee, emails that go unanswered. The light comes and goes, and most of the work is done in the dark in more ways than one. Cooking dinner helps. Playing some guitar helps. If you are not careful you forge…

about Carl


Carl is the main character in "Divorce in the Afternoon." He is not me, not by a long shot. He is a messy, overlapped Xerox of three men I know. I just fill in the gaps with my own odd experiences when I get lost in the story, like the time I was on a long flight sitting next to a nun. I am Carl the way all of us are Carl, or have been caught in some broken, confused, embarrassing stretch of time. Writing about a common act is a real challenge, because everyone already knows so much (or at least think they do). Who has not been touched by divorce, or witnessed one up close? They are as common as root canals.

I found my way back to this story yesterday, somehow at the little white desk, in the folding white chair as children played downstairs, as a cup of tea grew cold next to my hand. The fountain pen scratches on the empty page. I am just listening. The ink is bright and blue. The story, dark and sad. How can a man be so naive, so far into his life? Is he really such a fool, or does he know deep down what might happen at any time, what phone can ring, what voice at the other side with measured words and then the click of the receiver?

That is what I ask myself, sitting at this little desk in Moscow.

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