The day I lost my shadow

(Writing exercise from Feb 16, unedited)

The day I lost my shadow was the first day of spring. I remember reading A moveable feast and I believed that all the fruit trees in bud symbolized birth and therefore a new beginning. But it also meant that nothing would ever be the same again.
The day he vanished or let’s say – I vanished; he remained on that lonely territory whereas I had to leave. I’d already done some reality checks by pinching myself, looking at my digital watch – the numbers in order. My mirror image wasn’t distorted anymore and the ground was solid – I could see my feet and converse shoes. And the sky above the port was not the colour of television tuned to a dead channel. Sorry Mr Gibson.
After they had released me from their care, I returned to college. No one knew where I had been. I told them my guinea-pig had died; therefore I had spent the last whole month mourning. I’m not good at lying. Also I was told to quit reading Science Fiction, comics and anything about Greek Mythology, because they were fucking up my head and perception. Well, so they said. And apparently they aren’t meant for girls anyway. I didn’t realise that once I stopped reading those, I’d lose him as well. It was reading that kept him alive.
Hemingway’s perception is more raw and down-to-earth. It was not necessarily what I was looking for. I missed the androids and the virtual reality.
It felt like I had been away for a few years. But the campus was still the same. People didn’t seem to remember me. People I knew completely blanked me, even when I said hello. I didn’t know what I had done to trigger all those negative impulses within everyone. I was like a ghost in class, a phantom that was haunting them all. The depression extended through the unpleasant effects that reality was initiating. I didn’t know where exactly I was going anymore. Nevertheless I remained conscious and positive. I started to read what I was recommended and it happened to be A moveable feast which I had started to read on the first day of spring. I went to the campus’s courtyard and lit myself a cigarette. There was one quote that struck me:
“When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest. The only thing that could spoil a day was people and if you could keep from making engagements, each day had no limits. People were always the limiters of happiness except for the very few that were as good as spring itself.”
It was indeed people that were spoiling my days, making me feel uncomfortable by discouraging me while I was reluctantly attempting to fit in again. In the courtyard I heard boys and girls. I moved into the cool shade where the sun wouldn’t find me. That was when I saw him entering the courtyard. He was dressed like a teacher and wore glasses. He was supposed to be wearing a dystopian style leather jacket and sunglasses. Was it really him? Did he escape that lonely territory as well?
He sat down on a bench with a cup of coffee and the daily newspaper. I couldn’t concentrate any further on Hemingway. I needed something more drastic and imaginative – action and acrobatic movements. He should have seen me in the shades by then – I was the only one sitting on the ground, reading something that was not a magazine. I watched every little movement of his – the delicate way he turned the page, tilted his glasses or sipped at his coffee. Ten minutes had passed and he still hadn’t noticed me.
Lastly I was thinking of walking over to say hello or simply walk past him noticeably, so that he’d at least throw one single glance at me; remember me. Whilst still sitting on the ground, I suddenly felt petrified. It was the fear of the unknown; unknown and yet still so familiar. There was that uncanny resemblance of an intimacy that I had once known. I was dying to find out, dying to learn more. The shades of the trees and benches mirrored my fear and incomprehension clearly.
I stood up and decided to walk past him. But he didn’t even notice me then. I said nothing, as I didn’t want to interrupt his flow of mind of which I was not part of.
On my way across the courtyard I felt like I had lost something; something valuable and irreplaceable. That was when I noticed that my body cast no shadow. As I turned back, I saw that my shadow was with him. It looked like it was waving at me, gesturing that I should come back at once.
Suddenly all the shadows in the courtyard began to loom over me like a thick dark cloud. The trees, the benches… – they all wanted me to go back. And I did. As I went back to fetch my shadow, I noticed him smiling at me. Something I believed to be a distant memory had now come back with such intensity that I reached out to touch him. But like a ghost he slowly floated away with bits and bits of him disappearing until there was nothing but air. Like a hynpnagogic experience after waking from a dream, except, that was no dream. It was me attempting to cling to my reality, similar to Oliphant’s Library Window. He was there.
After all there is no fixed reality, as we all have a different perception of it.


by Paula Deckard (c) 2011

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