The moment you were gone he knocked on my door. He called himself the shadow and he said that he was here to fill the void. I didn’t want to be alone. He seemed like the better option. It was nice; he glued himself to my side, never letting me feel lonely because maybe that way I wouldn’t miss you. The first night came too quickly and the bed felt cold at first. But the shadow agreed to lie on your side, he said he didn’t mind sleeping in the indent you’d left in our mattress. On the day that I emptied your cupboard he sat with me. As I pulled out your clothes, the smell of you wafted through the air before I folded it away into boxes bound for the charity shop. I wanted to fold my memories in with your shirts and jumpers but they wouldn’t fit. So, the shadow helped me hang them in your cupboard where I wouldn’t have to look at them. Then he locked the door and stole the key so I wouldn’t be tempted to wallow in what was left of you.
There was never a moment where I was alone, the shadow became my constant companion. My constant comfort. I let him stay for weeks. While I read by the fire he sat in your armchair. When I cooked dinner for two he ate the leftovers. Sometimes, in those blurry moments between waking and sleeping, I could’ve sworn I saw your eyes burning through his dark demeanour.
People thought I was mad. They didn’t like the shadow, the way he followed me to dinner parties and coffee catch ups made them uncomfortable. They asked me to leave the shadow at home or not come to their gatherings at all. But I couldn’t leave him. I didn’t know how. It was no longer me; it was me and the shadow. He was the only one who never asked me to smile or sing. He was the only one who never commented on the fact that I didn’t whistle while I cooked anymore. I carried on making dinners for two, I thought he might like eating with me after a long day.
He seemed to get larger with every day that passed. He no longer just filled your side of the bed, instead he sprawled across me like an extra blanket. One day, I tried to open the cupboard. I just wanted a quick reminder of your smile. But the shadow blocked the door, no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t fight him away. He said it was for the best…. maybe he was right. As the shadow grew, he lost his comforting presence. He loomed over me everywhere I went. He never let me cry, never let me feel alone, even when I wanted it.
On the morning, we were due to say goodbye to you, the shadow rested on my shoulders. I could barely walk from the weight of it. As the day went on, as I listened to your friends and family tell stories of love and joy, the shadow wrapped himself around my chest until breathing was impossible. There was no sign of you in him anymore. He was just a shadow. A darkness that refused to leave me be.
Your mother invited me for coffee this morning. She said the shadow had to wait outside and he obliged, I don’t know why. This morning, I got to talk about you. I got to cry and even though the shadow banged against the door and clawed at the windows, he could not enter. He could not stop me. He’s sleeping now. Your mother said that if I wanted him gone I needed to unlock the cupboard and take back my memories of you. She said the shadow couldn’t stay if I was willing to remember you.
When he fell asleep I took the key from his neck and now I’m staring at your cupboard. I want to open it. I reach for the lock…
I want to remember.
I turn the key…
I don’t want to remember.
I open the door….
I have to remember.
I’m sorry shadow, it’s time for you to leave.