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the white table

The days are not long. The nights are short. Guitars are hiding in cases, with scraps of paper tucked inside. The pen is full. There is a fresh notebook, with creamy pages. The little white desk is in the middle of the living room, a cascade of receipts and laundry perched on it.

I clean it off, have lunch as it stares back at me. This focal point, this fulcrum where my thoughts become real, this cheap folding table from Ikea. It is familiar, and patient.

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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