My Brother’s Shadow

My brother’s shadow was a marshmallow’s toasty crisps of goo. It was the cozy convenience of “younger brother,” the smaller footprints my cleats left in the soil. Sitting on his shoulders as he galloped down the sidewalk, unnoticed as folks whistled at him from all corners of the universe. Alone in the bleachers, but still feeling satisfied because when his muscular body hurdled down the basketball court, I told myself I could never please our parents the way he did. Outgrown t-shirts and underappreciated teddy bears always found their way into my arms because outgrown love was fresh when it wore my brother’s blueberry scent. A constant conversion factor loomed, in which his layups equaled my full-court shots, and despite my efforts, I could never achieve anything applause-worthy.

Suddenly, with the crinkling of the leaves and the fading sound of the basketball bouncing into oblivion, he was gone. With his absence came the lengthening of his shadow as the crowd gradually dissipated. His shadow became the hulking space in the bleacher seats, the empty loneliness which swallowed me whole. The grief was significantly more potent when there was no one to be compared to, when the would-be hand-me downs remained locked in his closet out of respect. Because when a shadow is left by itself there is no light to counteract its misguided ways, and it’s eternally fixed in a darkened spotlight. His shadow morphed into the clumpy, death-black cigarette tar with that distinct, sticky consistency, a texture I knew quite well from my quiet evenings in its seductive company. That inherited teddy bear, accidentally left in a moldy cooler, was submerged under layers of irregular ice cubes. And I can’t help but wonder if a shadow can ever escape itself, or if it’s confined to its own pitiable existence.


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