Truth Among the Shadows

By
It was all very familiar. The same people were there, with the same ashen skin and dark hair and eyes. And he was there too, standing, almost lifeless at the foot of my bed, looking nearly tall as a tower and with an alien, yet proverbial stare that I had seen before. The only disparity was how he looked. He no longer blended in with the rest of them, his skin pallid and as lucid as glass, his fingers, lying limp on the bed frame. Then, as if all of a sudden, he moved. I barely noticed; it seemed so unreal. He came around to the side of the bed and sat down, his fingers now weaving in and out of my hair. And just as soon as he sat down, he was gone, and I was alone, the figures that once stood behind him were gone too. This recurred for many nights, the same dream, and the same man with what I perceived as an entourage. And every night, I felt as though I could see more and more through his being. One night, I believed I could see too a woman standing behind him, and each night, that woman looked more and more familiar to me as I began to forget the man. But every morning, I seemed to wake up to a room empty save myself, the dream lingering throughout the day as I went about it.

I had just gotten on the train, set for work, six in the morning. I had my easel and brushes in a bag that rested beside my feet, my stop not for awhile. We had gone through another fight, my husband and I, and this time I was sure I was leaving. I once thought maybe we were in love and the fighting was something like a side effect, principle to loving. But now I was beginning to believe I needed a drug to remedy the side effect, an out. The train halted four stops before my own and as the doors parted, hordes of new passengers entered, crowding the train a little more. Now, a man stood up in front of me, and between his bag and his trench coat, I could make out the figure of a woman, the one in my dream. I rose quickly, nearly knocking the man off his feet to see, but as I got a closer, the doors locked. I returned to my seat and struggled to get the image of her from my mind. She looked so familiar, not just from the dream, but from real life too. That day at the studio was unbearable. I seldom focused and any paintings I had finished were as good as useless. The hands on the clock seemed to reverse, for, every time I glanced at my watch, five o’clock seemed further and further away. But when it finally approached, I quickly seized my belongings, asking one of the interns to lock up. I boarded the train and when I got off, I walked the brisk seven blocks to my apartment and from the street I could see that a light was already on in the office, my husband already home. I took my key out as I reached the top of the stairs, and I opened the door as quietly as possible. I set my things down on a nearby coffee table and fled to the bedroom, removing the clothes I wore to work. When I came into the kitchen, knotting my hair into a bun, my husband was already standing there, a bottle of wine in one hand, two glasses in the other. He set the glasses down and reached for the bottle opener, a smile fluttering on his face. He poured two glasses of red wine and offered one to me. I declined and took a pot from the cupboard. I set the pot on the stove and turned back towards him. He took his hands and cradled my face. I smiled and strained to get free, but he held a fixed grasp. I quickly tried to push his hands off my jaw, but he felt the movement and clasped my wrists. I screamed, hoping someone would hear, but he muffled the sound with his own mouth. I thrashed and whined as tears began to trickle down my face. This was it; this was the fight that would make me leave, the one that would send me back to Chicago, away from him and his abuse. He pushed me back towards the stove; I could feel the flame beginning to get hotter under the pan I had placed there, and he set me free, sipping his wine, pretending nothing happened.

When I saw him there, he stood out like a ghost against the black that was the figures behind him. I ignored the man completely, looking only for the woman who I had seen on the platform. My eyes ran over the dark figures, and I had found her. I removed the covers, and the man leapt forward in my peripheral vision, but I kept advancing. The closer I came to the woman, the closer he came to me until his comatose hands rested on my shoulder. I was first alarmed at the force with which he held me back, his fingers gripping my shoulders. I contemplated calling out to the woman, but thought better, it being a dream. I tried to force my way out of his embrace and I remembered when my husband did the same. Suddenly afraid, I tried to pull away towards the bed, but he would not let up. The woman remained motionless behind him, her eyes looking straight in front of her. I fought the man without rest and pushed him aside. I stepped in front of the woman, breaking her somber glance. I realized in that moment that the figure of this woman was what I was soon to become, a ghost, living in the shadow of my husband. I saw myself, and when I turned to face the man whose clasp I escaped, I saw my husband. We played the parts in the nightmare that was my world. And for the first time, I saw myself as he saw me, a figure in the shadows of his life. It was his world; I was simply living in it. And for a moment I questioned my own existence.
When I awoke the next morning, a Saturday, I went to the kitchen, my husband was already propped on a stool, reading the newspaper. When I passed by he put the newspaper down and grabbed hold of my waist. As I stumbled, I could see my face in the hall mirror. I did not see my own reflection, though. I saw the reflection of the woman in my dream, the woman in the shadows, the woman who had become a reality.





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