‘One Night With Lilith’, Part II

By on April 19, 2020


This is another excerpt from Verona writer Martin Golan’s newest novel, ‘One Night With Lilith’, which has been called “a fascinating feat of storytelling.” It tells of a marriage seemingly at its end, but at its heart it’s a love story, which takes place in the Verona-Montclair area. MyVeronaNJ.com published the book’s opening on April 10, and you can read it here.

The remains of the house were fascinating; the thoroughness of the fire was impressive. The harshness of the dried-out air surprised them as they stared from the street, afraid to come close, as if their home now belonged to someone else. The house had been reduced to rubble, but some sections, though ruined by smoke, remained precariously intact. (They barely noticed that her beloved little car, so cute and red in its usual spot on the driveway, had more or less melted.) Ashes and dust formed the curious shape of their life together, like the body of a loved one under a sheet. The house was like that, a lost loved one. Rob and Amy imagined, each believing themselves alone in this, the preponderance of mundane things now gone, the lamps and rugs and doorknobs, all the messy paraphernalia of family: letters, photos, videos, annotated calendars, unread magazines and unpaid bills, toothbrushes and towels, pots and pillows. Rob thought of his collection of Lilith pictures, which he stashed in an obscure drawer as other men hide pornography. She thought of the framed certificate announcing her prize in photography, which hung on a wall in her attic studio. Both thought, despite themselves, of the moments, in the kitchen under the genuine Tiffany lamp, in the bedroom before the pier mirror, the endless words of endless conversations exchanged within these walls. They each – certain the other would never do this – recalled the life-affirming peace they found in the private parts of their spacious house, like the roomy yet cozy bedroom with its elaborate plasma TV setup. It surprised them, how brutal and painful these memories were, as they stood together in the cold of Cooper, the famed spices of Buddha’s Kiss still clinging to their tongues as they stood, staring and blinking their eyes. 

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Out of the dead ash an old steamship trunk dropped from the scorched beams of the attic storeroom, landing with a splash in a pool of tarry debris, a descent made stunning by the fire department spotlights. When the ashes settled, the trunk peeked out from rubble so thoroughly incinerated it seemed on a hill of gray sand. Rob, drawn, approached to discover that the trunk was not solid as it appeared; when pressed, the lid turned to a fine ash that smudged his fingers, as if he now had the power to make metal melt from his touch. A scrap of paper floated up. The writing was in Yiddish.

He tried to grasp it, but it turned to dust on his fingertips.

Amy, beside him, looked calmly at what used to be their world. Calmly, considering she knew that her paints and supplies, stored in the basement, had fueled the fire. The firefighters on the scene had noted it. Their preliminary investigation described a “fully involved large three-story structure whose fire was fed by unknown combustible materials stored in basement.” (The official cause of the fire, however, was still in doubt.) Amy was certain the “unknown combustible materials” were not only her photography equipment but also the cans of paint she mixed obsessively and never used, as if creating the perfect shade was all she was after. Even when she no longer needed these paints she couldn’t bear to discard them. The turpentine odors depressed her, a barrage of unseen hues that would haunt her for days, the plum and russet and her own shade of magenta. (Although she pretended to be surprised when the lieutenant questioned her, and played ditzy woman-artist, she was quite aware how flammable these supplies were.) On the way to the hotel on Route 46 (coolly yet politely rejecting Delia’s offer of a spare bedroom, offered too quickly, eyes locking with Rob’s a second too long), Amy found a drug store and bought nail polish remover, giving in to some primal need to make herself clean, as if her nail polish were a color the fire should have wiped clean but didn’t. It gave the air in the hotel a bite that overcame the odor of illicit sex and betrayal that any contact with Delia Benedict held for her. The smell was upsetting, not because of Delia, or the loss of her house or her work or her things, but from the memory of something far more glorious, far more distant, and far more lost.

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Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash.

Before this book, Golan published a novel, ‘My Wife’s Last Lover’, and a collection of stories, ‘Where Things Are When You Lose Them’. He lives in the Wayland section and serves on both the town’s Environmental and Historic Preservation commissions. One Night With Lilith is available on Amazon (e-book or paperback).

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