ONLY GRAY • by Isaac Boekelheide

On the last day of fall, I confronted my shadow. The sun, dying beneath the silvery clouds, stretched its long arms across my face, and my shadow walked beside me. I scuffed my sneakers along the sidewalk, knocking loose pebbles into the street.

“I want to be alone right now,” I told him, my hands stuffed into my jacket pockets in a futile attempt to avoid the coming winter.

We walked in silence, save for a car wheel grinding across pavement, or a sharp clink of rock kicked into a storm drain. My shadow took a few more steps, and stopped. I kept walking, not glancing back. I didn’t need to; I could feel him, just standing there, thinly cast over the concrete.

“Why?” he asked.

I kicked one last rock before stopping, too. What remained of the sun behind the clouds glowed a hot white into my eyes. I chose not to lift my arm to shield them, afraid that should I remove my hands from my pockets, winter might arrive half a day early.

“You’re always there,” I said, “draped over every hour of every day. I want space to be myself again, and I can’t do that with you around.”

My eyes were beginning to water, maybe from the fading sunlight, maybe not. I stood still, not looking back. The cars rushed by, pushing chilled air through the fabric of my jacket, seeping the warmth from my hands. The sun continued its slow death above the horizon, and I began to shiver.

“I’m sorry, old friend,” he sighed, as the sun coughed its final ray of light into the horizon. “I do not wish to make you feel this way. Just remember… despair is but one emotion out of many. Why taste only gray?”

The clouds, now the entire sky, cast a dull shade onto the world. I turned around, and my shadow was gone. Or, I believe he’s gone, though I am not certain. It’s now too cold to go outside to see if he still follows me, and even so, there’s no more light left to see him anyways.

Isaac Boekelheide writes about his dreams, or what he imagines on long walks.

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