The Briefest Recess

The Briefest Recess



Despite good-faith efforts of both parties (Elliot Suarez and Misha Suarez [nee Jackson]), the Agreement of Legal Separation made on January 3 of this year has proven nonviable. By mutual covenant, it is hereby dissolved. 

Within twenty-one days, Mrs. Suarez will contract for the reinstallation of the front- and back-door locks, such that Mr. Suarez’s key shall again grant entry. 

Irrespective of any convenience fee, Mr. Suarez will unpawn the 1.5-carat rose gold wedding band from the establishment on 14th Street. 

The full expense incurred at the Extended Stay Ramada will be shouldered by Mr. Suarez. The itemized list of incidental charges associated with this invoice will remain sealed.

As to custody: Victoria Suarez will now spend Monday through Friday in the residential home shared by both of her parents. On Saturday and Sunday, the same arrangement will hold. 

For several hours each week, however, Victoria’s attention will be permitted to drift through her bedroom window and out of the house completely. This time will be spent in uneasy speculation about her own prospects in love and at court. She will wonder how much she might be asked to suffer for an as-yet-unmet partner and how much suffering she might be willing to extract of said party. She will wonder how integral sentiment is to the institution, and what other engines may be at work. She will wonder if love is only rendered real by lasting, or if one might encounter a genuine but short-lived varietal. If so, how might one distinguish the annual from the perennial? The court has also wondered as much, truth be told, and it does so now with Victoria’s small jaw set so seriously, and with her defiant pigtails framing her round face like ram horns, offering a pointed reminder that the court’s own home life now is in serious disrepair. The court has taken to reading pagan websites about handfasting—a tradition in which couples make binding commitments to one another but only for a term of two to five years, a term that has come to seem infinitely more reasonable than the prevailing norm, which demands a definite pledge, indefinitely. 

But all that is for consideration later tonight, after the household is asleep and before the dose of NyQuil has done its duty. Now is the time to hit the gavel on its plinth, a ceremony that has become loathsome to the court both for the violence and the impotence of the gesture: forever hammering without ever a nail. The court would prefer a sheaf of wheat to a gavel, or perhaps to break a glass under foot as in the Jewish custom, or maybe to simply pour a beaker full of hydrochloric acid onto the mahogany desk and watch it eat through the finish, through the lumber, and into the desk drawer beneath it. This would be a ceremony more fitting to the court’s role: to unmake what had been made before the court was summoned, even on the best of occasions, as we so order today. 


Dessa has made a career out of bucking traditional genre designations—her resume includes rap sets at Lollapalooza and Glastonbury, choral arrangements, and performances with the Minnesota Orchestra. She co-wrote an episode of the chart-topping podcast Welcome to Night Vale, and was tapped by Lin-Manuel Miranda to record the song “Congratulations” for Billboard’s #1 album The Hamilton Mixtape. Her most recent album, Chime (Doomtree Records), was listed by NPR Music as one of the best albums of 2018 so far. As a writer, Dessa has contributed to The New York Times, MPR, the Star Tribune, and literary journals around the country. Her newest book of essays, My Own Devices (Dutton Books, Penguin Random House), is available now.  

Illustrated by Andres Guzman.

This story can also be found in Paper Darts Volume Seven.

The Instruction

The Instruction