Shadowboxing

My shadow seemed down when I was boxing it the other day. I’m not sure if that was the first time or what, I never paid much attention to my shadow unless we were boxing, and we only boxed when I was pissed so I probably wouldn’t have noticed even if it was.

But this time was different, it looked down, I mean real down, I don’t know how but I could definitely tell. I asked it what’s up. I guess I must have said it a little too hard like, I was already pissed, that’s why I was boxing it, and because the shadow didn’t say nothing. It just stood there trying to act like everything was okay but I could see something was up, I’m not stupid.

What, I said. I was getting annoyed, the way it was fronting like that with its dumb blank look without features. If something was up why didn’t it say so but whatever, I let it slide and put up my hands to go again.

I might have been crying a bit, too. I don’t know, maybe I was feeling sorry for it. I mean, this old sparring partner who never did anything but take my punches, walk my walk, remind me always that I am. How could there ever be a better friend.

And damn it, the shadow began giving me more of the same crap. I don’t know, something about how it responded, just a fraction too slow. What the hell is up with you, staring at me with that empty expression that I can’t figure out what it’s thinking. I couldn’t be sure if something was the matter or if it was hating on me or what.

So I went up closer to check it out, and wouldn’t you know right when I did the damn thing jumped straight at me, getting up into my face all threatening like.

That did it.

I started swinging and screaming and cursing, cursing at that damn shadow cursing at damn God cursing at damn everybody. I kept swinging and screaming and swinging and cursing. I don’t know why but I just couldn’t stop.

And then…strangest thing. The shadow wasn’t hitting back any more. Its head was hanging, shoulders slumped. It was sobbing. I might have been crying a bit, too. I don’t know, maybe I was feeling sorry for it. I mean, this old sparring partner who never did anything but take my punches, walk my walk, remind me always that I am. How could there ever be a better friend.

We sat there sucking wind for a while, not looking at each other. It was getting to be kind of awkward, to tell you the truth.

Finally, neither of us could take it any longer. I stood the thing straight up, brushed off its shoulders, tipped its chin with a light uppercut.

Everything’s cool, right? I said.

And I guess I knew it was when my shadow moved with me step by step, side by side, out into the light.

Jesse Cheng is a lawyer and cultural anthropologist from Southern California. His website is jesse-cheng.com.