Each new phase of aloneness reveals that
you were previously less alone than you
thought. – Black Box, Jennifer Egan (fragment)

A smile is like a shield; it freezes your face
into a mask of muscle that you can hide behind.
– Black Box, Jennifer Egan (fragment)

Several of my long-standing fictional interests converged in the writing of Black Box. One involves fiction that takes the form of lists; stories that appear to be told inadvertently, using a narrator’s notes to him or herself. My working title for this story was Lessons Learned, and my hope was to tell a story whose shape would emerge from the lessons the narrator derived from each step in the action, rather than from descriptions of the action itself.