This is the opening page of Intimate Solitude, an unpublished novel about Israeli society. It begins in 1968 and ends in 2016, portraying growing social tensions, military conflicts and the occupation, and above all, capitalistic values replacing socialist ones. This transformation has far-reaching consequences: personal, social, and political.
The slow, smooth descent of the elevator from the fortieth floor to the lobby ended abruptly, with a small vibration and an almost silent whistle. In the plunging cube was a man of about forty, tall and slim, his forehead leaning against the elevator’s wall. He muttered to himself, “It can’t be true. It simply can’t be true.” His hands were clenched in his pockets, cold sweat ran down his back, a sheer drop might have trickled down his cheek onto the brown carpet. But, as he felt the movement before the doors opened, he straightened up, tucked his shirt into his pants, ran his hands through his hair, and adopted a practical, lively expression. His face was thin and delicate, his skin smooth and his eyes almost black. He was used to stares fixed on him, but now the thought of people looking at him was terrifying.
As the doors opened, he stepped out. Men’s suits, women’s dresses, a scent of perfume all merged into a mixture of strange faces hastening into the elevator. I need to get out of here quickly, he thought, before anyone sees me like this. But as he took another step, avoiding the people entering the elevator, he saw a familiar face. A woman about his age, short, with heavy glasses, looked at him and smiled to herself. Her smile resembled a twitch, the lips turning downward rather than up. Her face seemed familiar, but he couldn’t remember who she was. He turned around to take another look, but the steel doors closed with a metallic sound, and the elevator went up.
He found the heavy air in the underground parking lot nauseating, the dim orange-toned light disgusting; the filthy concrete walls reflected in a small oil stain that leaked from an old car. The parking lot was empty, he walked alone, hearing the tapping of his shoes echo and seeing his long shadow holding the keys. Suddenly, he heard a cat’s yowling. He turned around, and through his tears, he saw a kitten sitting in a corner, meowing in desperation from the bowels of the earth. To hell with the money! But the insult, the betrayal, the long years of friendship, and why? Why? From the heavy air came a strange sensation of disintegration, strong yet unclear. What has been will never be again, the past evaporates, gone and forgotten. A sour, practical spirit takes its place, making him feel all alone in the world, despite the fact that he was about to get into his car, drive home, and have dinner with his family.
Cover photo by Tzvia Sless, https://www.facebook.com/tzsless