Well, at the outset of the month I committed myself to writing the first few sentences of a new novel during November. Look, I’ve still got a minute before the month’s out, and here they are, hastily penned in the last fifteen minutes. Will they be the first lines? Probably not. Will they even stay? Who knows? But here’s to the power of a deadline.

Ben could tell within minutes of entry that he’d missed Liz. Elena bubbled forth to take his coat, doing the double kiss thing in a way that told him she’d worked hard to make it appear unselfconscious, went on at length about the state of his hair and some coworker-slash-friend he just had to meet, and Ben arranged something affable out of his features while he surveyed the room. Liz wasn’t here, he knew, and he knew this because Liz always left a sort of vacancy behind. Something in the way space and time and conversation curved around her absence like parentheses. Ben couldn’t nail it down, but there was a certain Lizlessness about this party, a way in which everything seemed perfectly placed but not tied together, and it made him want to leave, but, aah, there was his coat wafting closetward over Elena’s bare arm, and the continuing stream of chatter — something now about charcuterie — trailing over her shoulder at him, and the turning of familiar faces in his direction, and Ben was officially, immutably, here.

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