Saturday 6 June 2020

'A Lesson in Shadow Puppetry Learnt the Difficult Way' by Susmita Bhattacharya

It was only meant to be a bit of fun. We traced our silhouettes on the wall, commenting on the shape of our noses, the jut of our chins, the spill of our hair. We used thick black crayon; we were going to redecorate anyway. We laughed at the wobbly lines that defined us. We made comical poses, the children relishing this moment of complete abandon. We chose the colour to go on these walls, but the children pleaded to have these ‘self-portraits’ for just one more week. Until their friends had seen them, and added themselves to the walls.

But who knew that those outlines would become my lifeline? Who knew I’d return alone, after that fateful day, to this:

Shoes on the stairs, socks trailing behind.

The half completed Lego castle.

The dentist appointments.

Tins of paint, waiting.

Those chalk outlines that contained them have vanished from the roadside. Was it a magician’s mean trick that made them disappear?

But our black ones remain intact. Freezing us together as a unit.

Four silhouettes.

Three missing their people.

And me, a living shadow.

'A Lesson in Shadow Puppetry Learnt the Difficult Way' was first published in Ellipsis Zine in 2018.

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