Hunger and Shadows

One day, Giovanni noticed his shadow was growing. Along with his parents at the headmaster’s office, he felt how light was held a bit longer by him than by the other objects in the room, and then it gained momentum in his body to push the darkness that was projected out his back onto the floor, as a mouthful of grim fog that stole colour from everything it touched.

“It’s important for us to acknowledge your hard work, dear student”, the headmaster told father and mother, while Giovanni felt a slight tickle behind the ears from his darkness dripping on the carpet. Every drop fell on the floor and came apart in a spark of soot that stained him up to his ankles.

At the restaurant, with cousins and neighbours, the leaden contour of his figure on the wall holding the diploma for the group photo was obscenely larger than his actual body, though the parchment remained the same size.

At the pool, during vacation, his gloom spread over the water like a thick snake of neuter filth, a plume of trembling ash that he alone could see, and that he alone worried over. Arcoíris, his poet friend, asked him in a complicit purr to rub oil on her brown lissom back.

Arcoíris’ tanned back smelled of peaches and sweet potatoes. With a racing heart he ran the outline of her graceful shoulder blade and traced the sun tattoo with the tip of his finger. Smiling, he squeezed a squirt of pearly lotion on his right palm and, devotedly bringing both hands over the supple bronze skin, terrified he confirmed the shade of his paws obscured the whole span of Arcoíris’ naked back. He ran away and left her lying down and wondering in charming shouts what was going on.

Careful not to let anyone realize he was a walking sunset, he stopped coming out during the day, and he haunted only the subway platforms, underground plazas, and outdoor spaces as long as it was night already.

One cold dawn when his teeth were asking for food, he was approached by a blueish green flame that proposed warmth for his bones and an umbrella to shield him from terror. Giovanni took that stony kiss and split himself in filigree for manhole covers, he broke in small lumps that coexisted in an average cohesion among closed folds of tinfoil, he became the alkaline vapour that he breathed under the bridge behind the Miraflores palace.

His shadow could not get to him underground. He thought so. It actually watched him from behind the pillars, contemplating with gluttony how he was flaking out in dry petals that fell pale and withered on the sidewalk before being grinded under other people’s steps, each petal a commitment not fulfilled and a trickle of light that died out for him in the horizon.

Dogs wept his name in the corners every time his parents abducted him for a bath and to cut his hair, disappointed beyond all hope already, resigned as they were to witness him live a life of howling to the moon and eluding modesty.

He tumbled happily under the midday glare any given March afternoon, and then his shady spectre, the powdered ghost of his portable midnight, came upon him riding a motorbike that was slippery as a fish made of black velvet, bit him in the left leg and refused to let go until tearing apart whatever certainty he had left, above the knee.

A clenched smile promised him a new friend, and he was happy to now have someone willing to push his chair, and fortunately this comrade did not breathe cobble mist, and was neither fearful of the abortions of remorse that light could rip off him. He sent him for bottles, and suddenly besides his black gaseous reptile besieging him behind every corner, a tragic appetite for the torpor of hard liquor got planted in the holes that embers would poke in him every time he lost consciousness.

His friend drank to his contentment, but Giovanni devoured every bottle with the passion that the green fire had taught him, as if he were suckling from a mother wolf who owed him an empire of calmness and pleasure and drunken grandiosity. And morning came and the friend forfeited their agreement, and the shadow came to push the chair, wheeling him with treachery through canescent morning streets, and Giovanni found his enemy asleep with no money and all the liquor in his stomach. He decided to drink him in a murky, disastrous vengeance, and his shadow laughed with pride when Giovanni hit the bottle against the concrete steps to gut his friend as a trout for the grill.

A frightened neighbour told the cops through tears how Giovanni chuckled in unison with his gigantic silhouette on the ground.

Down on the prison courtyard, rocks did not whisper sighs of jouissance. And then he could not afford them, and that was just as painful. Each hour he spent far from the noise, his scales gradually stopped falling so eagerly, and soon it seemed new feathers would grow on the wings of his confidence. But twilight flooded the yard, and his shadow rose high into the sky, colossal, magnificent, gargantuan, and perfidious it swiftly thumped an enormous hoof down on Giovanni, left him lying down and wondering serenely where Arcoíris would be right then.

He let out one last wanton breath when he remembered the sun tattoo on her golden back, and he suffered for a long instant when he saw the knife fall in front of his eyes on the ground, while the final enemy tried to dust the splatter of his own shadow from his clothes with disgust.

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