OPINION

Shadow Land: Where The Past Lives

July 24, 2006
Richard Marcus

There's a certain amount of serenity that can be found sitting in a darkened room. Where the only light is what the window allows of the streetlight outside to spill across the floor and walls, so that everything is comfortably shadowed, and the only sound the muted sound of tires grinding over snow and asphalt. But there is also a certain amount of fear.

Looking around the room see the pale mirror that your television screen has become; depending on the angle of your approach different bits and pieces of your world make themselves seen in the screen behind your ghost. Probably the most realistic show appearing all week: welcome to The Shadow World.

There's no turning on lights or lighting candles when you sit at this hour of the morning, long after midnight and long before dawn, trying to look into the parts of your life lurking just beyond sight. They won't offer anything in the way of true illumination; that will have to come from somewhere else. Turn the lights on now and you'll be left with a flat, two-dimensional world that lacks substance and your ability to see will be diminished.

Books, records, curios, and furniture blur together as indistinguishable lumps until you stand right on top of them. Even than their colour remains leached from them as the pallet is reduced to the variety offered by combinations of black and white, although even those distinctions are absent.

No, there is nothing clear-cut in your world when you have woken to be drawn into this place surely only a step removed from dreams. A part of you briefly wonders if you were to go back to the bedroom if you'd find your body asleep in your bed, curled up in a foetal position where you left it. Perhaps you don't check because you are afraid of what you might find there, or is it that you aren't sure what you want to find there?

Wander around for a bit, unsure if you want to commit yourself to this faded reproduction of your life, pick up bits and pieces and see that they are indeed solid in spite of appearances. You feel some little bit of fear right now and retreat to the couch in an effort to regroup. There is something comfortably familiar about how rough it is against the skin of your thighs through where your bathrobe has ridden up.

That and your feet rubbing the worn, low pile carpet or slapping on the cold tile are all that make you feel like you are present physically. You know that you are here because you can see the shadows and hear the various noises of the apartment settling into itself.

You sit on the couch hunched forward, curled up protectively around yourself while lighting cigarette after cigarette. But instead of providing the comfort you seek in the nicotine and habit their smoke only serves to add another layer of texture to the shadows and deepen the mystery.

Unable to pierce the gloom and sitting alone in the dark that little bit of fear you felt when wandering through the shadows returns. It settles in the pit of your stomach like an unwanted house guest, but familiar all the same. But, you say to yourself, I've never been afraid of the dark.

A voice whispers, what about the shadows that come out of the dark? The shadows from where your father appears to stand beside your bed in the middle of the night when he comes for you; the shadows that the memories of those events rise up out of; and the shadows where the feelings of abandonment grow ever stronger each time he leaves you behind in your room

The anger wells up in your throat; at yourself and at him. Abandonment; I want to hate him not feel like a jilted lover. But it's right there for all to see who want to see and hear at this moment that you feel like that. He was always there telling you how much he loved you and how you two had a special relationship - different from the one he and your brother had, different from the one you and your mother had.

You were the only one willing to show him how much you loved him. You are such a good boy because of that, a special boy. But, he'd always warn you, if you were ever to tell anyone about us, well he'd never love you again and he would stop coming to you. You wouldn't be special anymore, just a bad boy who he wouldn't be able to love at all.

Do you remember how guilty you felt the time when you tried to tell somebody? How scared you were that he would find out and stop loving you. You had only told because he had hurt you that first time he put you on your stomach. You didn't want to feel pain.

It still hurts now when you think about it or close your eyes and have it come to life again within you. He had said he didn't want to hurt you, but that sometimes you had to be hurt to show how much you loved somebody in the special way that you two loved each other.

Oh the heat of your guilt when he came the next night and asked if you had told anyone. It was so bad that you almost told him yes, but said nothing afraid he would stop loving you. Why did he stop loving me anyway you wonder? What did you do wrong? Hadn't you been a good enough boy doing everything that he asked you to do even when it hurt or made you feel sick?

You sit on the couch in tears and angry as the shadows swirl around you whispering the past into your ears. You hate him, you hate yourself for the feelings you are still having, the feeling of being abandoned. How can you feel abandoned by your rapist? What kind of sick fuck were you, and are you to miss that?

And you sit on the couch smoking a cigarette with tears running down your face staring, looking for answers to your questions and nothing is there but the shadows. Everybody tells you it is in the past, he can't hurt you anymore. Hell you saw the casket going into the crypt they say, what is there to be afraid of? It's in the past.

But the past is still alive for you isn't it? It hasn't gone anywhere when it comes to your head and your heart during those hours before the sun comes up and after midnight when the shadows rule. You've tried to avoid the truth but you can't, not here, not now, not anymore.

You know the truth of the matter it was all a lie. He didn't love you, not one single little bit. You were a tool for his vengeance against the world. He took out his anger, his frustration and his feelings of inadequacy on you who couldn't fight back; you who could be made to believe that you should be doing this. You are not to blame for anything, he's at fault for everything - you know all that and yet still...

Still you find yourself on this couch, every once in a while, fighting with the demons he left planted in the shadows of your mind. You tried ignoring them, once upon a time, but that ended up in a disaster worse than dealing with them.

Shadows are only as substantial as you believe them to be and they are most believable when they stay in the shadows. You have to be willing to walk among them in order to see them for what they are: nothing but the insubstantial cast-offs of reality. Confront the shadows of your past and find the reality they have buried and the pain will start to diminish and the past will start to retreat.

Your present is a lot different from your past, and it's up to you to write a future and decide on what it will and won't include. Everyday in the present is a day you can use for giving yourself a better future with fewer shadows for doubts and fears to hide in. Use the days well and the past will become just a memory.


Richard Marcus is a long - haired Canadian iconoclast who writes reviews and opines on the world as he sees it at Leap In The Dark and Blogcritics
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