Half-light was born a shadow into a home that was already becoming dim.
Of course, Half-light didn’t understand the circumstances into which she’d been born. She didn’t recognize that her arrival had greatly complicated an already painful and messy situation. She didn’t know that, initially, they’d tried to dispose of Half-light, and several times nearly succeeded. For better or for worse she somehow survived.
Survival has many faces and for Half-light that meant not living, but instead lingering. It meant slipping between the shadows so as to not be seen and certainly never heard. Half-light was an unpleasant reminder of a painful past and burdened present. The solution that pleased no one was that they’d tolerate Half-light so long as she hid away.
Over the years Half-light learned the art of lingering, which was nearly like living as a whole person. If she moved just right she could steal a smile when they looked askance and before they realized it was her. She learned to whisper the right words from the shadows to soothe their hearts.
But there were dangers. If she said too much she risked illuminating the bad memories she represented. She knew such moments well, those moments when they’d look directly at her and see someone who shouldn’t have existed, someone who was a mistake. At such times she could only pull away and wait, and hope.
After awhile, though, a half-life ceases to be enough.
Hours alone. Days alone. The burden of knowing she was a living mistake no one wanted was painful when she slept and crushing when she was awake. In her solitude she begged for an embrace, for someone to tell her she mattered, for a simple “I love you” that was meant for her alone, and for the assurance that “everything would be okay.”
Half-light dreamed of such moments, but the more she dreamed the harder she cried and the more her meager light faded. She found it increasingly difficult to keep her eyes downcast and so exposed herself to the stares that declared her a bitter reminder.
The pain within Half-light eventually became intolerable for her. She realized that living the half-existence she’d been given wasn’t living at all. There was no full light waiting for her. She was the trash that everyone overlooked taking outside. All her life she’d hoped she’d eventually earn the same light as the others.
Eventually, though, she realized the hope had been a lie.
She screamed. She cried out and no one answered. She collapsed on the floor and pounded her fists until they bled, but no one came. There was no one because she’d been faded since before she was born and the only purpose she’d ever really had was to fade completely. They never explained that to her because they couldn’t bear the sight of her. Her mistake was that she was a reminder of their mistakes. That was her crime.
In her profound loneliness she realized that turning off the light on someone who was never anything more than a shadow didn’t matter. Half-light reached for the switch and for one brief moment she listened for words of love and waited for a gentle touch.
There were none.
At that moment she knew with all her scorned love that she’d only ever had one true purpose.
With a last, “I’m sorry,” she switched off the lamp and was Half-light no more.
©March 2013 Christina Anne Hawthorne