(Also in Firefly Magazine. )
It was my idea to build a golem, Nicolette’s that it be female. “A girlem,” she said, nodding a scrunched-up chin in agreement with herself. A night too hot to sleep, we were drinking coffees wet with whiskey in the kitchen of our loft, creamy moonlight pouring through the windows. Our roommate Rachel sat on the windowsill smoking, occasionally looking over at us from under damp, heavy, figgy eyelids. We were making this for her, after what had happened.
Nicolette and I dumped flour straight onto the table, (up it clouded), made a pit in the middle, sloshed in water, chunks of butter, started working it with our fingertips. We fashioned a homunculus roughly twelve inches tall and almost as wide before we ran out of materials.
When I’d read about Rabbi Loew’s golem, brought to life to protect the Jews of Prague, I’d pictured something much larger. Maybe if we’d had clay instead of dough. Maybe if we’d not been drunk in a kitchen on a ’pit-slick sleepless night.
“For today, anyway,” I said.
I used a fork prong to carve the word אמת into its soft little forehead. “My magic Jewess,” said Nicolette, low, voice burred with pride. Rachel came over to join us. “That’s it?” she asked. We all looked at it. It didn’t look great. “Breathe up its nose”, I said to her. She crouched, put her split bottom lip under its mouthless face and blew whiskey fumes, the hot moon outside a witness to our blasphemies.
That other night, after we put Rachel to bed, we’d lain, Nicolette’s legs between mine, mine between hers, her fingertip in my tears.
“… I wish I could keep everyone I love safe…”
“…But you can’t,” drawing spirals ’round my cheek with my eye run. She’d smiled, from so deep that her face creaked, a sad smile. “Baby,” she’d whispered.
Nicolette and I swelled with pride, jumping out onto the fire escape to watch them head downtown together, to see Rachel out after dark again. “Go, girl!” we shouted, and rattled the ladder until she turned around, grinning, to wave us away. The golem couldn’t bend its legs, but Rachel slowed her walk to stay beside it. The streetlights threw their shadows behind them, one long, one short and broad and stiff.
When I noticed blood on the golem’s hands next morning, Nicolette and I played Rock, Paper, Scissors to see who’d speak to Rachel about it. I lost.
She stood in the doorway of her room, looking over my shoulder to where it stood. A breakfast roll-up smouldered limply in her mouth, unruly tobacco strands showing through the paper, poking out, like intimate hair. I watched them brighten, rasp and burn while I waited for her to say something. Eventually, “You made a wonderful thing, girl”, she said, spilling ash, and that was clearly the end of the discussion. Her still made-up eyes torched under those damp, heavy lids.