I wrote Her Shadow on the 29th of January 2014, and it is heartening for me to read back over it now and realise how much has changed for me in mind, body and spirit, especially the decrease in pain with a fistula.
Her shadow moved silently across the ground.
Disappearing behind tree limbs and reappearing in dappled light. She didn’t know where she was going, except that she wanted to go. To keep moving. To get away. Her shadow was perfect, a perfect silhouette of a perfect body, but it didn’t feel that way. It felt so far from perfect as she stopped to give the pain a break. The incessant pain that burned her up with anger and sadness, a pain that was so unpredictable she never quite knew how to react. She thought she had figured out how to let go, let go of being so attached to this searing, raping pain, but yet some days it faced her full on. It looked her in the eye and said ‘you haven’t sussed it, look what I still do to you’.
Its thick heavy form broke down her resolve and she cried. She cried for what she had lost, she cried for not knowing when this beast would give her a break, and she cried in anticipation of the days, minutes and hours that this pain would steal from her.
She moved on, the shadow limping slightly now and her shoulders hunched to protect her heart.
It felt like someone had ripped it out and put it on a full cycle in the washing machine with rocks. Now it was bruised and battered and ached with every heart beat. She kept walking. If only she could walk all day, imagine how far that would take her. Surely, she thought, eventually she could outrun this pain, leave it for dust and start anew.
“You’ve already fucked up enough in my life,” she yelled at the pain and the trees around her, the leaves quivering slightly. Still her shadow was silent, observing, simply being. “Fuck off,” she yelled again. This time louder, her throat hurting with the force, causing her to cough and then swallow. Her shadow crumpled and disappeared beneath her sobs that were absorbed by the dry ground. She felt like eating the earth so close to her face, feeling that crackle and crunch in between her teeth, giving her all the more reason to hate and to want to rip and scream at this beast. Her sobs turned to rage and she punched the earth with her fists until they hurt and her knuckles were scratched and bleeding.
Her shadow looked like a spider, flailing, caught in its own web and helpless.
Fighting was not helping, the tangling ever tighter, so the shadow went still. Maybe she could stay there forever. If she stayed curled up this way no one would find where she was. One day they would find her beautiful bones, bleached and creamy white from the sun. Perfect bones, perfect form, and they’d say how perfect she was. What a beautiful girl she must have been, and they would wonder what had happened.
By the time the bones were found, people would have forgotten. Forgotten the story of the invisible beast who chased her down. ‘Maybe I could ignore it’ she thought, coming more to her senses as the sun burned her neck.
The shadow came to life, back to its perfect form and moved silently through the trees, sometimes visible, sometimes not. She couldn’t ignore it, that would never work, she needed something else…a prayer to bare it, to look the pain in the eye and say ‘Bring it on. I can do this. You won’t win, because I’m not the losing type. You’re a coward anyway! You leave one day, build me up with hope and then come back, stamping your feet so that we all know you’re here. But you don’t own your movements. You’re flaky. Leave me alone.’
She started running, faster and faster, her knees scratched by thorny vines along the path, but she didn’t care. Her shadow ran faster, lithely, still beautiful, faster and faster to keep up with her and suddenly with a leap and a dive they both disappeared.
Her shadow was far away now.
A shapeless blob breathing beneath her, sifting over the pebbles. She watched it for a long time, blowing bubbles into her eyes to see clearly, wondering how long she could stay down here for. Her lungs burned. She liked it. She liked punishing her own body with pain that she could control, it made her feel powerful and distracted her from her ugly thoughts. Her lungs ached and her blood screamed for oxygen. Her shadow pushed her away from where it lay motionless on the pebbles, rainbows sparkling off it like a diamond. The blob stretched out its arms and pushed her fiercely. She burst the surface of the water, gulping air and breathing hard.
The air was still and clear and she felt beautiful. Her body felt free and able in this crystal water. She breathed in the sweet smell of river. Her shadow moved gently now, swimming slowly upstream, along the bottom of the river pool, a halo around its head.
Her shadow knew it would always win.
It knew how to trust and persevere, despite this body that felt tied and chained to this pain. Her shadow looked perfect and moved freely, detached and observant, living more in the world of spirit.
Maybe she could be more like her shadow. Maybe if she saw her shadow more and enjoyed its freedom and quiet, she could see more of the beauty and less of the pain. Maybe this was her trick. She looked down at her shadow dancing and shimmering beneath her and slowly dropped her legs to meet it. They re-connected, toe to toe, and something shifted. She watched her shadow change shape and grow smaller, a blob with two beautiful long arms. She wanted her shadow. She wanted to watch it move and change and race across the earth, always peaceful, observant and silent.