I remembered that the stranger was a man that I was looking for something different in his shadow. I kept looking for that different thing until I got aware that the stranger’s shadow was just a charmer.
“Has the strange man come?” my sister asked me.
“If you see him, take care of his shadow,” I told her.
We told tales about the strange man every day. “He is as magnificent as a Doum tree,” said one of us. Another one said, “His hand is like a dog. He bites with his hand.”
“Just, take care of his shadow,” I kept saying.
At dusk time, my mother asks me to come and drink milk. “Why doesn’t the stranger come in the morning?” I asked. She told my stories about my father when he was a troublesome juvenile.
Later, I managed to see the relation between the “west”, the “stranger” and “alienation”. I thought that the origin of the whole matter was relegation.
“The East always bears splendor,” I told my little sister.
I followed his shadow once. It was crawling on the earth but during the day, it shrank sharply. “The shadow of the strange man only grows taller when the sun goes west,” I told my little sister.
“Does the strange man talk to anyone?” I asked my mother.
“You will grow up one day,” she said.
When I made the shadow of the strange man from clay, I touched it. It was cold and soft. “The strange man came to our house,” my little sister told me. “Your father died young,” said my mother and I felt like threatened.
We were talking about the strange man. “The stranger speaks,” said one of us. “His eyes are like my grandfather’s,” another man commented.
“Just take care of the stranger,” I said.
The strange man stopped me in the street. His shadow was crawling towards me until it covered me. He has left but his shadow never leaves our house. I felt cold and soft and before I began to run, he had already blocked the horizons before me.
“Why a face has grown for the stranger?” I asked mum. “We are lonely,” she said.
When I was sleeping, the strange man came and casted his shadow on earth. His shadow never leaves our house and I feel cold.
“The strange man tapped my head,” said my little sister.
“Take care that he will leave his shadow upon you,” I said. “You begin to grow up,” said mum.
Someone said, “The strange man is talking to my grandfather.”
“But I saw your grandfather talking to the stranger.” I said.
“The stranger is sometimes amiable,” said my little sister.
“The amiable is sometimes stranger, too,” I said.
When the strange man stroked my hair, I used to say, “I will rename the stranger.” My mum laughed, my little sister mewed satisfyingly. “The strange man never familiarizes himself with his shadow.” I said.
I saw my mum washing the strange man’s clothes and that made me preoccupy myself with studying geography and softness. My mother was moving around the strange man’s bed where my father’s old couch was.
“Did my father have a shadow?” I asked my mum. “Your father’s shadow was very tall but it fell out off him once and he left.”
I remembered well that the stranger was a man whom I had kept looking for something different in his shadow before I discovered that his shadow was just a charmer.
Mahfouz Bushra who was born in Hillaliya village east of the Blue Nile in 1980, is a Sudanese poet, short story writer and journalist. He published a narrative work titled “Writing on Maria’s Heavenly Face”. He currently works as a literary editor and correspondent.
*Translated by Gamal Ghallap