The Shadow of Love
A man falls in love with a shadow and calls her Mary after his mother. He thinks of how his therapist always did say he loved his mother so much that he lived in her shadow, but he doesn’t want to analyze his love—he just wants to love without worrying about what people will say. There’s so much prejudice on earth, he thinks. Why worry about all the gossips out there? when all he wants is Mary, lovely shadowy Mary. And what a love she is, with her airy nature, her subtle movements, her long silences. She is always here for him and never there. Or is it there and never here? Either way, she’s perfect for him, and so easy to confide in. Before falling asleep, he tells her about his day then reaches for her, sometimes folding her neatly onto his torso like a napkin, other times stretching out on top of her. However he wants her, well, that’s the way she is. Sometimes, when kissing Mary, he imagines her voice as a whisper, or maybe just a hint of a whisper, soft and feathery with desire. (He never did like a loud woman.) Afterwards, he stays up late, listening and smoking one cigarette after another.
But occasionally, he worries that she might feel unappreciated, especially when passersby step on her head, her arms, her legs. He thinks of how life is so hard for women—that’s why it’s best that she keeps a low profile and travels incognito, even if it means no one remembers her well. He thinks of how his own father never let his mother out of his sight, how he beat her night after night. After a while, sorrow covered her like a black cloak. She wept while scrubbing the floors and baking bread—her tears, the flavoring of his boyhood soup. By contrast, his Mary is as weightless as a girl, or perhaps just the dress of a girl. When he pulls her close, he imagines himself as a shadow, too. That he is making love to her, shadow to shadow. He marvels at how light she makes him feel, how carefree, even if he often dreams that she has never really touched anyone, nor has she been touched. That she is still a virgin. His own personal virgin. How wonderful that sounds. Miraculous even. That no one else has loved her, or ever will. Nor will they see her—how she fills his nights with her darkness, a darkness only he can know, a darkness that is his alone.