Persona Non Grata
inspired by Zonder titel, by Robert Zandvliet (Netherlands) 1996
The Girl surely had a name in her day, but as often happens to stories that travel from place to place over time details have been lost or changed and she is now known simply as "The Girl Without a Shadow."
As the story goes, the Girl never noticed her shadow was missing until one night in bed when she couldn’t make shadow puppets on the wall. She played for hours, but no shadows would appear. When the Girl told her mother, the mother said. “Don’t worry, Girl, I know a trick no one else knows, not even father. All you have to do is pretend you have a shadow and one will appear. In time you won’t even know you're pretending.”
The Girl tried to make a pretend shadow, but everything failed. The mother couldn’t understand why the pretense wasn’t working for the Girl—it had always worked for her—and when she realized it was all she had to give, the mother became undone. The father blamed the Girl for the mother’s demise and took to hitting her just like he'd hit the mother.
Then one fine day the Girl ran away. No one knows where she went, but many claim to have seen her skipping down a sunny path, turning frequently to smile at her shadow following close behind.
When parents today make shadow puppets with their children before they go to sleep, few know of its significance beyond mere play. Even fewer know of the faded plaque nailed to a tree near the house where they say the Girl once lived: "To every girl without a shadow—the journey to finding your true self starts here."
Debbie Peters is a retired attorney, living in New York City. She dedicates her work to her beloved Gerson Lesser with whom she joyfully wandered through art museums for 37 years.
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