"Straightway after the meal she’d apologize for having to leave so soon, but she had things to do, she said. She never said what. When there were enough of us we’d stay on for an hour or two after she left. She used to say, Stay as long as you like. No one spoke about her when she wasn’t there. I don’t think anyone could have, because no one knew her. You always went home with the feeling of having experienced a sort of empty nightmare, of having spent a few hours as the guest of strangers who were strangers too, of having lived through a space of time without any consequences and without any cause, human or other. It was like having crossed a third frontier, having been on a train, having waited in doctors’ waiting rooms, hotels, airports. In summer we had lunch on a big terrace looking over the river, and coffee was served in the garden covering the whole roof. There was a swimming pool. But no one went in. We just sat and looked at Paris. The empty avenues, the river, the streets. In the empty streets, catalpas in flower. Marie-Claude Carpenter. I looked at he a log, practically all the time, it embarrassed her but I couldn’t help it. I looked at her to try to find out, find out who she was, Marie-Claude Carpenter. Why she was there rather than somewhere else, why she was from so far away too, from Boston, why she was rich, why no one knew anything about her, not anything, no one, why these seemingly compulsory parties. And why, why, in her eyes, deep down in the depths of sight, that particle of death? Marie-Claude Carpenter. Why did all her dresses have something indefinable in common that made them look as if they didn’t quite belong to her, as if they might as well have been on some other body? Dresses like that were neutral, plain, very light in color, white, like summer in the middle of winter."