Spicy Shadow

 

2008

When my daughter was a baby, the energy in her bedroom was…funky. Just off. The child that had occupied that bedroom before her must have been one angsty teenager, because “my parents are assholes” was scrawled on the window casing when we moved in. My daughter never slept well in those days. At the time, I did not know about cleansing spaces with sage or anything like that. I spent a lot of time rocking her in the glider. In the corner of her bedroom, there’s a toy hammock hanging up on the wall where we keep her stuffed animals. Underneath that is her bureau. On top of her bureau is a nightlight that shines upward, casting a shadow from the toy hammock up onto the ceiling. I can’t stand shadows because my brain always wants to see faces in them, and her glider faced that corner, so that was my view every time I sat in it. Walking by the hammock and going into the bureau drawers caused enough vibration for the stuffed animals to shift, so every few days the shadow would change. One night I looked up and realized the shadow on the ceiling resembled a famous self-portrait Kurt Vonnegut did that is on the cover of his last book, Man Without a Country. It is a doodle done in profile. In it, he is smoking one of his signature Pall Mall cigarettes. The shadow looked exactly like that doodle, except it did not have the cigarette. Later I would learn that there is a version of the doodle without the cigarette, but I did not know that at the time. For four days this went on. Every time I looked up at the ceiling, I saw Kurt Vonnegut’s profile. For the life of me, I could not figure out how the toys were making that shape. The outline of the toys did not match the outline of the shadow. On the fourth night, I joked that if it was really him, where was his Pall Mall? It was almost a dare. I sat back in the rocking chair and closed my eyes for about ten minutes as I rocked my daughter. I opened my eyes, and suddenly there was something that resembled a cigarette hanging out of the shadow’s mouth. I could not explain it. Nothing had shifted in the toy hammock. Nothing was sticking out of it that could make that shape. I am not one to scare easily, and I feel like a horrible mom for doing it, but at that point, I decided I’d had enough and put my daughter in her crib and went to bed.

Submitted by Angelina

Spicy Shadow