I wrote a book.
Not a very long book. It was more of a novella, short enough to read in one sitting if you really felt committed.
It was a book about a character from an old Jewish creation myth. Lilith. I started the book near the end of my time at Calvin. The first draft was typed in the last days of my final semester, and it seemed like a strange thing to want to write about at the time. Most of my peers in the English major were writing reflective pieces or inspiring essays on their life ahead.
Still, I wrote the final paper about her. I graduated. But then, it kept going.
At night after work, I’d walk to a coffee shop and open up Lilith again, and again, until eventually I had a book.
But last week, the laptop was stolen.
Probably taken from my bag as I was distracted with my coat and getting ready to leave the coffee shop. I didn’t notice until it was too late, and now my book is gone. There’s no other copy, at least not of the final version I have worked almost two years to make.
So I’ve been thinking—now that she’s gone—about why, in the last few months of Calvin, I needed to write about Lilith. It started four years ago.
In my sophomore year of college, I lost my mom to cancer. It was sudden, and scary, and I spent the next year working hard to find a new sense of security. I made new friends, was editor of the school writing and art magazine, planned a wedding, and kept up a GPA so stunning I was surprised I had earned it.
I know this doesn’t seem connected to a book that I wrote and lost, but during this time at night, I would read a book of old Jewish legends when I couldn’t sleep at night. I dreamed about Golems and Lilith, the first wife. (God made her from the soil to be a wife for Adam, but she runs away and sleeps with demons instead. The story goes on to explain that Eve is actually the third in a series of attempted wives created for Adam.)
Still, tragedies don’t stop. A year later, as I was about to enter my last year at Calvin, one of my best friends passed away after getting caught in a rip tide in Lake Michigan, and this time, the world just dimmed. It was like I had been running away from something, panicked and scared, and then I simply stopped running. Classes were easily skipped, friends could be seen later—then later still. I gave up my sparkling GPA, I gave up on a will to accomplish much of anything besides sitting in the quiet with the blinds drawn.
Lilith came back to me one day when I was taking a shower. I was looking at my stomach—noticing I had been gaining more weight—and I thought of her. Lilith, once beautiful, is a huge monster, gorging herself on her own demon-spawned children.
She’s been with me ever since.
She’s been with me when I can’t stand waking up, when I pull pillows over my head and hate the thought of facing the day. Her very name, after all, means night.
She’s been with me when I’ve had headaches from crying, or when I’ve had to bite my lip to keep myself from saying something short. Grief, I have found, has made me much more impatient with the world than I used to be.
Lilith cries out to God that he made her from filth, so what else did he expect from her? And so it was Lilith I thought of when I realized how bad things had become. “What did you expect?”
By the time second semester came around, I was desperately ready to be done with Calvin. I sat down in the capstone class all English majors take, and received the assignment for what would be our final paper: write what you needed to write.
This particular class was held in a room that looked out over a pond where we could see birds wading in the water. I decided to write about Lilith. But not about her exile.
I guess because I wanted to find paradise again.
In my book, Lilith leaves her cave in the desert to find Eden. She plans to pound on the walls until God lets her back in again. She moves across the world, angry at God, the angels, and angry most of all—though it takes her a long time to admit this—at herself.
Near the end, she finds paradise. She beats against the walls like she always planned to, but of course, she’s never let in. Instead, she’s brought someplace different, someplace new and in-between. It’s a little cold. There, she waits, like we all do, for the second coming and the sound of trumpets.
I call this character arc “grief.”
I don’t have this book anymore. I can’t show it to you, I can’t revise or add to it. It has been the most important project of the last two years of my life, and it’s gone.
Most writers would advise me to start again. It’s been done before. Rewrite it from memory, without the burden of the earlier drafts.
And I could. Certainly, it’s painful to let go.
But I think, instead, I’m going to let Lilith stay where I last put her.
Not perfect. But at least at peace.