My shadow slips to silence among the aquatic acacias. Even here, leaves abound, draped over the fuzz-curves of his figure as he soaks up the moonlight. Papa's soft voice turns my gaze to the moon. Remember, Carlos, our shadows are but imprints of the moon. Remember the Eclipse. I shiver and hold onto an acacia branch. I'm careful not to let my shadow near the shoreline where sea meets sand. That's why acacias are aquatic; they drowned their fate with the sea, Papa says. We cannot, we must not let it be our shadow's fate. We are nothing without our shadows. And yet the tide sweeps towards my toes as the moon charioteers across the silver nightscape. I leap back onto the thorns, onto the blue leaves and pray my shadow seeks dry ground. Sometimes he doesn't pay attention.
My shadow ripples to the privacy of the umbrellas. Some aquatic acacias were born like that, shaped like the human plastic as though it would dispel their liquefied sin. I think about joining him, but the tide holds me back. Papa chastises me in my ear. Carlos, the shadow will try to seek nirvana on this shore. When he tries to join the water, you must stop him. Still, I cling to this branch for two hours into the night and the shadow does not move. The tide though leaves a coin-like sheen upon the sand.
The shadow meanders towards me now at my call and in its reflection I see the cool quietness of his being. Spaniards, I find, are so loud and coarse when compared to their cousins, the moon-selves of our bodies and ultimately, our shadows. I remember my German cousin sneering "Doppelganger" but Papa is quick to inform me otherwise. It is not our other self, it is our self, like a part of a Babushka doll. They are independent of us yet inseparable from us. And they cannot go into water, for it will dilute their essence and make us weaker. They are the slivers of the moon we worship and so they are sacred, what gives our life meaning. Papa tells me all this, when we fish in the ocean. I am never comfortable with those words though. Instead I hold on to the acacia branch even more tightly.
My shadow slides to arrive with the knife-like immensity of the colour violet. I felt colours the day I found my shadow on the banks of the River Garcia. Papa still tells the story to the villagers and shakes his head whenever I say feeling the colours scared me more than encountering my shadow. That day, the rising sun shone like circular bronze on the riverbank and the shadow was wading knee-deep in the river. I paused in water-gathering, at first curious. The shadow saw me and with a flick of his hand he fused sunbeam and water so violets sprang from his hands. I screamed and ran from him for that colour blinded me and made me howl; Papa, gathering firewood nearby, rushed to my aid and carried me while the other firewood-gatherers bound my shadow and dragged him to the centre square of our village. The day when a young man finds his independent shadow is generally his coming of age but I only felt sick as we were fused at the square. I could see the loss in my shadow's eyes. I could see violet, the clash of fire and water. He never lets me forget, even tonight.
One hundred grill-tops quieten down under the light of a canoe. The midnight feast is over; I hear the last villager toss his fish bones into the embers of a once roaring fire. Still that canoe's lantern burns brightly, casting square pieces of flame-light upon the sea. Papa's canoe, I guess, but I cannot be sure. Slowly, I unglue my hand from the branch and tread carefully on the sand. My shadow leaps eagerly towards the umbrellas again but I call him back. I see him waver and in that moment a wave comes dangerously close. His figure flickers as the sea spray whips him at the knee. I call him back, more sternly, and he obeys, shivering. More carefully now, we mount the pier on the edge of the shore where the canoe is tied up. I lean forward to douse the flame. Suddenly, my shadow jumps. I see the water churn upwards where he falls but I cannot see him at all. I panic. I remember Papa's words. Must not, must not! Words flow from my lips but the sea remains answerless, doomed to cycle again and again without giving. Where is he? Where is--?
A light falls upon my chest and in reflection, I see acquiescence. The shadow emerges from the dark, his fuzzy outline barely perceptible in glaring moonlight but he was calm. There were days we fought as man and shadow and I remember striking him in the heart. My fist simply passed through him and he smiled though not at my futility. He looked to the ground where we fought over, smooth dirt and a jagged stone with my father's name, and shook his head. He lifted three fingers and put down one while still looking at the stone. Then he raised his head, his two fingers shaped like a peace sign. I lifted my fingers to mimic his action, my face colouring but he shook his head and put down one finger. The remaining finger now stood up catching the sunlight like a sundial and for five minutes we stood like this. I felt his finger-shadow land first on my right eye then my left as the sun descended. He finally bowed his head with dark fingers clasped in prayer.
That night, tonight in fact, he leapt from the window of our cottage and reluctantly I followed him to the shore. Now as the tide carries him further and further away he morphs into the sea. I gasp and fall into the canoe, tipping water in. I scoop and scoop though I know I'll find nothing left of him. Something cracks; I feel the canoe drifting. In terror I leap out and swim to shore although the tide is sucking back, faster and faster than I can resist and I swear I see my shadow's face slide across the moon, with knife-like intensity and I wonder if this is his final revenge, all these years
and then it's just shore under me as the tide rolls me all the way up the sand. I hear shouts from the villagers as they thunder past me to the shoreline and see the moon disappear as though carved up for a hungry god. Papa's best friend stops by me and pulls me to my feet. He points to the moon. Is that my shadow, his eyes ask. I nod. He smiles sadly and pats my head and glances up just in time to see the shadow fade. I know he won't be coming back but I'm okay with it. I avoid the eyes of the villagers tramping past with sympathetic looks and make for the tallest umbrella acacia on the shoreline. I climb to the top and stay there until dawn hangs over the ocean. The violets are just violets, nothing more and I laugh in the salty breeze. As I slip down the trunk and walk on the sand I do not notice a dark figure shaped just like me, slanted slightly and mimicking my every move, just like my shadow's finger-shadow. Instead, my eyes look to home.